News & Feature Articles

Buffalo’s Hosts Viewing Party for Clay’s Extreme Makeover on May 8
Door Prizes, Raffles and some Proceeds to Benefit the Prewitt Family

Jacksonville, FL (May 5, 2011)

Contractors, community volunteers and local fans of the recent ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project in Middleburg are invited to attend a viewing party from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 8 at Buffalo’s Southwest Café, located at 6055 Youngerman Circle (just south of I-295 and Blanding Boulevard).

Buffalo’s Manager Chris Perrella says the restaurant will donate 10 percent of all sales during the viewing party to a 50/50 raffle at the end of the event – with half going to the winning guest and the other half donated to the family of Carrie Prewitt. The ABC Team selected Prewitt’s family as the recipient of a new home. Prewitt, a volleyball coach at Middleburg High School, became the legal guardian for one of her players, Ashley Brewer, along with Ashley’s two younger sisters Taylor and Gina, after the girls’ parents passed away two years ago.

Employees of Orange Park’s J.A. Long Design Builders, which was the co-builder on the project along with ARK Remodeling and Construction of Gainesville, plan to attend the event – along with many of the contractors and subcontractors who donated their time to the project.

Viewing party organizers Cindy Bosnyak and Carolyn Ward say they will also be giving away door prizes during the party, including autographed shirts, logo jackets and pictures donated by the stars of the ABC Program, and a limo ride for 10/dinner for 10 at Buffalo’s. Selected volunteers will also share their own “behind the scene moments” during commerical breaks.

“Some of the stories I’ve heard so far are extremely moving,” said Bosnyak. “There are many people who experienced once-in-a-lifetime moments while they volunteered to help on the project.”

Bosnyak has asked those who plan to attend the viewing party to RSVP to her email address at singen2@bellsouth.net by 5 p.m. Saturday, May 7 so Buffalo’s Café will be fully prepared for the event.

J.A. Long, Inc. Design Builders is based in Orange Park and has been a custom builder in the First Coast since 1972. The family-owned business has built a reputation for quality, personal service and unique home designs. The firm builds custom homes on private lots and in exclusive communities including Fleming Island, Eagle HarborEagle Landing, the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, Pablo Creek Reserve, and World Golf Village. J.A. Long also works with homeowners on residential remodeling projects and additions. For more information, contact (904) 264-3073.


Local builder key help in Makeover

March 2011, Realty/Builder Connection

Call it an Extreme-ly good opportunity for all the parties involved.

Family-owned and operated J.A. Long Design Builders in Orange Park was chosen as the co-builder on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in Clay County for Middleburg resident Carrie Prewitt and her three girls, Ashley, Taylor and Gina.

“They called us,” said John Long, J.A. Long Design Builders founder. “They wanted a true custom builder and they wanted us to do the plans.”

Click here to read the entire article.


J.A. Long Launches 4th Annual Clay County Holiday Food Drive

Jacksonville, FL (December 9, 2010) For the fourth consecutive year, custom builder J.A. Long, Inc. has teamed up with some of its long-time subcontractors and business partners in the home-building industry to help the food pantry serving Clay County.

“The Food Pantry’s biggest needs are for non-perishable items such as canned meats, vegetables and fruits, and peanut butter,” said J.A. Long Chief Operating Officer Randy Long. “In addition to food, we’ll accept grocery store gift cards at our drop boxes.”

J.A. Long will accept food, cash, check or gift card donations for the Food Pantry of Green Cove Springs until Wednesday, Dec. 22.

DropDrop-boxes are located at eight locations, including J.A. Long’s corporate office at 1677 Wells Rd., Suite D in Orange Park. Other food drive locations include:

  • A1 Stone World, 827 State Rd. 16 East, Green Cove Springs
  • BB&T, 1711 Eagle Harbor Pkwy., Orange Park
  • Carpet ‘N’ Drapes, 351 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park
  • Island Realty, 636 Kingsley Ave., Orange Park
  • Kitchen Design Gallery, 3600 Beachwood Ct., Jacksonville
  • Plantana Realty, 307 Spring St., Green Cove Springs
  • T&M Electric, 200 College Dr., Orange Park

For more information on the food drive, contact project coordinators Brenda North or Maggie Howard at 904-264-3073 or e-mail info@jalong.com. For more information about the Food Pantry of Green Cove Springs, contact 904-284-0814.

For more information about the Food Pantry of Green Cove Springs, contact 904-284-0814.

J.A. Long, Inc. Design Builders is based in Orange Park and has been a custom builder in the First Coast since 1972. The family-owned business has built a reputation for quality, personal service and unique home designs. The firm builds custom homes on private lots and in exclusive communities including Fleming Island, Eagle HarborEagle Landing, the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, Pablo Creek Reserve, and World Golf Village. J.A. Long also works with homeowners on residential remodeling projects and additions. For more information, contact 904-264-3073 or visit www.jalong.com.


J.A. Long Receives Green Home Certification

May 2009, Bildor Magazine

Jacksonville, Fla. (March 23, 2009) John A. Long, the founder and owner J.A. Long, Inc. Design Builders, recently became a Registered Certifying Agent for the Florida Green Home Standard Designation Standard.

The certification from The Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) means the custom builder knows the criteria necessary to build a home that meets the state’s guidelines to be considered a “green home.” As a certifying agent, Long also can guide designers, builders or homebuyers through the process of qualifying and documenting green homes.

Long said his company has been interested in designing more energy efficient homes since first introduced to the concept about 15 years ago.

“We’ve been incorporating green elements into our designs for quite some time,” Long said. “Our focus in residential construction these days is to design with those green building elements that bring the homeowner a return on investment in three to five years, not 10 to 20 years down the road.”

Long believes increasing the ROI will make green building more acceptable with new home buyers when the market recovers.

“I don’t think green building will take off in the residential market unless you can get that ROI to come back to the owner more quickly,” he said. “People move more often today, so most buyers need that financial incentive to go with green building elements, and all of them come at a price.”

.Statistics show homeowners can save up to 30 percent on household energy bills through improvements made during construction, such as sealing air and duct leaks, adding insulation, adding window shading or energy-saving, low-emittance “e-glass,” and installing a solar water heater.

J.A. Long, Inc. Design Builders is based in Orange Park and has been a custom builder in the First Coast since 1972. A family-owned business founded by John A. Long, the company has built a reputation for quality, personal service and unique home design – constructing custom homes in communities including Fleming Island, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Landing, the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, Pablo Creek Reserve, and World Golf Village.


While Commercial Properties Go Green, Cost & Economy Slow Residential Acceptance

April 2009, HealthSource Magazine

Our homes use about 21 percent of the energy we consume as a nation each year, contributing about 17 percent to our national emission of greenhouse gases.

While there’s considerable debate whether changing our consumption of fossil fuels like gas and coal will impact climate change, one thing is certain: green building can help us reduce energy use and lower our monthly energy bills.

“I’ve always been interested in the technical aspects of using energy saving products when it makes sense,” said John Long, who founded his custom design and construction company J.A. Long, Inc. 35 years ago in Clay County. Long recently became a Registered Certifying Agent for the Florida Green Home Standard Designation Standard – a certification earned from The Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC).

The certification means the builder is using FGBC’s Green Home Standard, a voluntary program, and knows the criteria necessary to construct a home that meets the guidelines to be considered a truly “green home.” As a certifying agent, Long also can guide designers, builders or homebuyers through the process of qualifying and documenting green homes.

While Long admits that he and other builders are using the FGBC certification to differentiate themselves from their competition, his personal interest in the topic was the overriding reason he pursued the new designation.

“I was introduced to the concept when the initial push in green construction practices started about 15 years ago,” he said. “Certainly, homes are more efficient today than they were 30 years ago, but there’s still a considerable opportunity for greater home energy efficiency.”

Statistics show that a home owner can save between 20 to 30 percent on household energy bills through improvements made during construction – such as sealing air and duct leaks, adding insulation, and even installing a solar water heater. As for remodeling or “retrofitting” to make an existing home more energy efficient, Long says he first looks to increase wall and attic insulation, window shading or the introduction of energy-saving, low-emittance “e-glass,” and making sure doors and window seals are tight.

In residential construction, Long says he’s focused on green building elements that will bring the homeowner a return on the investment within three to five years – not 10 to 20.

“I don’t think you’ll ever get green building to really take off in the residential market unless you can get that ROI to come back to the owner more quickly,” he said. “People typically move every five to 10 years, so most buyers need that financial incentive to go with green building elements, and all of them come at a price.”

Consumer reluctance to go green was recently confirmed by Mintel, a Chicago-based market research company that tracks buyer trends and attitudes. While Mintel’s latest data shows that hard-core environmentalists remain committed to paying the price of green (36 percent of consumers surveyed say they almost always or regularly buy green goods), that number shows no growth over the last year, compared to the prior year when the same number tripled. With the economy stalled, the cost of going green has become an impediment. Fifty-four percent of respondents say they would buy more green products if they were cheaper.

“People’s priorities have changed because of economic hardship,” Mintel said in its analysis. “A substantial number of shoppers are now struggling just to provide the basics for their families, so green living is no longer top of mind for many Americans.”

Despite this fact, the government has clearly made it a top priority. From President Barack Obama to federal, state and local legislators, all are pressing and passing laws aimed at helping taxpayers and businesses go green. In Jacksonville, the city will soon become one of only two cities in Florida to offer and fast track financial incentives for builders that construct facilities which are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Ellen Reed, the Vice President of the North Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, notes that Jacksonville has already hired a “sustainability officer” to shepherd green projects through the process, assist in training other staffers and keep the City abreast of technologies and trends in green building.

“In Florida, as in the rest of the country, we’re seeing more green building movement in commercial construction,” Reed said. “With the slow down the economy, many commercial property owners are now sitting and waiting on the market to rebound, so they’re more apt to make their buildings more efficient so they’ll be in a better position to sell later on.”

She says they are seeing more green building in all types of schools (K – 12 and colleges) and government buildings. That’s probably due to government action. Last June, the governor signed a law that all newly constructed or renovated buildings paid for with state funds must be built to LEED standards.

