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New home construction main driver of Osceola's 2015 growth

New home construction in places like Reunion are fueling Oscoela County's economic recovery. Reunion developer Encore built $50 million in new construction last year.
New home construction in places like Reunion are fueling Oscoela County's economic recovery. Reunion developer Encore built $50 million in new construction last year.(Joe Brooks / Encore)

Oscoela County's vacation home building boom continues to drive the county's growth, as new construction in two Four Corners-area resorts added $110 million to the tax roll last year, according to Property Appraiser Katrina Scarborough.

Scarborough told GrowthSpotter new home construction has fueled the county's economic recovery. Most of the growth in Osceola's tax roll is directly attributable to new construction.

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Last year $614 million of new construction was added to the tax roll; of that $517 million (84 percent) was residential.

Scarborough's office is still gathering data on 2015 and will release the preliminary tax roll by June 1. "These are moving numbers," she said. "We're still working on the new construction."

She gave the Florida Department of Revenue a "very conservative" estimate this month of 3-4 percent growth for 2015, although recent trends would project a higher growth rate. The tax roll grew by 7 percent in 2013 and 6 percent in 2014 -- mostly fueled by new construction.

Four Corners' post-recession boom is bringing new hotels, housing, retail, schools and thousands of vacation homes.

The Four Corners area is by far the county's hottest market. Scarborough said Reunion Resort added nearly $50 million in new construction last year, and Lennar added $55 million at ChampionsGate in just the area formerly known as Stoneybrook.

Builders say demand is highest for 8+ bedrooms, a trend the Osceola County Property Appraiser's office has started tracking.

Another hot market is Bellalago, a luxury waterfront community on Pleasant Hill Road. That AV Homes community and surrounding area saw nearly $22 million in new construction last year.

"Narcoossee and Boggy Creek Road are seeing a lot of growth, too," Scarborough said. Her appraisal staff is still gathering data on those submarkets.

"Sales are happening everywhere. Values are up everywhere," she said. "The commercial market is stable and increasing slightly. We're seeing some new apartment projects coming online."

The Loop area, which includes The Crosslands shopping center and surrounding Tupperware land, is by far the fastest growing commercial area. Scarborough said the corridor along Osceola Parkway accounted for nearly $61 million in new construction last year.

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Property values in downtown Kissimmee and St. Cloud are stable. Even though one might expect properties around the future SunRail station to increase in value, Scarborough said she hasn't seen any evidence of that.

"We're always looking back," she said. "We don't project what might happen in the future."

The county's two largest hotels, the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate and Gaylord Palms Resort, added value last year. That wasn't the case for many of the older hotel and motel properties along the W192 tourist corridor.

"Some of those are decreasing because of what they've transformed to -- basically housing for the homeless," Scarborough said. "We don't base our assessment on who is staying there. When we're looking at hotels, we look at the income -- so it's going to be based on what their income is. We also have to consider maintenance -- how much can the owner afford to invest in the property?"

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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