A model home in Lakewood Ranch, a quickly growing master-planned community.

Many people have moved to Sarasota and Manatee counties since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and, east of I-75, the latest home sales numbers show it. Lakewood Ranch is the best-selling community in the nation, according to a mid-year survey by the national real estate firm RCLCO. There were 1,535 new home sales through the end of June 2021, surpassing last year’s numbers by 83 percent.

Buyers moving from more urban, high-density cities and communities in California, New Jersey and New York, among others, have found more square footage for their dollar, along with proximity to nature trails and amenities. To date, Lakewood Ranch has three town and shopping centers, a medical center, A-rated schools, the Premier Sports Campus and more than 1,000 businesses.

Year over year, the master-planned community saw the largest scale gains–84 percent–in first-time homebuyers, generally made up of millennials. The empty-nesters markets jumped by 71 percent and the number of second homebuyers rose by 57 percent, according to Laura Cole, executive vice president of LWR Communities.

Waterside Place, the area's newest town center, is slated to open this fall and host a permanent farmers' market. Two new villages, Star Farms and Sweetwater, will be added to the area's 21 new home villages by the end of the year.

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