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New KB Home chief says stiff competition, prices warrant strategic approach

Orchard Park in Winter Garden is one of the many communities KB Home has built in the Orlando area over nearly three decades.
Orchard Park in Winter Garden is one of the many communities KB Home has built in the Orlando area over nearly three decades.

As the new division president of Central Florida for KB Home, Jay Lewis inherited an area that has seen a massive amount of home building over the past few years, begging the question of how long the momentum can last.

"This is still one of the best markets in the country, but it is more difficult to find appealing land," Lewis said.

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By appealing he meant close to where people work, in proximity to main roads and near good schools.

The challenge, Lewis said, is not so much finding parcels to build on because the Orlando area is still building out, with communities being created farther from the city's central hub.

The difficulties are completion and price. Home builders have piled into the area to capitalize on its growth. And the cost of land has skyrocketed.

Lewis could not give a specific dollar amount in terms of cost changes, but he did say raw land values today are as high, if not higher, than 2005, when the market was at its peak.

"It's hard to find the right positions at the right price," said Lewis, who was named to his new position this summer after holding a similar spot with rival Standard Pacific for four years. He replaced George Glance, who left the company.

The challenge of finding good, fairly-priced properties has Lewis "getting up earlier these days" to get a leg up on the competition.

Strategic moves KB is taking in the Orlando area include using its status as a longtime builder here. With three decades under its belt, "We have longstanding relationships with both land sellers and developers," Lewis said. "We also have an experienced local land team that is constantly evaluating the local landscape and new land opportunities throughout the market."

KB Home is also doing "extensive market research and conducting local market surveys that allows it to understand exactly what a home buyer is looking for, including specific location and what is important to them, like example school district, distance to various employment centers and affordability," according to Lewis.

Strong support from the parent company is another aid. "We have been in business for over 57 years have great corporate support to help us make the right land purchase at the right price," Lewis said.

Areas that Lewis said have appeal, because of prospective employment and other reasons, include Lake Nona, Horizon West, northeast Seminole County and Osceola County.

"The beautiful thing about the Orlando area is there are still opportunities for growth," Lewis said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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