The Sunshine State is known for its year-round, picture-perfect weather; lush acres; and a chic coastal lifestyle. Yet, these amenities couldn’t stop the state’s housing market from tanking in the 2008 recession. The shortage of property inland, coupled with soaring building and labor costs, made contractors scarce and buyers flee.
Eight years later, things are perking up. Job growth looks steady, and home values — up over 10 percent in 2017 — are expected to rise another 4 percent in 2018. And there is more. Forbes named four of the state’s cities as among the nation’s best for housing investments, and the luxury market has soared. In other words, the current demand for quality construction in Florida is high.
Such upbeat trends gave us the idea to shortlist the state’s best custom home builders. Once we identified the longest-lasting firms, we pared the list down to the top performers who didn’t rest their reputations on cookie cutter mansions. Whether you’re in the market for a traditional craftsman or a waterfront palace, these are the experts who can always deliver.
15) Aurora Builders
Website | 904.246.5400 | 2902 Isabella Boulevard, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Founded in 1997, this Jacksonville Beach residential contractor aims for low volume so it can provide first-rate customer service. President Michael K. Lenahen received his Bachelor of Science and Master in Architecture from the Catholic University of America. He travelled to France and studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, so he could learn how to blend art into his architecture. Lenahen has owned construction companies since 1990, co-owning Benchmark Homes and then venturing out on his own with Michael Lenahen Custom Homes. Aurora Builders was his third and most successful venture.
Lenahen is a Certified Building Contractor (CBC), a Certified Green Professional (CGP), and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). Vice President Jeff Brecko is CBC, CGP, CAPS, and a Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR). In addition to universal design and green building, the company is dedicated to high-performing homes that use smart technology.
On its ample list of rewards, Aurora Builders has won three Aurora Awards from the South East Builders Conference (SEBC) for outstanding building in the Southeast. The categories were Best Custom Home 6,000 to 8,000 square feet and Best Custom Home over $3M. This firm most serves the areas of Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Jacksonville Beach.
14) Christopher Burton Luxury Homes
Website | 321.757.3247 | 6013 Farcenda Place, Melbourne, FL 32940
Founder Christopher Burton has had construction jobs since he swept floors for his uncle’s building company. By his teen years, he knew how to lay a roof. Burton attended Auburn University, then served as a construction superintendent before venturing out on his own in 1998 with this Melbourne construction company. Vice President Tom Davis had the same childhood passion for building. At age 16, Davis was hired as a carpenter’s assistant. By the time he joined Christopher Burton Homes, he had nearly 30 years’ experience in the field.
Today Burton designs and builds homes in the 3,000 to 8,000-plus-square-foot range that command prices well into the millions. Though primarily concentrating in Brevard County and specifically Melbourne and The Beaches, the company has ventured into Orlando and Vero beach as well. This Florida custom home builder’s industry recognition has been impressive, including 10 Platinum and Gold Awards from HBCA Parade of Homes. In 2016, Christopher Burton Homes received four Aurora Awards for Best Custom Home between 6,000 and 8,000 square feet for its recent project of a 6,000-square-foot waterfront estate on Riverside Dr with breathtaking views of the Indian River. Burton himself was recently recognized nationally as one the National Association of Homebuilder’s 40 Under 40 Homebuilding Professionals.
13) John Cannon Homes
Website | 941.924.5935 | 6710 Professional Parkway West, Suite 100, Sarasota, FL 34240
This custom home builder in Sarasota, Florida is known for his Coastal, West Indies, Spanish, Mediterranean and Contemporary estates in the $2.2M range. John Cannon Homes has been designing and building luxury custom homes for over 30 years in most of Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties most exclusive communities. Cannon received a bachelor’s degree in building construction from Michigan State University and although he was hired by a national builder, his goal was to break out on his own. After 30 years, Cannon has built over 1,400 luxury homes, including 372 waterfront properties. The luxurious residences are spread out over 100 of Southwest Florida’s gated, golf course and waterfront communities.
John Cannon Homes has been voted Herald-Tribune Readers’ Choice Best Residential Builder in Sarasota, Manatee and Venice, for the 28th consecutive year. Past awards include an Excellence Award from Residential Design and Build Magazine and in 2007, Inc. Magazine ranked this custom home builder in Florida on its first 5,000 List of fastest-growing private companies in America. In 2017, the company was the recipient of two Aurora Awards in the categories of Best Interior Merchandising of Homes priced between $1M and $2M and over $2M. This residential luxury custom home builder swept the competition with five “Best Overall” awards and an additional 27 awards in individual and sub-contractor categories at the 2018 Parade of Homes. Custom homes by this firm start around $900K and go up to $15M.
