Motorists cruising on major corridors see bulldozers stirring up dirt on open pasture land or crews in hard hats pounding nails into houses, frame by frame.
Billboards are inescapable. They fill the rights of way in clusters along State Road 54, State Road 56 and U.S. 41.
They call out to passersby — inviting prospective homebuyers to seek out the newest in luxury living.
Long Lake Ranch, Bexley South, Asturia, Connerton and Estancia at Wiregrass are just a few on the expanding list of upscale communities with new homes for sale.
The unmistakable message?
New home construction is taking off in Pasco County.
Homebuyers are touring the market from near and far, in person and online.
Moving day for Traci and Marlo Moore, and their children, Kynnedy 5, and Noah, 2, came on the weekend of the Fourth of July.
They moved into a single-family home in an enclave of Wiregrass Ranch that is so new that construction dirt is still flying.
The Michigan transplants spent more than two years searching for a dream home in Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
They found it in Wesley Chapel, off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, one of the busiest development areas in the county for homes and retail.
The Moores are among a multitude of people in the hunt for new and modern homes, with easy access to jobs, shops, schools and restaurants.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand,” said Steve Seeger, director of sales and marketing for Lennar, one of the home builders at Wiregrass Ranch.
In 2016, Lennar plans to build 116 homes in the Wiregrass subdivision where the Moores now live. The homebuilder is constructing or selling homes in nine communities in Pasco and 46 in the Tampa Bay area.
Other builders including CalAtlantic, M/I Homes, Beazer Homes, Homes by WestBay, David Weekley Homes and the Ryland Group are among the companies signing up for the residential boom in Pasco.
Housing on the rise in Pasco
Business is brisk in Pasco County’s building department.
Contractors pulled more than 1,900 building permits by mid-July. That’s nearly the number that was pulled for the entire year in 2015.
Construction of single-family homes has been on an upward trend in Pasco County every year since 2012.
The climb back from the Great Recession continues, though there’s still a huge gap between the number of homes being built this year compared to the number that were built in 2005, when the county issued 7,252 permits for single-family homes.
At the same time, the number of permits issued in both 2015 and in 2016, reflect a significant improvement compared to the 884 permits issued in 2011.
People who study housing trends see Pasco’s residential construction continuing to trend upward.
Pasco had four of the top 10 communities, based on new housing starts in the first quarter of 2016, according to Metro Study.
Long Lake topped the list with 264 housing starts in that period. Wiregrass was next, with 229. FishHawk in Hillsborough County took third spot with 225 housing starts. Most on the list are in Hillsborough.
But Union Park, with 188 housing starts, and Concord Station, with 175 housing starts, were also in the top 10.
“A year ago, no Pasco community was on the list,” said Tony Polito, regional director for Metro Study.
And, these numbers are not just data collecting in some government computer.
The information for the Metro Study is gleaned by local field teams who drive through the county collecting information on housing trends.
New construction in many communities was just beginning last year, and now Polito said, “Pasco has the biggest supply of lots.”
The one missing product from Pasco’s flurry of home building is starter homes, Polito said.
“Apartment buildings are taking over for people who would be traditional first-time buyers,” he added.
Builders can build on a ‘grand scale’
Others also find good news in Pasco’s housing trends.
The economy in general is looking brighter all across Tampa Bay.
But in the housing arena, Pasco is in what real estate broker Bill Eshenbaugh described as an interesting position. Eshenbaugh publishes the Eshenbaugh Report, which looks at local trends and property listings.
“It’s a pretty clean palette,” he said.
Large tracts of open land, especially along State Road 54 and State Road 56, are worthy investments for developers who want to build on a grand scale.
More new development is possible in Pasco in contrast to redevelopment and infill in more urban, built-out counties like Hillsborough and Pinellas, Eshenbaugh said.
“Pasco has a really nice place in the market,” he said. “It’s a desirable area.”
Long Lake is enjoying great success, as is Wiregrass, where a couple of $1 million sales have happened in Estancia, Eshenbaugh said.
Some residential is going up in Lutz around the Veteran’s Expressway and North Dale Mabry Highway. One new subdivision under construction is CalAtlantic’s The Promenade at Lake Park, off North Dale Mabry, near Idlewild Baptist Church.
Some homebuyers in Pasco are purchasing second, or third, homes, Eshenbaugh said.
“They are moving to upscale,” he said.
Those age 55 and older also are interested in Pasco.
And, Eshenbaugh said some people are skipping South Tampa, where they might have to tear down an existing house to build the new home of their dreams.
“Here, they can buy a lot of house that is nice and modern,” he said.
That is what eventually sold the Moores on their new home, even after checking out Orlando, as well.
They wanted a neighborhood with a small-town feel, but one that was part of new growth.
“We thought it would be nice to get into that process earlier,” said Traci Moore. “We’re doing this as a family.”
Wesley Chapel fit the mold.
“It’s an extremely diverse area, multicultural and with age diversity. That appeals to me especially,” Traci Moore said. “The Wiregrass area seems to be a good mix of things – business and residential.”
Pasco is a good place to start a new chapter in their lives, she said.
Not far behind will be her parents.
They, too, are in the market for a Pasco County home.
Top ten communities for housing starts first quarter, 2016
Long Lake Ranch – 264
Wiregrass Ranch – 229
FishHawk Ranch – 225
Waterset – 216
Hawks Point – 195
Union Park – 188
Ayesworth Glen – 186
Valencia Lakes – 179
Concord Station – 175
South Fork – 165
Published July 27, 2016