Business partners Chris Doose and Shawn Easley are going where no developer has gone before in Harker Heights.
The cousins recently formed Flintrock Custom Homes and are developing the first upscale townhouses in Harker Heights geared toward upwardly mobile young professionals.
Their hypothesis is that as new industries emerge and Fort Hood continues to attract people to the city, there will be a niche market of potential homeowners who want to own homes but do not want to buy them.
“There is a lot of demographic change going on in the area,” Doose said. “Seton hospital, Darnall hospital and the college (Texas A&M University-Central Texas) are driving a need for more housing, but the type of people who are moving here to fill these jobs are used to a more urban lifestyle.”
“Not everybody wants to live on a huge lot and take care of a huge yard,” Doose added.
Doose and Easley are planning to build 16 townhomes on Verna Lee Boulevard during “phase one” of their project. They expect a model home and three other units to be ready in March.
The townhouses will each be 1,590 square feet. Each unit will share one wall with the unit next to it. Landscaping is included in the asking price, which is $128,900. A homeowners association will maintain the property.
Aimed at middle class employees
Doose is betting big that the young professionals drawn to the area want to live differently from previous generations. He said the condos will be aimed at buyers with “solid middle class jobs.”
“Not everybody can afford $170,000 to $225,000, which is what the houses in Harker Heights cost,” Doose said. “This would allow you to be able to live across from the high school and afford to do so. The bottom line is, this is an incredible price point for $128,900.”
Whether the niche demographic Doose is aiming for agrees with him may decide if affordable, upscale townhouses become a trend or a cautionary tale for other developers.
“He’s seeing an untapped market,” said Harker Heights Planning and Development Director Fred Morris. “But he could be totally wrong. But business is a gamble, isn’t it?”
That’s not to say Morris doesn’t think Doose might be on to something.
“I think what Chris is doing is one of the first developers in Harker Heights to recognize the changing market,” Morris said.
Morris isn’t the only city official who recognizes a demographic trend in the growing city. City Manager Steve Carpenter said the city is well aware of the demographic changes caused by the explosion of the health care field in Harker Heights in recent years.
“Eventually, Seton will have 400 employees,” he said. “A lot of those will be young professionals. We can take care of the doctors if they want to move here. We have a lot of very nice houses. But we really don’t have a lot of good housing for our young professionals. Things like condos and townhomes. We have been talking to people to get that mix in here.”
Carpenter and Morris recognize the idea of a townhouse trend in Harker Heights might be hard for some to accept. Both also believe the quality of the condos and the bang buyers get for their bucks could determine the success of Doose’s endeavor.
Designed for efficiency
Matt Weigers, architectural designer at EV Studios, which has an office in Copperas Cove, took that to heart when he designed the townhouses for Doose.
“These houses are designed to be efficient, physically and financially,” Weigers said. “They are very different from what you typically see in this area. They are much more modern in design and lifestyle.”
Weigers said he doesn’t think today’s homebuyers are put off by having to share a wall with their neighbors.
“Except for the fact your house will be pushed up against your neighbors on one side, it will be just like any other house,” he said.
If the venture is successful, Morris sees a housing trend that could grow hand in hand with the city.
“Today’s young professionals are looking for things like walkability,” Morris said. “The trend is going away from single-family homes. People want to use their money and time for things that are more fun than taking care of their yard. Again, business is always a risk, but if he has success with this project, I suspect others will try to duplicate it.”