12) E2 Homes
Website | 407.913.3246 | PO Box 3300, Winter Park, FL 32790
This firm’s focus is on high-performing modern homes that reflect its own forward-thinking business practices. It’s owned and managed by Rob Smith, CGC and LEED AP. Smith is a native of Central Florida, who received a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Wife Denise Smith is the firm’s licensed Registered Landscape Artist (RLA). A graduate of Purdue University, she is also LEED AP.
Attesting to Smith’s expertise in new-age home building are the over 13 industry awards he’s won, with many from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for LEED Project of the Year. In 2017, this custom home builder in Florida was honored with an award for building the state’s first ever LEED home to receive a v4 Certification. E2’s cutting-edge designs have also been the subject of numerous feature stories in TecHome Builder, Orlando Home & Garden, Fine Homebuilding, Winter Park Magazine, and Dwell. Of special note is the Emeril Lagasse Foundation selecting E2 to build its Kitchen House & Culinary Garden. The 3,000-square-foot compound with a full commercial kitchen is intended to enhance students’ classroom learning. E2 serves the areas of Winter Park, Maitland, and Orlando.
11) Dixon Kazek Morrison Custom Homes
Website | 850.650.7539 | 12273 Emerald Coast Parkway, 32550
Located in Miramar Beach, this firm of three Florida-certified general contractors offers its clients turn-key service with help every step of the way. It was founded as Dixon Kazek Construction in 2001 by two of its current partners, Steve Dixon and Jon Kazek. Partner Chris Morrison, a veteran local home builder, joined a few years later. The company’s name was changed and the business took off.
Most of the past projects by Dixon Kazek Morrison Custom Homes are along the South Walton coast. The most recent projects from this custom home builder in Florida are along the Shalimar bayous, such as a 9,600-square-foot residence under construction in Fort Walton Beach. These lavish estates have cost up to $20M and have made the front pages of Emerald Coast Magazine and Destin Magazine. Dixon is past president of the Building Industry Association (BIA), past member of its board of directors, and past vice president. He was BIA Builder of the Year in 2004 and 2007. He was also the state director of the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) from 2004 to 2008. The firm’s industry awards include first place honors in the Parade of Homes for eight years.
10) Josh Wynne Construction
Website | 941.378.3377 | 1925 Barber Road, Sarasota, FL 34240
Founder Josh Wynne needed to find a career after serving in the US Navy. So, he took a job as a carpenter’s assistant until his college classes in engineering began. He discovered his natural talent for building things and started this business in 1998. Two years later, he received a Class A license as CGC. From the start, Wynne decided he would add more value to Florida’s housing scene than to simply erect one mega mansion after another. He developed expertise in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and ended up building Florida’s first LEED Platinum home. The residence also became the highest-scoring LEED Platinum home in the world.
John Wynne’s homes are priced between $1.5M and $4M. His clients are from Desoto Lakes, Longboat Key, Oneco, Palmetto, and Utopia. He has been well recognized in the industry, with a Silver Design Award from Professional Builder for a 4,490-square-foot LEED Platinum modern build near the Intracoastal Waterway. Also in 2017 came three Aurora Awards, including the Golden Aurora for Best in Show and a Grand Aurora for Best Custom Home 4,000 to 6,000 square feet. Wynne’s “CompassHaus” was featured on the cover of SQR Magazine as Home of the Year.
9) TriplePoint Design Build
Website | 727.302.9116 | 6400 First Avenue N, St. Petersburg, FL 33710
CEO Neal Fiske is the driving force behind this St. Petersburg custom home builder that actively promotes green building initiatives. A New Jersey native, Fiske relocated to Florida 30 years ago. He received a dual degree in engineering and architectural design from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and he gained experience working for power broker building firms in New York City. In Florida, he earned his CBC. Since starting this custom home contractor, he has collected 75 awards for building excellence.
