Luxury builder moves into closed Southern Premier model
Janice and William Heaver built a home on Chiquita Boulevard in 2014 as an investment for their retirement. Shortly after building, Southern Premier Homes offered them $500,000 to use it as one of their models.
When the contractor apparently closed Monday halfway through the lease agreement, it left them without a tenant and wondering where they were going to get the money to allow them to keep the home.
Out of the blue, Roger Lalonde of Castle Harbor Homes showed up and offered to take over the house and use it as a showroom and sales office. They started moving in Wednesday.
The Heavers may be among the lucky ones following after Southern Premier Homes’ abrupt closure, noted with only a sign on the door saying that “unseen circumstances” led to its closing.
Attempts to reach the owners, Chris and Laura Cheney, were not successful this week.
Lalonde said Castle Harbor, which is based in Naples, is looking to build upper-end homes in Cape Coral and will do what he can to help anyone who may have lost money.
“We saw an opportunity. We needed a model, and instead of breaking ground, we decided to contact the homeowners and take over the lease,” Lalonde said. “We’re going to try to make whole the customers who were hurt from this.”
Southern Premier Homes had 11 outstanding permits in Cape Coral, nine of which are open, according to city spokesperson Connie Barron. The permits were pulled by a private agency based in Cape Coral, which also has done the inspection work.
Having private entities do such work is legal, but uncommon, Barron said
“Most of the work done by the builders in Cape Coral is inspected by city inspectors,” she said.
Lalonde said many contractors went out of business during the recession. But even in a heathy market, contractors still have to be careful not to overextend themselves or price their homes lower than it takes to build it.
Nobody is bulletproof, industry leaders said.
Matt Sinclair, president of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association and owner of Sinclair Custom Homes, said there’s no guarantee in the construction business and you must know what you’re doing.
“It’s very easy to lose money. People come into town, they want to build a house and are hungry for work. They build it and it backfires,” Sinclair said. “The market fluctuates so often that you have to be on top of your game.”
Sinclair said he noticed late last year that Southern Premier was selling its homes at prices too low for their particular style.
“I don’t know how he was able to do it for so long. When you do that, it catches up to you. He ran out of money and didn’t know how to manage it,” Sinclair said. “I’ve gotten phone calls from subcontractors that are owed thousands of dollars. Nobody has been paid and it was reported some hadn’t been paid for six months.”
Cheney was a member of the CCCIA until April, when his membership lapsed.
Sinclair said he’s happy Castle Harbor has stepped up to the plate to help those affected. However, generosity can only go so far, since they are also business owners and need to make a living, too.
Sinclair also added that, speaking with others in the small community of homebuilders and contractors, builder closings give the industry a bad name and that it “needs to be nipped in the bud.”
“It’s sad to see it happen to anyone because it hurts the industry as a whole,” Sinclair said. “At the end of the day, it’s the builder’s responsibility financially to makes things right. You have to respect money and keep your eyes open on the market.”