New Construction in North Palm Beach County

New homes are being planned and projects are moving forward in the Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter areas. How come?

At Frenchman’s Harbor in Juno Beach, heavy equipment is clearing land to make way for new home sites. On the Intracoastal Waterway and geared to boating enthusiasts, the community’s lots are being staked out, in preparation for single-family homes and carriage homes that will have a dock. Some of the larger homes will have docks up to a hundred feet to accommodate larger yachts.

Toll Brothers, a company that develops high-end homes, purchased the 77-acre track from WCI in June 2010 for $20 million. When the community is built out in two-year’s time, its 30 carriage houses will be priced from mid $600,000s and its 48 single family homes, priced from more than $1.5 million to a little less that $3.3 million.

Nearby, Toll Brothers has already developed Frenchman’s Reserve in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter Country Club and Ocean’s Edge at Singer Island — all still have available offerings. So, why did the company chose to develop this site.

“This is a prime location and there’s limited availability of homes backing up onto the Intracoastal,” explained Jason Snyder, assistant vice president of Toll Brothers. “We started accepting offers mid September 2010, and we already have five sales and two deposits. We are very happy with our progress and interest level.”

Although, nationally, builder confidence is low (the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index is 16. In the South, it’s 17 and HMI can range up to 100) some “pockets of optimism” do seem to be emerging, said National Association of Home Builders chief economist, David Crowe.

But according to February’s Commerce Department start numbers, those pockets are not very deep. Last year, builders broke ground on a total of 586,600 homes, just a tad better than in 2009 (554,000), making these two years the worse on record dating back to 1959.

Nationally, in January 2011,  permits dipped to 562,000, down 10.4 percent below the December rate, and 10.7 percent below January 2010.

In the county, though, one can catch glimpses of those pockets. According to MetroStudy, a Palm Beach Gardens research firm, home starts rose to 1,110 in 2010 from 941 in 2009 (But, that’s way down from its peak in 2003 with more than 10,000 starts).

Jupiter’s building department reports that it issued 229 building permits for single-family homes and townhomes between October 1, 2009 and Sept 30, 2010. During that time the previous year, they issued 164 permits.

In Palm Beach Gardens, 86 builders applied for permits to build single-family homes in 2010, over 77 in 2009 (That’s down from its heyday in 2005, when 313 permits were applied for in an eight-month period). If 2011 shapes up based on permits through February, it looks like 2011 will be busier, said the city’s building manager, Steven Kennedy. Based on 16 permits issued through February, he’s estimating maybe 90 to 100 permits will be issued by year’s end.

Although Brad Hunter of MetroStudy doesn’t see a V-shaped recovery, he does acknowledge that there’s been “a little more activity” in the Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter area, and he sees “a gradual shape up.”

“You’ll see projects like Frenchman’s Harbor because it has a unique selling proposition, with all the properties having Intracoastal access,” he said, confirming Snyder’s explanation.

“Marisol is winding down – it’s running out of lots and Old Palm has new life with its new owners and properties are selling pretty well there. It will have more starts, but prices are high, so it won’t boost absolute sales and unit volume that much.

“I expect Abacoa will be the strongest producer in that area because it’s a successful master-plan community,” he said.

Old Palm Golf Club is platted for 302 residences on quarter- to one-acre lots on its 650 acres. About 140 families live in the community with 144 home-sites still available. Four builders’ homes and about 20 homes for resale are also available. Prices range from $1.5 million to $15 million.

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New home at Old Palm

The community’s selling points, according to Connie McGinnis, Old Palm’s director of sales, include low density as well as a private golf club that offers a high level of concierge services to its members as well as no waits for tee time.

DiVosta Homes is currently developing Abacoa Mallory Creek. When it’s finished it will have 263 single-family homes. So far, 159 homes are occupied. Fourteen homes are under construction and three are finished and vacant. The price range for single-family homes is $360,000-$600,000. Of the 326 town homes it will have when the community is completed, already 161 are occupied, 20 are under construction, and five are finished and vacant. Prices range from 230,000-$300,000.  Windsor Park, the final Abacoa community, will start in 2012 with 380 units planned.

“The overall land plan is brilliant,” said DiVosta director of sales Christopher Leimbach. “Jupiter and northern Palm Beach County are unique locations and the whole idea of Abacoa is based on New Urbanism with its interconnectivity to a downtown. It’s close to sports fields, spring training, and a golf course. People appreciate the sense of community and that friends and schools are in their back yards.”

written for palm2jupiter