"The construction pace of new homes is up close to 50 percent in both Lee and Collier just in the past year according to a recent report by MetroStudy, a national housing data and consulting firm," the paper reports. "This staggering statistic has left many residential developers either celebrating acting ahead of the curve, or scrambling to 'get in the game' before it's too late. Strong demand, coupled with dwindling supply, is propelling the residential market in Southwest Florida."
Big builders are responding with big investments, the paper reports: "Both Lee and Collier counties have already seen significant investments made by developers/builders in land purchases in recent months for future apartment, multifamily and single-family homes. Builders such as DR Horton, GL Homes, Taylor Morrison, and others are aggressively reinvesting in new land assets in Southwest Florida — scooping up many of the last large land tracts in some areas."
For big players in the Florida market, the heat is on again — but with a difference. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports from Miami on the changing fortunes of real estate mogul Jorge Perez ("How one billionaire - and America's housing market - came back from the brink," by Joanna Slater).
"Mr. Perez was the biggest builder in the largest condominium bubble in the United States and the most prominent developer in Florida, a state that epitomized the frenzy of overbuilding and speculation during the boom years," the Globe and Mail reports. "'They say the bigger they are, the harder they fall, right? That's true. So we fell,' said Mr. Perez, 63. 'You're God's gift to the world, you're the golden boy – and then nobody wanted to talk to me. You go from being the hero to being the goat.' Now the chastened mogul is facing the most improbable outcome of all: Business is roaring again as the U.S. housing market pulses back to life."
But the once bitten Perez is twice shy, the paper reports — "moving carefully but also quickly. 'Will there be a bust?' he asked, looking out at his swimming pool and the shining sea just beyond it. 'Yes. The question is when. People used to say there are three important things in real estate: location, location, location. Now I say, it's timing, timing, timing.'"
One problem facing builders who are trying to catch the wave: the labor supply. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has this report: ("Worker shortage concerns home builders," by Josh Salman). "Home builders fear a growing shortage of workers in skilled trade positions could begin to crimp the sector's brisk recovery across Southwest Florida. The problem signals the vast shift from the trough of the construction downturn, when the industry dumped 350,000 Floridians onto the unemployment rolls. Many of those laborers switched professions or moved to different areas, while the pipeline of young workers choosing construction careers dried up. Now that demand for new homes is surging again, builders are feeling the pinch."
And as the Herald-Tribune points out, workers are as conscious as investors are about the risks of rolling the dice in a hot market. Notes the paper: "With recent wounds still fresh, home builders are not surprised that laborers once crowding the unemployment office are not eager to get back into construction. Given the unpredictability of Florida housing, some workers worry that conditions might be aligning for another bubble. They do not want to be on the losing end of that cycle again."