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5 Questions

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2009

Alan Anderson became executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Manatee County in December, then took over the reins of the joint Home Builders Association of Manatee-Sarasota when his organization merged with the Sarasota Building Industry Association in April. A past president of the Manatee HBA, he was a builder-member for 10 years, most recently representing Neal Communities. 

Why did your two organizations merge?

More for economies of scale. It‘s something that’s been brewing for many years, and it was just the right time to do this. We have many common issues, and we’ve been partnering in quite a few things for several years; the Parade of Homes is a joint venture, for example. The two organizations had 100 dual members, and it was becoming onerous on them. Our main thrust is to maintain our membership and build it back up. We’re just looking to the future; we’ve got to get our people back to work.

How has the real estate downturn affected membership?

[Before the merger] Manatee had 403 members, Sarasota had 388. Ninety-six were dual members. We had a lot of new members recruited in the last few years, and a lot [of renewals] were coming due in May, so we’ll know soon where we land out—I hope in the mid-500 range. Both associations are down to those core members who would hang in with us anyway. It’s still trying times for a lot of our members.

Do you sense a renewed interested in new home construction?

Since the Parade of Homes [in February], a lot of our members have seen an uptick in traffic through their models. They’re telling us the parade produced a lot of traffic, equal to or better than last year. Most of our builders are down to very small inventories, usually models; nobody’s doing spec houses anymore. With that said, they’re all looking for contracts. We’re still flushing out those foreclosure homes; that has more of an impact on home building right now.

What lessons have your members learned about changes in home styles, sizes and locations since the downturn?

You still have the mainstay product people are going to continue to buy once this economy starts to move in a positive direction: the typical three-bedroom, single-story split plan that sells well in Florida, especially east of the interstate. The difference is you’re not going to see too much being built in the multi-family condo market in the near future. Nationally, we’ve heard the multi-family market has had a tremendous increase, but it’s not happening here—it’s been overbuilt.

As for the grand estate homes, our market still can support that kind of product, maybe not in the same numbers as in the past. Some baby boomers, especially, will want that one grandiose home in the future.  

What local government changes does your organization support to encourage your industry?

One of the main things is to reduce or eliminate those impact fees. We know impact fees are important but it gets to a point where you have to ask, ‘How reasonable are they?’ We’ve been successful in Manatee, working with our government; together the school board and county government have just reduced their impact fees by $11,000 over a two-year period for an average three-bedroom home. We’re hoping Sarasota would look at that as well. 

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