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Originally published June 14, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Page modified June 15, 2012 at 11:54 AM

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Miami-based Lennar plans homebuilding push here

The national homebuilder is buying lots with plans to construct 450 to 500 houses a year in the Puget Sound area.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Another national homebuilder is jumping into the Seattle market.

Miami-based Lennar, which moved into Western Washington in December when it acquired Premier Communities of Puyallup, expects to close this summer on the purchase of a large portfolio of lots in King County, said Ryan McGowan, who heads Lennar's operations in the area.

"King is our top priority right now," he said.

Lennar is the nation's third-largest builder, according to Builder magazine, with communities in 18 states.

The Premier acquisition gave the publicly traded company 650 home sites in Pierce, Thurston and Snohomish counties.

Since then, McGowan said, it has closed on 314 more lots — including 50 in King County, in Bothell — and has 759 more under contract in the four counties.

That doesn't include the big King County portfolio, he added.

Lennar plans to build 450 to 500 homes a year in the Puget Sound area, McGowan said, with prices ranging from $180,000 to more than $400,000.

Lennar is the latest of several national builders to enter the Seattle home-construction market, long dominated by local companies.

Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, for instance, purchased CamWest Development of Kirkland late last year, and since then has acquired still more lots.

It recently announced plans to build 81 luxury homes on Bellevue's Cougar Mountain on property it bought earlier this year.

Other big national builders who have entered the local market over the past two years include Pulte Homes and MDC Holdings.

National builders historically have stayed away from Seattle because they like to build very large communities, and land isn't available here for that, McGowan said.

But the local market's job growth and other economic fundamentals have overcome that reluctance, he said.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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