Bubil: The season heats up for builders


We know the market is in recovery, but to what degree?

With Neal Communities reporting a record 103 home sales in February, one is reminded of the pace of sales during the boom years of 2004 and 2005.

In 2004, for example, Lakewood Ranch sold 1,022 new homes. Last year, it sold only 499, but LWR Communities’ vice-president of sales, Jimmy Stewart, is expecting strong gains on that performance in the next two years.

“I think we will be back up to 600 new homes this year,” Stewart told me. “I think we will sell 700 homes next year. I think we have the potential, once we bring on the 2050 (the Villages of Lakewood Ranch just south of the county line) in three years to sell a thousand new homes.”

His reference is to Sarasota County’s “2050” policies that are overlaid on top of the Comprehensive Plan’s future land use map. The policies call for walkable “New Urbanist” villages separated by green space east of the Interstate.

Lakewood Ranch, now in its 20th year, would be able to reach the 1,000-units-sold mark under that plan “with a lot more land, units, diversification, a more dense product, with a larger percent falling into what I call that moderate price range,” Stewart said.

That is an emphasis at the Ranch: more lower-cost housing, as the average sale in 2014 was for a half-million dollars.

“The Ranch has always had something for everyone,” Stewart said. “But my overall traffic was down last year . . . due to lack of product diversity. For that $300,000 buyer, there wasn’t a lot of choice. When that happens, they drive off the Ranch; they go north of the river to Parrish.”

As for The Villages of Lakewood Ranch, “They are all approved,” Stewart said. “Roads by end of next year, with extensions of Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The point of getting these roads approved and done is to gain access to these parcels so we can get the builders going.”


The charity home tours fill the calendar this month. One of them I can’t wait to see is the Junior League of Sarasota’s Simply Sarasota Tour of Homes on March 20-21.

It features the brilliantly modern new home of Jane and Rick Fine (see page 3) on Citrus Avenue in Sarasota’s historical Bungalow Hill neighborhood, and three other houses in the “Flower Streets” west of the Trail.

The Fine Residence was designed by Tatiana White, one of the “Young Turks” featured at my “Conversations at the Crocker” event in February.

I had a private tour last week. It alone is worth the $25 tour ticket price (www.JLSarasota.org).

See my photo gallery online at galleries.heraldtribune.com.

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: March 14, 2015
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