By Amaris Castillo
DRACUT -- Chris Ronzano stood on the porch of his brand-new house one day last week.
"We came here because the house was very beautiful," he said, "but also because we weren't competing against multiple buyers, so it was kind of like first-come, first-served.
"Dracut's up and coming," he added.
Ronzano, 38, and his wife, Christina, are the proud owners of a home in Meadow Creek, billed as a highly desirable residential community in east Dracut. Other large houses dot the Ronzanos' quiet street, and construction is underway for more in the near future.
The home's spacious living room, open kitchen and three bathrooms aside, its biggest draw for Ronzano was not having to do any work on a house that had been previously owned.
"We just didn't want to buy a home, get in it and have to do a lot of work on it," he said. "We were looking at homes and competing with other borrowers, but there was always something wrong with the home. We lucked out. We were at the right place at the right time."
The Ronzanos' new start in Dracut is one facet of the town's current housing boom, thanks in part to new and future developments and subdivisions springing up. Over the past several years, the sale of properties in Dracut has seen increased activity as buyers choose to settle here over other communities in Greater Lowell.
Local real-estate agents say Dracut is a great option for clients because its housing stock is reasonably priced and the town has managed to maintain its rural, small-town character.
Anna Jackson, a real-estate agent with LAER Realty Partners, said buyers can find beautiful, quality new homes in Dracut at an affordable price.
"In other towns, it would cost you a lot more money," she said.
Though more affordable than surrounding communities, the average price of properties in Dracut has increased 20 percent over the past five years. In 2012, the average price was $246,859, based on 411 deeds, according to the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. In 2015, it was $279,597 (based on 514 deeds), and in 2016, it was $294,795 (based on 693 deeds).
Compare that to the average price of properties in Tyngsboro in those same year -- $260,684, $309,856 and $323,566.
Because the Registry of Deeds records do not specify the use of the property, the aforementioned properties include single-family and multifamily homes, condominiums, commercial properties and others. The calculated figures are of deeds valued between $75,000 and $750,000.
"I was really shocked by that jump, really in 2016 when it went from 514 (deeds) to 693," said Register of Deeds Richard Howe Jr., noting the 35 percent jump in annual sales.
"It was just crazy. It was a great year," Keishla Quiles, an agent partner with LAER Realty Partners, said of the real-estate market in Dracut last year. "This year is still busy, but it's leveling out a little bit. But it's just been insane. It's been a great couple years."
Quiles said Dracut has appeal to potential homebuyers for its small-town feel.
"Somebody always knows somebody who knows somebody in the area, and everything is kind of close by," she said. "The city is still there and they have a little bit of everything, which is something they like."
Nat Ambrosini, an agent with Dick Lepine Real Estate, said he has noticed that most homes in Dracut seem to come under agreement quickly.
"I think people like the area, and they feel it's a nice area to move to," he said. "A lot of people who have tech jobs in Boston and close to that area feel that they can't afford the prices, so they've moved more towards the Dracut area."
There are no new proposals for 55-plus housing in Dracut, but there are several subdivisions currently being built with single-family homes. They include Fox Run II, off Marsh Hill Road in east Dracut, which, according to Jackson, had nine lots left for sale as of last week. The developer for Fox Run II, Fox Run LLC, will begin construction on another community in Dracut, called Wheeler Village, this fall.
Fox Hill at Four Oaks Country Club, a 55-plus community located over 10 acres near Interstate 93 in east Dracut, is another development that has planted its roots in town. Last Thursday afternoon, construction equipment buzzed as several men pieced together some of the new homes near Broadway Road.
As of last week, 17 of the community's 44 units had been sold, according to co-listing agent Joseph D. Fisichelli with Keller Williams Realty.
"Four people have closed, and another 13 are under contract and under construction," he said. "They've been moving fairly rapidly."
That comes at no surprise to Fisichelli.
"It's a beautiful area," he said. "Fox Hill at Four Oaks Country Club is a nice little gentle hill, if you will, and the units are extremely quality-built. Not to mention, it's convenient to shopping and the town services as well. It's only five miles from 93."
Fox Hill at Four Oaks Country Club is not affiliated with the country club, but residents are able to access the club through an easement.
Its rural nature aside, Dracut does have one glaring drawback that comes to mind -- the lack of direct access to major highways.
"That's been our Achilles' heel for forever," Town Manager Jim Duggan said. "That continues to be a challenge for us, and we're doing our best to persevere from that."
But, Duggan maintains, Dracut is a wonderful community.
"We've got the lowest tax rate around," he said. "We are making constant investments with job creation and expansion of our commercial properties that really just are able to support municipal services."
Another reason for buyers to come to Dracut -- especially young families -- is the recent investments Dracut Public Schools have made, including a $60 million makeover of Dracut High School that was completed in 2014.
"We have a strong youth sports organization, our schools are improving," Duggan said. "We've got some good, strong traditions with agriculture, with the farms, with Old Home Day. ... It's something that's very desirable for a lot of families."
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.