Builders get set for another hot selling season


The salespeople at Rosedale Links do not look at all worried that they missed the prime selling season.

Late spring is not the ideal time to be opening model homes, especially after a frantically busy winter season elsewhere in the market. But Kate Powell of Ashton Woods Homes is confident that the builder is well positioned to take advantage of continued market strength in a few months, when the bulk of the buyer pool returns.


"If we would have been able to plan based on the season, that certainly would have been an advantage," said Powell, Ashton Woods' general sales manager for the Southwest Florida division, during an interview last month in her Rosedale Links model home.

"But we did not want to take what we are building in Tampa and assume it would work here. This is a completely different market." As in older.

rRosedale16dFor Rosedale Links, Powell said, Ashton Woods "started from scratch" with new floor plans. "By the time we engineered and permitted, it wasn't feasible for us to get in for season. We are hoping for a strong next season."

With census data indicating that retiring baby boomers are moving south, it is expected that buyers with cash in hand from selling a longtime home up north will spend it here.

So far, though, Ashton Woods is awaiting the first of those buyers — or any buyer — at Rosedale Links. About 15 houses have sold so far, spread among the competition — M/I Homes, John Cannon Homes and Rosedale Construction.

Rosedale Construction built the houses in the first two phases of Rosedale Golf & Country Club, accessible off State Road 70 just east of Interstate 75.

Buyers have several options north of S.R. 70 in the Lakewood Ranch area. Neal Communities' Central Park and Taylor Morrison's Esplanade are closest to Rosedale Links, a new addition to the 20-year-old Rosedale Golf & Country Club. South of S.R. 70, the market remains hot in Country Club East and The Lake Club, both in Lakewood Ranch, and sales are heating up in The Concession, east of The Lake Club.

"Rosedale is a premier location, said John Sellinger of M/I Homes, "in the heart of the enviable address of Lakewood Ranch."

The development eventually will have 445 home sites; infrastructure development is finishing up on 221 lots.

"The time is right for this new phase," said Patrick Hogan, vice president of the Hunt Group, Rosedale's developer. "Demand for homes in established communities, as well as for new-home construction, is on the upswing."

A parade of dump trucks roars past Rosedale Links' models.

Ashton Woods will build on 63-foot-wide lots, and M/I Homes on 53-footers. Cannon will build larger homes on lots from 72 to 100 feet wide in the "Estates" section. Rosedale is building on all three lot widths.

Ashton Woods will have six floor plans ranging in size from 1,862 to 2,500 square feet, priced from $320,000 to $370,000. Unlike in Tampa, where most of its models have two stories to meet the demands of the young-family market, here the builder is offering single-story plans, but with an optional bonus room or extra bedroom upstairs.

"We did Realtor focus groups and market research ... and 75 percent of our buyers will be empty-nester, active adults," said Finley. They would rather spend their energy on the tennis court than the staircase.

That is not to say buyers cannot have a multi-level house. Ashton Woods offers an optional bedroom or bonus room upstairs, and Cannon will go two stories with his custom houses.

"It is a matter of square footage and fitting it on the lot," said Cannon. "People are wanting to maximize what they can build on a specific site. Sometimes we just have to go up."

M/I's models, the Cordoba and the Tuscany, come in eight floor plans, "with expansive kitchens and patios with views of the wetlands," said Sellinger, vice president of operations for Sarasota-Manatee. Prices range from $304,000 to $412,000. The lot size is 53 by 130 feet with a "zero-lot line" configuration, which means the wall of the house next door acts as a privacy fence for the courtyard.

"There is no wasted land here," said Sellinger.

Rosedale Construction has had seven sales averaging $401,000 on the zero-lot-line lots, and will offer models from $527,000 to $668,000 on the 63-footers. In the estate lots, its prices will average about $750,000, said Hogan.

For buyers in a hurry, inventory homes have also returned to the market. Ashton Woods has five houses ready to sell in addition to the models, while M/I Homes has eight, said Sellinger.

Cannon reports 24 total sales this year, "a little bit ahead of last year. We're busy. I am never going to be satisfied, but it is getting better."

He said that after several conservative years, buyers are opening their wallets again.

"For years we were at the $700,000 to $900,000 average price point," said Cannon. "Then the last several years it dropped down considerably; the houses got smaller, people were more conservative in how they were finishing them out. They were value-conscious. We adapted our product to meet that need." (Remember Cannon's $99-a-square-foot "on your lot" pricing for 10 houses in 2008?)

"Now it is swinging back the other way. The price is jumping up, and not just because of cost increases, although we will continue to see increases for materials and labor.

"But we are seeing more square footage; they are inclined to add the fireplace, add the built-ins. There is a general optimism that you feel within our clients, that they are willing to spend a little more money on their lifestyle.

"My buyer is not looking for shelter. They have a feeling of their self-worth. They want to be creative. Their home is an expression of themselves."


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 16, 2013
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