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Style Sells

No on knows for sure why the luxury home market in Florida is on such a binge.

By Bill Lurz, Senior Editor May 31, 1999
This article first appeared in the PB June 1999 issue of Pro Builder.

No one knows for sure why the luxury home market in Florida is on such a binge. Certainly, aging baby boomers in their peak earning years and well-heeled retirees form the core of the buyer profile. And wealth creation in the stock market must be part of it. But most of Florida's luxury home builders are too busy trying to get houses built to worry much about the factors driving the boom. Count Paul Asfahl of Sterling Communities in Delray Beach in that group.


As modeled, it sells for $842,971, including a $100,000 lot premium, and $278,000 in upgrades.

"We know that virtually all of our buyers at Mizner's Preserve are heavy investors in the stock market, so it must be playing a role, but so much about this development has surprised us that we really can't say anything for certain," Asfahl says.

Among the surprises: Half of buyers are families with children. Asfahl expected empty-nesters to dominate. The sales rate of 36 homes in five months is more than double what was expected. And the average sale price is $650,000. Pro forma called for $518,000. "We're selling the larger houses more than we expected, and buyers are really loading them up as well. We average over $125,000 in options and upgrades," says Asfahl.


Sterling sold 36 homes in five months after opening models in Novemeber.

Location and development strategy are also part of this success. Mizner's Preserve is a 66-acre joint venture by Sterling and Puder-Siegel Homes, developed with financing through California-based Hearthstone Advisors.

Sterling has 92 lots in the community, Puder-Siegel 82. Located just north of affluent Boca Raton on Jog Road, the community is surrounded by country clubs, but has no golf course of its own, just a clubhouse, pool, and tennis courts. "We get buyers who don't want to invest in the heavy membership dues all the golf communities charge," says Asfahl. "That may be why we're getting so many young families."

Sterling's six-plan product line runs from 2955 to 4400 square feet, base priced $404,500 to $509,000. Included in those prices are serviced lots of 752130 feet that cost Sterling an average of $99,000, plus a local impact fee of $8000. Lot premiums run from $45,000 to $110,000. Three models opened in November. Shown here is the 4100-square foot, $491,000 Toscana-a two-story, four-bedroom courtyard home with a detached guest suite.

That suite joins the garage on the front elevation (see floor plan). Unlike most courtyard homes-which have their major living spaces oriented only toward the pool in the courtyard-this one loads plenty of glass to the rear to capture views of a lake from the master bedroom, living room and dining room.


First floor plans above, second floor below.

Courtyard homes are still largely a Florida phenomenon, but builders in Arizona, California, and even Texas might be advised to try this housing form. Designed by local architect Shane Ames, with merchandising by Michelle Palmer-Reich of Boca Raton, the Toscana has 8 sales, and continues to battle the largest plan-the 4400 square foot, $509,000 Capistrano (9 sales)-for leadership.

"This is another surprise," says Asfahl. "We didn't expect families to go for a courtyard, but they are half the Toscana sales."

Sterling is riding high on the success of Mizner's Preserve and other luxury communities. The firm built 35 homes for $7 million in 1998, but plans to do 130 homes in 1999 for $40 million in revenue. Sterling builds the Toscana for $61 a square foot in hard costs (materials and labor only).

Major Products Used: Roof tile, Monier. Windows, Lawson. Fireplace, Majestic. Air conditioning, Rheem. Appliances, KitchenAid . Carpet, Shaw. Countertops, Elegant Marble. Tile, Casa Dolce. Doors, Broten. Faucets, Moen. Fixtures, Kohler.

Also See:

Fine-Tuning Sarasota

Variety is the Spice of Life Forms

Housing as Fashion

Fruitful Vineyards

Don't Fence Me In

Selling Community

Rustling Up Sales at Cinco Ranch

Neotraditional Success

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