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Southwest Florida home sales helped lift profits for Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities Inc. in the first quarter, the company said Tuesday.


The homebuilder reported net income of $1.48 million, or 6 cents a share, in the quarter ended March 31, up from $586,000, or 3 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. “Housing and real estate is local and we continue to feel good about all of the markets where we operate,” CEO Keith Bass said. “We have a lot of communities in Southwest Florida and Southwest Florida was very strong.”


WCI’s communities in Southwest Florida include Tiburon in Naples, The Colony Golf & Bay Club in Bonita Springs and Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers. Bass said new orders increased 46.4 percent to 205 compared to a year ago, and deliveries of homes increased 48.1 percent to 117 as the average selling price increased 7 percent to $410,000. “We are a high-growth company and we have seen a solid increase in most of the key operating metrics within our homebuilding segment,” Bass said.


The company holds 8,700 buildable home sites and is selling in 25 coastal communities in Florida. That number could be as high as 40 by the end of 2014, Bass said. He noted that sales have been slower on the state’s east coast, but those markets tend to be geared to customers buying primary homes and that segment should pick up later this year. Southwest Florida’s market is more focused on second homes or luxury “move-up homes” for retirees relocating here. “Florida remains a growing state with a growing job base, unemployment lower than the national average, low state taxes and great year-round weather,” he said.


In a research note to investors, Sterne Agee analyst Jay McCanless said he was lowering the earnings per share outlook for WCI to $1 a share, from $1.11 a share, based on fewer closings than expected. But, he said, new orders were ahead of expectations.