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On the Mend

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 9:30 p.m. August 5, 2011
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
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Several Gulf Coast homebuilders are in rebound mode in 2011, despite the hard times permeating the industry nationwide.

Two homebuilders in east Manatee County, for example, have seen a dramatic rise in sales. Lakewood Ranch-based John Cannon Homes, with 37 sales through the end of June, has already surpassed its total 2010 sales figures. And Gibraltar Homes, also based in Lakewood Ranch, reported 30 sales in the first half of 2011, double the 15 sales it had in the first six months last year.

“Some people who were sitting on the fence aren't anymore,” says John Cannon. “There's an excitement out there that we haven't seen in a while.”

Other builders report similar recoveries.

In Naples, there's WCI Communities' Tiburon's Marquesa Royale, a luxury condo development next to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. The developer says 16 of 18 units in the first three buildings have been sold, with prices starting in the mid-$700,000s.

Bonita Springs-based WCI has also found success in a less luxury-based price point with Pelican Preserve, a 55-and-over community in Fort Myers. Homes there are priced from the mid-$100,000s to the mid-$300,000s. The firm has sold 50 homes in Pelican Preserve over the past year.

The rebound is especially notable for WCI, considering it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. “New home sales are meeting or exceeding our projections in several of our South and Southwest Florida communities,” WCI Senior Vice President Douglas Schwartz says in a press release. “There is clearly a pent-up demand for new-construction homes.”

Some homebuilders have responded to the comeback with wallets, primed to buy land. The West Florida division of Taylor Morrison homes earmarked $20 million for land development. And Miami-based Lennar Corp. recently closed on a $2.9 million deal to buy 86 single-family home lots in the Riverview section of Tampa. Construction on the first model home in the community, Panther Trace, has already begun.

Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities has been on the front lines of the recovery. The firm was one of the first builders in the region to shift its philosophy, from big to small homes. Revenues in 2010 were up 19.5%, from $62.52 million in 2009 to $74.71 million. More growth is projected in 2011, with sales and home starts both on the rise.

“We're now seeing buyers,” says Neal Communities President Pat Neal, “who were waiting to see how the market would react, are responding to prices rising and inventory shrinking.”


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