Big land deals are a big deal in the region's housing market.
In his 23rd — and final — Southwest Florida residential development snapshot this week, Naples broker and housing expert Ross McIntosh said it's extraordinary just how big land deals have become as the real estate market recovers from a boom gone bust.
"The worst is behind us and the future is bright," he said, summing up his view of the local real estate market.
Many of the big land deals he rattled off have yet to close, including the sale of Sabal Bay, a 2,300-acre residential project a few miles from downtown Naples. He expects the sales price to be at least $80 million, making it the biggest one that he knows about in the pipeline.
"Something else will top that some day. Records are made to be broken," McIntosh said.
In July, Minto Communities, a leading builder from Canada, announced plans to buy the undeveloped Sabal Bay property from Collier Enterprises, which revived plans for the housing development in East Naples last year. The development will have more than 1,600 homes.
In his talk, which drew a sellout crowd of about 200 to the St. John the Evangelist Life Center off 111th Avenue on Wednesday, McIntosh cited a few other big land deals in the works. Here are a few:
Last month, Taylor Morrison announced plans to take over a nearly 1,800-acre project formerly known as Mirasol three miles east of Interstate 75, at the northwest corner of Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard. The sales price is estimated at $32 million.
Taylor Morrison also plans to buy about 150 acres for 350 homes in a new community called Hacienda Lakes, on the east side of Collier Boulevard at Rattlesnake Hammock Road. The sales price for the chunk of land is estimated at $20 million, McIntosh said.
Hacienda Lakes is approved for more than 1,500 homes. Taylor Morrison's project would be the first phase of it, McIntosh said.
GL Homes plans to buy 136 acres for a new housing development between Airport-Pulling Road and Livingston Road for an estimated price of $23 million. The property is home to the Temple Citrus Grove, a grower and shipper of specialty oranges and grapefruit that has become a Naples tradition after more than 40 years in business.
"These are land deals in the $20 million to nearly $100 million range and that's a lot of capital to amass in what remains a difficult lending environment," McIntosh said.
Over the past year, many other multimillion-dollar land sales have closed. They include:
In July, LaBelle-based Alico Inc. announced its sale of 5,187 acres near Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero to a local developer, O.J. Buigas, for $10 million. The project may include student housing because it's so close to the university.
Minto Communities closed on more than 85 acres off Old 41 Road near Bernwood Parkway a few months ago, paying $4.25 million for the undeveloped land. Plans call for 220 single-family homes and paired villas and the project is already rising out of the ground.
D.R. Horton, one of the nation's largest home builders, has been in a buying frenzy in Lee and Collier counties. In an interview before McIntosh's presentation, which detailed all of the company's recent land purchases, Jill Meeks, D.R.'s vice president of sales and marketing in Southwest Florida, said: "We are growing immensely in the area. There are many opportunities in Southwest Florida and the market is definitely heating up. We have exceeded our sales quarter after quarter."
This year, builders have pulled more than 2,700 single- and multi-family permits in Lee and Collier counties. That's the most in any year since 2007, when there were more than 8,000, McIntosh said.
In the city of Naples, single-family permits are up more than 50 percent over last year. McIntosh described what's happening in the city as a "mini boom."
McIntosh predicts new housing permits will continue their rise over the next few years. By 2014, he expects there to be 4,000 single- and multi-family permits pulled in Lee and Collier in the year.
There are sure to be more big land deals as the housing market continues to recover, McIntosh said.
"This business is like raking leaves," he said of land sales. "Every time you think you've got them all, you find another one. Another one falls off the tree."
McIntosh founded his own real estate firm in 1997, specializing in the brokerage of land for development in Southwest Florida. Between 1997 and 2005, he brokered more than 12,000 acres and $550 million in land sales.
In 2006 — after the market soured — he turned his focus toward the acquisition, refurbishment and resale of residential and commercial foreclosure properties.
Asked if he might reconsider continuing his popular annual real estate snapshot, McIntosh quipped, "I don't know. Maybe there will be a farewell tour."