Whether in cocktail conversations or hard news reports, there is no doubt that the markets generating the most chatter are Florida, Arizona and Chicago. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to talk about in all the other parts of the country. That's why we are expanding our print version of "The Dirt" section of Big Builder magazine with this digital briefing.

Each week, we'll round up stories from local news outlets on who's buying, who's selling, who's capitalizing and who's making market news in an easy-to-read format where there are no time or space limitations. When it's appropriate, we'll supplement the news with insight, analysis, and opinion from our discussions with industry. As March begins, we expect the upcoming financial threshold that marks the end of Q1 to put pressure on public builders. We'll be looking for intensified promotional programs to move existing inventory. In addition, increased news of asset sales will likely come to light.

And we'd like to hear what you, our readers, have to say. If you've got some dirt on land transactions, municipal implications, or upcoming developments in your area, please email me at ljackson@hanleywood.com.

Onto the news:


Headscratcher Of The Week award goes to the announcement that SunCal is under contract to buy the 1,600-acre Toho Preserve property in the Orlando area from D.R Horton. Though neither party will conform the price, a figure upward of $35 million is being openly used by industry land experts. SunCal has previously maintained its footprint in the Western regions, but last year expressed a desire to expand. Though pockets of Florida real estate make sense to land experts on a long-term horizon, this location falls smack in the middle of an area primed for nearly 30,000 lots to come online. In other words, it's difficult to imagine builders feeling much urgency to reload their pipeline any time soon. Besides, isn't SunCal already holding more lots that capital partner Lehman is comfortable with?

South Texas

Ever since Centex performed a reorganizational shuffle two years ago, the strategic importance of Centex Destination Properties (CDP) has been in question. In fact, this time last year, the Ginn organization was attempting to set a valuation on the properties. Here is insight into another one-off deal, and fodder for the thinking that a larger packaged-asset deal may not be such a far-fetched theory.

Southwest Florida

Clearly, officials in Manatee, Florida haven't gotten the memo that a housing slowdown is seriously impacting its state's economy. How else could you explain the fact that the county is considering a recommendation to hike building permit fees for homes by 60%?


Though Dunmore Homes hoped to reorganize after filing for bankruptcy in November under Chapter 11, the company's lawyers say it "is currently winding down its business and liquidating its assets."


Seems Neumann, Kennedy, and Kimball Hill Homes aren't the only builders struggling in the Windy City. Now trouble is now blowing into the condo segment of the housing market.

San Antonio

The city's housing board Chairman is considering asking KB Homes for a refund on repair costs it fronted for construction defects.

Suburban Chicago

Last week, the village board in Minooka, IL approved a resolution that allows Centex to substitute letters of credit in a move to take over lots from Lennar.

Luling, Texas

Who says everything's always bigger in the Lone Star State? Here's one builder's way of dealing with affordable housing.