Since Port St. Lucie, Fla.'s inception in 1958, it's been strictly a blue-collar town, an affordable refuge for those unable to pay Palm Coast County prices. Or at least that was true until property values skyrocketed in the 1990s, forcing a shift in demographics.
No longer were home buyers young couples looking for starter homes. Instead, buyers became mature, moderate-income shoppers from the more expensive surrounding areas, looking for more bang for their buck in move-up homes that could accommodate expanding families.
However, Port St. Lucie's roots as a master planned community of sorts prohibits the purchase of large tracts of land. Builders such as Mercedes Homes' Treasure Coast division buy spatterings of the 55,000 lots from individual owners. And therein lies the challenge: How to create a large, value-priced home to fit new buyers' needs while making scattered-lot production efficient.
For Mercedes, the solution came in the form of the two-story, four-bedroom Kayla model. The concrete-block home showcases box-on-box design, which allows for a higher room count. This appeals to many of the area's Hispanic and Haitian home seekers who often have extended families. For example, the Kayla comes standard with three living rooms and has an option for a second master-bedroom suite.
The design creates extraordinary value for buyer and builder alike, says Mercedes' Treasure Coast division president Rob Smithwick. With no angles or cuts in the foundation, the geometric footprint creates production efficiencies, which in turn make the model “10 to 15 percent more affordable than a typical two story,” he explains. The 3,567-square-foot home goes for an average price in the lower $300,000s, plus the lot, Smithwick says.
The value-driven design, packaged in a Mediterranean-style envelope, has struck a chord with the local buying population. In the two years since the model's introduction into Mercedes' product line, the Kayla has become, according to Smithwick, “the No. 1 selling two-story in the company,” as well as “our best seller over 2,200 square feet.”