A new homebuilder has entered the mix in the region, with a goal of turning renters into homeowners.
SimplyDwell Homes, formed by one of the largest private homebuilders in the region, Neal Communities, came to fruition at the end of 2022. Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities, which passed 279 home sales in the first quarter of 2023, recently sold home No. 20,000. The company posted $612.89 million in revenue in 2022.
One of SimplyDwell's focuses is to provide homes in the mid-$300,000s — what executives say is a gaping hole in the marketplace.
“The price of homes sort of ballooned in Florida,” Carlos Puente, a division president with Neal Signature Homes and vice president of sales and marketing at Neal Communities of Southwest Florida, says. “We realized that homes in general were pricing out a lot of people.”
According to Redfin, homes in Manatee County — where SimplyDwell is focused in the beginning — were selling for a median price of $445,000 in July 2023. In July 2021 when the median income was $64,964, the median home price was $390,000.
“Your first responders, teachers and young professionals can’t afford that price point,” Jag Rupnarain, division president, says of the current median price.
In addition to Manatee County, the company has announced future developments that will extend south through Collier County. Included in the list is a small project in north Sarasota that's traditionally been overlooked for new home communities. “It’s an area within these counties to be addressed and we want to be a leader in that space,” Rupnarain says.
SimplyDwell recently broke ground on Broadleaf, its first planned community, in Parrish, north Manatee County. The community is planned to have 266 homes, and is expected to take three years to build. It will include a dog park, pavilions and play areas. The community will start selling homes in October, and a grand opening is scheduled for January 2024.
Next SimplyDwell will turn its attention to Owl Creek, a 380-home community in Lee County. So far, the homebuilder has identified six planned communities that stretch between Manatee to Collier counties. Rupnarain hopes to have targeted 10 communities by year's end.
While SimplyDwell is hopeful the mid-$300,000 will draw in first time home buyers, there are no buyer-income restrictions, so homes are available to everyone.
The process of building attainable homes isn’t for every homebuilder, SimplyDwell executives say.
“Building budget-conscious homes has to be in your DNA,” Rupnarain says. For SimplyDwell that means creating cost-efficient floor plans and designs. The homebuilder also has to be mindful when purchasing land.
“It needs the features that can be developed within budget,” he says. “A lot of sites may have wetlands that you have to mitigate for that makes it cost prohibitive.”
SimplyDwell follows a “simplified build and sales process” that Rupnarain believes will help them deliver on time and within budget. This means building homes in advance of sales, with a target to sell complete or nearly complete homes.
“The objective there is we can predetermine what house is going on what lot and we can stay in line versus jumping throughout the community and building houses on different lots,” he says.
Building in order has its perks, he adds. This way the builders can move equipment and materials to the next house over, which cuts down on the time needed to build.
SimplyDwell also makes sure to secure permits prior to construction. Product design is also simplified and value engineered, meaning there’s less materials wasted during construction. “(It’s) designed to be built faster,” Rupnarain says.
With this foundation, the plan is to start two homes a week, which is roughly eight a month and 96 a year. The majority of the six planned communities, with the exception of Owl Creek, fall around the mid-200 range, in terms of number of homes. The project size all depends on how many lots are available on the land parcels they find.
Another key component of SimplyDwell is it's designed to be lean and flat. The former is an operations model that identifies needed resources, optimizes scheduling and reduces inefficiencies, while the latter means there are few levels between leadership and employees.
It’s also essential SimplyDwell completes market research well ahead of time to determine what buyers are looking for in a home, “so when we build it, it’s what the consumer actually wants,” Rupnarain says. “We can be more confident in building homes out in advance.”
Amanda Postma is a business reporter covering Sarasota and Manatee counties. After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2018, Amanda was a reporter for a small-town newspaper in Missouri before becoming a marketing associate for a career resource startup in St. Louis.