26 Oct Tarpon Flats more than 40% sold out after only 8 months
Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:46 am
The real estate boom on the southern part of the barrier island first predicted a year ago in Vero Beach 32963 is officially on, with George Heaton, developer of the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, leading the way.
Opened for sales less than 8 months ago, Heaton’s 38-home Tarpon Flats subdivision is already more than 40 percent sold out, with 10 homes closed and six more under contract. Four of the buyers, including a doctor at Indian River Medical Center and a Moorings resident downsizing to a smaller retirement home, are relocating from Vero Beach.
“It is going extremely well – as good as we could have hoped,” said Heaton last week in a phone interview from San Francisco.
“We originally expected it might take 24 months to close out, but we are now thinking we will be sold out by the end of the upcoming season,” says project sales manager Shari Goodner.
Heaton says Tarpon Flats’ success is due to three things: location, price and quality.
It is hard to argue about the location. Situated about a mile and half north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, the waterfront enclave is only a 15-minute drive away from Vero’s seaside dining, shopping and cultural district and it is even closer to Fort Pierce’s charming waterfront with its seafood restaurants, marinas, ecological attractions, museums and entertainment venues.
Because it is so close to the Inlet, the stretch of river behind the development gets flushed twice a day by billions of gallons of fresh seawater that flood in at high tide, keeping the water clean and clear. And the subdivision has deeded beach access and a private walkway leading to a wide, accreting ocean beach, which has two reefs offshore, according to Goodner, a longtime diver.
If anything the home prices at Tarpon Flats are even more compelling than the location. One-story, 2,000-square-foot, concrete block houses built by Phoenix Companies, a luxury custom home builder based in Palm Beach, start at $469,000 on interior lots. At today’s interest rates, with a conventional 30-year mortgage and 20-percent down payment, that would mean a $1,700 monthly mortgage payment for a new, luxury home in a gated community on the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean a two-minute walk away. Two-story, 2,600-square-foot models start at $569,900.
“The price point is still the best on the east coast of Florida [for a waterfront community],” Goodner says. (She says “still” because one-story homes were available for $399,000 when the community launched in February; high demand and an upgraded St. Lucie County energy code have pushed prices up 17 percent so far.)
Carrying costs are low, too, with FPL electric, HOA dues of $200, and what Goodner calls “one of the lowest tax districts in St. Lucie County.”
Due to the new code, the homes are highly-energy efficient, “basically green homes,” according to Goodner, and loaded with high-end features and luxury finishes. Community amenities include a heated swimming pool with Tiki hut for cook-outs and evening drinks, a community dock, and the new, gated walkway to the ocean. HOA dues cover lawn and landscape care for all the homes.
Heaton says it takes about eight months from the time a property closes to complete a new home. He believes more houses already would have sold in the community if there had been completed homes on-hand that buyers could have moved right into, and he is now in the process of permitting several spec homes to shorten the time between sale and occupancy.
So far, 100 percent of buyers have purchased their Tarpon Flats homes as primary residences, not second or vacation homes, something that caught Heaton by surprise. “We thought it would be fifty-fifty,” the developer says.
Heaton paid $1.6 million for the 70-acre Tarpon Flats property in 2013, buying from an Atlanta developer who started the project and saw it falter during the real estate downturn. Most of the property is wetland, with development confined to 15 acres that stretches from A1A to the Indian River Lagoon.
Heaton says the real estate market on the St. Lucie stretch of Vero’s barrier island is “very good” for homes at or under $500,000. A number of other unfinished subdivisions, plated lots with no houses, line A1A between the county line and the inlet and Heaton says he is looking at other projects, but has not bought anything yet.
“We want to get a little further down the road with Tarpon flats before starting something new,” he says.
Meanwhile, his 10-lot Old Oaks subdivision in Vero Beach has two homes he says will be finished by Christmas and another about to start construction. The golf-course community is on the former site of St. Edward’s School, across the street from Riomar Country Club. Homes range in size from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and in price from $1.6 million to $2.6 million for the lot/home package. Homebuyers get a 10-year prepaid membership in the beach club at the Vero Beach Hotel.