Reed, who’s also the director of business development for Breaking Ground Contracting in Jacksonville, says their company has build seven LEED-certified projects and has 15 LEED-registered projects on the books. Currently, the company is working on an $800,000 addition at Discovery Montessori School in Jacksonville Beach, where they are pursuing LEED Silver certification.

“You receive different certifications depending on how many green building elements you have,” said Paul Hoffman, a vice president with Auld-White Constructors. “There’s a point system involved. Buildings can be simply Certified, or Silver, Gold and Platinum – which is the highest designation.”

A few years ago, Hoffman said Auld-White wanted to get involved in green building, but suffered the “Catch 22” that most builders face

“You can’t get a green project until you build one,” he said.

The company had already completed design for an addition at Bishop Snyder High School when they decided to pitch the school, and its students, on a redesign aimed at making the new building “green.” In addition to improving energy efficiency, buildings are also constructed to offer healthier living conditions. Hoffman says this includes the use of non-toxic low- or zero VOC paints. (Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC, is a key ingredient in standard oil-based paints. Long term exposure can lead from minor eye and skin irritation to major kidney and liver disease in extreme cases of prolonged exposure.) They also modified the heating and air conditioning system so ducts were adapted to avoid mold growth (in addition to being more energy efficient), and added air filtration systems and thermostat controls.

“With LEED, you typically incorporate all the green elements when you begin, so it becomes more expensive when you retrofit a project,” Hoffman said. “But we wanted to get one under our belt, so we went to the school administration and then we presented the plans to the students. The students actually signed a petition to make the addition green.”

While it cost an additional $48,000, which Auld-White paid for out of pocket, to add LEED elements to the nearly $1.8 million project, the school became the second in the nation to become certified under the new “LEED for Schools” rating system. Also, to achieve the LEED innovation credit, the high school added sustainable building to its school curriculum.

The company’s second green project was completed last year on Community First Credit Union of Florida’s new branch office at Beach and Hodges boulevards.

Marketing Director Kim Deppe says that as a “community-based” non-profit business, the credit union has a history of supporting sustainability projects such as offering loans for solar water systems and loan discounts for members purchasing hybrid vehicles.

TTV Architects Inc. designed the environmentally-friendly structure, that features restroom accessories which save thousands of gallons of water and a landscape design that minimizes watering requirements.

“Most of the construction materials we used contained a portion of recycled content and were purchased from vendors located within 500 miles to reduce environmental impact of transporting materials,” Deppe adds.

But the major energy cost savings have come from the sun, and without solar power. While they used the same floor plan as that used for the credit union’s Baymeadows location in 2006, Auld-White worked with TTV in developing a more energy-efficient design.

“By changing the orientation of the building to take advantage of natural sunlight, using skylights, the building is very bright,” said TTV Architects President Tri Vu. “Also, the artificial lights are on sensors so that they ebb and flow with the need to keep a constant light level in the building.”

As a result of all these efforts, power usage at the new branch is 35 percent less than the Baymeadows Branch. Last summer, the “green branch” used about 12,000 kilowatt hours less during June, July and August.

While there are savings in energy costs, some builders like Long worry that it may not be enough to coax most builders, and home buyers, to go green. That sentiment is echoed by Daniel Davis, the executive director of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. He says his members are cautious about adding green building components that could drive up the prices of homes and buildings.

“Right now, we need to do everything we can to help the industry get back on its feet,” Davis said recently. “I think that all the industry members want to protect the environment, and we will do everything we can to balance that.”

To help entice builders, the Jacksonville City Council is considering allowing developers and builders to be refunded some of the costs of attaining LEED certification – with refunds ranging from $500 to $2,000 based on the level of LEED certification attained.

But regardless of incentives and costs, some homeowners will still bite the bullet and build green for purely altruistic reasons.

Ponte Vedra resident Gail Greenblatt, a former school teacher and self-described “environmental advocate,” was involved in the nature conservancy in her college days – decades before it was known as the “green movement.” She had already placed a cistern in her backyard to catch rain water, switched from incandescent to fluorescent lights, and applied special film to her windows facing south and west to thwart the sun’s heating rays of summer, when she decided to go solar.

Three years ago, with electricity prices skyrocketing, she had a solar water heater and an entire solar electric (called a photo voltaic) system installed at her home – one of the first fully solar-powered homes in Ponte Vedra – while taking advantage of federal and state tax credits to off-set the $15,000 cost of the photo-voltaic system and $5,000 solar hot water system.

“Since I’m retired and older, I doubt I’ll ever recoup that investment,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s terrific that homebuilders are now gravitating to installing solar systems and other green products when they build a home. It’s easier to absorb when the cost is included in the mortgage.”


Congress Enacts Bigger and Better Home Buyer Tax Credit

A tax credit of up to $8,000 is now available for qualified first-time home buyers purchasing a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009. Unlike the tax credit enacted in 2008, the new credit does not have to be repaid.

For more information, visit www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.


Residents Favor Family-Friendly Waterfront Living in Clay County

Saturday, November 29, 2008 Florida Times Union

Water View
After 14 years in Clay County, Andrea Brinkman and her family recently moved into a two-story, 5,010-square-foot custom home along the St. Johns River built by J.A. Long Design Builders. Brinkman says the value of Clay County waterfront properties, quality schools and slower pace of suburban living prompted them to stay in the area.

When most buyers think of waterfront property in the First Coast, especially those relocating from another city, their first searches for a new home typically center on the beaches or Intracoastal Waterway.

But many are pleasantly surprised to find an array of great waterfront properties miles from the ocean in Clay County – and at prices much lower than those near the sea.

“You certainly get more for your money here,” said Andrea Brinkman. After 14 years in Clay County, she and her family recently moved to a two-story, 5,010-square-foot custom home along the St. Johns River in the Margaret’s Walk subdivision.

“Like many people, the primary reason we originally moved here was job-related,” she said. “The area was close enough to downtown but offered the slower pace of suburban living we were looking for in a community.”

Today, with the growth of the area, she says there are now more restaurants, shopping and other amenities that kept the family in Clay County – noting the recent addition of a movie theater at Fleming Island.

“Also, we were looking for a quality, custom builder and were fortunate enough to contract with J.A. Long Custom Builders,” she said. “We got a great value for our dollar working with them, and more value by staying in this county.”

Company owner John A. Long, whose family-owned company has built hundreds of custom homes over the last 35 years, most in Clay County, says the landscapes, water elements and other environmental features in the county are accented when they design a home.

“Visually, there is a broader tree canopy compared to most areas north of us in Duval County that you can capitalize on during design,” Long said. “Also, lot sizes tend to be larger and there are many opportunities to build on waterfront lots. From a builder perspective, you can use and maximize the impact all of these aesthetic elements in how you position the home on the lot and through the design phase.”

Long notes that the best of those elements can be seen at Preserve 33 – a two-story, 4,543-square-foot home the firm built in Eagle Harbor that’s nestled on a large, 2.39-acre, heavily-wooded lot featuring a 700-foot walking deck that leads through natural wetlands to a 300-foot dock over Doctor’s Lake.

Prudential Network Realty’s Judy Fields, who has worked as a realtor in Clay County for 25 years, echoes Brinkman’s sentiments on the area’s attributes that are attractive to home buyers – especially those who want to live on the water.

“Most people moving to Orange Park are attracted by the same things….proximity to work, access to a good school system, lower taxes and the family atmosphere,” Fields said. “With waterfront properties, there are more affordable rates here than across the river. Plus, you have Doctor’s Lake, which is more protected. It’s much easier to access by jet skis and small boats and also offers a safer boating experience for families.”

Fields is listing agent for a 2,688-square-foot home at 6541 River Point Dr. in Green Cove Springs. Priced at $450,000, the ranch-style home was built in 1983 and is located on a deep-water canal that leads to the St. Johns River. The home’s nearly 120-foot-wide backyard abuts the river.

“This is a great home that I don’t think will be on the market for long,” she said. “It was on the market in 2006 for $799,000 and definitely offers affordable waterfront living.”

On the north side of Doctor’s Lake, RE/MAX Realtor Linda Bayles is touting the attributes of a home she’s listing at 2950 Magnolia Dr. – an older property that can be purchased as is for $399,722, or purchased with the tear-down and construction of a new, custom home on its waterfront lot for $775,000.

“Most people either go to a model home or have a lot and match up with a builder when it comes to new construction, but I actually came up with a design and worked with J.A. Long to further develop it and cost it out,” Bayles said. “We came up with a construction cost of $87-per-foot for a 4,200-square-foot, five-bedroom home.”

Bayles relates that the lake was named “Doctor’s Lake” because many physicians built homes on the lake’s north side starting in the 1950s.

“These homes are older and offer a great opportunity as tear-downs for new construction,” she said. “The time has never been better. Builders are hungry for work and their prices are coming down. This is by far the best time to buy or build on the water.”

While Bayles agrees that most people don’t think of waterfront properties when they think of Clay County, they need to “guess again.”

“I would say that Orange Park actually has more waterfront opportunities than the beaches or the Intracoastal,” she said. “You have the St. Johns River, which puts you only 35 minutes from a football game downtown or a little longer to reach the ocean, and you also you have Doctors Lake and even Black Creek, where you can jet ski and fish. Clay County is actually more of a boater’s paradise – and in more ways than one.”


Slow economy offers time to revamp plans

Friday, August 29, 2008 Jacksonville Business Journal – by Dolly Penland Correspondent

Smart business owners are using the slowdown in the economy as a way to gauge not only what’s going right with their businesses, but also to identify areas that need to be tweaked to remain competitive. To keep revenue up, many are making creative adjustments to their business model.

J.A. Long Inc. is an Orange Park-based custom-home builder that has now expanded both its territory and services to clients.

During the housing construction boom, “We were building more in the Clay [County] area and just custom homes, and we weren’t taking on commercial or remodeling and additions,” said Randy Long, chief operating officer. “Now really what has changed is we’re getting back into the entire Jacksonville market and not just building custom homes, but additions, remodels, commercial buildings, build-outs. We’re also doing smaller jobs for former clients.”

