South Florida home-building on the way back
April 06, 2012 | By Paul Owers, Sun Sentinel
Buyers looking for a brand new home are likely to have more to choose from this year. New home construction is expected to rise 15 to 20 percent over the 949 homes started in 2011 acrossPalm Beach County, according to Brad Hunter, South Florida director of the Metrostudy research firm.
"People are more optimistic and ready to buy," he said. Bob Barclay spent five months looking at resales in South Florida but quickly discovered that buying a new home allowed him to pick out the lot he wanted and have a say on everything from the flooring to the finishes.
Barclay, 63, and his wife, Meg, ended up buying a four-bedroom home being built at Parkland Golf & Country Club. "We looked east and west at existing homes," Barclay said. "Every time we thought we had something, we felt we would be compromising." Several years ago, few homes were being built in South Florida, and the bottom for housing starts occurred in 2009. Anthony Trella, a home-building consultant in Deerfield Beach, said the industry is slowly recovering, in part because the jobs picture is improving. And he said the interest in foreclosures ultimately will translate to new construction. "The more those homes are flushed out, the more there will have to be a turn to new housing," Trella said. "There are a lot of factors now that I didn't feel strongly about six months ago that are turning in favor of home builders going forward."
Unlike Palm Beach County, Broward has few large tracts of available land for new homes. Builders are focusing on northwest Broward for now but ultimately will have to consider smaller projects or tear down older developments, analysts say.
Monterra in Cooper City is one of the biggest housing developments under construction in South Florida. With about 850 homes and another 850 rentals, it's on pace to be complete in 2013, at least two years ahead of schedule, said Jim Carr, principal at CC Devco, the master developer. Minto Communities is building 850 townhomes in Sunrise, while Toll Brothers also is active in Broward. In late 2010, Toll acquired Parkland Golf & Country Club from WCI Communities, which is building in nearby Heron Bay.
Parkland Golf & Country Club has about 450 existing homes, and Toll will build about 400 more, said Jim McDade, division president. Prices range from $400,000 to more than $1 million. In Palm Beach County, Toll has projects in Boca Raton, Wellington, Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens. All the homes in its newest development, Frenchman's Harbor on the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach Gardens, have deepwater boat docks.
"Across the board, we've seen improvements in all of our communities," McDade said. "People are kind of like, 'This has gone on long enough. Let's move on.' Things may have been slow in the past, but they're definitely coming back." Meanwhile, GL Homes also says it has seen a sharp increase in demand this year.
The Sunrise-based company, which isn't building in Broward, opened The Bridges near Delray Beach in February. Models won't open until May, but the builder says it has generated more than $60 million in revenue, with 80 sales at an average price of $750,000.
GL also opened a project this year west of Palm Beach Gardens. It has 20 sales so far in the 192-home Preserve at Bay Hill Estates, with prices ranging from the $400,000s to $600,000s. "Buyers sitting on the fence for three or four years feel like now is the time to buy," said Marcie DePlaza, division president for GL. "They're a little more comfortable in their jobs, a little more optimistic about the future."