Wearing gray helmets and sweaty white T-shirts, construction workers shoveled dirt this week to build foundations for a 268-residence community off Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs. Four miles away on U.S. 41, workers were doing the same for a $70 million assisted-living community.
And across town off Old 41, a Canadian-based builder made plans to develop 220 single-family houses.
Developers and single-family home buyers are returning to Bonita Springs and to many parts of Southwest Florida. Permits for single-family homes are up in most of Lee and Collier counties, and real estate brokers say the low inventory is giving developers confidence to start building for the first time since the housing crash.
Historically low interest rates, financing that’s allowing more people to get credit, a rush of all-cash buyers and a renewed interest from second-home buyers are also spearheading the return of the market, brokers said.
“One of the big factors in Southwest Florida is we have so many second-home buyers and they’re now starting to sell their homes in other areas where previously that was a problem,” said Phil Wood, president and CEO of John R. Wood Realtors, which has offices from Sanibel Island in Lee County to Marco Island in Collier. “As their real estate market improves up North, it’s improving ours here.”
About 60 percent of John R. Wood Realtors’ home buyers are buying homes with cash.
“Our No. 1 foreign buyer is Canada,” Wood said. “Canadians did relatively well during the recession. They’re in much better shape to buy homes than the typical American.”
Bonita Lakes, the 268-home community off Imperial Parkway, will open at the end of October. The 144-unit Terraces at Bonita Springs, a $70 million assisted living community off U.S. 41, and the 220-home Bonita Isles community off Old 41 will open next year. The developments are Bonita’s first major construction projects in six years.
WCI Communities has applied for permits for the first phase of Terzetto, a 30-penthouse neighborhood at The Colony Bay & Golf Club within Pelican Landing in Bonita Springs. Senior Vice President Doug Schwartz said construction should start by the end of September and be complete by mid-2014
Three other developments are under review or in the approval process for construction, according to city reports. Toll Brothers, which is building Bonita Lakes, credits historically low interest rates for the resurgence.
“There are some undeveloped parcels available for acquisition, which is always a good thing for developers,” said Ken Thirtyacre, president of Toll Brothers Florida West Division. “And the city is great to work with. They are pro-growth. It’s just a real treat working with the city of Bonita. That area is going to be more beneficial to developers if it’s easier to get through the political process.”
Bonita Springs City Manager Carl Schwing believes his city of 45,000 is creeping out of the doldrums of the recession.
“I predicted it a year ago that we would be leading the recovery here in Bonita,” Schwing said. “Not only are we a good city to do business with, but these housing developments are reflecting the confidence developers have that the economy is turning around.”
This article appeared in Sunday’s New Press paper Written by Chris Umpierre and Staff writer Christina Cepero contributed to this report. http://www.news-press.com/article/20120909/NEWS0102/309090041/0/NATION/Housing-industry-bullish-Bonita-Springs-elsewhere?odyssey=nav%7Chead