Linda Nottingham, chair of the Jacksonville chapter of SCORE, said business owners should follow J.A. Long’s example and pull out their business plan, make adjustments and use it as a guide. “Has your business grown in size? Has your customer base changed? If so, rev up your branding.”

Click to read the article.+


Custom Builder J.A. Long Goes Coastal in New Home Construction

Jacksonville, FL Sept. 18, 2008

Custom home builder J.A. Long, Inc., which has focused most of its construction efforts in the estate neighborhoods of Fleming Island, has extended its reach to the beaches – now building a 4,485 square foot custom home in Pablo Creek Reserve.

“After reviewing our portfolio and comparing our bid with some other builders, our customer decided that we could offer the same quality of construction and significantly better pricing than other companies currently building near the coast,” said J.A. Long Chief Operating Officer Randy Long. “It is also a conscious decision on our part to expand our reach further out from our normal base of operations.”

Long says the company is looking for more opportunities to build new custom homes, or take on major home renovation projects, in the beaches area.

“While we have built custom homes in the Jacksonville Country Club and World Golf Village, most of our work has been focused near our home base in Orange Park,” Long said. “We’ve been concentrating on Eagle Harbor, Pace Island, Eagle Landing and scattered waterfront builds for the most part. We’ll continue to build in these areas, but we are certainly branching out to secure more new home construction in Duval and St. Johns counties.”

Long concedes the company is building fewer homes compared to three years ago when the housing market was “white hot.” However, the company is on track to complete 13 projects this year – including two waterfront homes on the St. Johns River – and has been supplementing their business by focusing more on major home renovation projects over the last two years.

“We have a great group of subcontractors we’ve come to know over the last three decades, and getting into renovation projects has helped us retain those relationships and generate another revenue stream while we wait for the residential housing market to rebound to normal levels,” said CEO John A. Long.

J.A. Long, Inc. is based in Orange Park and has been a custom builder on the First Coast since 1972. A family-owned business founded by John Long, the company has built a reputation for quality, personal service and unique home design with superior value – constructing custom homes in some of the most prestigious neighborhoods and communities including Fleming Island, Pace Island, Magnolia Point, Paradise Moorings, Romeo Point, World Golf Village, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Landing, and the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club. For more information, contact 904-264-3073 or visit www.jalong.com.


Jax Sellers, Builders Find “Universal Design” Popular with Boomers

June 29, 2008 — Florida Times Union

With more baby boomers caring for their longer-living, aging parents, sellers and home builders are finding that “slope-in” showers, grading instead of ramps and other elements of “Universal Design” can be both functional and stylish – and set their properties apart when it comes time to sell.

When Sam and Lois Crissinger decided to move her parents in with the family, they wanted a design that would take their ages into account.

“We wanted to build a house with an apartment in it, but also ensure it had wider doorways, a sunken shower with handrails and other amenities to make it easier for them to get around,” Lois said. “We also wanted it to fit with the style of the home.”

Custom builder J.A. Long, Inc. designed and built the Crissingers’ Coastal-style 4,500-square-foot home in Orange Park – including a 1,100-square-foot, ground-floor apartment that features a bedroom, living room, study and a kitchen. Most important to the Crissingers, the apartment is entirely handicapped-equipped to accommodate future needs – including an accessible shower, safety bars, doorways that accommodate wheelchairs, and no stairs to navigate.

“When visitors come, mom makes the biggest deal about the shower – that it’s so easy to get and out of,” Lois said. “She had fallen in the shower before she moved in with us, so that was a huge concern.”

Crissinger believes these features will also make her home more marketable if they ever decide to downsize.

“For someone in our similar situation, or if they are an older couple, they’ll have all the features they need to have a safe home with the amenities ready-made for move in,” she said.

According to J.A. Long Chief Operating Officer Randy Long, the custom home building company is getting more requests for these features – which are called “universal,” “design for all,” or “inclusive” design elements – as an increasing number of families take older family members into account.

“Even if their older relatives aren’t actually moving in, these amenities also make it easier to when those guests visit,” Long said. “We’re seeing a trend in adding design modifications that make homes easier to navigate – from building larger door frames and hallways to adding high-seat toilets and slope-in showers. We also added slopes to the exterior doors so they have no step-down and still allow for adequate drainage when it rains.”

That trend is backed by a recent poll taken by the National Association of Home Builders, in which 75 percent of re-modelers said they were getting more requests for “aging in place” projects and 60 percent had already completed similar jobs. Among homeowners, 75 percent said those projects were for “future needs”—which included 53 percent who said they were living with older parents.

Universal design has come a long way from ugly grab bars and toilet seat extenders. Even the bathroom grab bar, the appliance most associated with old age, has been given a design upgrade by companies like Moen – which offers a variety of styles and finishes that can be matched to other faucets and bathroom hardware in a home.

Other universal-design features include commercial, non-stick tile in bathrooms and kitchens, lever handles replacing doorknobs, dimmer lights with arthritis-friendly rocker switches, and even anti-scald devices to keep water temperatures safe and steady.

According to Leon Harper, a founding member of a coalition of gerontology and design activists, the typical American home is made for able-bodied young adults and sold “as if this is all they need for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s not that older people or middle-aged people become disabled and become a burden on society,” Harper said. “The time the first kid breaks their leg and can’t use the bathroom, or they have the first illness and can’t get up and down the stairs, they begin to think, ‘I’m stupid. I’m useless.’ “ But he tells everyone, “It’s not you, it’s the house.”

And universal design is not just making its mark only on single-family homes.

Realtor Cici Anderson of Prudential Network Realty says several of the condominiums at the exclusive Marina San Pablo have universal design elements – including a 1,727-square-foot, fourth-floor condo listed at $639,000.

“The seller walks with a cane, so as the original owner of the condo he had the shower modified so it can be accessed by a wheelchair if necessary, along with grab bars inside that match the rest of the faucets and fixtures,” Anderson said. “Since the condo is accessible by elevator, and the entire building and clubhouse are fully accessible by wheelchair as well, that one modification in the condo itself made it very easy for the owner to navigate the entire property – and is a great selling feature for buyers who have limited mobility.”

Long expects the universal design movement will only get more popular.

“The idea is to make homes and furnishings that work for everyone of all sizes, shapes, ages and abilities,” Long said. “The movement will probably continue in new homes and home remodeling, based on the amount of time and effort our industry is taking to inform custom and tract builders of universal design and the attention being paid by manufacturers in coming up with appliances and fixtures that are both stylish and functional.”

J.A. Long, Inc. can be reached at 904-264-3073 or at info@jalong.com. For more information, visit www.jalong.com

Cici Anderson can be reached at 904-537-0457 or at cici.anderson@prudentialnetworkrealty.com. For more information, visit www.cicisellsjax.com

For more information on universal design, visit the North Carolina University’s Center for Universal Design at www.design.ncsu.edu/cud


Why Selling and Buying Now Makes Sense

Excerpts taken from: The Boston Globe, April 13, 2008: by Vanessa Parks and Jonathon Wiggs.

Homeowners reluctant to sell because prices have fallen should do the math and realize that the market downturn could work in their favor, say real estate practitioners in hard-hit, but still pricey Boston. (Of course, their reasoning may work in many other parts of the country, as well.) “People are finding houses at prices they thought they’d never see again,” says David W. O’Neil of Century 21 Spindler & O’Neil Associates in suburban Boston.

For example, if the home a buyer covets was $500,000 but its price has fallen 10 percent (or $50,000) to a price of $450,000, it’s a deal, even if the buyer’s own home, which was $400,000 also has fallen 10 percent (or $40,000) to a price of $360,000. At the end of the day, that’s a net gain of $10,000 to the buyer ($10,000 = 50,000 – 40,000) and the buyer is in a much better home.

In general, the toughest sell is people who bought at the height of the market, says Zur Attias of The Attias Group at Barrett & Company in Concord, Massachusetts. But even for those homeowners, selling now may make sense as long as they can at least break even.

He argues that almost every one forgoes something, and probably several things, that he or she wanted when buying a house. For instance, the home may be in the right school district but on a busy street. Or it may be in a great neighborhood, but it’s not the right style. These are things Attias calls “unchangeables.” He says it’s a good time to sell if a seller can get rid of the most negative unchangeables in his current home and replace them with better unchangeables in a new home. Once the market really turns around, the growth will be bigger in the better house, he predicts.

Further, buying a new home can make the trade an even better financial decision over the long-term. This is especially true when you consider that the carpet, tile, HVAC, appliances, roof, windows, countertops, cabinets and paint are new. These items will not need replacement or updates for many years. Additionally, in Florida, many older homes may not meet the more stringent building and wind codes of today.

Ultimately, when you buy a new home, you can take comfort in the fact that your new home has all the latest designer features, including the latest energy savers, an efficient heating & cooling system, 35-year architectural shingles, the latest termite treatment & protection, double pane insulated windows that meet today’s wind codes and the latest threaded rod hurricane tie-down system (easier & cheaper to insure). These features result in lower maintenance costs, lower utility costs and cheaper insurance.

When purchasing a new home, a buyer gets all of the benefits mentioned above along with a beautiful new home that reflects their personality and style — a home that makes a first and lasting impression.


Forbes Magazine’s Complete List: Best Cities for Bargain House-Hunters (2-7-08)

 Jacksonville, Florida
 Downtown Jacksonville, Florida

#8. Jacksonville didn’t go through an obscene speculation boom, making its recovery cycle far less daunting than other Florida spots. Job growth is about average for the cities we measured, but the foreclosure rate is lower than any of the Florida cities we looked at, making the high inventory rate more likely to improve than get worse.

 

Best Cities For Bargain House-Hunters
by Matt Woolsey

Property sharks looking to take advantage of local housing slumps are doing their best to time the market, searching for the precise moment when prices bottom out before taking a bite.

