Home builders regain confidence as they begin new developments

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LAKEWOOD RANCH - A home builder embarks on a major new project as it joins other builders catching a rising wave in the housing market. Now partially-built homes do not stand as empty shells left by the housing crash. These just began going up, and are the first the 281 homes Lennar Homes plans for its Bridgewater development north of State Road 70.

“I think the real estate industry is getting healthy again,” says Matt Devereaux, Lennar's sales and marketing director. “People are buying homes.”

The Sarasota Association of Realtors says that in June its available inventory was at its lowest level in a decade. That tight supply of existing homes makes this a good time to build new ones. But tighter credit means that many people still struggle to get loans. “We have a lot of investors coming,” says real estate attorney Anne Weintraub. That worries her. “I think we still need to be cautious, because we don't a repeat of a bubble.”

We haven't finished recovering from the last one, she says. The Twelfth Judicial Circuit, which covers Sarasota, Manatee and Desoto counties, has a foreclosure division to deal with the roughly 13-thousand homes still in the system. With the foreclosure crisis  not yet completely passed, new communities like this one will have to compete with older homes coming back onto the market. “I think foreclosures will always be there,” Devereaux says.

But home builders see the market improving enough to justify more houses, and say new ones save the effort of navigating foreclosures to find a deal. “We feel the market is continuing to improve,” says Devereaux. “What happens tomorrow is hard to say.”

The market has shown some sign of cooling. Figures for June from the Sarasota Association of Realtors show that the number of sales rose only 2% percent from June of last year , and went down from May.