Southwest Florida housing starts on upswing
Housing starts in Southwest Florida spiked sharply in the second quarter, according to a report issued Wednesday by housing data provider Metrostudy.
Overall, starts in Lee and Collier counties increased 11.4 percent from 778 single-family homes in the first quarter to 867 in the second, according to Metrostudy, which tracks new-home construction in subdivisions in the Fort Myers-Naples area and other markets around the country.
Also, Collier has almost caught up with its larger neighbor Lee, accounting for almost half of the starts so far this year, said David Cobb, Metrostudy's regional director in the Naples-Fort Myers area.
The strong showing in Southwest Florida was part of a pattern in which "some of the most 'beaten-down' markets are now doing better," Brad Hunter, chief economist and director of consulting for Palm Beach Gardens-based Metrostudy, said in a written release.
Tim Rose, president of Fort Myers-based Arthur Rutenberg Homes, said he thinks whether the good news continues depends to some extent on national factors.
"Stability is always something that makes my customers happy," he said. "We look for stability in the marketplace, the country, the world. That's what makes people comfortable."
He's hiring more staff to deal with the increased sales volume, Rose said, "and I think other people are looking at that too."
Land Solutions CEO Randy Thibaut, who specializes in brokering the large-scale land transactions necessary to create residential communities, said the second-quarter numbers are encouraging but that it's important to watch for possible obstacles to future increases.
"We do have some slowdowns in the sales centers," he said. "We do have some standing inventory that's building. My biggest concern is oversupply. Are we going to oversupply? It's something we should keep a very close eye on."
Thibaut also said it's important to remember that the current pace of new-home construction is still a shadow of what it was before the housing boom collapsed in late 2005.
"By year's end we're only going to get around 8,500 single-family permits for Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties," he said. "That's far from the 45,000 we had at the peak (2005); it's far from the 10,000 we had in the year 2000."
Cobb said that there's a possibility of an oversupply of inventory, but that it wouldn't last long.
"In the short term there might be a little too much home-building activity in the market," he said, but the supply of land is tight and increasingly expensive in Collier while in Lee, supply is tight in desirable areas.
"The biggest problem is where people want to build: Estero, Bonita and to a certain extent the Treeline area," Cobb said. "Most of what's left is either in Lehigh Acres or Fort Myers."