They’d be smart to look for markets where job growth is strong, foreclosures are relatively low and inventory is high. With these factors in place, buyers can still dictate terms of sale and negotiate prices, but aren’t as exposed to the economic and lending risk problems that have sunk many markets around the country.

Good places to look? Salt Lake City and Raleigh, N.C., where there are plenty of sellers slashing prices, but not because of a lending meltdown.

Complete List: 10 Best Cities For Bargain House-Hunters

Timing a market is tricky business, and prices alone may not be the best way to determine a bargain opportunity.

What you need is a buyers’ market, where there is healthy job growth and more houses available than people to buy them. This is not due to foreclosures and economic downturn, but to overbuilding that should balance out in time.

These markets “are where you have high inventories but pliable borrowers, with lenders willing to deal,” says Anthony Sanders, a professor of finance at Arizona State University.

This is what’s happening in Houston. Compared to housing prices in other cities, Houston real estate has always been a bargain, which is part of why the population has expanded so much since 2000. Jobs are being added to the books at the sixth fastest rate of cities measured, and while the city has had more than a few foreclosures, especially in Harris County, it hasn’t taken a huge overall hit. Based on inventory levels and construction projects in the works, buyers still have good standing to negotiate price.

Behind The Numbers
Our list includes 2006-2007 data on job growth, from the Bureau of Labor statistics; foreclosure data from RealtyTrac, an online database of foreclosures gleaned from multiple listing services, bank-owned properties, bankruptcy records, loan histories, tax liens and lender information; and ZipRealty (nasdaq: ZIPR – news – people ), an online firm that tracks vacancy rates through multiple listing services.

In addition to Houston, Salt Lake City and Raleigh, what we found were soft markets such as Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., where the damage from risky lending isn’t as drastic as other parts of the country, and where employment growth suggests inventory can burn off at a healthy rate.

 


Money Magazine – Build your Dream House Now (March 12, 2008)

Build your dream house now
It’s the best time in years to take your blueprint off the drawing board and construct it for real.

With home values tumbling and the mortgage market still in crisis, you’d think that Billie and Rodney Wylde would shelve their plans to build their North Carolina dream home – at least until the market stabilizes.

Not a chance. The thirty-somethings are set to pour the foundation on a 2,100-square-foot farmhouse with a wraparound porch in East Bend, a few miles from where they currently live. Estimated construction cost: $140,000.

The couple hope to be able to move in as soon as November. “All the media talk about is this crisis,” says Billie, an elementary school guidance counselor. “But it’s actually a very good time to build.”

She’s right. Behind the dark clouds hanging over the housing market is a very compelling silver lining: The cost of building the home of your dreams is coming down. “If one or two years ago it cost you $300,000 to build a custom home, today it should cost tens of thousands of dollars less,” says Jim Haughey, chief economist at Reed Construction Data.

Why? With new-home demand drying up, the price of some construction materials has started to sink like a poorly laid foundation. Framing lumber is now cheaper than it was 18 months ago, while drywall is also selling for less.

And because overextended developers picked up too much land during the bubble – and are motivated to sell – some lots are becoming dirt cheap. Land prices (often the single biggest expense for custom homes) in certain areas have fallen more than 20% in the past year or two.

“In terms of finding land you want at a good price, this is the best market that I have seen in my 30 years of home building,” says Carl Heldmann, builder and author of Be Your Own House Contractor.

Contractors, meanwhile, are scrambling for your business thanks to a 34% decline in new-home starts. “Because of the slowdown, we are getting bids that are right in line with our price range,” says Billie, 34. “And it’s not like you have to get on a waiting list for six months.”

Of course, building a home isn’t something you should enter into lightly. It’s a huge commitment – of both time and money. And just because prices are relatively cheap now doesn’t mean you should rush out to break ground, especially since a poorly thought-out dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.

On the other hand, if you’ve always wanted a custom-designed home, today’s market makes it easier and cheaper to realize your plans.


Excerpts from “Finding an Edge” published by Homebuyer Magazine

January 2008 — Experts say keeping on top of today’s competitive housing market is a challenge that requires an innovative touch.

Randy Long
In response to the current market, Randy Long says their company has stepped up advertising directly to customers and Realtors, lowered prices on its homes, and is focusing on using innovative and exciting strategies in the home design — adding popular features like summer kitchens and using green building techniques.

Without a doubt, it’s a confusing time in the real estate market.

On one hand, existing single-family home sales in Northeast Florida declined by 38 percent and there were 30 percent fewer new homes built last year than in 2005. On the other hand, slowing sales and rising inventory means more bargains for buyers as builders try to work down excesses.

How long will the buyer’s market last? Florida just recorded 60 consecutive months of job growth, which means plenty of people are still relocating and will need places to live. Likewise, Northeast Florida’s underlying economy remains strong and its lifestyle is no less appealing today than it was two years ago, during the housing boom. So what will happen over the next 12 months? We’ve assembled a high powered panel of builders, developers and real estate professionals who’ll offer some insight.

From the building industry we talked to Randy Long of J.A. Long, Richard Dalton of Morrison Homes and Glenn Layton of Woodside Homes. Weighing in on development issues were Paul Fletcher of Fletcher Management Company, Jay McGarvey of McGarvey Residential Communities and Joel Embry of Amelia Park Development. And our Realtor experts were Rob Holland of Marsh Landing Realty, Mary Ann Bongiorno of the St. Johns office of Watson Realty and Bonnie Siecker of Century 21 Dames Point Realty. Seicker is also president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR).

All agree that 2008 won’t see a return to the frenzied building and buying levels of 2005. But they also agree that activity will begin to pick back up and that buyers now have a rare, and likely temporary, opportunity. Why? First, in Northeast Florida there are nearly double the number of homes for sale today than there were a year ago at this time. Second, excess inventory has eased upward pressure on prices. And third, mortgage interest rates are still hovering under seven percent.

Developers and builders are also getting more creative about setting themselves apart from the competition, says J.A. Long Chief Operating Officer Randy Long. “They’re using green design, equipping entire neighborhoods with natural gas, and making hot items like summer kitchens or mother-in-law suites standard amenities,” Long notes.

The best news is that buying a home remains an excellent long-term investment by just about every measure. “Real estate is a home, a shelter from the elements, a hedge against inflation and a place to raise your family,” says broker Rob Holland of Marsh Landing Realty. “All with tax benefits.”

Here’s what else our panelists had to say about what to expect in the housing market this year:

Question: What is the outlook for the building industry for 2008?

Randy Long: The market still has an over supply of investor resales and new homes, but I think that recovery will continue slowly. There are still a lot of buyers out there because of relocations, people desiring bigger or nicer homes and enlarging families – including a segment of the population taking in elderly parents.

What are the major factors influencing your outlook?

Randy Long: Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of negativity in the media regarding housing issues. We’ve also heard from customers who are eager to begin designing a custom home but are facing uncertainty in selling their current one. One additional strain on the building industry is the effect of impact fees on new developments.

Are you employing any strategies to help with market conditions?

Randy Long: We’ve certainly stepped up advertising directly to customers and Realtors and have lowered prices. But, we’ve also focused on using innovative and exciting strategies in the homes we’re building, adding popular features like summer kitchens, upgrading to wood and tile flooring and using green building techniques.

Are there any new building trends that buyers should be aware of in the upcoming year?

Randy Long: We expect the popularity of mother-in-law suites for aging parents, outdoor living areas with summer kitchens and multi-use entertainment rooms to continue. Homes will also continue to be more efficient and green as more builders become affiliated with organizations such as the Florida Green Building Coalition.


Lots of Opportunity
With the Investors Gone, the timing for buying land lots has never been better.

Special to the Florida Times Union

While it isn’t as much as a buyers market compared to new and resale housing, for homeowners considering  buying up a piece of property and building  their own home this is the best time to be in the market for land.

Doctor's Lake Lot
Custom builder J.A. Long, Inc. is interested in the look and visual landscape, tree coverage, good soil conditions, elevation and waterside opportunities when purchasing lots for custom–home building, says company chief operating officer Randy Long. Many of those features are seen here at the company’s Ebbtide Site –– a one–acre lot on Fleming Island featuring a community dock along the St. Johns River.

According to realtors, builders and real estate appraisers in the First Coast, prices for residential lots or large tracts of land will find prices have cooled considerably since the housing market peaked in mid–2005.

“There really hasn’t been a better time to buy lots in the last five years,” said Jeff Henderson SRA, president of Henderson Appraisal Group in Jacksonville.  “Prices for lots have stabilized for the most part.  I would say about 75 percent are showing little appreciation, less than .5 percent, and on the construction side, many builders are hungry.  That’s where building a home on a lot can save someone money now.”

Henderson says that, just as with single–family homes, new investors flooded the market from 2002 to 2005 – driving up prices for land and properties.

“There were more buyers than there were properties,” Henderson said.  “Now, we’re all adjusting to the normal activity – people buying properties and homes for living, not to hold and sell as investments.”

Along with Henderson, who has done appraisal work for nearly 20 years in the First Coast, we spoke with Prudential Network Realty Agent/Broker Michelle Cummings, who specializes in single–family homes and lots, Randy Long of J.A. Long, Inc, a custom builder that purchases lots for home construction, and Prudential’s Michelle Mousin, who specializes in larger tracts of property.

Q: Are there differences in marketing a lot compared to a home?  Cummings: With a home, a buyer can see, feel and touch it and can better visualize what it would be like to live there.  It’s similar to selling pre–construction, but there you have a rendering of what the condo or new home will look like.  With a lot, a buyer has to use their imagination to really see what their home would look like situated on the lot.  In terms of advertising, it’s about the same.  You might go to higher–end publications because of the price points on the land, but you would do that with a higher priced home as well.  For example, I have lots in Ashton Oaks in Mandarin now, and I have to consider the size of the other homes already in the neighborhood, in addition to the property, in targeting to the right market.

