Thursday, January 21, 2010

a desert mirage

WaPo | Every home builder in the country would probably describe 2009 as an "annus horribilis." But Las Vegas builders Adam Knecht and Ernie Domanico had a particularly horrible year.

Last January, their construction company, Domanico Custom Homes, was breaking ground for the New American Home, which was supposed to be a spectacular show house and a centerpiece of the International Builders Show, scheduled to open in Las Vegas next week.

Instead, the New American Home all too accurately reflects the state of luxury home building -- and the ravaged Las Vegas market. Unable to secure financing, the builders lost the unfinished home to foreclosure in December.

Rob Williams, the architect who designed the home, said he could have incorporated most of the showcased products in a house half as big, but the project was intended to be a "dream house" that demanded extravagance.

Its sprawling footprint is bookended by a capacious master suite at one end of the first floor and a grandparent suite at the other. The second floor includes three large bedrooms, each with its own bath, and a "man cave," a large room intended to be a hangout for Dad and his pals to play cards, shoot pool -- and watch six televisions simultaneously.

Despite this year's fiasco, the NCHI remains enthusiastic about its New American Home program, Bernard said. The builder for next year's 8,500-square-foot house in Orlando just got building permits and is going full speed ahead to meet the September deadline.

Knecht has left the family business and is moving into an emerging niche in the Las Vegas market, buying partially built foreclosures, finishing construction and selling them. He said Domanico remains in business, though the phone number was not in service when a reporter called.