Augusta Heights, The Lost and Mysterious Community In Pike Township

Most Realtor’s I talk to think Augusta Heights is in the New Augusta area. It is not. It is in the 79th and Michigan Road area. It happens to be the southeast quadrant of that intersection. You can easily miss it. There are only a couple of ways to get to it. Just south of 79th and Michigan Road on the east side there is a street called Sapphire Blvd. If you follow it, it will take you into Augusta Heights. Just east of 79th and Michigan Road there is a street called Walnut Drive. If you turn south on it, it will also take you into Augusta Heights. If you look at a plot plan of Augusta Heights you will see other streets going into Augusta Heights. If you try and find the streets, they are not there. They were never built. There are 403 plotted lots in Augusta Heights but only 38 have houses/businesses on them. These improvements were built anywhere from 1927 to 2000. They are scattered throughout.

Fun Fact – Some members of Pike Township Residents Association call Augusta Heights the “Jewel District of Pike Township” because most of the street names are jewels.

Here is a location picture of Augusta Heights showing the plots

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Click To Enlarge

In 2000 which was the last time a house was built in Augusta Heights, the owner had to get a zoning variance before they could build. This had to do with putting in a septic system. It seems the city did not want new housing on septic. All new houses had to be on city sewer or you had to get a variance. Since there are no sewer lines or city water lines in Augusta Heights, the cost of putting in city utilities would be prohibitive. They petitioned the city for a variance. They got it and built.

Around this time Crossman Communities, a home builder, was buying up lots in Augusta Heights. There was lots of speculation about what they were going to do with the 244 lots and 3 houses that they bought. In 2002 Beazer, another home builder, merged with Crossman Communities. Both home builders at the time were active and starting communities and building in them in Pike Township. Nothing ever happened in Augusta Heights. I speculate that again the cost was too prohibitive to bring in city water and sewer.

In 2008 there was a letter sent out to Augusta Heights’ home owners. Because an Augusta Heights home owner was a client of mine and I had sold him several investment homes, he emailed me a copy and wanted to know what I thought. The letter appeared to be a letter of intent. Rumor was that they wanted to build a commercial center in Augusta Heights. Well, nobody wanted that. There were not enough details in the letter to figure out how they were going to do that. Again, nothing ever came of it.

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I don’t know the beginning history of Augusta Heights or how and when it got plotted. It must be interesting. I had heard rumors that the State Fair at one time gave away plots of land in Augusta Heights as prizes. I have no idea if this is true but it makes a good story. I do know that there is a lot of encroachment (houses to near or on property lines) in Augusta Heights. You can see this in aerial views. Encroachments are a Realtor’s nightmare. They usually have to be resolved before properties can be sold.

Last week I was driving along 79th in the Augusta Heights area when I saw this sign

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It appeared that Crossman Communities properties in Augusta Heights were going to auction. I had mixed emotions about this. Obliviously Crossman/Beazer wanted to get rid of the properties. They had held on to them for years without any income. They were now going to do it the fast way and probably take pennies on the dollar. Finally, something was going to happen to these lots. The downside was that there might be 50 new owners in Augusta Heights. How many of them had done their due diligence about all the challenges they would face. Here are a few;

Encroachments.

The lots are extremely small. 5000 square feet or .11 of an acre. Most new home lots are twice that size in Pike.

Some lots are in flood zones.

Petitioning the city for variances for septic and the costs involved.

Roads that need to be built so that you can get to the properties.

I would guess that financing would be near impossible and all sales would have to be cash.

He is a picture of the lots that are for sale. Remember, there are no roads to some of these lots

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Click To Enlarge

On Friday the 25th I went to the inspection/preview of the 3 homes for sale. It appeared that all 3 homes had sit empty for years and were in need of major repairs. They were not livable in their present condition. Two of the three houses were brick, solid and appeared to be in good condition from the outside. Inside was a different story. Mold, roof leaks, wet basements, missing drywall, missing copper piping, no furnace or water heater and the list goes on and on. According to the property tax records, one of the houses was built in 1947. The other 2 did not have build dates. Houses that were built in this period have very small closets, small kitchens, limited bathrooms and small bedrooms. Not suited for today’s buyers. I am always leery about old houses. You never know what could go wrong. There were quite a lot of people looking. My guess was that most of them were contractors that were looking for a cheap buy, fix up and flip or rent. The challenge would be do you fix up and update or would you gut the whole interior and start from scratch. Here is where economics come into play. Houses along 79th Street in the Augusta Heights area go for around a price point of $100,000. In the condition these houses were in you might have to put $50,000 into to make marketable and it could a year’s worth of work. Very little incentive unless you planned to live there and that would be a challenge in the beginning. The rental houses in the area go for around $1200 a month. Renting on 79th Street would be a hard sell because of the traffic and you might have to take considerable amount less to rent. I can think of numerous better places in Pike to rent for that kind of money.