Q: Are there any differences in the demographics of those who purchase a lot?  Cummings:  Not really.  I’ve had buyers who are young professionals, more established buyers who have had homes built on lots before, and older retirees who are downsizing.  The only thing they typically have in common is that they know what they like in a home and want it personalized to fit their needs, whether it’s a certain architectural style, the size, the views from inside, and other specific wants like those.

Q: When buying a lot, what should the buyer keep in mind?  Cummings:  Certainly, their personal preferences on lot size and location, access to utilities, surrounding zoning and, in some places, the composition of the soil is important.

Q: For residential lots, how is the pricing right now?  Cummings:  Lots are priced pretty well right now.  If a buyer is looking at lot for building their own home, they will find sellers who are willing to negotiate.

Q: From a builder perspective, J.A. Long purchases lots for constructing custom homes.  What do you look for in a lot? Long:  We really look for properties that have a “wow factor” to them – something that creates emotion for the eventual buyer.  We also look for amenity centers, golf & country clubs, nice trees and, of course, waterfront opportunities – whether its water view or access.

Q: What about the land itself?  Long: When buying a lot, we look for a combination of things.  First, the look and visual landscape of the site are important. We also look for lots with a nice tree canopy.  You also want to check out the soil conditions.  You don’t want too much clay in the soil, which makes the house more prone to settling later.  You want nice, compact buildable soil conditions.  Also, the height of the site is important.  While you can add fill to level out a lot, if you have to add to much soil it will eventually kill the trees, so it’s important to check the county’s requirement for the finished floor elevation when you choose a lot.

Q: Where are you buying lots now?  Long: We’re always looking for good lots where we can build.  Since we’re based in Orange Park, we have several lots in the Fleming Island and Oakleaf areas, but we’ve begun focusing on lots and possible deals in other parts of town like Mandarin, St. Johns County and areas around Butler Boulevard.  We especially look for good waterfront property. We typically own between 15 to 25 lots at any given time.

Q: Are there any bargains out there?  Long: We haven’t been in any serious negotiations lately, but generally I think lot owners are more willing to listen to an offer now.  They’re more realistic about the market conditions and not so focused on getting rich with a piece of property, so someone buying a lot today will be in a better negotiating position than they were a couple of years ago.

Q: How about large tracts of land?  Mousin:  Large tracts of land, and I’m talking about anywhere from 50 to 100 acres or larger for residential development, and especially those with entitlements or the permitting and zoning completed, would be of interest now to some investment groups who are willing and able to buy now at the right price and hold. National builders, or even smaller builders with land inventory, need some time to absorb that inventory. Large land owners who don’t have to sell are holding on until the market improves.  That’s not to say they won’t negotiate if they are financially motivated and need to sell the property.

Q: What types of uses do you generally find with large tracts?  Mousin: Many are zoned with an agricultural classification, for cattle, crops, and timber uses, for example.  The uses vary from single– and multi–family development, for mobile home lots, or for retail.  For individual residential buyers, what has become popular are “gentleman’s farms” of five to 20 acres.  These buyers are generally those who have never owned land before, but who want to enjoy the space with a house, barn and maybe a few horses.

Q: How did you get into selling large tracts?  When I started in Ocala in the mid 90’s I worked for a land development company that would purchase large tracts to develop as residential or commercial and we would market the finished product through the brokerage.  We would also handle the development process for clients and advise them of the highest and best use for their land to make the most return.  Since I had an equestrian background, I also specialized in horse farms, specifically Thoroughbred training centers.

For more information, contact Michelle Cummings at Prudential Network Realty/Atlantic, 904–241–2417, or by e–mail at michelle.cummings@prudentialnetworkrealty.com . Randy Long, Chief Operating Officer for J.A. Long, Inc., can be reached at 904–264–3073 or at rlong@jalong.com. Prudential Network Realty Realtor Michelle Mousin can be reached at 904–616–5757 or by e–mail at michelle.mousin@prudentialnetworkrealty.com.


 

Builders scale back their jobs
As custom home orders slow, they learn to love renovations.
By LAUREN DARM, The Times-Union

As the housing market remains sluggish, custom builders in the area have taken on different kinds of construction projects besides designing and building homes.

Luxury Living
WILL DICKEY / The Florida Times Union
John Long and his son Randy look over a home last week in Fleming Island that their company, J.A. Long Design Builders, remodeled. They did extensive work on the exterior of the home. The company has been taking on renovation projects as the custom home building market has slowed

Home additions help custom building companies like J.A. Long Design Builders bring in clients and construction jobs to supplement their incomes until the market rises again. And right now, companies receive calls weekly about additions.

“There’s a real market for it as far as people not wanting to move,” said Randy Long, the chief operating officer of J.A. Long Design Builders.

And because they often work with large, luxurious homes, the prices could reach anywhere between $40,000 and $70,000, Long said.

“We don’t want to do the cookie-cutter stuff because anyone can do that. We want to do the tougher, fancier additions,” Long said. “We like the flair.”

Custom builders have found that addition and renovation jobs are different from building a home. Renovations are hard because they are a specialty, Long said, and builders are never sure what the project involves until they’re inside the house.

Being inside a home that already exists also makes it difficult to estimate the time needed to complete a job. Additions could take a month to finish, or they could take six months, Long said. It all depends on the size of the project.

Before the decline in the housing market, contractors didn’t have the time to take on addition projects, especially subcontractors.

Building companies were so busy working on 20 to 30 homes at a time that there was no time or need for renovation jobs. And if they did make time, the costs of the addition would be extremely high. Now they need the business and homeowners get additions at much better values.

“It’s a different challenge, and it’s a learning experience. But, we can bring a level of expertise because it’s still putting a dream on a piece of paper and making it come to life,” Long said. “As a whole we like custom building, but as we learn, doing additions is something I could love just as much.”


 

Bigger nests for empty nesters
Many baby boomers are buying larger houses, seeking room for aging parents, home businesses and hobbies.
By Christopher Solomon

As the front edge of the baby boomers noses into retirement, you might think boomers are “thinking small” when it comes to homes — as in less home to clean, less debt to shoulder, less nest to feel empty once the children are grown.

Indeed, that holds true for many older home buyers, housing experts say. But a significant portion of the maturing market is opting to go big — or at least bigger.

In a 2006 survey of more than 6,300 households of people age 45 and over who had either recently moved or who were planning to move, 30% said moving to a larger home was a primary or secondary motivation. Only 23% said going smaller was a primary or secondary reason.

“Not everybody downsizes — by far, not everybody downsizes,” says Margaret Wylde, president of Promatura, the senior-focused research and consulting firm that did the survey.

Builders are paying attention. The National Association of Home Builders says that buyers over 50 — baby boomers, empty nesters, pre-retirees — are the housing market’s fastest-growing category. People 55 or older bought nearly one-fifth of new homes sold in the U.S. in 2003.

Behind the numbers

So what’s behind this trend? Are seniors today simply wealthier than their counterparts 30 or 40 years ago? That’s part of it, says Wylde, noting the extraordinary transfer of wealth from the so-called “greatest generation” to these boomers. But also, seniors are not immune to the changing tastes of the American population at large, where bigger is often better.

“All housing has gotten bigger,” Wylde says. “People have just gotten used to space. They’re planning extra spaces in their house that they think they cannot live without,” she says, mentioning home offices, which were once considered amenities but are now practically necessities.

Too, some of the upsizers are ex-downsizers. Marie Barksdale is one such convert.

Barksdale, 61, had lived in a 2,500-square-foot home in Clarksdale, Miss. When she decided to retire to Oxford, Miss., she thought she’d try something smaller: a three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home. She hated it

“The bedrooms were so small you could hardly turn around in them. They were just tiny,” recalls Barksdale. “I like to entertain, and there wasn’t enough room.”

And then there was the furniture problem. Barksdale had so much family furniture — often treasured pieces that were generations old — it took a year to make room for the car in the garage.

“I just went down too much,” she recalls of the drop in size.

So she upsized — to a four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home with airy ceilings. Upstairs is a den and a kitchenette. “It’s a good house to have company in, because the guests can stay upstairs and have what they need. I just love my house.”

The sandwich generation

Another factor driving upsizing is that as people are living longer, more boomers are finding themselves caring for their aged parents. “The greatest population growth right now is in the 80-plus segment,” notes Mary Furlong, of Mary Furlong & Associates, a marketing and business-development firm specializing in the boomer and senior markets.

That’s a big reason why, even though they were empty nesters, Lois Crissinger and her husband, Sam, started thinking that a new, bigger house was in order.

The Crissingers — she’s 54, he’s 57 and the chief financial officer of an engineering firm — raised three children in a 1,800-square-foot, ranch-style home in Florida. After the last child was out of college, Lois Crissinger’s parents moved across the street to be closer to the family.

But as those parents aged, the Crissingers decided they wanted the elderly couple under the same roof. “We wanted to build a house that had an apartment in it, so they could be right there with us,” Lois Crissinger says. In May 2007, both couples moved into a 4,500-square-foot Colonial-type home outside of Jacksonville, Fla.

The 1,100-square-foot ground-floor apartment where Lois Crissinger’s parents live has a bedroom, a living room, a study and a kitchen. But perhaps most important to the Crissingers, the apartment is entirely handicapped-equipped to accommodate future needs: step-down showers, safety bars, doorways that accommodate wheelchairs, no stairs. (Read more about remodeling your own home for your golden years.)

The Crissingers are hardly alone in their desire for space for elderly parents, says Randy Long, chief operating officer of J.A. Long Design Builders in Jacksonville, Fla., the company that built the couple’s home. Long says that of his company’s 33 active projects last summer, about one-fourth involved retired couples and empty nesters who were upsizing — sometimes to 5,500 square feet. The company often builds homes in the $400,000 to $1 million range.

“A big portion of it also is people planning on their parents coming to live with them,” says Long. “And it’s not even for sure. I hear a lot of worry about ‘just in case.’ ”

The home as a ‘studio’

What else are these empty nesters doing with this space?

