Monday, July 27, 2009

City in the Hills

Once upon a time, in the big city of Bakersfield, the housing market was booming, house prices rising daily, and new housing developments were springing up like weeds. A developer decided to cash in on this boom and build an exclusive community outside the city in an area of rolling hills with views of the mountains in the distance. A community of houses and parks ideal for raising a family or spending your golden years in the 55 and older section of the new master planned City in the Hills. Great idea, right? Until the economy crashes and you are stuck in your $400,000 dollar house with empty lots next to you, un-built parks, and a view of half built houses in the distance.

We had heard of this City in the Hills, but had never been to visit, and after seeing numerous ads on TV for the Four Seasons 55 and over development, with houses starting in the low $100,000's, decided yesterday to go see what a new house in the low $100,000's looks like. Our weekend was pretty boring, so for just the cost of gas to drive about 20 miles out to the City in the Hills, it sounded like cheap entertainment to us.

The City in the Hills is located on the east side of Bakersfield on Hwy 178, which leads to Lake Isabella in the mountains, which sounds like a pretty lake but in actuality is barren and really hot in the summer. I was not impressed with Lake Isabella at all.

Anyway, we get out to the City in the Hills which sits in (you guessed it) some rolling hills, which currently are that lovely brown dead grass color since it hasn't rained here in about 6 months. The entryway to the development has some weird kind of half done curving building with arches in it and glassed in booths on each end. Sentry houses? Toll booths? I couldn't figure out what the purpose of it was supposed to be. A litte further up the road was a concrete basin with big rocks around it that we assumed was originally going to be a little lake with a waterfall, but is just rocks and brown hills at this point, no lush trees or water in sight.

On up the road and into the 55 and over, which they call 55 and better so as not to offend any old people I guess, and into the parking lot for the model homes. On the other side of the lot was a huge building that they call The Lodge, meaning clubhouse, with party rooms, game rooms, a fitness center, a theatre, an outside pool, tennis courts, bocci ball courts, horseshoes, paddle tennis, shuffleboard, a 'botanical garden', you know, all those things that us old people like to do?

There were 10 model houses to look at in 3 different 'collections', a veritable smorgasbord of houses. Whee!

We started on the expensive side of the street, the ones in the mid to upper $200's, and oohed and aahed our way through, marveling at the amenities and huge bathrooms, and fancy kitchens. I love the way they decorate model houses, with all sorts of impracticle doo-dads and upscale over sized furniture. We loved all the expensive ones except the one that was decorated in black and white with swirly black and white wallpaper and small black and white checked floors in the bathrooms, floors that made you feel a little like you were inside an optical illusion.

And then, on to the smaller low $100's houses.

This is from the brochure because I didn't feel like lugging around my camera and didn't know if they allowed picture taking inside the houses, which are all wired with security cameras so that you don't steal anything, use the toilets, cook a meal in the kitchen, or take a nap in the beds, or whatever.

This is residence one, obviously. Notice you don't see a front door? That's because it's around the side of the house by a little courtyard on the right of the house. These are also those zero lot line types of houses, where you have just the one bigger side yard instead of two useless side yards and a back yard. What's in the back of the house, you might ask? The garage! It took us a few minutes to realize that these houses have no driveways in front. I love it! The front yards look just like the picture, just sidewalks and grass.

The two front rooms are a bedroom and kitchen, and you could have an optional patio and french doors off of the front kitchen wall, which I would really like because it's always nice to have your coffee on a patio in the mornings. Plus you can sit out front and be a nosy neighbor.

I loved the courtyard in this one, there were french doors leading from the great room and the master bedroom onto the courtyard, so it's totally usable and somewhat private.

Number two has a front porch, another great selling point when you like to spy on your neighbors. This one also has a courtyard behind the left side of the house, again with french doors leading to the courtyard from the master bedroom, great room, and optional third bedroom or den.

And, lastly, residence three, with a courtyard in the front of the house, again with french doors leading from the great room out to the courtyard. This one has the master bedroom in the front and the other bedrooms/dens in the back.

These three were smaller than the more upscale, more expensive houses in the 'collections', but I really liked the garage in back feature, the front of the house just looks so much nicer. They also had park benches here and there along the sidewalks, you know, because old people need to rest more, and water fountains with low fountains for your dogs, because, you know, old people and their poodles get thirsty.

The whole development was almost uncannily quiet, too, no traffic noises, no children screaming, very peaceful. But, there is nothing else out there at this point, no shopping centers and only one gas station down on the highway, so you'd be doing a lot of driving every time you need things like food.

Oh, and the association fees are currently at $230 a month. Yikes.

All in all, though, nice concept and nice houses, too bad you'd have to drive by an unfinished lake and empty lots every time you came home, though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised to hear, even in this economy that you can buy a brand new house in the $100's in CA... Wow!

The do look nice though... but living out in the middle of nowhere doesn't sound like good planning for retirement... hmm. LOL

Could be a good investment though if you rode the wave for the next several years. My husband works in the building industry and things are very slow right now, but they will pick back up. They always do. And hopefully, we won't have to survive a low like this again in our lifetime... hopefully.