REAL ESTATE : Pricier Homes Planned by Rancho Santa Margarita

Compiled by John O'Dell, Times staff writer

Rancho Santa Margarita is going upscale.

The South County planned community--responsible for much of the affordable new housing being built in Orange County these days--has opened nine new single-family and attached-housing developments around the upper portion of the Tijeras Creek public golf course set to open in the fall.

Prices start about $140,000, still way down there in affordable territory, but not all the homes will be that inexpensive.

Units next to the golf course fairways will be priced at more than $400,000--the most expensive in the entire community.

The presence of a golf course, however, doesn't mean Rancho Santa Margarita is abandoning the affordable market.

Just across the street from the golf course homes and scheduled to open in June is a condominium development by Newport Beach-based Inland Pacific Communities. It will offer 608-square-foot units with one bedroom, one bath and a single-car garage for less than $100,000 apiece. The exact price hasn't been set yet.

Top price in the development will be in the mid-$150,000s for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit, said Gail Zalta, spokeswoman for the 2-year-old firm.

Inland Pacific hasn't opened any models yet, but about 500 would-be home buyers already have asked to be included on an information list, she said.

The development will have about 250 units, and only 30 or so are to be offered in the first phase.

By the time they go up for sale, the Inland Pacific homes might carry the only sub-$100,000 price tags in Rancho Santa Margarita. Currently, one other attached-home development--by the William Lyon Co.--still has a few units priced at $98,000.

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