Mini Building Boom May Be Under Way In Broward County

The recent rezoning of a 288-acre patch of land in northwest Broward County known as “the wedge” for a new community is indicative of a growing demand for new product in South Florida’s middle county.

Hundreds of new homes are being proposed, and existing projects like CC Devco Homes’ Monterra in Cooper City are gaining steam.

Monterra is being built on 588 acres where TOUSA, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008, had planned a development through its Engle Homes division. CC Devco, led by Armando Codina and Jim Carr, bought the site 2.5 years ago.

At its peak, CC Devco was producting eight homes a week in response to a backlog of orders.  Now it has settled on five a week, or 20 a month, Senior VP Henry Laureiro said.

The homes have three, four and five bedrooms. The smallest, 2,079 square feet, is priced at $341,990, while the largest, 4,227 square feet, sells for about $541,990, Laureiro said.

About 20 percent of buyers come from Latin America, driven in part by the expansion to South Florida of companies from countries such as Venezuela and Argentina.

Esslinger Wooten Maxwell President Ron Shuffield said the push for new housing is tied to supply and demand, and the former is dwindling in Broward.

In January 2011, there were 4,877 homes listed for sale through the Multiple Listing Service used by real estate professionals to market and track property, down 66 percent from 14,489 in April 2008, the peak of the recent real estate boom.

The bulk of the sales activity has focused on homes that are marketed for less than $300,000.  Today, there are 2,700 homes that fall into that category, a 37 percent decrease from the 4,276 that were available in December 2010, according to EWM.

Luxury inventory continues to move, driven in part by discounting, but the pace of sales is less brisk.  The reason is that sales of distressed properties continue to dominate the market, and speculation, which was rampant at the lower end, did not thoroughly infect the higher-priced homes.  So, owners were less likely to walk away from their mortgage, Shuffield said.

As a result, there were 281 homes sold for $1 million or more in 2011, a 21 percent increase from the 233 recorded in 2010.

But, as always, the pace of real estate activity is tied to the state’s population growth, which is on the rise, Shuffield noted.  He cited recent census figures that showed the state’s population grew 1.3 percent to more than 19 million in 2011.  In Broward, that amounted to 24,000 people, but the single-family home inventory was short by 11,000 units, he said.

Liz Caldwell, a Realtor with EWM, said highly desirable suburban communities like Weston have no inventory, which is fueling further demand.

“Most people have funds and money, and they want to buy in the best neighborhoods,” she said.

She said protability of the Save our Homes tax benefit, which allows a homeowner to shift up to $500,000 of a property’s 3% assessment cap to a new purchase, is another driver in the marketplace.

“More than 50 percent of the purchases are made with cash,” she said. “And some people are getting mortgages.  As long as you have money in the bank and good credit, you can get a mortgage.”

Source: SFBJ