New communities throughout Northeast Florida draw families, professionals and retirees. Existing communities and historic districts are attracting a new audience with renovations and infill construction. It all points to a steady comeback from the economic downturn that slowed growth for a few years.
Home values are on the rise with the five-county average of $171,660 outpacing the state average of $160,200, and an increase of 5.5 percent. Median housing costs by county from low to high are $121,800 in Baker, $151,400 in Duval, $161,600 in Clay, $181,100 in Nassau and $242,900 in St. Johns.
Analysts often rank Jacksonville high in job growth and housing affordability. Based on rate of population gains, St. Johns is 11th on the list of the fastest-growing 100 counties in the United States. St. Johns County showed an increase of 14.7 percent over last year, compared to a 5.54-percent average growth rate in the five-county area, 5.8-percent rate in Florida and a 3.3-percent rate nationwide.
With positive economic news coming from many angles, there are no imminent factors to prepare for beyond the typical seasonal drop-off. Analysts agree the area is in the midst of one of the healthiest housing markets in the past 15 years. In conjunction with the improvements in the economy, an anticipated interest rate hike is expected.
In 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties have nearly 616,000 housing units, including single-family residences, condos, apartments and manufactured housing. More than half of those are in Duval County.
Single-family housing in the area is available in all price ranges. From handyman fixer-uppers below $100,000 to more than $10 million, homebuyers have many choices. Homes in many upscale communities start in the high-$100,000s to mid-$200,000 and run into the millions, depending on amenities. Upscale communities are found throughout the area and offer such amenities as navigable waterways, gated entrances, golf course, tennis courts and organized social activities. Condominium prices range from the low $100,000s to several million for a waterfront view.
Historic areas are benefiting from infill construction activity. New homes are being built on vacant lots or to replace demolished houses. Historic areas such as Springfield, Riverside-Avondale, San Marco and Murray Hill in Jacksonville are continuing to come back to life thanks to private enterprise and the city’s completion of infrastructure projects under the Better Jacksonville Plan.
Recent retail and housing projects along Riverside Avenue near downtown have added to the area’s residential options. Development of the Brooklyn area brought new homes with the opening of Brooklyn at Riverside and 220 Riverside. The net result has been the addition of hundreds of new residential units, a retail grocery story, restaurants, specialty shops and an urban park. Just across the street from Brooklyn, construction on the $22-million Winston Family YMCA is underway with expected completion in about 15 months.
“Consumers should understand the reality that Northeast Florida’s real estate market is vibrant and healthy,” said Sally Suslak, 2015 president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. “We have seen extremely strong sales numbers throughout the bulk of 2015.”
NEFAR’s sales figures confirm Suslak’s assertion. At the end of the third quarter 2015, indicators point to a strong housing market. Even with fluctuations present within the same states and cities, the overall tempo of real estate potential is experiencing a healthy number of good omens. The job market has shown continual improvement, jobless rates are down, real average hourly and weekly earnings have been up and there has been good news in new household formation. New listings in the Northeast Florida region increased 5.9 percent to 2,941. Pending sales were up 15.2 percent to 2,234. Inventory levels fell 14 percent to 9,657 units which equates to only 4.3 months on hand. A balanced market is five to six months. Prices continued to gain traction. In 2015, the number of days on the market was down 8.4 percent to 76 days.
New-home construction is enjoying a similar period of growth, said Rick Morales, the 2015 president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. September 2015 had the second-highest monthly new-home permits count for the past three years in the four-county area that includes Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns.
“With the steady increase over the past few years, builders are optimistic about the economy and the new-home market. Builders throughout the area are reporting a resurgence of consumer confidence and the permit statistics are evidence of that,” Morales said. “General improvement in the economy, favorable mortgage rates and population growth create a need for more homes. Projects that were on hold have been restarted along with new community development.”