Homebuilding numbers surge in South Sarasota County

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NORTH PORT - Home building permits are on the rise is several states, with Florida ranking #2 in the country. Strong increases have been seen across the Suncoast, particularly in Venice and North Port. The increases are welcome in an area of the Suncoast hit especially hard by the housing bust.

Building officials, builders, and realtors that ABC 7 spoke to Thursday were glowing over the turnaround, saying the numbers simply don't lie.

North Port building official Bryan Holland says things are looking up way up. "It's actually exploding at this point. We're optimistic but we are cautious."

He says after years of declines, new home builds in the city are surpassing expectations. “We expected between 80 and 100 single family permits this year. We are at 150 at this current time already."

Holland says an inventory of 600 unfinished homes in the city is down to around a dozen. It's all better news, but far from the days of 15,000 home builds per year during the boom. "It's not quite those levels of the early and mid-2000s, but it's a responsible growth and a controlled growth, so we are happy with that."

Realtors like Dan Heschmeyer with Gulf Coast Realty say there's a reason more building is beginning. "There is just a three month supply of resale home. That means it's pretty slim pickings."

Divide the number of home sales last month in the Venice area, which was nearly 300, with the available homes and condos, which is a little less than 900, and you come up with a three month supply. A healthy market should have around six months.

Heschmeyer says in recent years it was as high as 40 months. "The lack of inventory and the inventory that is out there is old. It's not hurricane-rated."

You can find new homes in the Venice area for around $200,000 with warranties.

Holland says many are also upgrading. They've now exceeded 1,000 home inspections per month for more than a year. “Numbers of around 1,200 to 1,300 inspections a month is a good sign. It means we are busy and there is a lot of activity."

Throw into the mix the fact that interest rates are below 4% and rising stocks; you might just find more buyers are finally ready to jump into the market.

"Baby Boomers were holding off during the bust, and it looks like now is the time to make a move."

And builders are of course happy with the news too. Neal Communities says company-wide they’ve sold 300 homes since the first of the year, breaking records for the decades-old company.

Commercial space is also seeing a big increase, as people who buy new homes also need places to shop. North Port has added 500,000 square feet of retail space in the past year, and another 200,000 is expected in the next year.