New-home construction spikes in Metro Orlando

New-home construction in Metro Orlando spiked 25 percent from a year earlier with the biggest boost in The Villages and communities near theme parks, a new report shows.

Affordability seemed to fall off the menu of new residential offerings in Central Florida, with declines in the number of homes priced under $200,000. Meanwhile, new residences in the $300,000 to $350,000 range grew by 37 percent during the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according the MetroStudy.

Orlando’s home-building industry has benefited from job creation in the region and a short supply of existing homes listed on the market has not hurt.

“Resale housing activity is increasing slightly, with less inventory available for sale and increasing pricing,” said Anthony Crocco, who oversees Central and North Florida for MetroStudy. “This is helping the new-home market as the gap in pricing between resale and new home pricing is closing a bit.”

First-time buyers are less likely to afford a new house during this period of price growth, but options for them are emerging.

“New development further out of the Orlando core and the introduction of smaller detached products is attempting to solve some of this pricing issue,” Crocco added.

Of the 2,841 houses that got underway in Metro Orlando during the fourth quarter, the biggest boom was at The Villages senior community, which is anchored in Lake County and spreads into Sumter and Marion counties. It launched 926 houses last quarter — almost three times more than any other community.

Other than that amenity-rich golfing mecca, the region’s most active communities were all in Orange or Osceola counties and most catered to international buyers and other visitors. They included:

• Reunion Resort & Club offering vacation rentals and other housing options in Osceola County, 362 home starts;

• Summerlake in Orange County’s Horizon West development north of theme parks, 308 home starts;

• Lake Nona development with its new USTA campus and medical anchors in southeast Orlando, 290 home starts;

• ChampionsGate with golf and other activities marketed mostly to visitoring buyers, 258 home starts.

Meanwhile the number of vacant lots, which seemed to define the overall region during the depths of the recession, dropped by 20 percent over a year.