The Forgotten Coast’s Low Home Prices Are Really Getting AttentionBuyer’s ParadiseThe Forgotten Coast’s Low Home Prices Are Really Getting Attention
By Brittany Barriner
The future of Florida’s Forgotten Coast real estate market looks brighter, as increased activity and continued low prices appear to benefit both buyers and sellers.
“It is still 1,000 percent a buyer’s market. Anytime interest rates are at an all-time low, and prices have come down 69 to 70 percent, it’s always going to be a buyer’s market,” said Jason Naumann of the Tallahassee-based Naumann Real Estate Group.
For the first time, buyers are able to demand price negotiations because there are many comparable properties to choose from, according to William “Jay” Rish, owner of Century 21 Gulf Coast Realty in Port St. Joe.
“If one seller will not take their offer then they can simply choose … similar inventory,” he said.
Buyers, however, aren’t the only beneficiaries of low prices. The market is helping local realtors once again experience an uptick in sales along the Forgotten Coast.
“Last quarter I had the best in real estate sales that I had since 2005. What we are finding is that buyers have come back to St. George Island, and people are getting fantastic bargains compared to a few years ago,” said Helen Spohrer of Prudential Resort Realty on St. George Island.
Some prices have dropped as much as 90 percent, and realtors have noticed the market’s adjusted prices are permitting people to purchase homes they once couldn’t afford.
“A SummerCamp Beach home used to sell for $300,000 and today we are able to offer a beach cottage on a lot for $259,000 for the whole package,” Naumann said. “This has done two things: allowed more people to invest in second homes and allowed sellers to put products on the rental market.”
As Rish puts it, it’s a hobby for some buyers to see what they can “steal” a property for. And, for the first time in 10 years, he is seeing good quality Gulf-front lots selling for less than $200,000 and homes of good quality selling for under $500,000.
“First-tier Gulf-view and Gulf-side are consistently below $100,000. These numbers are at about a 75 percent discount off their all-time highs,” Rish said. “These prices should be common for the marketplace for the near term and then trend upward as demand eventually outpaces inventories.”
The increased demand for vacation homes has trickled its way down to St. George Island as well.
“We have a lot of families back buying for personal use, which is always a positive thing. People are buying second homes and also vacation homes,” Spohrer said.
Even as more homes become accessible for buyers, there are still a sizeable amount of foreclosed and short sale homes on St. George Island. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of foreclosures are closing, while only a third of the short sales are finalizing.
A “short sale” is when the mortgage value exceeds the worth of the property. A buyer makes an offer to the seller, and the seller and the lender settle the terms of the agreement. The process can take up to six months to a year.
A “foreclosed” or “bank owned” property is one where the bank has taken possession. The process requires little to no waiting period. Buyers provide proof of funds to the lender or a pre-approval letter, and purchase the property as-is.
Rish said the criteria for a short sale is more arbitrary than a foreclosure. “A short sale is a negotiation between the owner and the bank and may or may not happen, depending on the evolving circumstances of the owner,” Rish said. “The foreclosure is an end process for the bank to legally and forcibly take the title and possession of the property.”
While the real estate market seems to be settled for now, market experts say buyers should not get too comfortable with distressed prices. They predict the increased demand for homes will eventually exceed inventory and bring prices back up.
St. George Island Sales Trends
Prices shown are the sales price of property sold per year from the lowest price to the highest price.
2009: $900,000 4BR/4BA 2170SF to $1,899,000 4BR/4.5BA 4128 SF
2010: $699,900 4BR/3BA 2064SF to $1,550,000 5BR/3.5BA 3821SF
2008: $1,220,000 5BR/4BA 2688SF
2009: $336,000 3BR/2BA 1580 SF to $1,200,000 5BR/4.5BA 3543SF
EAST END HOMES
2009: $1,080,000 4BR/4BA 2924SF to $1,300,000 5BR/5BA 3680SF
2010: $860,000 3BR/2BA 2247SF
Gulf Front (All 300 Ocean Mile Townhomes)
2009: $248,200 2BR/2.5BA 1470SF to $310,000 3BR/3BA 1566SF
2010: $166,100 1 BR/1BA 800SF to $315,000 2BR/2.5BA 1400SF
2009: $245,000 3BR/2BA 1550SF to $699,000 5 BR/4BA 2925SF
2010: $260,000 2BR/2BA 1964SF to $1,150,000 5BR/5.5BA 3604SF
Figures courtesy of CENTURY 21 Collins Realty, Inc.