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A handful of home buyers line up days before sale west of Boynton Beach

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Palm Beach Post
By Kimberly Miller

Before sunrise Monday, closer to midnight really than dawn, Laurie Cohen persuaded an overnight security guard to let her slip into the gated Valencia Pointe community west of Boynton Beach so she could set up camp at the GL Homes sales center. Her mission: lot 369, where the view is a 745 foot stretch of nothing but lake.

An hour later – 4 a.m. – a man with his sights set on the same view crept in a back entrance, finding, to his chagrin, Cohen already there. As the sun came up four more people were in the queue. By Tuesday, it was a total of nine, all of them camping out at the sales center for a handful of empty lots and furnished model homes that will go on sale Friday.

Back in the day, meaning 2005-2006, GL Homes executives remember 50 or more campers for the opening sales on their Greystone community, also west of Boynton. Today, they're tickled to have the nine. "In these economic times, this is extremely uncommon," said Marcie DePlaza, division president for GL Homes. "In January, we had a few campers at another opening, and we were dancing in the streets."

Although the homes don't go on sale until Friday, prices for the furnished models at Valencia Pointe were released Monday, as were the prices for empty lots available at Valencia Reserve.

An e-mail blast before the weekend alerted interested buyers, but GL Homes representatives didn't expect anyone to show up until Wednesday or Thursday. Cohen's 3 a.m. appearance Monday was a surprise.

The Pennsylvania transplant had looked for a home closer to the beach, but concerns about mold and $1,000-a-month association fees scared her west. Others said they didn't want to deal with the short sales and foreclosures that litter today's housing market. Cohen's lot at Valencia Reserve cost $65,000. The home she plans to build is about $477,000. Association fees, she said, are $300 a month. "All of my bedrooms will look out at the lake," Cohen said proudly, pointing to her lot on an illuminated map.

The campers can't spend the night at Valencia. They are required to sign in by 10 a.m., they sign out for a 90-minute lunch, and then are allowed to leave at 5 p.m. On Tuesday, a man was 10 minutes late for the morning roll call. He lost his spot in line.

DePlaza said GL had problems in the past when it would just keep a waiting list. When the homes go on sale, people on the list may not show up on time and those physically in line want their spots. It can be a serious competition.

Two current campers want the furnished "Lydia" model in Valencia Pointe that is selling Friday for $599,000, down from $816,200. Michael Sherman has first dibs on the Lydia. He's holding the spot for a Realtor friend, who is holding the spot for a client. "It's like waiting in line for tickets to see the Stones," Sherman said.

GL tries to make the campers comfortable, providing donuts and offering to buy lunch. Mostly, the campers read, work on their laptop computers, and chat to their future neighbors. "We're camping out for five days and I'm really not a happy camper about it," said Mildred Thompson, whose husband showed up late for the prized lot 369. "But, if you want the best, I guess this is what you have to do."