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WCI says Southwest Florida market heats up!

Southwest Florida was the strongest market for homes built by Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities Inc. to close out 2013 and customer demand remains strong so far this year, CEO Keith Bass said Tuesday.Bass noted that the second-home market and the active adult market primarily including retirees are especially robust.“Naples/Fort Myers is extremely hot right now,” Bass said in a conference call with investment analysts. “We don’t have a lot of competition in that market or a lot of competition with water views.”WCI markets homes and develops communities in Florida coastal markets.Homes valued at $451,000 or more accounted for 35.1 percent of all homes delivered in 2013, up from 24.5 percent a year ago.Primary home buyers, including families, is typically a slower category in the fourth quarter, but has gained strength in the first part of 2014 with customer traffic up about 41 percent compared to this time last year, Bass said.“We are very excited about how the season has kicked off,” he said. “The buyers have been very receptive to the product.”The developer and luxury homebuilder on Tuesday announced net income of $135.2 million, or $5.16 a share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from net income of $17.9 million, or 99 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.The most recent quarterly results include a $125.6 million benefit from a deferred tax asset valuation.For the year, WCI reported net income of $127 million, or $5.86 a share, up from $50.9 million, or $3.50 a share, for the previous year.For the year, WCI delivered 493 homes, up 40 percent over the previous year.Analyst Ivy Zelman, of Zelman & Associates, said it is a good sign that second-home buyers and active adult consumers are buying.“It’s exciting to realize that segment of the market is finally starting to have enough confidence to get back into the market,” she said.WCI Communities completed its initial public offering July 30 with the sale of about 6.8 million shares priced at $15.In August, it issued about $200 million in senior notes for the acquisition and development of land.The company owns about 8,600 homesites on which it can build.Bass noted that Florida is one of the nation’s strongest markets for building permit growth even though permits remain 70 percent below pre-recession highs.

By Tim Engstrom

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