By John Hielscher
Staff WriterPosted Nov 12, 2019
Home starts in Southwest Florida jumped to their best showing in nearly 13 years during the third quarter, as incoming retirees drove demand for new housing.
Builders broke ground on 1,888 local single-family homes during the July-September period, an annual starts pace of 6,352 homes that marked the highest total since late 2006, according to a new report by data supplier Metrostudy.
“The economic picture for Sarasota/Bradenton remains solid with positive job growth and low unemployment,” said David Cobb, regional director for Metrostudy. “This market depends less on local job growth, however, as many new home buyers are from out of the area, so the market is somewhat resilient from local job losses, should that occur.”
The quarterly starts rate rose 8% from the second quarter and 8% over the year. The annual starts rate was 2% higher than the previous quarter and 4% ahead of last year, he said.
The latest starts pace is 133% of the 18-yer average, but just 70% of the peak in third-quarter 2005.
The largest gains in the annual starts pace occurred in the $200,000 to $399,000 and the $500,000 to $999,000 price ranges. The most affordable single-family homes were in Charlotte County, largely within Babcock Ranch.
The median price of the last 12 months of new home starts was $317,227, down 2% over the year.
Meanwhile, closings on new homes totaled 1,760 in the region, a 28% gain over the year and 2% from the prior quarter.
Lakewood Ranch topped the list for new home starts, followed by West Villages, Babcock Ranch, Palmer Ranch and Rotonda.
“Builder confidence rose to its highest in 20 months, giving hope that the pace that we have seen in the last few years will continue and meet the strong interest new homes and condos,” said Michael Moulton, a luxury specialist with Michael Saunders & Co.
The rate of home starts did vary by region.
In Sarasota County, third-quarter starts starts fell 11% from the prior period but were up 17% over the year. The annual starts rate was down by 1%.
In Manatee, starts were up 4% from the second quarter but dipped 4% for the year. The annual starts rate declined 6% from the prior three months, but rose 17% over the year.
In Charlotte, starts surged 63% for the quarter and 105% over the year, while the annual starts pace gained 68%.
“Overall, the market continues to ‘bump along the top,’ with slight year-over-year starts declines in Sarasota and Manatee,” Cobb said. “The positive starts growth in Charlotte County is primarily fueled by Babcock Ranch and the reopening of Heritage Landing in Punta Gorda.
“Housing inventory is below equilibrium in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and finished, vacant inventory is low, so there is no immediate concern of an overbuild situation in the market.
“All the data points to a market that continues to perform, with no forecast for rain in the near term,” he said.
In an earlier report, Metrostudy ranked Lakewood Ranch ranked first and West Villages seventh nationwide for housing starts in the third quarter.
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