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REAL ESTATE : Inland Empire Home Builder Moving Into O.C. With 2 Projects

Compiled by John O'Dell, Times staff writer

Lewis Homes, the 46-year-old Upland residential builder that has made a big name for itself in the Inland Empire, is moving into Orange County with two projects scheduled to begin next year and a third in the early negotiating stage.

Randall Lewis, a vice president of the family-owned firm, said construction will begin on a 150-home project in the Irvine Co.'s Tustin Ranch community early in 1992 and that a Fullerton project is scheduled to get under way late next year. The company is also negotiating with the Irvine Co. for a project in the upcoming Newport Ridge master-planned community, just inland of the company’s Newport Coast luxury resort project.

While Lewis Homes’ reputation is that of an affordably priced builder, Lewis said the company builds homes that sell from the $70,000s to more than $400,000.

The Tustin Ranch and Fullerton projects will be priced in the $400,000s. If the Newport Ridge project comes together, he said, it will be higher-density, attached housing, priced in the $200,000s.

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Lewis said his company’s new presence here isn’t a case of Lewis Homes discovering Orange County but rather of Orange County discovering Lewis Homes.

“Because of our financial strength, we have recently started getting a lot of deals brought to us by Orange County brokers and landowners,” he said. “There are deals that weren’t offered to us three or four years ago,” when the building industry was at its peak and lenders were pleading with builders to take their money.

“We have closed a number of deals this year,” Lewis said, “and when word like that gets out it generates even more deal pitches from the brokers.”

But he doesn’t see his company ever becoming a major player in the county. “We just hope to find two or three good deals a year. That would be enough.”

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