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Home buyers offered incentives

Pinellas County builders aren't waiting for President Bush or might-be President Clinton or anyone else to make good on promises of tax credits for first-time home buyers.

Last week, 28 members of the Contractors and Builders Association of Pinellas County put together their own package of incentives to encourage house shoppers to take the plunge.

Buy a house this month, they are saying, and we will give you $2,500 worth of optional upgrades on the model of your choice. You also can register to win an additional credit of $2,500 toward the purchase price of the house you buy.

"Congress dropped the first-time home buyers' tax credit from the tax bill," said Geoff Stone, executive director of the CBA. "Lots of builders are sick and tired of what's happening in Washington. They've failed to enact any legislation to spur housing. We can't offer a tax credit, of course, but we did something that Congress can't do."

The offer coincides with the association's "American Dream Home Tour," a showcase of 36 model homes throughout Pinellas County. The event, sponsored by the CBA and Glendale Federal Bank, runs through Sunday. It was designed to drum up business during the traditionally slow fall home-shopping season and also is an attempt by the builders' organization to step in where the government hasn't.

Anyone who buys a house before Nov. 3 from one of the 28 builders in the home tour will be able to take advantage of the options offer and the $2,500 credit.

The models open for viewing are clustered mainly in four communities: Lansbrook and East Lake Woodlands in Palm Harbor, Pasadena Yacht & Country Club in South Pasadena and Dolphin Cay near St. Petersburg Beach. Most are single-family homes, although a few are multifamily units. They range in price from just under $100,000 to more than $400,000.

Even though the home tour opened last Saturday, the day tornadoes and severe weather whipped through Pinellas County, builders are pleased with the turnout.

"We have doubled our weekend traffic," said Donna Costanza, director of marketing for Costanza Homes in Oldsmar. Costanza Homes' entry in the home tour is the Oakmont 35, a four-bedroom, 3{-bath house on a golf course in the Turtle Creek section of East Lake Woodlands. So far, no one who saw the house last weekend has signed a contract, but Costanza is buoyed by the increased interest. "You can never discount the value of exposure for future sales," she said.

Kenneth Emery, owner of NohlCrest Homes in Palm Harbor, also had more visitors than usual at his two models in the tour. "Saturday, we did have a little traffic, even in all that rain," he said. "On Sunday, lots of people were coming in, carrying the tour brochure with them.

"September was dramatically slow," Emery added. "I was down 50 percent. We're hoping this will generate some activity on through October."

Michael Cheezem, the developer of Dolphin Cay, a waterfront community off the Pinellas Bayway in southern Pinellas, said traffic at the two models there has been brisk, but he was not sure if it could be attributed to the CBA promotion. "We've had a very good week," Cheezem said. "Is that due to the home tour? It would be a little hard to say."

Other participating builders are M.P. Campagna Homes, Ciriello & Rose Homes, Donaldson Homes Partnership, First Dartmouth Group, Frontier Homes, Hartsfield & Son, Hunters Trail Partnership, KAM Construction & Development Corp., Lampe & Son G. C., Larson Communities, The Lehigh Group, Lennar Homes, Mark Maconi Homes, T. K. McKenzie Builders, M/I Homes, Orange Blossom Developers, Palm Coast Properties, Park Group Cos. of America, Arthur Rutenberg Homes, Shelter South, Sibley Homes, Siek Builders, Paul J. Skipper, Starter Homes Partnership, USX Realty Development and Westfield Homes.

A color brochure with a map of the models is available at each home. A brochure also can be mailed to you upon request.

To find the address of the model nearest you, call the Contractors and Builders Association of Pinellas County at 545-5536.

1. The Dogwood: 308 Wood Dove Ave., Tarpon Springs.

2. Orange Blossom III: 716 Woodmont Drive, Tarpon Springs.

3. The Abbey: 2192 Clover Hill Road, Palm Harbor.

4. The Durham: 2173 Trevor Road, Palm Harbor.

5. The Laura: 3086 Pointer Drive, Palm Harbor.

6. The Jackson: 1424 Loman Court, Palm Harbor.

7. Monterey Ultra: 4837 Eagle Cove Blvd., Palm Harbor.

8. Canterbury II: 4092 Carlyle Lakes Blvd., Palm Harbor.

9. Belleair: 4091 Carlyle Lakes Blvd., Palm Harbor.

10. Verandah: 2229 Christy Lane, Oldsmar.

11. Oakmont 35: 2215 Christy Lane, Oldsmar.

12. Madeira: 1703 Captiva Drive, Oldsmar.

13. Newbury III: 1706 Captiva Drive, Oldsmar.

14. Richmond: 1315 Forestedge Blvd., Oldsmar.

15. Dartmouth: 1250 Clays Trail, Oldsmar.

16. Magnolia: 900 Lucas Lane, Oldsmar.

17. The Oakwood: 1730 Captiva Drive, Oldsmar.

18. The Briarwood: 133 Old Oak Circle, Palm Harbor.

19. Stirling IV: 820 Weathersfield Drive, Dunedin.

20. The Gallo: 3159 Shoreline Drive, Clearwater.

21. The Laurel II: 3090 Overlook Place, Clearwater.

22. Magnolia: 7011 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

23. Aspen II: 12326 91st Way N, Largo.

24. The Coral: 8397 Wrens Way, Largo.

25. The Victoria: 10484 Shady Oak Lane, Largo.

26. Highlander II: 5829 107th Ter. N, Pinellas Park.

27. The Osprey: 9200 San Martin Blvd., St. Petersburg.

28. The Captiva: 8340 San Martin Blvd., St. Petersburg.

29. The Drake: 4804 Windmill Palm Terrace NE, St. Petersburg.

30. Sunset Landings: 8515 Blind Pass Drive, Treasure Island.

31. The Islander: 255 126th Ave., Treasure Island.

32. The Victorian: 2760 Cordova Way S, St. Petersburg.

33. The Palm IV: 6000 Gulfport Blvd. S, St. Petersburg.

34. Villa de Maria: 6000 Gulfport Blvd. S, St. Petersburg.

35. Dartmouth IV: 6000 Gulfport Blvd. S, St. Petersburg.

36. The Commodore: 6000 Gulfport Blvd. S, St. Petersburg.