ESTERO, Fla. – Oct. 26, 2016 – Smaller is better, say residents and builders as a trend in construction begins emerging in Southwest Florida. Developers of huge communities with mega amenities are now downsizing plans and building small neighborhoods with little or no facilities.
Residents say they like not having to pay for the things they don't use. Builders say as large tracts of land become harder or even impossible to find, these small areas are way of the future.
Michael Greenberg, regional president of Neal Communities, said his company has been steering toward these small communities. Neal has built neighborhoods as small as Oaks of Estero with just 24 homes.
They are all infill properties, Greenberg said. Basically west of (Interstate) 75 has been building up over the last 20 years, but there are some hidden treasures. The first part is they are all properties that are great locations.
Greenberg points to Oaks of Estero along with Daniels Place with 85 homes, Cypress Walk with 114, Coconut Cove with 47, Coastal Key with 112, Canopy with 108 and Estero Place with 102 residences.
Greenberg said the communities in Estero are close to the Estero Regional Park with its fitness center and array of activities. Residents who want those activities can go there. Those who don't want them aren't paying for it in homeowner fees like they would in a neighborhood with lots of amenities.
That's what residents like.
At least with Coastal Key one of the things we appreciated is the amenities are simple, Nathan Davis said. We have a gated community. We have housing that is consistent throughout the community, but we are not paying for things we do not use. In larger settings they build more amenities to suit all the homeowners, but if you don't use all the amenities you are paying for something you don't need. I also like the exclusiveness. It is like being part of a special club.
"HOAs are cheaper because you are not paying for a restaurant and a gym, said Carol Hilson, resident of Cypress Walk. I like it because if I want to go to the pool, I can just go in the backyard and go in the pool.
Mike Agins, general sales manager for Pulte, sees smaller communities as a way of the future.
I think that is the way the market is heading, Agins said. I have a couple of good examples. We just opened up Verona Pointe Estates, 33 units. We have another: Avery Square that will have 85 units. Especially in Naples and in Lee with the large parcels of land availability drying up and the competition for them, and you see the big retirement facilities going up they take up a large amount of land. What we are doing is infill. It gives us more flexibility on location.
In addition to it being practical to fill in smaller parcels, Agins sees benefits for the new homeowner.
The benefit is you don't have a huge community, he said. It has a little more of an intimate feel. It has a more traditional neighborhood type of feel. There are other benefits that come along with it. You are not going to have HOA fees that are as expensive.
David Stewart bought a home in Verona Pointe Estates and is looking forward to moving in when his home is complete next year.
Its small, 33 units only, he said. It is a little village and no big infrastructure so the HOA fees are reasonable. I think it gives you a measure of specialness.
Scott Hansen is moving into Verona Pointe Estates from a much larger community.
We just like the small community, he said. We find in our community we don't use the clubhouse or pool. We have our own pool, so it didn't provide any value for us.
Windward Isles is a community of 28 homes being constructed in North Naples.
Daryl Buddemeyer was excited to be the first to buy a home there. Even before homes are built, Buddemeyer said he is getting to know his future neighbors. With such few homes, he expects to become friends with the people who live nearby.
Living with a lot of people is not for me, he said. I like being in a small community where you know people.
D.R. Horton also is moving toward building smaller communities. Right now they are constructing Westwood Place that will have 28 single-family homes in Fort Myers. They also are building Sunset Pointe that will have 58 single-family homes in Cape Coral.
D.R. Horton builds in communities of all sizes in order to accommodate our buyers various needs, said Jonathon Pentecost, division president, for Southwest Florida's division of D.R. Horton. Some buyers choose smaller, more intimate communities with no amenities, while others tend to gravitate to larger, more amenity-driven communities.
Pentecost said they see there are buyers who want a smaller community product.
Buyers often enjoy the intimate feel of a smaller community, as they tend to have less traffic and people get to know each other better, he said. As homebuyer preferences shift, we strive to adjust our home offerings accordingly.
Nathan Davis found another reason to appreciate a smaller community.
When it comes to resale values, if you are living in a good community there is less competition and values are maintained, Davis said. In a bigger community there is a variation of values and more competition if you want to sell.
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