Southern California home prices slipped in January
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/15/2012 03:32:14 PM PST

New Southern California homes are selling at the slowest paces on record, but the wood frames of new houses under construction at the Rosena Ranch development near Fontana are a sign that builders are still willing to invest in the Inland Empire.

Evidence of new construction would hardly have been considered newsworthy some six years ago, but homebuilder Lennar’s move to build and market new homes in the Inland Empire signifies that at least one company is expecting better times in the midst of generally slow sales and soft prices.

“It’s going really well, we’ve seen a shift in demand,” said Greg McGuff, Lennar’s division president for the Inland Empire.

Although McGuff said he could not disclose actual sales figures, he said Wednesday that Lennar’s sales are increasing on a year-over-year basis.

McGuff was perhaps at his most optimistic when discussing Lennar’s Next-Gen homes, which are designed with dual entry ways and other features to allow two generations of the same family to share living space – and expenses – with more privacy than may be expected if extended family members crammed themselves into a traditional house.

“Our Next-Gen has sold out and we still have people waiting,” McGuff said.

Lennar began selling Next-Gen homes at Rosena Ranch in November. In the past year, Lennar has also opened sales at the College Park area in Chino, where Irvine-based Standard Pacific Homes is also building homes in a joint project with the Florida-based Lennar.

Lennar’s optimism reflected a measurement of hope among builders that emerged Wednesday.

U.S. homebuilders are gradually growing more hopeful about the housing market and believe homes sales could spike when the spring buying season begins.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said Wednesday that its builder sentiment index rose for a fifth straight month in February to 29, up from 25 in January. The index has climbed 15 points since September and is now at its highest level since May 2007.

Builders have generally become more hopeful during that stretch about current sales, sales six months out and foot traffic, the report shows.

Even with the brighter outlook, the industry has a long way to go. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn’t reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

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