Jeff Larson has been building homes for 25 years. But that’s nothing compared to his dad, Walter. He’s been developing the land for homes for almost 50. “Any success we’ve had is because of my father,” says Jeff. “I’ve had the privilege of negotiating, working and building with many types of businessmen and professional people; without adoubt, he’s the best.”
Families feel strongly about the business they build, and they feel even more powerfully for the land they live on. Few can meld the two into a lifetime of care for both. And Larson Communities has gone even further than that. The Tampa Bay-based builder has combined business, land and family for nearly five decades. Jeff Larson also has two sons who may continue the tradition. You get the idea the Larsons are just getting started.
But the truth is LBJ was president when Walter Larson started buying and developing earth for the Pinellas County version of the American Dream. When Jeff joined up, just out of college, Larson communities started building homes. They haven’ stopped yet.
“We’re different from most builders our size,” Jeff notes. “We don’t buy lots from developers. We buy our own property, develop it and build on it.”
In fact, about 10 years ago Walter Larson started Placido Bayou Realty to help Larson Communities buyers sell their homes when they needed to move. It means Jeff Larson can take care of you from before the dirt is even ready for the home to years later, when a family’s needs change, and moving up and out is a priority. All this gives Larson Communities a long-term financial stake in the project: they choose the location, work personally with designers on their own home plans, and build the homes via 20-year relationships forged with their employees and subcontractors.
“We’re not just selling a house; it’s a lifestyle,” Jeff explains. “we are involved in the community from the ground up.”
After 45 years, you figure they’ve done this plenty. You’d be right. From developing neighborhoods to current efforts at The Eagles Golf & Country Club, Larson Communities has built more than 1,200 homes in 25 years. It’s a number big enough to be experienced – and small enough each year to be personal.
1,200 homes average out to 50 a year, Jeff notes, but recently Larson has hit higher price points, so they build 18-22 a year these days. The price range at The Eagles is $600,00 to $800,000 and Larson has 155 platted lots, plus enough dirt to yield 40 more — self developed, of course. Lots are typically 70 to 90 feet wide, and 130 feet deep, Jeff says.
The gourmet kitchen, with granite countertops installed by Florence Marble and Granite and beautiful maple cabinetry, is ideal for both cooking and entertaining. Augusta pictured. They’ve sold 60 of the roughly 200 homes so far, and expect to be in this development another five to seven years “The Eagles is our main project right now,” Jeff says. So all the numbers are there, but what about the homes themselves?
Homes at the Eagles are two-story beauties, from 3,600 to 4,500 square feet. They have crown molding, granite countertops, large baseboards, wrought iron staircases and oversized three-car garages. Most builders do things like that, but Larson isn’t most builders.
What’s the Difference?
“We do a great job of designing floor plans that flow well,” Jeff says. “Families find a lot of space for the things that are important to them.” Jeff sees buyers deeply interested in evenings and weekends: times for enjoying their families, entertaining guests or just being home. Further, from the time a family sees a model then sits down personally with Jeff to discuss their needs and desires, service is first. “We design our own models and work directly with architects,” Jeff says. We have several floor plans, and people can make any changes they want. With 25 years of experience building homes, Jeff can help buyers see a home take shape, helping them along the way — and even afterward.
“We’ve had people realize they forgot to ask for something, the home’s done, the power comes on– and we’ll go in there and fix it for them.” The little things — which are actually pretty big in the lives of his home buyers — are possible because Larson Communities itself is like a family. “My Construction Manager, Randi Martin, has been with us 20 years,” Jeff says. “Some of our salespeople, 20 years.” He’s also worked with subcontractors for — you guessed it — 20 years “And I have a fiercely loyal office manager,” Jeff laughs. “We aren’t just ‘doing’ a community — we are the community.”
Home buyers Jeff and Debbie Summers found exactly that with Larson. “We told friends we were building a house,” Debbie Summers says. “They all said, ‘Oh, gosh — wait for the headaches.” Only there weren’t any. “Nothing’s perfect,” she says. “A couple things needed to be tweaked. But they were fabulous.”
“People come in who’ve heard the horror stories. They find that building can be a painless process,” Jeff Larson says. The Summers weren’t even seriously looking when they accidently found the model center, leaving on of The Eagles’ golf courses. They knew they needed space for a burgeoning home business, but hadn’t been actively seeking a new home. “We’d been talking for about a year, but hadn’t begun touring homes,” Debbie says. “We did start looking at some point, but we fell in love with this one and stopped looking at anything else.”
The couple says their home is perfect for their business — and life. Debbie gushes about 23-foot ceilings and wide-open second floor. “The middle of our home is like an atrium !” From the model center alone, she says, “We saw how gorgeous it was.” The location was also excellent, she says: 20 minutes to the beach, the airport or downtown Tampa.
“Jeff told us 300 different people will touch this house as it’s being built,” Jeff Summers says. “We never had an unpleasant experience with anyone.” The home itself is sound, Debbie says. “My dad’s an engineering type,” she says, and walked through it with them as it was being built. “He said the structural strength and the workmanship were unbelievable.”
“They built this house right,” Jeff Summers says. The couple requested several modifications to their home — the “Augusta II” model — and Larson Communities ” happily and readily agreed,” Debbie says.
“It was unbelievable attention and service,” she says. “As business owners we know it’s all based on referrals. I would refer anyone and everyone to Larson.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Summers extols the company’s experience. “We had an organization who owned the land, and had 7-10 plans to choose from,” Jeff Summers says. “Ours wasn’t the first one they’d done, you know?” Debbie adds, “Aside from them being so pleasant, we knew they’d done this before.”
In fact, Jeff Larson does it every day.
“Home buyers can pick a plan, change the plan and create their dreams.”
The payoff is when people finally enter their new home. “I still tremendously enjoy seeing that,” he says. “They walk through those doors, so excited, and they say, ‘Yes, this is what we meant.” It’s happened 1,300 times for Larson Communities and their buyers, and it never gets old. “That’s when it gets you,” Jeff says. That’s when it’s all worth it.”