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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 2 years ago

Master Plans

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Florida, fueled partially by the Gulf Coast, continues to be a national leader in home sales within master-planned communities.

Florida, fueled partially by the Gulf Coast, continues to be a national leader in home sales within master-planned communities.

The Sunshine State combined with Texas and California to account for 60% of the top 20 master-planned communities in terms of total home sales volume, according to a new report from real estate research firm RCLCO. Texas reigns in the top 50 markets, with 32% of the total, or 16 communities — including nine in sprawling Houston, according to a separate survey from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Florida posted 11 communities in the John Burns Top 50, for 22% of the total, followed by California, with eight communities for a 16% market share.

Five of the 11 Florida master-planned communities in the John Burns Top 50 are on the Gulf Coast. The West Villages in North Port, a city in south Sarasota County, made its debut on the 2016 list at No. 4 with 848 home sales in 2016. The West Villages comprises four existing neighborhoods: Sarasota National, Gran Paradiso, Grand Palm and Island Walk. Three new neighborhoods are starting this year, say West Villages officials.

One spot behind West Villages on the John Burns list is Lakewood Ranch, with a territory that includes swaths of east Manatee County and north Sarasota County. Developed by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Lakewood Ranch posted 775 home sales in 2016, up 45% from 535 sales in 2015. Lakewood Ranch has added several builders to its roster over the last year, and opened several new communities.

The three other Gulf Coast master-planed communities in the John Burns Top 50 are:
Ave Maria in Naples, ranked No. 35. The Barron Collier Cos. development had 342 home sales in 2016, up 21% from 283 sales in 2015;
Waterset in Tampa, a Newland Communities development that made its debut on the list at No. 38, with 315 sales, up 74% from 181 sales in 2015; and
FishHawk Ranch, another Newland Communities development, which made its debut on the list at No. 47, with 300 sales.

Why is Florida such a hotbed for master-planned communities? Two key reasons are affordability, at least in some cases, and demographics.

Ave Maria, for example, has seven active neighborhoods with prices starting in the low $200s, including an age-restricted Del Webb community, says John Burns Manager Kristine Smale, based in Fort Myers. And with a nod toward demographics in FishHawk Ranch, adds Smale, David Weekley Homes introduced its first age-targeted neighborhood, Encore at FishHawk, in 2016. Encore, says Smale, “has successfully attracted buyers wanting to live near their children and grandchildren, but in a distinct neighborhood.”

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