More than 100 new homes planned for Seminole County


Two developers want to bring more than 100 new single-family homes to Seminole County in two subdivisions next year — something one economist describes as a first step to recovery in the local market.

When the housing market began its downturn in 2008, several planned developments fell by the wayside. But now, developers are reworking previous projects on infill sites to appeal to today’s buyers, something that will help reduce the area’s housing inventory and increase home values.

“The earliest recovery is likely to happen in cities where people want to live,” said Mark Vitner, managing director/senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities LLC .Wells Fargo Securities LLC Latest from The Business Journals Shutterfly secures 5M revolving credit facilityStudy: Holiday season to be ‘fairly solid’Viasystems files to raise million in public offering Follow this company ., who specializes in Florida’s housing market. “There’s a little bit of activity where property values have come down, so developers had to come up with a new business plan to capture that.”

Altamonte Springs-based Essian Construction LLC is one of those developers. The firm resurrected and reworked plans for the Reserve at Alaqua — a 14-acre development within the high-end Alaqua Country Club .Alaqua Country Club Latest from The Business Journals Golf course owners redevelop land with less green space, more homesNot your grandpa’s clubhouseAdding to Alaqua Follow this company .— which nearly four years ago was planned for nine $1 million-plus homes before the housing market tanked.

Now, Essian wants Seminole County approval to develop 44 55-by-130- or 140-foot lots for single-family homes that would be priced from $400,000, said managing member Richard Shassian.

Shassian previously worked with land owner John Ritenour, CEO of Longwood-based Insurance Office of America .Insurance Office of America Latest from The Business Journals Heath RitenourCharlotte Bobcats get some insuranceCharlotte Bobcats get some insurance Follow this company ., who in 2007 began developing the 1-acre lots but shelved plans soon after. The two partnered on this new redevelopment of the land, and Shassian is financing the project on his own.

“The roads were put in, [eight] lots were put in, but then they just sat there without any interest for those type of homes,” Shassian said, adding that many Alaqua residents who have 8,000-square-foot homes now want to downsize. “There are some empty-nesters who don’t want to leave Alaqua. This is for them.”

Shassian said his firm would develop the lots and sell them to homebuyers, custom home builders or a single builder who might want all the lots.

Meanwhile, Harkins Construction Inc. wants to develop 69 single-family home lots on 34 acres near Heathrow. The property is owned by Beckel Landscape Nursery owner Thomas Beckel. The property was listed for sale on commercial real estate website LoopNet .LoopNet Latest from The Business Journals Find interesting, offbeat businesses at BizBuySellCoStar Group buys Atlanta firm for MCoStar Group pays M for Atlanta firm Follow this company .until earlier this month. The listing said the owner is relocating an existing business to Lake County and needs to sell the property.

The planned subdivision, dubbed Pearl Lake Estates, would need approval from the state since it is a large-scale land-use change, said Tina Williamson, Seminole County planning and development division manager. The property is zoned agricultural, and Harkins Construction wants to rezone it to planned unit development.

Representatives from project applicant Dave Schmitt Engineering Inc. .Dave Schmitt Engineering Inc. Latest from The Business Journals Biz DigestBiz DigestWinter Park breaks ground on .1M center Follow this company .didn’t respond by press time, while Harkins Construction’s Mark Harkins declined to comment.

The two projects seem well-timed, since there is a lack of new residential development in the county and plenty of interest due to the high-ranked schools there.

Matt Trask, vice president at custom homebuilder Dave Brewer Inc. .Dave Brewer Inc. Latest from The Business Journals Biz DigestResurrection on tap for Bella Collina?What would jumpstart the homebuilding industry in Central Florida? Follow this company ., said while there is demand for new homes, there’s not a lot of available land so these projects should do well if the builders can buy and build one lot at a time and keep their own risk low.

“This is where we do bulk of our building and there’s not a lot of opportunities because there’s not a lot of land,” Trask said.

Year-to-date, home builders pulled 717 permits for single-family homes this year in Seminole County, up from 653 for the same period last year.

However, pricing could be an issue, since many buyers still want a bargain. A total of 5,020 existing homes sold in Seminole County between January and October this year, but most of them — 19.1 percent — were priced at less than $50,000.

Despite that, buyers are interested in new development, said Jan Fergerson, a Realtor with Exit Real Estate Results in Longwood. “When I have open houses, people are always asking, ‘Isn’t there anything new around here?’ But it’s still a price point thing.”

Both subdivision plans are expected to seek Seminole County Commission approval on Dec. 13.

Anjali Fluker
Senior Staff Writer – Orlando Business Journal

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