FLEMING ISLAND – The sound of steady rain was frequently interrupted last Wednesday by the sound of hammers and table saws. The demand for homes in Clay doesn’t allow for off days by something as …
FLEMING ISLAND – The sound of steady rain was frequently interrupted last Wednesday by the sound of hammers and table saws. The demand for homes in Clay doesn’t allow for off days by something as annoying as rain.
Bad weather, crime and high taxes are chasing people from the Northeast to Florida in record numbers. Added with low interest rates and millennials who’ve grown tired of living in the spare bedroom of their parents’ house, it’s created a perfect storm of housing demand that has real estate agents working a lot of overtime.
“Hammers are flying. It’s a good source of business, obviously, to have the demand that’s out there,” said Watson Realty Corp.’s Rich Zeisel. “A lot of it has been pent up demand for a lot of millennial buyers who’ve been living at home with their parents. And now, in the later stages of their 20s, now they want to get out on their own and they have the wherewithal to get out on their own. You have interest rates that are historically as low as I’ve ever seen a 2.5%, or in some cases even lower.
“The demand is pushing the builders to meet that demand. When you look at it in terms of months of inventory, what’s available, in Clay County it’s at .98. We have less than one month of inventory as of Monday. This is the first time I’ve seen less than one month of inventory in 20 years.”
Construction crews are working feverishly, especially in the Green Cove Springs, Lake Asbury, Fleming Island, Middleburg and Oakleaf areas. The county’s building inspectors review 15-to-20 sites a day. With hundreds of new homes currently under construction – and hundreds more in the planning phase or on a waiting list – there are no suggestions of a slowdown.
Dream Finders Homes built 99 homes as part of its first phase on Eagle Harbor Circle on Fleming Island. They sold out quickly.
Phase 2 was a 48-house community called Reserve at Eagle Harbor on U.S. Highway 17 on Fleming Island. There currently are only four lots remaining.
Buyers are so eager to lock in a home at a good price, they’re willing to wait as long as seven months to allow construction teams – rain or shine – to clear the lot and build a house.
The numbers prove the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the real estate business. Dee-Dee Robinson, who owns DD Home Realty on Wells Road in Orange Park, said the disease has led many to not take life for granted.
“People are saying ‘why not?’ They’re not putting things off anymore,” Robinson said.
The demand for existing homes is just as fervent. A sign of a healthy balanced real estate market is when there’s enough inventory to satisfy five to six months of demands, said Northeast Florida Association of Realtor’s Melanie Green. Clay County’s list of available houses now is measured in weeks, not months.
“This is unheard of,” Green said. “There’s not as many sellers, but there’s a big demand.”
Robinson said agents have to be patient and creative to close every deal. With so many buyers, sellers generally can sort through several offers.
“It is a big problem. I’ve got buyer who need to be in a home and we’re submitting offers and we’re not getting them accepted because the sellers are getting multiple offers,” Robinson said. “Sometimes I have to submit three or four offers before I get something accepted. I’m showing more houses in a pandemic, so we’re being safe. I have to show more in order to get something under contract.”
Zeisel agreed, saying it often takes less than a week to put a home on the market and get several offers.
With a median selling price $255,250 reported in September, according NEFAR, it’s become a significant driving force of the county’s economy.
“If you’re $300,000 or less, as soon as you come on the market, when it’s positions properly and marketed accurately with high-quality photos and doing the right things to make sure the buyers can actually see it, you’ll have a contract generally that week a lot of times with multiple offers,” he said.
The threats and uncertainty also have convinced residents to remodel their homes instead of selling them, Green said. That is supported by a 21% increase in stock prices for The Home Depot since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, and a 48.6% jump from the lowest stock prices during the pandemic compared to this week.
The pandemic also has changed what homebuyers want in a house, Zeisel said.
“There are a lot of people now that have found their position in the job that they’re working permits them to work from home,” he said. “Now, more than ever, it’s important they’re not inside an 800-square-foot apartment. They want a place of their own because they can work from home. It’s created a whole different kind of demand.
“Now the buyers who are coming in are looking at other bedrooms they can convert into office space or are their floorplans that have office space already built into it because more and more people are working from home.”
No matter how long it takes to find one.