Lee is still a magnet - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee is still a magnet

February 12, 2007

Lee County -- Homebuilding activity across most of the nation has slowed from the boom of the last decade. But Lee County is bucking the trend, homebuilding is staying strong. New housing starts are actually higher than they one year ago.

South Georgia home builders say many of their customers are people moving up from Florida. Nearly a dozen new homes are under construction on Mayfield Drive.

Don't tell builder Steven Bacon that there is a housing slowdown. He is building 35 single family residences now in Lee County.  "No sir. It has not slowed down at all," Bacon said.  "We have had a lot of people coming from Florida buying houses because of the insurance down there, and the hurricanes and all."

Cecil Ramsey just bought a home built by Bacon in Lee County. He and his wife retired from Riverview Florida, just outside Tampa. "It kept getting more and more crowded. It got so you couldn't go anywhere without it being a major undertaking. Everything got so expensive," Ramsey said.

Ramsey researched most of the South before picking Lee County. And many other Floridians have also. Ramsey said "We have several people in this subdivision that moved here from Florida. It's almost like old home week when you go out and walk."

Despite efforts to curb growth, Bacon says Lee County continues to be the hot home building area, because the lots are available. He continues to start new homes, because he is confident they will sell; many to the wave of Floridians moving north.

Bacon said "Houses are affordable. "They can buy a $160,000 home here that would cost them $300,000 in Florida. So that's one driving force."

Ramsey said he is happy with his decision to retire to South Georgia.

Bacon says he sees no slow down in new home starts anytime soon. Lee County issued 37 new home construction permits in January. In January 2006 they issued 29. Nationwide, new home starts dropped four percent over last year.

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