Why South Florida builders are bucking the national downward spiral in new home construction

Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post
Published 8:33 a.m. ET Aug. 29, 2022

Buyers still eager to stake a claim on the Gold Coast have protected South Florida’s big developers from the steep economic contractions squeezing new home builders nationwide. 

A continued influx of people from more expensive states, dwindling land and a tight market of used homes for sale has continued to buoy demand in fledgling Palm Beach County communities such as Arden, Avenir and Alton, real estate analysts and builders said.

At the same time, sales of newly constructed homes nationwide dropped last month to their lowest level since January 2016, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.

“As a whole Florida is outperforming the country, and that includes South Florida,” said Oliver Radvin, senior vice president with Boca Raton-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “Sixty-six percent of markets across the country are slow or very slow right now, but we still have Palm Beach County and Miami ranked as strong.”

Nearly 3,700 permits for new single-family homes were issued in Palm Beach County between May 2021 and May 2022, according to John Burns. The predicted number of permits for all of 2022 beginning Jan. 1 is 3,600. 

That would be down about 15% from each year’s permit totals for 2021 and 2020, but higher than each of the 10 years prior to the beginning of the pandemic. In 2009, just 1,102 single-family home permits were issued in Palm Beach County. 

Sarasota’s new home market was also ranked strong in John Burns’ latest report, but Tampa was listed as normal.

“The markets in Florida are still seeing a net inflow of people, more so than other markets,” Radvin said. 

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While the frenzied days of fierce bidding wars and massive lotteries may be ebbing, GL Homes’ Lotus Palm west of Boca Raton sold out its first 100 lots in a single day this month, said Jeremy Olshen, principal of the Mizner Residential Group at Compass Real Estate.

The uber-upscale golf club community Panther National in Palm Beach Gardens had $125 million worth of contracts signed in its first phase since releasing lots in June.