NWA Housing Rebound Cheers Homebuilders

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Apr. 14, 2014 12:00 am  

Kevin Riggins insists that eyes can be deceiving when it comes to Waterford Estates.

Waterford Estates at Hissom Ranch was the brainchild of partners Gary Combs and Ronnie Hissom, who dreamed up a tony subdivision along the White River. The community pops up along state Highway 45 about 5 miles east of Fayetteville just inside the city limits of Goshen, which has a listed population of a tad more than 1,000.

The housing collapse and subsequent recession were body blows to housing developments, and Waterford Estates wasn’t immune. Hissom’s death and Combs’ legal fight against the Bank of the Ozarks in 2009 cast a pall over Waterford, which kept a look of a few houses and a lot of empty land.

Waterford was planned as a gated community, replete with fishing ponds, a 6,200-SF clubhouse and swimming pool and acres upon acres of luxurious upscale homes. These days, behind the front wall emblazoned with its name, Waterford Estates looks sparsely populated, an island of homes amid the pastures of eastern Washington County.

Riggins, the owner of Riggins Construction, said that impression is inaccurate. He said houses built in Waterford are selling well.

“Waterford Estates is probably the hottest subdivision in east Fayetteville,” Riggins said. “If you want to be in east Fayetteville, it’s the place to go. It’s very strong.”

There are signs of life and hope. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, two boys try their luck on one of the subdivision’s stocked ponds, and further down Waterford Drive there are a few houses under construction and “Open House” placards for several more.

Seventy-one lots were sold and developed before a nasty split between Bank of the Ozarks and Combs, who has also died, resulted in the bank taking possession of the remaining 110 lots. The bank sold those lots to Waterford Estates LLC of Dallas this past June for $2.58 million, an average of about $23,500 per lot.

Riggins and another company, Buffington Homes, purchased some of those lots from Waterford Estates LLC, and 26 are listed on the Washington County assessor’s website. Riggins paid between $42,000 and $50,000 each for 15 lots, with the exception of one $72,000 lot that is on the White River. Buffington Homes paid a similar price for its lots, with those on the river commanding $57,000.

The original 71 lots sold for $3.5 million, an average of $49,000, more than twice what the bank got. A quick search of real estate listings reveals Waterford Estates homes listed at between $300,000 and $450,000.

Riggins said he got involved in Waterford Estates in 2010, and he had the same misgivings many others had about the subdivision: It was too remote, too expensive and too far from Fayetteville.

Those concerns have fallen away.



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