The Jim Allen Group is more than a group of Realtors. The JAG team is also actively engaged in redevelopment and revitalization through real estate across the entire Triangle area. One of the ways JAG focuses on doing this is by planning and investing in underdeveloped areas or locations that can contribute to the needs of an area. This is done through what’s referred to as the infill process, which is vital to the Triangle’s growth and critical to the entire area’s future.
There’s both an art and a science to the infill process. Jim Allen, of The Jim Allen Group, is an expert in the infill process and has grown the company exponentially with his knowledge and work relating to infill in the Triangle and his relationships with key contacts. While the entire Triangle area is growing, the land available across the region must be strategically chosen and developed efficiently. Raleigh-Durham’s hot market and current lack of inventory makes infill development even more important. Here’s what you need to understand about its role in the Triangle’s future.
What is Infill Development?
The American Planning Association explains that infill development makes use of a parcel of land that has prior infrastructure and uses up less land from what is available in an area. The APA encourages Smart Growth in infill development, which focuses on providing livable spaces for a variety of needs.
As an example, a parcel of land may be developed to offer one luxury home in a premium location. A different parcel of land could offer space for a small townhome community. Overall, when done correctly, infill can result in more efficient land utilization and delivery of public services, and the investment toward much-needed homes in growing locations.
What Influences an Infill Development Decision?
A number of factors must be reviewed to determine if infill development is an option for a piece of land. We typically begin by asking several questions. For example, we look at the existing infrastructure to determine what’s there and whether infill is feasible. We need to understand the costs of running water and sewer lines, what kinds of roads exist to the land, whether it’s in a flood zone, and more. If the answer is no to these various factors, it may make the decision for us.
We also review the topography of an area. In parts of the Triangle, land is flat, which means sewage lines are an option versus hilly locations where sewage can’t flow where it needs to go. As Realtors, we know the importance of looking at other comps in the area to know how a parcel of land should be priced to ensure it’s developed well and positively impacts the location.
At JAG, we work closely with the cities in the Triangle on infill development as well. As an example, the City of Raleigh has resources for infill development. We are able to work with Triangle-area cities to determine whether infill is possible. JAG is always willing to invest in infill development in smart locations, but the land must be memorable and appealing to potential homeowners. Furthermore, the cost-benefit analysis must show it will be profitable for the developer without passing too much costs off to the homebuyer.
There may be obstacles that prevent a piece of land from being developed, so those issues must be weighed before a decision is made to invest in it. Economic barriers may prevent development, such as locations in smaller communities that don’t have infrastructure set up. Regulatory issues may arise due to zoning. Or sometimes the land itself just can’t be developed due to unexpected ground challenges. All of those decisions must be weighed before we move forward on a project.
Partners in the Infill Process
The Jim Allen Group partners with custom homebuilders who are infill experts. We have a number of award-winning custom builders in our network, and they are the go-to sources we work with to build on these parcels of land. A couple of our partners include Exeter Building Company who specializes in building luxury homes Inside the Beltline. Homestead Building Company is another partner who focuses on luxury homes from I-440 up to Wake Forest. Both companies are experts at knowing whether a piece of land is right for infill and then at bringing those homes to fruition.
John Finan, co-owner of Exeter Building Co. said he frequently gets leads on tracts of land from the Jim Allen Group, or when a family contacts the builder looking to sell a home that sits on land that’s worth more than the home. Often, the home needs more work than it’s worth and building a new home on the location is the smarter option.
“Infill downtown is really a one-for-one swap,” he said. In other words, the house is torn down to make room for a luxury home where land is more expensive. “It’s great from a tax standpoint, because you’re taking what might have been a modest home and you’re putting in a million dollar home. You haven’t impacted the number of cars, or water, or the runoff. Those things are all kind of staying the same, but you’ve increased the tax dollars for the state.”
Finan also says he can look at a parcel of land and what surrounds it to make decisions about whether infill is right for the location.
“I ask myself a lot of questions,” he said. “Who is it that I think would want to live here? If I built a house on this lot at this price, is somebody going to feel comfortable spending that money? Is it a place that can attract a person that I think is the right customer?” He’s weighing the amenities that are nearby and even looking at schools, job opportunities, restaurants, grocery stores, and more to determine the type of home he should focus on building. It helps him know whether to build a home designed for retirees or young and growing families.
Dean Sackett, the CEO of Homestead Building Company explained how the Homestead team makes its decisions quickly. “We’ve got the expertise inside our business to literally take a phone call at 9 a.m. We can quickly—by lunchtime—have looked at the maps for Raleigh, figured out the topography, figured out what we might be able to do or what we absolutely cannot do with that lot. And then decide if we want to move forward with an offer. And we do that between 9 o’clock in the morning and a single call by 12 noon.”
Sackett further explained that an infill builder has the knowledge and first-hand experience working with the City of Raleigh to know if the spot is right for infill. “You need to understand the complexities of the permitting process,” he said.
Let’s Talk about Infill Development
Do you know of a location that might be great as an infill project? Get in touch with a member of the JAG team. We can help you determine whether it’s feasible. We want to take an active part in ensuring the future of the Triangle and that it’s growing in a smart, sustainable way. We look forward to working with you.
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