“These big houses, they’re not the suburban house blown up” to a bigger size. “It’s more a quest for identity in the space than it is for the size of the house,” says consultant Furlong, author of the new book “Turning Silver into Gold.” Furlong says boomers and seniors today want several things out of a home, which she defines as “productivity, privacy and creativity.” For example, “there’s a giant uptick in the number of boomers starting small businesses” because they either don’t trust that Social Security will provide the support they thought it would, or because they worry about hiccups in the stock market, she says. So elaborate home offices are big right now. And not just one.

“(A) trend I’m seeing is toward duplicate spaces,” says Anne Olson, an architect whose firm specializes in housing for boomers. “Before, a house might have had one home office; now it’s got his-and-her offices.” Dual master suites, sometimes called “snoring rooms,” are another manifestation of this trend.

But these homes are hardly all about work.

This group “wants a place to explore who they are next,” Olson says. “They want to keep learning; they want to be known as ‘Joanne the plein air artist,’ or ‘Tom who just went to cooking school and who just retrofitted his kitchen.’ ” And their homes need to let them pursue those passions. “A wonderful word to think about the new home is the ‘studio,’ ” she says.

And finally, they want all of this in their home because they’re sick of driving, says Furlong. “This guy said to me in a focus group: ‘I was a mule for 30 years.’ ”

A place to hone a hobby — and relax

One of the people who can’t wait to throw herself into her hobby is Laurie Ferguson. She’s counting the days — literally — until she and her husband, Patrick, retire to their dream house in seaside Brookings, Ore.

“Three hundred seventy-six days,” Ferguson recently tallied.

Ferguson, who does the finances for the Leavey School of Business at California’s Santa Clara University, has lived in the same 1,350-square-foot tract home for 19 years, raising four children there. “It’s four bedroom, two bath, but the rooms are fairly small,” she says. Now that the Fergusons’ children are grown, Laurie Ferguson uses one room as her sewing room.

Three and a half years ago, after looking for a quiet place to retire, the Fergusons bought a lot about one mile from the ocean in Brookings, near the California border. “I wanted a sewing room with an ocean view,” Laurie Ferguson says of the lot.

Next spring the Fergusons will break ground on an architect-designed, 3,200-square-foot home that gives Laurie Ferguson plenty of room to exercise her talents. The sewing room is no longer a cramped former bedroom; it has a bay window that will look out on the Pacific. Built-in cabinets will house a high-tech sewing machine. Laurie Ferguson, who incorporates embroidery into her quilting and who sometimes embroiders clothing for her daughter and granddaughter, also wanted the ability to walk around a table when working. So the room will be 12 feet by 18 feet, with an island in the middle.

Her husband hasn’t been left out; he has an adjacent study. And since the couple love watching movies and sports together, their new house will have a special home theater room, to be decorated appropriately with movie posters.

“It’s our dream home,” Laurie Ferguson says. “We made the sacrifices here (in San Jose), driving Ford cars instead of Lexuses and BMWs, and just staying in the home we’re at instead of moving up into bigger and bigger here, in order to retire in comfort,” she says. “This is not something we thought about a year or two ago. We’ve been planning this for a good 15 years.”

A fun hangout for the grandkids

Back in Florida, that 1,100-square-foot apartment doesn’t explain all the new square footage in the Crissingers’ home. The couple also wanted to accommodate the younger generation — there are two grandchildren already, with a third on the way.

In addition to the master bedroom suite, the upstairs includes three more bedrooms, plus a bonus room that also functions as a playroom. “Our kids love to come home. That’s an honor to us,” Lois Crissinger explains. “We really wanted a place where we could enjoy being together as a family.”

In addition to going bigger, empty nesters and graying boomers are even moving to desirable places in part to be fun to visit, say housing experts.

When Trammell Wells of Memphis said he’d like to retire from his outdoor advertising business, he and his wife, Lynn, began to think about what they truly wanted. They decided to move 55 miles south to Oxford, Miss., home of his alma mater, Ole Miss, which his children also attended.

Their newly built 6,000-square-foot home reflects the hope that family ties — and football games — will bring the children and grandchildren home often. “All of this was built with them in mind,” says Lynn Wells, who designed a 1,000-square-foot barn for the couple to live in while their main house was built.

Upstairs, there’s a playroom with a TV, chalkboard walls and floors that can’t be ruined by spilled paint. “Everything was chosen specifically to be kid-friendly,” Lynn Wells says. There are also three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom: one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the parents. “I can sleep 14 — as long as they don’t mind sharing bathrooms,” Lynn Wells says.

Doesn’t it ever feel cavernous, or too much?

Never, she says flatly. “We do love every square inch, and we do utilize every square inch. We have honestly said to each other that we can’t imagine living in anything less.”

In fact, there are even times when 6,000 square feet doesn’t seem enough: The couple has used the garage for a playhouse, with a playwright friend putting on goofy, 10-minute plays. “If you want to have a production, a play, you must move those boundaries out,” she says with a laugh.


 

Remodeling Helps Prop Up Properties
Competitive Pricing, Availability Mean More Options for Homeowners, Sellers
By R.P. Whittington

With home construction slowing down, and contractors and subcontractors looking to make up for the related loss of work, many home owners are taking advantage of a great opportunity to remodel.

First Coast builders and contractors say that with less building activity taking place, contractors and their subcontractors can get the jobs completed more quickly and at better pricing than a year ago.

And realtors say that in this competitive buyers market, remodeling can be the key in making a property stand out from the others when potential buyers come along.

“Whether it’s a new kitchen, repair work they’ve been putting off, or just an interior or exterior paint job, even some small remodeling projects can make a big difference in how long the sign stays in the yard,” said Prudential Network Realty Agent/Broker Michelle Cummings.  “With so much housing inventory on the market, these types of improvements can help their homes show better against the competition – which can mean less time with a sign in the yard.”

Cummings says one of the least expensive home improvement projects, landscaping, can become one of the biggest returns on the investment.

“If a potential buyer pulls up to your home and it doesn’t have curb appeal, they might just continue on to the next house for sale,” Cummings said.  “People sometimes overlook the impact that a $200 to $300 investment in landscaping can make to the overall look of a home.”

Celina Wolfe, one of Cummings’ clients who is selling her home in Neptune Beach, invested in landscaping and many other improvements including new interior and exterior paint, installation of new hurricane-resistant garage doors, and some other small remodeling jobs to prepare her home for sale.

“We’ve had some great feedback from the people who’ve come to view the house,” Wolfe said.  “The new paint on the outside and the landscaping have really worked to highlight the entrance of the house, which has drawn more people to come in and look around.”

Wolfe’s two-story, three-bedroom, two-bath home, located at 1916 Strickland Rd., is priced at $309,000.

Looking at the price of moving to a new home and the availability of lots of labor at good pricing, Patricia Cochran of Orange Park decided to enclose her outside patio area to add living space instead of moving to a new home.

“I thought about moving, but I like my brick home and I enjoy the neighborhood I’ve lived in for the last 25 years,” she said.  “We have grandchildren now and I really wanted to add some space.  When I looked at the cost of moving, and the number of months I might have to wait to sell my home, compared to the cost of remodeling, it just made sense to me.”

Cochran contracted with J.A. Long, Inc., an Orange Park custom-builder, for her remodeling project.  While the company is known as a residential custom builder, company founder John Long says the firm is actively bidding on remodeling jobs now to keep employees busy and a good group of subcontractors intact.

“On major remodeling projects, especially when you have to replace a roof or build a large room addition, custom builders like us have an advantage because we do so much specialized design on our own homes,” Long said.  “We also think there’s a market for large room additions in some of the older neighborhoods where adding square footage makes more financial sense than moving to a new home.”

In Cochran’s case, J.A. Long will be adding 400 square feet, adding a new roof and changing the roof line so it will conform to the existing look of the home, and matching the home’s original Norwegian Brick with similar brick.  Long says the entire project will cost from $40,000 to $50,000.

“Construction prices are lower than they were a year ago, but the main thing is the availability of labor,” Long said.  “Since there are fewer construction jobs out there, you can get great labor at competitive prices and you don’t have to wait as long to get the jobs done.”

Jack Gregory, Remodeling Division Director for Vintage Group, Inc., says most of the calls he is getting these days are for adding rooms, rebuilding kitchens and bathroom and general repair work.

He agrees with Long that the availability of subcontractors, from specialized carpenters to tile and floor installers, means the homeowner will get more prompt service – and the jobs are completed more quickly, meaning less disruption around the household.

“Subcontractors are also hungrier for the work these days, so if you get three bids for a job that are close, you can go back and negotiate for lower pricing, which you really couldn’t do a year ago,”  Gregory said. “A carpenter who might have bid labor at $40 an hour last year may drop the price to $35 an hour or lower, depending on how badly they need the business.”

Prudential Network Realty’s Michelle Cummings can be reached at (904) 241-2417 (ext. 331) or by e-mail at michelle.cummings@prudentialnetworkrealty.com.

J.A. Long, Inc. can be reached at 904-264-3073 or by e-mail at info@jalong.com

The Vintage Group Remodeling Division Director Jack Gregory can be reached at (904) 208-5555 or by e-mail at jgregory@vintagegroup.com.


 

Building the Family Business
For Over Three Decades, J.A. Long Inc. has Constructed Luxurious, Site-Specific Homes – Bringing Innovative, From-Scratch Designs to the Market

Luxury Living

It’s been more than 35 years since John A. Long started his post-military career as a residential custom builder – founding J.A. Long, Inc. and constructing his company’s first home in Green Cove Springs.

Since that time, the firm has built hundreds of homes in the Jacksonville area. J.A. Long is family-owned and truly family-operated. Along with John and his son Randy, who took over day-to-day management as chief operating officer two years ago, John’s wife Linda serves as office manager and their youngest son Ryan, now 22, also works in the office.

With a total staff of 13, the Longs will work with homeowners to create houses truly personalized to the buyers’ wants, or they offer their own home designs, which they have adapted over time to keep pace with the changing wants and desires of today’s homeowners.

John and Randy say that while the basics of custom home building have remained virtually the same over the last 30 years, the size and scope of the projects they build have become more complex as the market in Jacksonville has matured.

