Photo by M. James Northen
Florida’s real estate market is robust, radiating good health in two important areas, according to the Florida Realtors Association. The median sales price statewide is $264,000, compared to $196,000 just five years ago. Sellers are getting 96.5% of their asking price, up 1.3% from 2015. “We have lots of buyers coming from the Northeast; those living one hour outside of NYC in any direction are the most represented,” reports Cheryl Gerstner, a broker and top producer for Alex MacWilliam Real Estate, which is enjoying the best year in its 71-year history. “People are seeing that they can retire here with a good quality of life for much less, especially those I would call healthy, active retirees in their early 60s. Many are second-home buyers who will eventually relocate here full time.”
Our lower taxes and less-congested traffic are major draws for families as well, whose breadwinners can work virtually or find good jobs here. While low interest rates and higher prices may look a lot like pre-2008 bubble conditions, Gerstner notes one important difference: “Nationally, in 2006 we had a 6% increase in home prices from the prior year and now it is a more sustainable 2.6 to 3%.”
While the barrier island still boasts the highest home prices, areas between Indian River Boulevard and downtown have been heating up for some time. Younger couples are finding fixer-upper with loads of charm on the winding streets where people lived before anything on the beach side was developed. “Neighborhoods like the Vero Beach Country Club area, McAnsh Park, Old Town near the library and Royal Park are well established, with homes built in the 1940s and ‘50s,” says Gerstner. Bargains there are increasingly hard to find, with some older homes being razed to build new, and other older offerings getting full makeovers with modern features and metal roofs. Even with this gentrification, prices are still much lower per square foot than on the barrier island. Remodeled single-family homes off 12th Street, 8th Street and 4th Street in neighborhoods without homeowners’ associations are popular with younger buyers, too, with move-in-ready homes seeing more than one offer, sometimes within just a few days of listing. Gerstner says the price point between $200,000 and $300,000 brings in the most interested buyers.
On the beach, one older neighborhood is being rapidly transformed. “Homes over $1 million are routinely selling in Central Beach, which we call Area 11, or Beach City,” says Gerstner. “These are smaller, ‘50s- and ‘60s-era homes that are being remodeled or demolished and rebuilt for $300 per square foot.” The draw is the proximity to both bridges, along with walkability to Ocean Drive shops and restaurants. “People coming from urban areas really want that. They value the village feel.”