ORLANDO OPENING: Ryan Homes is selling four models at the Cypress Lakes community. Photo: Courtesy Orlando/Orange County Convention &Visitors Bureau, INC.

South Bound

NVR sets up shop in Florida, opening the first Ryan Homes community in Orlando.

While its peers focus on cash preservation and—more often than not—retreat from markets as they continue to rationalize operations and overhead costs amid a sub-500,000 single-family starts market, NVR is flexing its muscles with little to lose and much to gain. In a move that has been rumored for months, NVR has begun to sell homes in Florida under its Ryan Homes subsidiary, increasing its stable of markets to 12 states. While Florida represents a challenged market for all incumbent home builders, a new one with an enviable construction operations formula and none of the land ownership baggage could make an opportunistic foray.

Ryan Homes established itself as a corporation in Florida on May 19, noting that its logo would be blue and that it would include the slogan: “Welcoming families home for over 50 years.”

The famously quiet company did not comment beyond noting that it has marked the move on its Web site, where it advertised a Sept. 1 grand opening of a model in the Cypress Lakes master-planned community near Orlando.

Orange County property records showed that NVR bought 11 lots in the community June 15 for $42,000 from Jen Florida I. Just a month earlier, Jen Florida had bought those lots plus 55 others and what appeared to be the rest of the undeveloped land in Cypress Lakes for $3.6 million from DOA Properties IX.

Ryan is selling four models at Cypress Lakes, starting in the upper $180,000s and going as high as the upper $250,000s for a 2,900-square-foot home with five bedrooms.

Public records also showed that Ryan Homes filed notices to commence construction on six townhome lots in The Parke at Hanover Place in Casselberry, a community in Seminole County near Orlando. It was unclear if Ryan owned the lots or was fee building for another owner.

The move into Florida has marked a big stretch for the company's geographic footprint, which has slowly expanded into the Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic from its Pittsburgh roots. However, the company has ties to Florida. NVR chairman of the board Dwight Schar and president and CEO Paul Saville both have had homes in Florida, and division president Tom Buescher is part of the Buescher family that owns Florida-based Mercedes Homes, which is reorganizing in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Word is, Tom Buescher has been tapped to lead NVR's Florida charge. Whether or not NVR establishes any form of partnership with ailing Mercedes is unknown.

NVR has been on the prowl for opportunity during the slowdown. The company bought lots in Columbus, Ohio, from Beazer Homes USA last year and was poised to seek more elsewhere. The discerning company's move into Florida has many industry stakeholders speculating that it's a signal that the state's land values are at or near bottom. —Teresa Burney

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.