Older houses in Southwest Florida’s nicer neighborhoods are fast being torn down as rising land prices make it faster and cheaper to raze rather than remodel.
Builders say small homes are on borrowed time if they’re on a lot – usually waterfront – where it’s cheaper to do a teardown than to build on vacant land.
The teardown trend “now accounts for a third of all the houses we build,” said Gary Aubuchon, president of Cape Coral-based custom builder Aubuchon Homes. “We do a lot in the older section of Cape Coral, the area called the yacht club section, and along the river.”
Across the Caloosahatchee, he said, “Town & River is an area that’s seen a fair amount of teardowns. And we’re now in Naples as well.” Florida’s regulations often make it more expensive than a teardown to expand or remodel an existing home, Aubuchon said.
Someone who does enough work on a house to increase the value of the structure by more than 50 percent makes the building suddenly subject to modern wind-resistance codes and federal elevation requirements, Aubuchon said, and that usually adds enough cost to make a teardown the obvious choice.
Mike Diamond of Diamond Custom Homes in Naples said another factor is someone building a replacement home doesn’t have to pay an impact fee – levied by municipalities to cover cost of additional public amenities such as schools and roads. “We’re talking $20,000, $30,000.”