Builders Step Up Home Site Development


There appears still much room for growth for the housing industry in Southwest Florida as inventory of finished new homes remain slim, while builders and developers are seeking solutions to address a growing shortage of buildable lots.

According to Metrostudy, a real estate data firm, there is less than two weeks’ inventory of finished vacant new homes in each of the residential property markets in the Sarasota-Bradenton and Naples-Fort Myers region. Lack of buildable home sites and rising lot prices, along with shortage of skilled labor, are major hurdles for builders to boost inventory, data presented during the 48th Annual Real Estate Journalism Conference held in June 2014 at Houston, Texas, indicate.

Market remains hot

Builders Step Up Home Site Development

Notwithstanding this debacle, the region remains as one of the home market hotspots in the U.S. In Metrostudy’s 1–10 market scale, with 10 as the hottest, the Sarasota-Bradenton area got a rating of 7. The real estate data company believes there’s more gas in the tank for the Southwest Florida home market, with demand from retirees expected to rise even higher in the coming years.

Industry analysts participating in the forum organized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors said that the challenge for builders in this area now is to balance price and construction pace, as well as accelerate acquisition and development of buildable lots.

It will take some time, however, to satisfactorily ramp up lot production to meet current demand in market hotspots, Metrostudy said. It noted that in some cases, older golf courses have been razed in order to boost the number of buildable home sites in prime localities.

Vilano community in former golf course

This is precisely what happened to the former Sarasota Golf Club which was closed sometime last year and eventually paved the way for the development of the 172-acre site into the Vilano community of D.R. Horton. The Tampa-based national homebuilder acquired this property in early 2014, with sales expected to start in the fall of this year.

D.R. Horton is planning to construct 126 estate homes in the Vilano which is envisioned as another vibrant Sarasota community. The homebuilder said it was drawn to the property because of its location and potential for large home sites. Square footage and pricing of the Vilano residential properties are expected to be announced very soon.

Some properties near this former golf course are currently among the MLS listing of Sarasota homes for sale. Currently, three of these already have pending contracts and are priced between the mid-$100s and the low $200s, with floor plans of between 1,500 and 2.010 square feet designed with three bedrooms.

In East Manatee, the developer of Rosedale Golf & Country Club, the Hunt Group of Companies, has earlier opted to add more home sites instead of pursuing plans for another nine-hole golf course. This move put additional lots for 475 single-family on some 230 acres west of Lakewood Ranch High and south of 44th Avenue Extension.