Sign of recovery? Southwest Florida home builders remained busy in July

— Home builders in Southwest Florida had another busy month in July.

In unincorporated Collier County, 147 permits were issued for single-family homes last month – the same number as reported in June, according to the county's Growth Management Division. That's one of the highest monthly numbers seen in at least four years – a sign of a housing market recovery.

"One month does not a trend make. But two months comes closer," said Ross McIntosh, a Naples broker and housing expert.

The permit numbers are strong considering how few builders there are anymore in the market, he said.

"The top 10 builders are producing over 80 percent of the homes," McIntosh said.

Those top builders include G.L. Homes, Centex, D.R. Horton, WCI Communities, Toll Brothers, Stock Development and Lennar.

"Lennar is very huge. They are in four or five different communities. They bought distressed developments and they have quite the mix in Southwest Florida," said Tom Doyle, a Naples Realtor with Sun Realty.

Home permit numbers weren't available for the cities of Naples and Marco Island on Wednesday.

In Lee County, contractors pulled 63 single-family permits in the unincorporated area, up from 56 in June, according to a monthly report by the county's community development department.

Another 16 single-family permits were issued in Bonita Springs, down from 23 a month earlier.

Cape Coral reported 35 permits, compared to 40 in June. Sanibel had three, up from two in June. Permit numbers weren't immediately available for Fort Myers or Fort Myers Beach.

The rise in permit activity follows a strong selling season in the winter.

"This time of year it's very slow," Doyle said.

Big developers continue to push ahead with new communities in anticipation of a growing demand for new construction.

"I do know in the last four or five years, the balance has been heavily skewed toward resales," Doyle said. "Now with all the new opportunities on the horizon, I suspect that horizon is going to get back to that historical mix between resales and new construction."

__ Connect with Laura Layden at

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