Homebuilders have descended on Parkland, the only area in Broward County with large tracts of land left for residential construction.
And buyers are right behind them.
Lennar Corp., Toll Brothers, WCI Communities Inc. and Standard Pacific Corp. are planning nearly 1,500 homes in the northwestern suburb over the next few years. After that, homebuilding in Broward will be smaller projects and redevelopments, analysts say.
“This is sort of the last hurrah,” said Anthony Trella, an industry consultant in Deerfield Beach.
Miami-based Lennar says it has sold out of the first 90 single-family homes and townhomes at MiraLago, a 630-unit development at Nob Hill and County Line roads.
Prices for the 400 homes range from about $430,000 to $650,000, while the 230 townhomes start at $335,000. Residents are expected to begin move-ins by November.
“The demand is actually greater than we ever anticipated,” said Frank Fernandez, director of sales and marketing for Lennar’s southeast division.
Horsham, Pa.-based Toll Brothers has built 230 of 450 homes at Parkland Golf Country Club since buying it from WCI in 2010, said Jim McDade, regional president.
WCI has sold all but three of 196 homes at nearby Heron Bay, and the builder soon will announce plans for a 106-home neighborhood within the development, according to a spokeswoman for the Bonita Springs-based company.
Meanwhile, Standard Pacific, of Irvine, Calif., is building Watercrest at Parkland, a development of 450 homes priced from $410,000 to about $1 million. The area off Loxahatchee Road and south of the Hillsboro Canal is known as “The Wedge.”
Residential construction bottomed in 2009 amid the housing collapse, but homebuilder sentiment is soaring again in South Florida and across the nation. Consumers are feeling better about the economy and more willing to make big-ticket purchases, builders say.
In June, an index measuring builder confidence rose eight points, to 52. It was the first time the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Index had topped 50 since April 2006.
Palm Beach County posted 511 housing starts in the first quarter, up 38 percent from a year ago, according to the Metrostudy research firm. Broward County had 265 starts, 6 percent higher than a year earlier.
Despite the increases, construction levels remain a fraction of what they were during the housing boom, mostly because of a lack of land.
Many buyers are considering new homes because of the trouble in finding existing properties for sale. Some builders are raising prices to keep up with demand while bringing back wait lists and lotteries that were so common from 2000 to 2005.
After six years of little construction, young professionals and other buyers are eager to jump back into the new home market – especially with mortgage rates still affordable, said David Dabby, a housing consultant in South Florida.
“The lid can be kept on the pot for only so long until the spaghetti overflows,” he said.
Some market followers are concerned that the recent rise in interest rates will hurt the housing market.
The average 30-year fixed rate hit 4.51 percent this week, up almost one point from a year ago, mortgage company Freddie Mac said.
But Brad Hunter, head of Metrostudy in West Palm Beach, said he believes the higher rates actually are helping drive housing demand.
“Mortgage rates are moving up, but they’re still low,” Hunter said. “Consumers are feeling more of an urgency to buy now. Everybody knows rates are going up further.”
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