Fiske is an active member of National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), having earned its highest certification, or CR. He was also instrumental in developing NARI’s Green Certification Program for Tampa Bay. Fiske was one of the first homebuilders in the Southeast to earn CGP. He went on to become one of the first Tampa Bay firms to achieve Lead Safe Professional Certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fiske’s lengthy list of awards include the NARI National Contractor of the Year (CotY) and the NARI regional and local CotY in 2017. For seven straight years, he was named a Market Leader by Professional Remodeler magazine. Fiske’s homes are priced up to $2M. He builds throughout Clearwater, Largo, Madeira Beach, Palm Harbor, and Treasure Island.
8) Taralon Homes
Website | 813.501.4955 | 3113 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33629
Both of this firm’s founders had been co-workers at the prestigious Hannah Bartoletta Homes firm. Mike Bartoletta received a Bachelor of Science in Structural Engineering from Michigan Technological University. He has put up over 1,500 homes throughout the Tampa Bay neighborhoods of FishHawk Ranch, Hunters Green, Cheval, and Tampa Palms. Co-founder Scott Kirchner learned the trade at his family’s custom home building firm in Indiana. Kirchner came to Florida to study accounting at the University of South Florida. He received his MBA from the University of Florida. Bartoletta and Kirchner teamed up in 2011 to start Taralon Homes.
The firm’s focus has been on lakefront estates in South Tampa, St. Petersburg’s Snell Isle, Old Northeast, and the Beaches. Its projects have won numerous awards from Tampa Bay Parade of Homes. The Tampa Bay Business Journal has recognized Taralon Homes as one of the “Top 200 Largest Private Companies” in Tampa Bay. And in 2018, the Tampa Bay Business Journal honored the team with its Top Custom Home Builder Award. Homes by Taralon sell between $500k and $2M. Most are found in South Tampa and St. Petersburg.
7) Hobgood Construction
Website | 561.691.9686 | 2189 Radnor Court, North Palm Beach, FL 33408
Founder Wilbur Hobgood says he’s never built two homes that look alike. He formed the South Florida company 28 years ago, with 15 years’ homebuilding experience under his belt. Since then, Hogbood has built over 200 luxury homes. Hobgood’s son, David, joined the firm in 2005 and serves as executive manager and general superintendent. David is a CGC and a graduate of the University of Florida. In 2012, Hobgood’s son-in-law, Eddie Naugle, came aboard, bringing such certifications as South Carolina General Contractor, LEED Green Associate, NAHB CGP, USGBC member, and Certified Erosion Prevention & Sediment Control Inspector. Hobgood Construction serves the areas of Juno Beach, Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach, and West Palm Beach.
The exquisitely designed residences by this firm have earned it 16 PRISM Awards from the Gold Coast Builders Association (GCBA). It has also garnered press from publications such as Florida Designer Homes Magazine and Florida Luxe. The builds are known for a rich blend of Mediterranean architecture and breathtaking views.
6) John McDonald Company
Website | 561.747.4114 | 947 Alternate A1A, Jupiter, FL 33477
This South Florida home builder has served Palm Beach and Martin counties since 1982. John McDonald founded the firm, which is still run by the McDonald children. Distinctive in every way, McDonald’s lavish estates are found only in the most ultra-rich areas of Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, and Northern Palm Beach County. The firm shuns the spotlight, preferring to maintain anonymity for its high-powered clients. It has won multiple awards in every competition it’s entered. These include PRISM Best of Show Awards, Aurora, and national BALA Awards.
Typical of a John McDonald home is a classical contemporary that won a Gold PRISM for architecture with a front to back axis. A modern home with a pool splitting it in half was featured in Architectural Digest. The firm’s “Bermuda Classical” home won “Best One-of-a-Kind Home” from Best in American Living Awards (BALA) for a layout that flooded the home with natural light. And an island contemporary home by the firm fused Asian and Caribbean island influences, with monochromatic lattice on the walls that contrasted with dark cypress beam ceilings.
Website | 772.234.0140 | 5099 Highway A1A, Vero Beach, FL 32963
It was 60 years ago that current president Bob Lyles’s father, Robert, founded this firm in Vero Beach. That one-man contracting business has grown into a firm with several divisions. It not only constructs high-end homes, but also develops multimillion-dollar commercial properties from South Florida to the Panhandle. The Treasure Coast Division is headed by Charles Garrett, a CGC with an engineering degree from Auburn University. Garrett has built more than 100 custom estates in the coastal areas. Running the Emerald Coast Division is James Boykin, who has three decades’ experience working with international development firms and building golf courses and luxury residences.