According to the auctioneer who was present at the inspection, it will be an open to the public auction. You do not have to be a bidder to attend. Bidders will have to put up a $5000 check to bid and $10,000 to bid on the lots and will have to pay a 10 percent buyers premium. It is not an absolute auction, a type of auction where the sale is awarded to the highest bidder. Absolute auctions do not have a reserve price which sets a minimum required bid for the item to be sold. My understanding is that there will be 3 sections and you have to bid on a section. A section could contain around 70+ lots and, interesting twist, Crossman/Beazer will have 3 days to decide if they will accept the bid.

I wanted to attend the auction but I have an appointment at the very same time. I was curious who was bidding and how they were bidding.

It will be interesting to see how this whole thing turns out. I am disappointed that the City has not stepped in and faced the challenges of Augusta Heights. I have a feeling that in time it will come to haunt the powers to be.

If it had been done right from the beginning there would have been city utilities, roads and many access points in Augusta Heights. Property values would be somewhat stable in a hidden and much wooded area in Pike Township. Now only time will tell.

Relevant Links
Augusta Heights Plots Picture
Paragon Letter On August Heights Dated 9/19/2008
Key Auctioneers Auction Flyer Showing Auction Lots
Key Auctioneers Lot Measurements
Key Auctioneers Survey of Augusta Heights

Disclaimer – The above story is deemed reliable with the facts but not guaranteed. My sources are:

A client of mine who owns improved property in Augusta Heights

Metropolitan Board of Realtors (MIBOR) property tax records

Conversations with past Township Administrators

My firsthand account of inspection/preview of the improved properties to be auctioned

A conversation with the auctioneer

My opinions as a 12 year Realtor specializing in Pike Township

Seeing firsthand presentations about Augusta Heights zoning petitions at Pike Township Residents Association

Mortgage Origination’s Are Re-Balancing

During the last 5 years refinancing your mortgage was a top priority. Interest rates in some cases were up to 50 percent below what they had been. Well, that is changing. Interest rates are rising and what we are seeing is a drop off of refinancing. In 2012, 62 percent of closed loans were refinancing and 38 percent were new purchase loans. Today 45 percent of loans are refinances and 55 percent are new purchase loans. Check out the report at the following link;

EllieMae Origination Insight Report

What was that!?!?

Maybe a maxi barn?

Maybe a maxi barn? Click for a bigger picture.

This Pike homeowner got a “stop work order” because there are limitations as to how big a secondary structure can be on a property. In order to do this, the owner will have to get a zoning variance. Otherwise the structure will have to come down. Now that is a lot of storage!

Rentals, Rentals, Rentals

Several Real Estate Investment Trusts have come into town and are buying up houses to rent. America Homes 4 Rent has been here the this year and has bought 100’s of homes. Own America has just entered the market and will buy several 100 in the next year. I have talked to other Realtors in my company and have heard that there are many other large and small groups of investors that are buying up homes to rent also. This will probably go on for the next couple of years or until the market gets saturated or rental rates start falling. Then these companies will start selling the properties.

Rentals

Investors are buying homes for rentals

It is strictly a numbers game. These investors have formulas that have to be met before they are interested. Parameters are different for each company but generally they are looking for capitalization rates (how much return on investment per year), better neighborhoods, what the video of the property looks like, what comparable rental rates are for the house, etc. REO’s (Bank owned) and short sales are not excluded. The property has to be listed. The investors are paying cash which means they can close fast. These investors and REIT’s are using local Realtors to find them homes.

The reaction from my friends and past clients is that rentals will hurt property values in communities. This may be somewhat true. Only time will tell. These rentals will be managed by professional local property management companies. It would be in everyone’s interest if the houses are well maintained. The investors want these property values to be maintained and rise. The neighbors want the houses maintained to keep the neighborhood values high.

My take…Inventories are extremely low. The best houses sell quickly. The rest sit on the market a long time. These investors will buy anything if the numbers work. This keeps the inventories low and the prices high. A lot of Pike communities have or are developing covenants restricting rentals. If the Home Owners Association is active in a community and the covenants are strong and followed, I suspect that rentals won’t be problem. If rentals become a problem in Indianapolis, I would imagine that the City Council will develop and pass new code on rentals. In my mind this is long overdue and may help communities that don’t have active Board of Directors and the resources to enforce covenants. The unknown factor I see is what happens when these investors start unloading these homes in a couple of years. Will they flood the market with houses for sale or will they trickle them out?