Developers put millions into land for housing boom runup

mjohnson@bradenton.comJuly 17, 2014 

EAST MANATEE -- Seemingly positioning themselves for Florida's latest housing boom, homebuilders are buying Manatee County land to bring new homes onto the market to satisfy the demands of new state residents.

During the first week of July, Texas builder D.R. Horton and Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities bought hundreds of acres in East Manatee as a months-long land rush accelerated.

On July 3, D.R. Horton purchased 665 acres on Upper Manatee River Road near Rye Road for $5.83 million from the E.L. Reagan Residual Trust, according to county land records. Two days earlier, WCI closed a $4.22 million deal for 57 lots in The Links at Rosedale previously owned by Columbus, Ohio homebuilder M/I Homes. The buy was part of an $11.6 million purchase of 150 lots in the 44th Avenue subdivision.

M/I bought the majority of those lots from Bradenton-based Newton Developments in a $3.08 million transaction last November.

D.R. Horton plans to build 610 homes on its acreage in a community named Del Tierra. Scheduled to be under construction starting in August, the community fought its way to county approval late last year after residents in nearby Country Meadows objected to the amount of vehicle traffic the subdivision will generate.

In a press release detailing plans for its new land, WCI said it will build two- and three-bedroom homes on

lots at The Links. Initially developed by Newton, The Links is a master-planned golf course community.

The latest land sales come after a number of similar transactions in recent months. In June, Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities bought 39 acres on Pope Road for a 120-home development.

Bradenton-based Medallion Homes purchased nearly 71 acres on Upper Manatee Road on May 30 from Neal's land division for a 139-home neighborhood.

Additional residential and property transaction activity includes the 59-acre Rye Road Subdivision, which is waiting for final site plan approval, and the June sale of a 650-acre, former tomato farm on North Rye Road.

Neal Communities President Pat Neal said builders, including his own company, are flush with cash from a recent upswing in new home sales and are jumping into the land game.

"We're going to have a boom and everybody I know is trying to bulk up on land for the cycle," he said. "I don't think I've seen anything like it since 2002 or 2003."

Neal is seeing record sales in a year when an estimated 300,000 people are expected to move to Florida.

Neal said a shortage of new housing has helped sales remain strong. In 2013, 1.2 million households formed in the United States, while only 569,000 new single family homes were built, according to U.S. Census data.

WCI has not yet released pricing on its new homes at The Links, but a model that will be featured in the community, the Grand Villa, starts at $247,000 in other WCI developments.

D.R. Horton's homes at Del Tierra will be priced starting in the upper $100,000 range, according to company spokeswoman Marissa Awtry. The homes will go up for sale in early 2015.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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