“When we design a home these days, nearly all have a distinctive Florida-style,” Randy said. “The back exit onto the patio will either have the amenities in place to entertain outside, with the house positioned so owners and visitors have the best views, or we will make sure that if our customer doesn’t want patio amenities now that they can be incorporated later on.”

Their approach is apparent with its San Marcos Design Home recently completed at Eagle Harbor. The two-story, 4,100-square-foot home, which features five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms and a four-car garage with a side entrance, offers a beautiful view of a wooded area and a walking path to Doctor’s Lake. The property, which comes with a dock, is priced at $1.299 million.

J.A. Long followed the same approach with its slightly smaller Costa del Sol Design recently built at the Eagle Landing at Oak Leaf development. Priced at $585,000, the design still offers buyers five bedrooms and four bathrooms within 3,400 square feet of livable space – and a great view of a lake and golf course.

While J.A. Long primarily designs and builds its residential properties in Clay County, it has built some prestigious homes at the Jacksonville Golf & Country Club, World Golf Village and many other well-known residential developments in Jacksonville. The company builds up to 40 custom homes a year – mostly high-end homes in size from 2,800 to 5,500 square feet and ranging in price from $ 400,000 to $1 million.

“Over the last 10 years, many buyers have been asking for designs that are larger in square footage, which we’ve been able to accommodate,” John said. “Although very few of our recent projects offer less than 3,000 square feet, I believe there are an infinite number of wonderful smaller homes that use space better and are just as livable, and we enjoy building these as well.”

Long says he especially likes the homes featured in Sarah Susankah’s book series about “The Not So Big Home”.

“I particularly like her design principals for smaller lots, which offer buyers a lower price but still feature real architectural appeal and flare,” he said. “We can come up with smarter style on smaller lots that is much better than what the ‘big box builders’ offer today.”

In addition to the demand for more living space, homebuyers have many more features, amenities and other add-ons to choose from today.

“Years ago, appliances, countertops and other amenities of the home were pretty much standard,” John said. “Now a buyer may pay anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 on appliances alone. People will also pay $50,000 or more to add an audio-theater room in the home, something that wasn’t even considered in the 1990’s.”

His son Randy believes the Internet and the plethora of home improvement programs have been catalysts for this trend as more homebuyers are exposed to all the different features available on the market.

“Buyers can surf the web and see all these add-ons and features in home building today,” he said. “If they have the money to splurge on these things, there are a lot more upgrades they can get.”

Even as the residential market has cooled down after a three-year period of staggering sales and record home appreciation, Randy says he has been impressed with the steady sales of waterfront properties.

“Within the general market of buyers, those attracted to waterfront properties are really a different breed,” Randy said. “There is always be a market for these properties because there is such a limited supply.; Whether they are located within a country club or just near water, waterfront homes really don’t follow the same trends as other homes in the marketplace.”

Those water views, along with trees and the surrounding landscape, are some of the features J.A. Long now uses in determining which lots they select. The company also keeps an eye on the views from inside the home when they build, orienting the home to take advantage of the scenery and incorporating lots of glass and open areas on the home’s first floor.

J.A. Long has also experienced an interesting trend among its buyers as of late – empty nesters who, instead of downsizing, actually want larger homes.

“Of our 33 active projects last year, about a fourth of them involved couples who were increasing the size of their homes to anywhere from 3,200 to 5,500 square feet,” Randy said. “While some are local, most of these buyers are moving to Florida from other cities and want a larger house that’s specifically designed for entertaining and accommodating guests.”

Randy says many of these upsizing buyers are asking for design features such as long sight views, cabana bathrooms, big open kitchens and lots of bedrooms.

In addition to entertaining, they are also asking for bigger, open rooms and fewer small, formal rooms, which will allow for more functionality when guests and family members come to visit.

“With more baby boomers reaching retirement age, and with breakthroughs in health care keeping us living longer, these buyers are finding they still want to entertain, have the space available for the kids and grandkids to visit, or the flexibility to have their parents or in-laws move in as they get older,” Randy Long concludes. “We’re certainly seeing more of this than we ever have before.”

J.A. Long continues to enjoy an excellent reputation thanks to the early work of John Long, known for working on projects from the original design stage to on-site supervision during construction – a similar work ethic adopted by son Randy.

The firm is also known its personal touch in working with customers – always being accessible and willing to work with the homebuyer to accommodate their design ideas.

“We really focus on delivering a quality product, whether we are working from one of our own original designs or we’re modifying existing designs brought to us by the homeowner,” Randy said.

John adds that, rather than a custom builder, “site-specific builder” probably best describes what the company has always done.

“Working smarter and studying to emulate architects by being very “site specific” in designs is really more important in our product than the word “custom,” John said. “We have many examples of difficult sites where we’ve built that show real pizzazz when the house is designed to fit them. The essence is making sure the home is compatible to the customer and making sure the house is compatible with its lot.”


 

Longs See Katrina Devastation First Hand during Housing Conference

Jacksonville, FL (December 8, 2006) Two residential housing veterans of Clay County recently had the opportunity to give a helping hand in the massive restoration efforts still under way in New Orleans.

Linda Long, office manager for JA Long Builders, along with her husband John Long, the founder of 30-year-old company, joined other volunteers in a project to assist the Preservation and Restoration Authority of Orleans Parrish.

Linda, who has served on the Clay County Housing Finance Authority for the last two years, was among hundreds of officials from throughout the country attending a conference sponsored by the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies held in New Orleans in late November.

The work with the restoration project came after the three-day conference. Linda says two bus loads of conference attendees came out for the project.

John and Linda spent the day scraping paint off a single shotgun house in the Holy Cross area of the Ninth Ward to prepare it for painting. The restoration group had been working to reclaim historical older homes in the area, built between 1870 and 1930, before the devastation caused by flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

During the conference, Linda toured the area of worst flooding (up to 16 feet) where 30 people died in a nine square block area with houses on 30 foot wide lots. John said its now just an open field with streets and small piers without any kind of tie down.

“You’re not prepared for what you see,” Linda said. “Downtown looks normal, but when you go out to the Ninth Ward there’s hardly anyone living there. It looks like it would be a dangerous place to be after nightfall.”

“Even though the French Quarter looks normal, the “street people” artists and performers’ are largely still gone,” John said. “The only crowded venue we saw was Harrah’s Casino. And all tourist business restaurant and hotels are complaining of being understaffed. At this late date, most flooded neighborhood businesses have to advertise on banners that they have reopened.”

“In the Ninth Ward, most of the piles of debris have been hauled away after drywall interiors have been stripped by earlier volunteers,” John said. “Many scattered total loss houses still straddle adjoining lots, partially demolished and awaiting total demolition.”

JA Long Builders is based in Orange Park and has been a custom builder in the First Coast since 1970. A family-owned business founded by John Long, the company has built a reputation for quality, personal service and unique home design – constructing custom homes in some of the most prestigious neighborhoods and communities including Fleming Island, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Landing, and the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club. For more information, contact 904-264-3073.


 

“Long” time coming for family business

Randy Long remembers the summer holiday breaks when he was in his early teen years for the days his parents would drop him off to clean up a home job site and pick him up at the end of the day. “When I was 16 and 17, I got to move inside and help with office work, which was definitely an improvement,” said Randy, who is now 28 years old and serves as chief operating officer for J.A. Long – Design Builders. The company provides custom residential design services and constructs about 30 to 40 homes a year – mostly high–end homes in size from 2,800 to 5,500 square feet and ranging in price from $400,000 to $1 million. Both Randy’s father John Long, who founded the company in Orange Park in the early 1970s, and his mother Linda, who serves as office manager for the company, let their oldest son work in the company while encouraging him to attend college and go into another profession.

At the time, I just thought the home building business was a tough one to get into and, of course, you always want better for your children,” John said. After high school, Randy attended the University of Florida and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 2001. During his last year of college, Randy worked as a student recruiter for Texas Instruments at the university, before taking a position with Intel upon graduation – which took him to Portland, Oregon.

“After about eight months, i realized that living in Oregon, and electrical engineering, weren’t for me,” Randy said. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time for me.” So, after braving the cold, rainy northwest, Randy moved back to Jacksonville and rejoined his mother and father in the family business.

“The timing actually worked out pretty well,” John said. “While I still wanted to be involved in the business, I did want to reduce the hours I was working and move toward semi-retirement. Also, I did want to be able to keep the business in the family and Randy’s return allowed that to happen.” Since Randy took over as chief operating officer in 2002, handling more of the day-to-day management, the company’s revenues have more than quadrupled – up from about $5 million annually to an estimated $20 million in 2006.At the same time, Randy has managed a growth in staff size as well. “Randy is a bit more like his mother, more detail-oriented, and has spent more time improving our internal systems, which probably came through his education in engineering,” John said. “When we go over project details, Randy and Linda usually gang up on me, since they think more alike.” “I would say Dad is more of a risk-taker, and Mom and I are more conservative in our approach,” Randy said. “However, having different perspectives makes the end result a lot better in most cases.”

Linda, who left her profession as a teacher to join her husband when he started his business in 1970, says the three make a good team. “We talk about the style and layout of the homes we are working on and on any major decisions we need to make about the business,” said Linda, who also provides input on color selections and works on other interior design issues in addition to her role as office manager. While John, Linda and Randy are the more active family members in the business, the Long’s youngest son Ryan, now 22, is also working in the office through the summer months. Ryan and his father are taking computer- assisted design classes at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. “I always figured it would happen,” Ryan said about working in the family business. “I do like working in design, so who knows where this will lead.” The Longs say that while the basics of the business have remained the same over the last 30 years, the size and scope of the projects they work on have become more complex.

“Years ago, appliances, countertops and other elements of the home were pretty much standard,” John added.“Now a buyer may pay anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 on appliances alone.People will also pay $50,000 or more to add an audio- theater room in the home, something that wasn’t even considered in the 1990s.” “Certainly, the market in Jacksonville has changed significantly over the last four years,” Randy said.“Many of the homes we work on are larger in size and cost and in the amount of features buyers expect.I believe the Internet has a lot to do with it. Buyers can surf the Web and see all these add-ons and features, and they have the money to splurge on these things.”


