For 19 years, Susie Gugliotta lived in a five-bedroom home in Weston. But she no longer needed anything that large and was ready for a change.
Instead of a smaller house, last June she plunked down $481,000 for a waterfront townhouse in Artesia, a development still under construction in Sunrise.
Gugliotta isn’t alone.
The peak of two decades of townhouse construction was in early 2008, when townhouses accounted for more than 14 percent of all single-family construction, according to the organization. The numbers dipped, and now they’re rising again to 12 percent as of March, said Robert Dietz, the group’s chief economist.
Dietz said the numbers “are going to grow as those millennials grow into their early 30s — the typical age of a first-time homebuyer in the United States.”
Townhomes “offer the nice mix of what newer homebuyers and newly formed households are looking for: a single-family unit — something with a front door — and they can purchase, establish roots,” Dietz said.
It’s also popular in markets where there are lot shortages.
“Most millennials want to own a home but, unlike prior generations, they’re willing to accept and… seek out more walkability,” he said. “That’s a change from decades ago. Baby boomers were looking for a large lawn.”
Among the South Florida projects: In Doral in Miami-Dade County, more than 1,500 townhomes are under construction in four separate communities. Sixty-four have been approved for a fifth project, but construction has not yet started, according to a city spokeswoman.
Developer Mark Schmidt has submitted plans for a new 60-townhome development to rise on a former golf course in Tamarac. And Richard Jones Architecture is proposing 12 townhouses, in a project called “52 Modern,” to soar four stories tall in Delray Beach.
In the Palm Springs development of Preston Square, Pulte Homes is planning 164 new townhomes. And DiVosta Homes is building 450 townhomes and single-family homes in Lake Worth, on the site of the former Gulfstream Polo Club.
Daniel Squarini moved into one of the Lake Worth townhouses in April with his girlfriend and their 5-year-old son.
The vibes there appealed to him. “We're moving in and everyone is asking if we need help,” he said.
Real estate analyst Jack McCabe said the townhomes often have no or low landscape maintenance, and new construction often means lower utility bills.
“I think the increase in demand comes from baby boomers choosing to downsize from larger single-family detached homes, that are opting for townhomes as a compromise instead of buying a condo,” he said.
Some real estate agents say they are also attracting a new niche market for townhomes: the very wealthy.
Felix Bravo, a sales executive with Pordes Residential, calls it the “revamped townhome” with high ceilings.
He is selling units at 101 Bay Harbor in Miami’s Bay Harbor Islands. With prices ranging from the mid-$900,000s to $1.89 million, the 12 townhomes each feature private rooftops with outdoor kitchens and Jacuzzis. Homes opened late last year, and three are still available.
“It’s really the last private island in Miami that hasn’t been torn up and turned into mega skyscraper or a crazy $10 million mansion island,” he said. “When you buy [in] Bay Harbor Islands, you’re buying a lifestyle — a 30-second walk to the bay and 5-minute walk to the beach and the shops.”
“You get the space of a house and live in the heart of the city, where all the action is.”
Dietz said luxury townhomes are a “subsector of the townhouse market that is growing” as well. In large metropolitan areas, those types of buyers generally want a single-family home, but land is scarce. Others want the ability to walk in an urban area to the grocery store, library or movie theater.
“A lot of people don’t want to consume a gallon of gas to buy a gallon of milk,” he said.
Gugliotta was intent on a new home so she didn’t have to deal with repairs: “I don’t want any headaches from someone else.”
And she wanted to downsize.
“I outgrew it,” said Gugliotta, 66, of the Weston home she shares with her daughter and sister. “It’s too big a house for the three of us.”
Their new three-bedroom home should be ready in July. Hers is one of 123 townhomes under construction in Artesia, bringing the total of the development’s homes to 837.
The location is also more urban, with close proximity to the Sawgrass Expressway, which gets her to work in downtown Miami.
The townhouse, she predicts, will be more manageable to maintain. And she already is a “card holder” for amenities such as the pool, spa and gym.
“I really fell in love with it,” she said.