Minto Communities is in growth mode for the Latitude Margaritaville brand, with a growth strategy that will expand the company’s footprint in several states.
In April, it was announced that Latitude Margaritaville was expanding Mexico for the first time with new partner Levy Holding. Though Minto is not involved in the project, the brand’s international expansion is the culmination of years of red-hot demand stateside.
At Margaritaville’s communities in Daytona and Watersound, Florida, the company is logging 50 home sales a month and about 600 annual sales at both locations. At its Hilton Head and smaller market locations, those communities see about 40 monthly sales with a 480 annual sale mark, according to William Bullock, who is president of Latitude Margaritaville and Minto Communities USA.
Those figures were achieved last year and demand remains strong into 2023, as the company has projects teed up or underway in Texas and South Carolina.
“I do see in the near future the opportunity to expand our sales base, and ultimately our closing pace,” Bullock said.
While the Latitude Margaritaville brand only includes for-sale homes in master-planned developments, it reflects a deep well of demand in the U.S. for lifestyle-oriented offerings for older adults. Others in the space include entertainment giant The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), which is forging ahead with a new development concept that is planned to include senior housing.
“While a lot of home builders are cautiously optimistic on the market … we are as bullish as we’ve ever been,” Bullock said. “We couldn’t be happier with the space right now, and we’re in growth mode.”
Latitude Margaritaville wave gets bigger
Plans for the Latitude Margaritaville concept first surfaced in 2017. By 2023, what was once a burgeoning and unproven idea has blossomed into a hotspot for older adult “parrotheads” in search of sun and fun.
Margaritaville communities are typically designed to include resort-style amenities themed after the life and music of Jimmy Buffett, such as “Fins Up” fitness centers and “Barkaritaville” pet spas.
With demand for active adult senior living strong and supply chain issues moderating, Minto Communities is remaining proactive on new developments.
In Texas, Minto is expanding the Latitude Margaritaville brand to the Houston and Dallas markets, along with an expansion of its Hilton Head campus in Hardeeville, South Carolina.
“Everything’s bigger in Texas and you have to believe it,” Bullock said. “The opportunities in Texas are just incredible.”
The Houston-area location is ultimately planned to range between 3,000 units or more, with more details to follow on the Dallas-area project “in the next week or two,” Bullock said. The Hilton Head renovation project will add a new amenity center and 2,000 additional homes to the development.
That’s not to mention plans by Mexico-based development group Levy Holding for the Latitude Margaritaville International Lake Chapala project, about an hour south of Guadalajara, Mexico. As planned, the community will include 194 units, ranging from 430-square-foot studio apartments to one-story homes spanning nearly 1,300 square feet. The first units are slated to open sometime in 2024, as previously reported by Senior Housing News.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused disruption to various supply chain and labor aspects around new development, with its effects just now starting to improve. Bullock said it’s “never been more difficult” to build new homes than during the darkest days of the pandemic.
“Fast-forward to where we are today and the demand is constant and we’re limiting sales each month in our communities because we don’t want to sell more than we can build.”
In Houston, where Minto is planning a 3,000-plus unit community, Bullock said local competition hasn’t risen as quickly as it has in some comparable Florida markets. Latitude conducts surveys on its interest list to gain insight on design components to include for each new community.
Currently, Bullock said most of the brand’s challenges with expansion remain labor-related, with other remaining issues including supply chain variances. To combat supply issues, Latitude Margaritaville purchased large quantities of building materials in case of further disruptions.
“If you don’t get these materials stockpiled you’re not going to have a building without air conditioning in Florida and you’re not closing homes without AC units,” Bullock said. “We’re chasing those issues, but it’s getting better and where it used to be 10 pieces or parts its down to one or two part shortages.”
Bullock said there remained some “volatility” on margins, citing margin compression issues seen by many senior living operators, but the margins remained “much more stable.”
Changing preferences support more wellness
Bullock said the 55-plus senior housing space is rapidly evolving, especially as the demographics shift and new generations enter the marketplace. On the design and amenity side, that has necessitated a rethink of exactly what older adults want from their homes.
“We’re really seeing a transition from a golfe-based clubhouse community to wellness and aging in place,” Bullock said.
That is a trend also seen in the senior living industry, where operators are experimenting with a wide number of wellness-focused efforts to keep residents living happier and healthier for longer.
Latitude Margaritaville and Minto are evolving the product for the future in a few ways, including by planning to work with Florida State University (FSU) on an aging in-place research center that will lead to a prototype model of a home that will have the “latest and greatest” biomedical sensors available, according to Bullock.
“Being able to have real-time data that you can review or your doctor can review is only going to contribute to that whole wellness pursuit,” he said. “We’re advancing with the medical industry to really hone that whole wellness proposition.”
That is in addition to the amenities and services that Margaritaville communities already come with, including restaurants, entertainment venues, pool with beach entry, athletic courts and private shuttle service. Of note is the fact that each Margaritaville community has a relationship with a local hospital. The communities also have 10,000 square foot fitness centers that Bullock likened to any commercial-grade fitness club.
“We set aside space in our town center; where, through extension programs, the hospital has nurses and doctors come out — we do flu shots, but you can also get consultations,” Bullock said. “If there’s a specific workout regimen you want, they’ll help coach you, but they also do larger seminars where there will be 200 people in the audience [learning about] eating and healthy exercise.”
He added: “it’s fun, it’s friendship, it’s music, and it’s escapism. Those are the really the four characteristics our residents express that they enjoy the most about being in Latitude.”