Local News

Developer sees uptake in new home building

LAKE PLACID - After suffering a lung collapse, Rick Valentine decided it was time to make the move from Tennessee to year-round warm weather in Florida. A friend told him about the Covered Bridge development near Lake Placid. "We decided to go ahead and see what was available there," he said. During the past six months, Valentine and his wife have been one of four families who have decided to build new homes in Covered Bridge.
Ken LeBlanc, whose development company, The Cottage Co., is in various stages of building the houses, said he had not built any new homes in the development for the past 1 1/2 years and finds the latest activity promising. "We have definitely turned a corner and it is obvious that things are getting better in the industry," he said. "We have good prospects for other sales." What has surprised him especially, he said, is that three of the four homes being built are larger than smallest size being offered. LeBlanc also said he doesn't know of any developer in Highlands County with that many new homes under contract at one time. As of Sept. 13, Highlands County had 37 housing units permitted for this year, including one duplex. Sue Clark, a broker/associate with RE/MAX Realty Plus II in Lake Placid, said she sees some uptake in sales in affordable housing. She deals with properties in Covered Bridge and other areas. The drop in real estate prices has made it affordable for retirees to come to Florida and buy new homes, she said. Another factor is that people wanting to move to Florida are able to sell their old homes, LeBlanc said. Previously, the difficulty in selling the homes kept them back from making the move, he said. There's also been concern by some buyers about making a decision before prices rise again, he said. Valentine said that concern about prices rising again was a factor, but not a large one in his decision. He said he hopes to move into his new house in November. Covered Bridge is a development that currently has nearly 300 residences. Most of those are manufactured housing or villas. LeBlanc said the vast majority of that is not for sale, meaning people who want to move into the 55 plus community must buy a new residence. Under the age requirement, at least one resident of the house must be 55, he said. No one under 18 can live in the development on a permanent basis. LeBlanc said another factor drawing people is that an $85 homeowners' association membership fee that includes lawnmowing services, cable television and a use of a club house with exercise equipment and other features. "It looks likes we're going to stay pretty busy," Valentine said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834