Single family new homes by RCL sell between $500k and $10M. Many of the firm’s projects have been featured in Luxe, Southern Living, Florida Home Builder, Traditional Home, and Beautiful Homes. A typical RCL estate in Vero Beach may run about 5,400 square feet and feature Saturnia floors, Carrera tile, vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, and Calcutta gold countertops.
4) London Bay Homes
Website | 239.592.1400 | 2210 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, FL 34109
Mark Wilson’s Naples-based firm was among two companies named by Builder Magazine as America’s Best Builder in 2008. Wilson often gets credited for defining Southwest Florida luxury. Wilson was born and raised in Birmingham, England. His start in the construction business at an early age when he worked for his father, who owned a commercial building company.
Wilson went on to obtain degrees in civil engineering and to secure a position with one of Great Britain’s most prominent construction firms. When he accompanied his father to Southwest Florida, he got the idea to open a boutique firm devoted to lavish home design and construction. His first builds were in Fort Myers, and they caught the attention of prominent people who soon commissioned Wilson to build for them. Mark runs the company with the help of his brother, Stephen Wilson, who is CFO.
Many of the over 300 awards won by London Bay Homes honor Mark’s brilliance for architectural design. Most of his homes fetch between $1M and $10M and are located in Naples, Fort Myers Beach, Sarasota, and Estero.
3) Perrone Construction
Website | 941.924.6900 | 7405 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231
Perrones first project in 1980 set the bar for the newly formed company. A bayfront estate on Sarasota’s sought after Norsota way for a man known today as the godfather of free agency it would be the impetus for the way all Perrone Construction jobs would be managed, careful craftsmanship and incredible value and when the client decided to sell a year after moving in his home set a record for the highest priced sale in Sarasota’s history.
The company has won numerous awards certifications and features for their luxury waterfront homes. This year two of their projects won SRQ home of the year awards. They also hold green building certifications and to date have built the largest LEED-certified home in Sarasota.
The company has a full staff of project managers and superintendents with extensive experience in high end waterfront construction. They focus on Sarasota’s barrier islands including Longboat Key, Casey Key, Siesta Key, Bird Key and Lido Key. The firm has an architecture first mentality which has led to their involvement with some of Sarasota’s most beautiful and timeless homes.
2) Kurtz Homes
Website | 239.594.1501 | 1055 Crosspointe Drive, Naples, FL 34110
The father-and-son team who founded this firm in 1982 are Ron and Randy Kurtz. Both bring a passion for design and an unshakeable work ethic to the signature homes they build. When the company was formed, Ron was a seasoned veteran of the homebuilding trade in his native Iowa, and Randy was an Iowa State University graduate with a degree in business. The family relocated to Florida and opened this firm.
Their first projects were to remodel estates, but the duo quickly moved on to new construction. By 1997, they had won Residential Builder of the Year from the American Subcontractors Association of Collier County. Since then, the firm has become known for breathtaking estates that have garnered the industry’s most prestigious awards. In 2016, Kurtz Homes was the recipient of seven CBIA Sand Dollar awards for every category the firm was nominated in.
Kurtz Homes builds throughout Bonita Springs, Naples, and Pelican Bay. Its sprawling estates have been featured in Naples Illustrated, Home and Design, and The Scout Guide Naples.
1) Hollub Homes
Website | 305.665.4275 | 9771 South Dixie Highway, Pinecrest, FL 33156
If any firm can be said to have set the bar for lavish Florida home design, it is this one, which started more than half a century ago. Marvin Hollub is the founder and built his first home in 1954, in an area today known as Pinecrest, FL. Thereafter, Marvin Hollub did more than build homes. He is credited with building up 12 affluent communities, with High Point Estates, Tall Oaks, and Pine Bay Estates South among them. The current president and CEO is his son, Harry, who started at age 16, planting grass for his father’s custom homes. By age 13, Harry was doing carpentry.
Hollub Homes is a family affair. The executive vice president is Harry’s sister, Helen Hollub, a nationally renowned, award-winning designer who has been featured in Luxe and on HGTV. Brother Aaron worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before joining the family business as vice president of operations. Awards by this firm number well over 100. It is the only construction company in the state to win two Best of Show awards from the BASF. Hollub custom homes, priced between $650k and $25M, are built in Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, and South Miami.