The year 2019 was full of growth for M/I Homes in the region.
In 2016, the national homebuilder opened a division for Sarasota and Manatee counties. Prior to the division’s creation, the company’s Sarasota-Manatee unit functioned as a satellite of the Tampa office. Then the Ohio-based homebuilder decided it was a substantial enough market to have its own division. Fast-forward to today, and the company has leaned in to opportunities in the area in a big way.
“It was a very busy year,” says Ed Suchora, area president for the Sarasota division of M/I Homes. In 2019, it had seven grand openings of new communities.
Toward the end of the year, it was actively selling in a dozen communities and also working on new deals. “The markets have been good, interest rates have been very attractive, and the most important thing is the buyer demand is out there,” Suchora says. “We’re seeing solid markets just about everywhere throughout the two counties.”
Area buyers are both primary homebuyers and snowbirds. “This past year was a huge year,” Suchora says. “We went from 89 closings back in 2018 to approximately 250 closings this year.”
The division has an office with a design center in Lakewood Ranch. There are 54 employees, a number expected to grow close to 60 in 2020. Since it’s a separate division, staff lives in the area and can focus on the customers in the market. “As a result we’ve been able to grow aggressively,” Suchora says.
M/I Homes is predicting 2020 will be another good year for the division. It has three new communities planned for the year and possibly a fourth. “It’s a very exciting market,” he says. “M/I really believes in this market and plans to continue investing in this market.”
After a blockbuster 2019, the division’s growth rate is starting to normalize. Suchora expects the division to grow by 25 to 30% in overall volume in 2020.
M/I Homes is continuing to buy land in the area, too. “We’re very careful as we buy each property that we clearly understand who is our buyer and understand what they want and need,” he says.
The homebuilder’s activities are fairly evenly split between Sarasota and Manatee counties. Its communities range from Parrish in north Manatee County to the West Villages in south Sarasota County. “We’ve got a pretty wide range right now,” Suchora says.
“This past year was a huge year.” — Ed Suchora, area president for the Sarasota division, M/I Homes
In the Parrish submarket, it’s finding that a lot of business comes out of Bradenton as well as Pinellas County. Suchora says he thinks that’s because there’s a lack of available reasonably priced homes in Pinellas. “We’re seeing so much growth in the Parrish area,” he says. “It’s amazing when you see how many developments are out that way.”
Lakewood Ranch, where the company has one community, also continues to be a dominant force, Suchora says, and neighborhoods in Bradenton outside of Lakewood Ranch are selling well too. Plus, Sarasota is a strong market. Suchora says, “Just about every place in Sarasota does very well.”
From first-time homebuyers looking for value to retirees and empty-nesters to buyers who want a large home on a large piece of property, there seems to be buyer demand at all levels, he says. Base prices for homes in the division range from the $220,000s to the $630,000s. Suchora points to the homebuilder having a diverse portfolio of products as key to its success in the area.
In the months ahead, one challenge will be navigating rising land and building costs while offering homes at prices buyers can afford. “It’s a constant struggle to balance,” Suchora says.
Another challenge is availability of land. “There are a lot of homebuilders in this market,” he says. “All of them are seeking to build their portfolio and continue to grow. It makes it a competitive market, but it think that makes it a good market.”