Something Good | Professional Builder - June 1999

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Something Good

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Professional Builder - June 1999

Sterling Communities Is Riding High On The Success Of Mizner's Preserve

No one knows for sure why the luxury home market in Florida is on such a binge. Certainly, aging baby boomers in their peak earning years and well-heeled retirees form the core of the buyer profile. And wealth creation in the stock market must be part of it. But most of Florida's luxury home builders are too busy trying to get houses built to worry much about the factors driving the boom. Count Paul Asfahl of Sterling Communities in Boca Raton in that group.

"We know that virtually all of our buyers at Mizner's Preserve are heavy investors in the stock market, so it must be playing a role, but so much about this development has surprised us that we really can't say anything for certain," Asfahl says.

The sales rate of 36 homes in five months is more than double what was expected. "We're selling more of the larger homes than we had expected. Buyers are ordering many options and upgrades to personalize their homes. We average over $125,000 in options and upgrades," says Asfahl.

Location and development strategy are also part of this success. Mizner's Preserve 66-acre joint venture by Sterling and Puder-Siegel Homes, developed with financing through California-based Hearthstone Advisors. Sterling has 92 lots in the community, Puder-Siegel 82. Located just north of affluent Boca Raton on Jog Road, the community is surrounded by country clubs, with golf courses nearby. Mizner's Preserve offers a clubhouse with a sports and fitness center, grand social room, pool and tennis courts. "We get buyers who don't want to invest in the heavy membership dues all golf communities charge," says Asfahl. "That may be why we're getting so many young families."

Sterling's six-plan product line runs from 2955 to 4400 air conditioned square feet. Home sites are 75 x 130 feet. Three models opened in November. Shown here is the 4100-square foot Toscana-a two-story, five-bedroom courtyard home with a detached guest suite.

That suite joins the garage on the front elevation. Unlike most courtyard homes-which have their major living spaces oriented only toward the pool in the courtyard-this one loads plenty of glass to the rear to capture views of a lake from the master bedroom, living room and dining room.

Courtyard homes are still largely a Florida phenomenon, but builders in Arizona, California, and even Texas might be advised to try this housing form. Designed by local architect Shane Ames, with merchandising by Michelle Palmer-Reich of Boca Raton, the Toscana has 8 sales, and continues to battle the largest plan-the 4400 square foot Capistrano (9 sales)-for leadership. "This is another surprise," says Asfahl. "We didn't expect families to go for a courtyard, but they are half the Toscana sales."

Sterling is riding high on the success of Mizner's Preserve. The firm built 35 homes for $7 million in 1998, but plans to do 130 homes in 1999 for $40 million in revenue. -B.L.

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