J.A. Long Brings Reputation for Original Design, Personal Service to Eagle Landing

J.A. Long Inc., a family-owned and operated custom-home builder that has been responsible for creating some of the most unique homes in the Jacksonville area over the last 35 years, has brought its reputation for original, quality architectural design to Eagle Landing at Oakleaf Plantation.

The Key Largo design, which serves as J.A. Long’s model home at Eagle Landing, offers about 5,100 square feet of living space and a 661-square-foot three-car garage (a standard in most of the Long homes), along with 445-square-foot porches and options for lake-side cabana extensions.

“The Key Largo is one of our most popular designs,” said J.A. Long Chief Operating Officer Randy Long. “The front has been simplified with clear large panes of glass, flat columns, and smoother surfaces for a more relaxed Caribbean style. We can also add functional storm and shade tilt, Bahamian-style shutters to several of the fixed glass front areas to enhance a Caribbean or Jamaican feel, which was our original design intent.”

The Key Largo is among many custom homes J.A. Long is building at Eagle Landing, a 1,320-acre golf course community being developed by East West Partners, Inc. in northwest Clay County. The firm is building homes on about 30 lots, with prices ranging from $425,000 TO $1,237,000.

J.A. Long Founder and CEO, John Long, says the Key Largo design evolved from a popular model home the firm built in Eagle Harbor.

“We designed an exterior to square up the garage side of the house to make garage side entry doors accessible on 100-foot home sites,” John said.

Great house, 21-foot ceilings welcome visitors as they enter the home, with window elements broken up by sharply contrasting colors, offering a view over the distance of the main gathering room on the far end of the first floor located behind an open kitchen. Large windows display the natural pines, ponds and other elements of the outside environment.

The windows of the model face out onto the rear porches, cabana area (complete with fire pit) to a lakeside area with the Eagle Landing Golf Course beyond.

“With this design, the homeowner can really relax and get away from it all,” John said. “You have the options of stocking the cabana with your favorite beverages and, with the griller and a free-standing bar and bar sink, it’s a great place to relax on your own or entertain friends.”

The lot size for the Key Largo also allows space for a swimming pool, which can be nestled into the bay of the rear house angle, next to the cabana.

Inside, a very open three-sided kitchen displays maple cabinets with old-world glazing, black painted accents and posts, black galaxy granite tops, special Kitchen-Aide Architect series appliances, gas cook top, oven, microwave, and a tall door dishwasher. A butler’s pantry, with a Kitchen-Aide wine cellar and granite tops, serves the dining room just around the corner.

On the bottom floor, the master bathroom allures visitors with its cool colors of light greens and golds, small columns and separating arches into a sitting area, and a small storage bookcase. It also features a centered drop-in tub, and matte nickel plumbing fixtures that are mounted in natural slate and balance nicely with the natural tones of slate floors and walls. A clear glass shower, with his and her showers, allows views of a large TV stand and built-in display.

“On the model home we used a bowed glass block window because of the two-story adjacent house, rather than an optional sliding glass door exit, which leads out of the shower to an exterior shower garden with a wall shower, rock garden, and landscaped garden,” John said.

Throughout the house, glass tile features accent spaces in several niches. Porcelain flooring mimics Travertine without the soft finish and maintenance problems. Visitors also note the study-paneled wainscoting and ceiling panels where darker stain tones are used for a more masculine decorating scheme.

The home features a floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall bookcase, along with a storage unit – all accessible with sliding oak library ladder. A built-in closet also makes the room useable as a nursery or temporary bedroom, and the master bedroom can be accessed through a walk-through closet. This creates a very flexible space, also offering double doors to the family gathering room, so it can be used for sleeping, a pool table, a study, or an additional TV room just off the kitchen. With its connection to another bedroom and bath, it can easily be used as a self-contained, mini-apartment by guests.

Wrought iron and oak railings guide visitors around the open balconies of the second floor, where walkways overlook the downstairs and connect to the large game room with dry wine bar. A double-entry full bathroom is available for guests, and an adjoining bedroom, which overlooks the front entry walk of the home, can easily be used for either sleeping or converted to a play loft for the kids. Around the corner is an upstairs theater/playroom, and from there a short entry bridge leads to another bedroom/bath suite.

“Basically, the upstairs area has three multiuse or flexible space rooms with a cubby playroom built over the foyer, a large game room with dry wine bar and a finished bonus room or theater located over a portion of the three-car garage,” John said. “It is highly functional, and the spaces can be adapted for a variety of uses based on a family size and what the owner wants.”

Along with Eagle Landing, J.A. Long’s custom homes can be seen at some of the most exclusive residential developments in the First Coast – including Orange Park Country Club, Pace Island, Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club, Eagle Harbor, World Golf Village, Fleming Island Plantation, and throughout Orange Park area.

J.A. Long continues to enjoy an excellent reputation thanks to the early work of John Long, known for working on projects from the original design stage through on-site supervision, and a similar work ethic adopted by his son, Randy, who joined the family business as chief operating officer years ago. It’s still very much a family business – John’s wife, Linda, serves as office manager, and their youngest son, Ryan, works in the design area.

The firm is also known for its personal touch in working with buyers and owners.

“We really focus on delivering a quality product, whether we are working from one of our own original designs or we’re modifying existing designs brought to us by the homeowner,” said Randy Long. “We’re proud of the reputation we have established for our personal approach with customers and the high standards we have set for our work.”

For more information about J.A. Long, Inc., contact John or Randy Long at 904-264-3073, info@jalong.com, or visit the company website at www.jalong.com.


 

Custom Builders of Distinction

Homebuyers who are looking for a true custom design for their new home will do well to contact J.A. Long Custom Builders in Orange Park.

This 30-year-old, family-owned business has built a stellar reputation for its commitment to quality, personalized service and creating some of the most beautiful homes in North Florida.

Founder John Long, wife Linda and sons Randy and Ryan work with their staff with one goal in mind – to provide the highest level of professionalism and creativity when it comes to custom building. The Longs take the time to provide oversight and apply their years of experience to each phase of design and construction.

In addition to its own Florida-style custom designs, focusing on wide open spaces and creating a natural fit between each home and its surroundings, J.A. Long also works with home owners who have their own plans and ideas to create the living space that is truly theirs alone.

And as trends have changed over the years, so has J.A. Long – incorporating the latest architectural flairs in exterior design, the interior amenities in kitchens, theater rooms, family rooms, baths, and guest rooms, and offering the newest patio features that help homeowners make the most from entertaining both inside and out of the home.

J.A. Long Homes are located in some of the most prestigious neighborhoods and communities in the First Coast – including Fleming Island, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Landing and the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club.

Interested? Take a look at some of J.A. Longs designs at www.jalong.com, or call Randy or John Long at 904-264-3073 to find out how they can put their experience and talent for custom home design to work for you.


 

Extended Families, Friends Prompt Some Empty-Nesters to “Upsize”

Most of us are familiar with the term “downsizing” when it comes to living space – the kids move on to college or out on their own, prompting mom and dad to move to a smaller townhome or condo.

But according to Randy Long of J.A. Long – Custom Design, a different trend is developing, with many of his current buyers in their 50’s and 60’s actually “upsizing” to larger homes to accommodate a variety of needs.

“Of our 33 active projects, about a fourth of them involve couples who are increasing the size of their homes to anywhere from 3,200 to 5,500 square feet,” he said. “While some are local, many of these buyers are moving to Florida from other cities and want more home, specifically designed for entertaining and accommodating guests.”

Long is chief operating officer for the company, which was founded in 1970 and provides custom residential design services. JA Long constructs about 30 to 40 homes a year – mostly high-end homes in size from 2,800 to 5,500 square feet and ranging in price from $ 400,000 to $1 million.

“Many of these upsizing buyers are asking for design features that include long sight views, cabana bathrooms, big open kitchens and lots of bedrooms,” Long said. “In addition to entertaining, they are also asking for bigger, open rooms and fewer small, formal rooms, which will allow for more functionality when guests and family members come to visit.”

One of Long’s customers is Liz Kirchner, a realtor with Eagle Harbor Realty who recently moved to Jacksonville from a suburb of Richmond. After 23 years in Virginia, most of them spent raising her three girls in a 3,000-square-foot Colonial-style home, she and her husband Brad decided to build a larger house to make the most of Florida living.

“Even though our girls still live in the Virginia and DC areas, we wanted to have a home that would allow our children, and maybe the grandchildren we don’t have yet, a comfortable place to stay when they come to visit,” Kirchner said.

Her new home being constructed at Eagle Harbor will have 5,000 square feet of livable space, including an 800-square-foot lanai porch, and a three-and-a half car garage (the half planned as a workshop). In total, Kirchner’s new home will have four bedrooms and three and a half baths, along with a separate guest house.

“We also have a detached bedroom with a bathroom and closet that will be here in case either one of my daughters or my 83-year-old father-in-law decides to move from Ponte Gorda to stay with us,” she said.

Lee Daniell, broker and owner of Lee Daniell Realty, Inc., says that she has sold homes to many “upsizers,” most of the time to make room for aging parents.

“More and more, the majority of my customers are in the category or building larger to prepare for their parents to live with them in future,” Daniell said.

Daniell recently closed a deal on a $1.1 million home at Pace Island in Orange Park, where a new 5,050–square–foot home will comfortably accommodate five residents.

“I had another buyer, a doctor, who built a home in Cypress Creek and moved his parents in, who is now looking for something larger, from 4,000 square feet and up, to give the family more space,” she said. “I see this as a major trend, especially in the upper price range homes.”

Lois and Sam Crissinger, who moved to Bear Run in Orange Park from Philadelphia 22 years ago, are working with JA Long – Custom Builders on the final design of a new home which will increase their living space from 1,800 square feet to more than 4,500.


Media Contact: Ron Whittington & Associates
info@whittingtonandassociates.com
904–563–04