Suburban pocket neighborhoods are some of the best-kept secrets in the Sacramento region. Tucked away and unfamiliar to many buyers, they can offer unique properties or even bargains.
Take, for instance, the Mormon Island neighborhood of El Dorado Hills, where 37 acres of private woodlands and meadows surround 40 custom-built houses on large lots near Folsom Lake. Each homeowner has a stake in the shared property with its walking paths, horse barn and corral in the El Dorado County foothills.
“It’s a unique hidden treasure within El Dorado Hills that not a lot of people know about,” said real estate broker Margaret Melville, with The Melville Group in Folsom. “I would say that these homes are a great value when you look at the property size, plus you’re getting a 37-acre greenbelt.”
The neighborhood is named for an early settler community that now sits under Folsom Lake.
Melville has two listings in Mormon Island on Appaloosa Court and Mormon Island Drive. There are four homes for sale in the neighborhood now, all in the $750,000 to $800,000 price range, which is typical for pricey El Dorado Hills.
Having so many houses on the market at once is rare for Mormon Island, however, Melville said. Some of the original homeowners, who built their homes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are older and ready to downsize, she said.
“One reason it’s a secret is there hasn’t been much turnover,” Melville said. “It’s a tight-knit group of people. They’re friendly, and they all know each other.”
Other suburban settings offer communities with similarly distinct personalities.
Visitors to the Yolo County seat of Woodland usually take in its historic downtown and opera house, while some venture south of Main Street to tree-lined streets lined with Victorian mansions and large craftsman bungalows.
The Beamer Park neighborhood in the north part of town is much less familiar to non-locals. An early 20th century master-planned subdivision, it has graceful curving streets and an eclectic range of architectural styles from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Prices, ranging from about $400,000 to $700,000, can seem quite reasonable to those used to costlier parts of California.
Turnover is low, however. Right now there’s just one active listing, and it’s a short sale.
Built in 1935, the white brick cottage sits on Sunset Avenue across from Beamer Elementary School. It has a parklike backyard, three bedrooms, two baths and a total of 1,925 square feet of space. Realtor Don Sharp has it listed for $399,000. The house needs work because of deferred maintenance, he said.
“If it was in really good condition it would probably be pushing the high $400,000s,” Sharp said. “It has a really large lot.”
South of Woodland in Davis, the Village Homes neighborhood is well-known to residents of the college town but less known to outsiders. It was built in the 1970s as an experiment in sustainable, environmentally friendly living with passive solar heating and a grow-your-own-food ethos.
The streets are named for characters and settings in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Fruit trees line the walking paths that wind among its 240 houses providing “edible landscaping,” as the locals call it. Shared lawns, community gardens, a vineyard, clubhouse and pool round out the amenities.
Village Homes began to attract attention even before it was finished. With the nation focused on an energy crisis in the 1970s, national and international publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Parade magazine, and the French publication Le Monde wrote about the community’s passive solar design and other elements.
First lady Rosalynn Carter visited Village Homes, as did Francois Mitterand, then president of France, who dropped in by helicopter on the village green.
When homes occasionally go on the market, they are usually swept up at high prices by people eager to live in such a unique setting.
David Fritsch, an agent with Paragon Real Estate and a former Village Homes resident, currently has the only listing there, a 1,316-square-foot home with an asking price of $625,000. The house on Overhill Lane is already under contract.
“It’s a shame there weren’t more communities like that developed,” Fritsch said. “It’s special and unique … and highly sought after. ”