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Franklin Johnston Group to build homes, local housing market shows positive signs

Updated: October 18, 2013 - 1:51 pm

Posted: October 18, 2013

By Lydia Wheeler

lydia.wheeler@insidebiz.com

The former S.L. Nusbaum agents who broke off to form their own firm in Virginia Beach are working on their third multifamily development in Hampton Roads.

In addition to a gated apartment community with 156 units, The Franklin Johnston Group - run by COO Taylor Franklin and Chairman and CEO Wendell Franklin - plans to build 25 single-family homes on about 10 acres at 1050 Berkley Ave. in Norfolk.

The city-owned property was last assessed for $2.97 million and the company is offering $2.5 million, city records show.

A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Oct. 22 and Norfolk City Council is expected to vote on whether to sell the property.

The proposed apartments will be workforce-affordable housing, meaning rental rates will be between $650 and $950 a month. The single-family homes will be priced under $200,000.

Located in the new Sydney Kellam Office Building at 300 32nd St. at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, The Franklin Johnston Group has 24 agents in the corporate office and 158 agents in the field. The group is focused on multifamily development and management.

Though the residential housing market is showing signs of recovery, Taylor Franklin said the market was not what dictated adding single-family homes to the $20 million Berkley Avenue project.

"There are single-family homes on both sides of the street," he said. "So it stays in trend with the neighborhood."

After eight consecutive years of decline in the number of newly constructed homes sold in Hampton Roads, more new homes are being constructed and sold, according to this year's annual State of the Region report from James Koch, Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors professor of economics and president emeritus.

In 2012, 2,664 newly constructed homes were sold, up from 2,366 in 2011, the report said. Since May, 1,059 newly constructed homes have been sold.

As of September, there were 14,002 active listings in Hampton Roads, up from 13,773 active listings in 2012, according to REIN, Real Estate Information Network Inc. And the average time it takes to sell a home dropped from 98 days in September 2012 to 85 last month.

But Chantel Ray, founder of Chantel Ray Real Estate, said the market has changed quite a bit in the last two weeks since the government shutdown began Oct. 1.

"Three weeks ago it was a little different than it is now," she said. "It was really moving on an upward trend."

The government's inability to agree on a budget, over funding the Affordable Care Act, has hurt consumer confidence.

"It did pull some people back," Ray said. "Our showings went down in the first two weeks by 40 percent."

Hampton Roads saw stabilizing numbers in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. According to a real estate report issued Oct. 9, residential active listings in September increased year-over-year for the second consecutive month.

Virginia Beach and Hampton saw the largest gains at 4.07 percent and 2.73 percent, respectively, REIN reported. Pending sales also spiked to [or by] 21.63 percent compared to this time last year, REIN reported, and all seven cities saw year-over-year increases in pending home sales - Portsmouth at 66.15 percent and Norfolk at 65.52 percent.

Year-to-date in Hampton Roads, residential sales are up by 11.04 percent and median sale prices fell slightly in September to $201,050 compared to September 2012's $205,500. Year-to-date, the median sales price is up from $199,900 to $207,000.

Distressed home sales - foreclosures and abandonment, or short sales - account for one out of every five residential home sales, REIN reported. Though distressed home sales are up slightly from the previous three months, they are down 4.26 percent from September 2012.

Distressed home sales in June accounted for 22 percent of all residential home sales in our region, according to the State of the Region report.

"This is down from the December 2012 peak of 29.12 percent, but is evidence that even though our housing market is healing, it has not yet recovered," the report said.nib