Lasting Impression: Home Design Makes all the Difference in Southwest Florida

How one homebuilder keeps the design process from dominating every aspect of a client's life.

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There is a reason that real estate is called that, though lately it may seem more like unreal estate. But the fact remains that some places are worth owning because they move you, and the way the market moves cannot affect that. Southwest Florida is that kind of area, offering the intricate waterways of the Ten Thousand Islands, Charlotte Harbor, and the Gulf Islands- places where you can spend years and not get bored.

London Bay Homes designs and builds houses in southwest Florida, specifically in the Naples and Sarasota areas, many in master-planned communities, and waterfront and canalfront areas. Active building is key-London Bay is still going strong. But the area of design is where the company really excels, because it understands the people in its market.

"One of the unusual facets of the company is we can act truly as a one-stop shop for our clients in that we've got architects in-house, interior architects, landscape architects, and our own interior design business," says Mark Wilson, chief executive officer of London Bay Homes. "[We're] trying to give our clients exceptional customer service so they can enjoy the process and enjoy other things that they're doing with their lives other than building a home."

Keeping the home-building process from dominating every aspect of a client's life? Sounds delightful. London Bay Homes front-loads the decision-making process, so the needs of the client are met at the earliest stages of the project.

"They sit down with the team to review the design," says Wilson. "We've predesigned and predetermined what we think are the best structural options that they could include and at that stage they can make those choices." This type of planning allows London Bay to get good prices on materials and set a feasible construction schedule. Such foresight may be a good reason why the company's neighborhood concept works as well.

The idea of the neighborhood division is simple: London Bay Homes takes over a chunk of a master-planned community early on, and puts its own stamp on it.

"We bring in a named architect of national recognition to do concepts through design development with us," says Wilson. "We build three or four models and then take it from there and build out the community." Note that design is once again driving the program.

"We're looking to create a real sense of place where they can really appreciate living," continues Wilson. "We work with talented land planners and try to create a really unique and interesting community within a master-planned community and not end up with the same old thing." Anyone who has visited a master-planned community or two will understand what he's taking about.

While home values in southwest Florida have taken some knocks, it may be the best buyers' market in a long time. Of course, there's still plenty there to recommend the area.

"People are still going to want to live in Naples because of the amenities and because of the weather," says Wilson. "At this time of year I couldn't think of a nicer place to be...It's a lovely part of the world to enjoy the water."

London Bay Homes, (239) 592-1400; www.londonbay.com