Imagine a world where you don't have to drive your kids to school or even put them on a bus; a world where the schoolhouse is practically in your back yard.
That's Brad Haber's world. And it's taking shape in a rural section of Egg Harbor City. When it's completed, it will feature about 400 new homes in the woodlands that surround Cedar Creek High School.
"The school is a very attractive draw," says Haber, who was selected by the city to develop the property around the high school. "It's an excellent facility and it will be the center of this community."
The Neighborhoods of Cedar Creek is located just off Philadelphia Avenue, far from the town center and less than a mile from the picturesque Egg Harbor Lake. Haber says it will eventually be a community of neighborhoods, each with about 50 single family homes.
There are five models to choose from including two ranchers, a Cape Cod, a salt box and a traditional colonial. Each design is available in two elevations, which helps Haber comply with a city ordinance that prohibits two of the same style homes from being built next to each other.
Most of the homes will occupy 75-by-150-foot lots. A three-bedroom ranch with 1,429 square feet of living space starts at $190,000 while a 2,189-square-foot three-bedroom salt box is priced from $220,000. The four-bedroom, 2,538-square-foot colonial design starts at $230,000.
"I'm offering low cost, quality housing with a lot of value," says Haber, who owned his own construction company for 19 years and also worked for K. Hovnanian builders. "It's the Kia of the housing market."
While he has yet to sell his first home, Haber has installed underground utilities including electric, natural gas and sewer lines. He has also completed a model home/ sales center that is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two more houses have been framed out.
The professionally decorated two-story "E" model has four bedrooms and is loaded with upgrades including engineered "distressed" hardwood floors .
"Every option I offer is on display in this model," Haber says. "That includes a residential fire sprinkler system, a sound system, a burglar alarm, geothermal heating and cooling, tankless water heater, and top-of-the-line cabinets and appliances."
Standard features include crown molding in the living and dining rooms, nine-foot ceilings on the first floor, covered porches, vinyl siding and railings, a landscaping package and a partially finished basement which adds about 500 square feet of living space to the home. Some homes will have walk-out basements that open directly to the back yard.
The model home has a center hall floor plan with a foyer flanked by a living room and a dining room. The kitchen has upgraded cabinets, tile backsplashes, granite counters and GE Profile appliances. It's open to what Haber calls a gathering room. Off the kitchen is a utility room with a bench that flips up to reveal storage space. It opens to a small rear porch. "I call it the rear foyer," Haber says. "Mudroom isn't sexy enough."
The second floor has four bedrooms including a master with a private bath and an enormous walk-in closet. The bedrooms and another full bath radiate from a small landing.
"There are very few hallways in my houses," Haber says. "It's just wasted space."
Outside, the rear yards back up to an alley, where trash will be picked up. A detached two-car garage behind the house is an option.
"I could have made the garage part of the house but then I'd have to charge more for the house," Haber says. "If I build it above grade it costs me $50 a square foot. But if I build it below grade, which is already included in the foundation, I can finish it for $20 a square foot."
Haber says eliminating the attached garage is only one way buyers will save money.
"We have a five-year real estate tax abatement that will save $15,000 to $20,000," he says. "The first year you pay taxes on the land but not the house. The second year you pay 20 percent of your assessment. The third year you pay 40 percent, and so on until the sixth year when you're paying the full freight. It allows you to grow into your home."
Another incentive is a zero down payment mortgage available to first-time homebuyers. "I can get them because I'm in a state-designated 'Smart Growth' area," Haber says. "I don't know anyone in New Jersey who has this."
All Haber's homes have an Energy Star rating, which Haber earned by installing things like tankless gas water heaters and precast insulated basement walls. He says an optional geothermal heat and air conditioning system can help owners save as much as 50 percent on their energy bills compared to a typical new home.
But Haber thinks the best selling point is the proximity to the high school.
"I wouldn't be here without the school," he says. "And it's not just families with kids. I'm getting a lot of interest from teachers."
For more information on The Neighborhoods at Cedar Creek call Harry Mehlman at 609-593-3288 or visit bradhaberhomes.com.
What: New single family homes
Where: Egg Harbor City
Style: Two, three and four-bedroom designs
Price: From $190,000