Make us your home page
Instagram

Homebuyers: Tampa Bay builders have new ideas to save you money

How's a Tampa Bay home builder supposed to snag buyers after suffering through the worst year for housing sales in decades? • How about free turkey sandwiches, $10,000 vouchers, narrower lots, $99,000 specials and — gulp — the return of vinyl flooring? • After a year in which Tampa Bay builders poured slabs for only 3,500 homes — an 83 percent plunge in 4 years — the industry has settled on a combination of slashing and streamlining and the siren's song of incentives.

A pioneer in the downsizing movement, Pat Neal, president of Bradenton's Neal Communities, has introduced a new "cottage series" to rave buyer reviews.

Lower-priced, boxier and standing only 7 feet apart, the cottages are Neal's idea of urban space conservation in a suburban setting. Starting at $124,000 and 947 square feet, they also sell for a whole lot less. Neal said he's back to charging what he did in 1989.

"We've been in a downturn for five years and finally we're making about one sale a day," said Neal, who markets the cottages mostly in his Forest Creek and River Sound subdivisions on each side of Interstate 75. "These homes are smaller, more square, they're built with concrete block and stucco without additional adornment."

He shifted to cheaper door locks, offers fewer choices of cabinets, windows and countertops, and replaced tile with carpet. He's even reintroduced vinyl floors, largely banned from the builder toolkit during the housing boom.

"They've been de-accessorized," Neal said.

Mortgage rates are at historic lows, but M/I Homes hopes to do the market one better. It's marketed sub-4-percent financing for some Tampa Bay buyers and thousands of dollars in new home upgrades for every renter who produces a lease agreement.

Taylor Morrison Homes mothballed a couple of unproductive communities and slashed prices to $99,000 for 1,268-square-foot, single-family homes in southeast Hillsborough County's College Chase neighborhood.

Beazer Homes is offering free washers, dryers and refrigerators in some of its communities, including Pinellas County's Sawgrass Village and Pasco County's Dupree Lakes. Even so, there aren't as many big-ticket and luxury items like pools thrown in as freebies these days, said Beazer sales manager Kareyann Rhodes said.

"Everybody's readjusting prices and standard features to bring houses back to today's affordability," Rhodes said.

Some builders have discovered the limits of the downsizing offensive.

Beazer test-marketed an 1,100-square-foot home last year in Dupree Lakes before realizing buyers hankered for homes larger than 1,500 square feet.

KB Home made a splash two years ago with the introduction of an apartment-sized two-bedroom house, a throwback to low-cost 1970s retiree boxes. Weak demand largely ended the experiment.

KB has shied from incentives, but drew 85 prospective customers this month to an instructional home-buying seminar in Riverview's Moss Landing neighborhood. Baiting the hook further, the builder supplied a free lunch of sandwiches.

How are the new builder enticements working? It's probably too soon to tell.

According to Tony Polito, a consultant to Tampa Bay builders, sales will probably rise about 15 percent this year over 2009. The best hope for a solid turnaround is 2011. But Polito has been pushing back his recovery dates for a couple of years.

New-home prices in Tampa Bay have fallen by about a third since the 2006 peak, forced lower by a glut of never-lived-in new construction and barely lived-in foreclosures.

Typical of the hard-driving home buyer is Larry Hoffman, a middle-aged New Yorker who wants to relocate to Tampa Bay.

He has more or less settled on a $208,000, 2,600-square-foot home offered by Home Dynamics in Pasco's Lakeshore Ranch community.

But he's expecting a little more sacrifice from the builder, which has already offered to pay closing costs and donate $10,000 toward upgrades.

"I figure I'll start with a lower price and see if they'll negotiate," Hoffman said. "I hope it helps that I want to pay 50 percent cash."

Neal, successfully selling the public on the notion that smaller is better, is relieved by one change in the market: Buyers have stopped treating home purchases as if they were chasing a hot stock tip.

"Housing is basically a consumer good. As we like to say in my business, 'Sell to emotion and justify with fact,' " Neal said. "It's like buying a ring or a new car. It's not like buying a stock or bond. We lost sight of that."

Homebuyers: Tampa Bay builders have new ideas to save you money 01/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  3. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month

    Autos

    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  4. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.
  5. Amazing Lash franchise expands to South Tampa

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Jeff Tolrud opened the doors to his third Amazing Lash Studio franchise earlier this month, this time in South Tampa.

    When customers walk in, the studios have the same look and feel throughout the country, operator Jeff Tolrud said of Amazing Lash Studio. Tolrud opened his third in Hillsborough County earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Amazing Lash.