The upside of Florida real estate: 15 market positives
1. Great prices. Statewide, the median sales price for existing homes last month (February) was $141,900; a year ago, it was $199,300 for a 29 percent decrease.
2. The time is right. Home sales volumes are rising again - a clear signal that today's "buyers market" is changing. Existing home sales rose 20 percent last month with a total of 9,858 homes sold statewide compared to 8,181 homes sold in February 2008, according to FAR. February's statewide existing home sales were 16.7 percent higher than January's statewide sales. Florida Realtors also reported a 15 percent gain in statewide sales of existing condominiums in February, continuing a trend in recent months for higher statewide sales of both the existing home and existing condo markets compared to year-ago levels. Statewide existing condo sales last month increased 25.1 percent over the total units sold in January according to FAR statistics.
3. High inventory levels. Conditions are ideal for buyers to find their dream home. Inventory is still plentiful in all price ranges. But as sales volumes increase, inventory levels are likely to shrink. That reality translates into this advice for buyers: Don't wait too long.
4. Low mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are still at the lowest levels since the 1960s. Lower rates multiply a buyer's financial power. Even half a percent can make a sizeable difference. For example, on a $200,000 home, half of 1 percent could save the homeowner about $815 a year. Buyers can get more home for the money, which is a perfect scenario for families looking to upsize. How low did they go?
5. Incentives to buy. Federal, state and local housing programs can help buyers make that big purchase. The U.S. Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2009 includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus package also identifies and offers incentives to help home buyers with mortgages. Talk to a local mortgage lender about state and federal incentive programs.
How to get the $8,000 credit.
6. A long-term-growth state. Long-term economic and demographic trends continue to favor Florida. By 2010 economists forecast that Florida will be the third-most-populated state in the country. Florida's population is expected to swell about 75 percent by 2030. Florida has been one of the 10 fastest-growing states in the U.S. for each of the past seven decades, and often the state has been in the top four, according to census data. Population growth will continue to provide a foundation for other economic development, such as new jobs and growing incomes. All of these trends are positive indicators for real estate growth.
7. A migration magnet. Even with a slowdown in economic growth nationally, projections call for Florida's population to return to more normal growth levels of about 317,000 a year between 2010 and 2020, similar to the 1980s and 1990s, said Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. That's a lot of new buyers coming into the market.
8. A favored retirement destination. Over the long term, Florida stands to benefit from the migration of the aging Baby Boomer generation, roughly 80 million strong. Demographic studies show that the Sunshine State's mild climate and outdoor amenities continue to make Florida a top retirement destination.
9. Business-friendly state. Florida has always been a business-friendly state - no state income taxes, plus incentives from local municipalities encourage businesses to set up shop here. Even with the current economic downturn nationwide, Florida leaders continue to keep business needs in the forefront of planning for the state's future. The Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners ranked five Florida communities on its "Best Performing Cities Index 2008," which ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. Florida continues to be one of the best states for business, moving up to 3rd in Chief Executive's survey of the best places for jobs and business growth. (Chief Executive, Mar '09). Four Florida metros, Orlando, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Coral-Ft. Myers and Jacksonville, are among the nation's best places to start a small business. (Bizjournals, Feb '09)
10. Positive investment outlook. Every quarter, the University of Florida's Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies conducts a survey of industry executives, market research economists, real estate scholars and other experts. In the fourth quarter 2008 survey, the investment outlook for various types of Florida properties remains steady. "People who have responded to our surveys have not lost their faith in Florida as a place to be and a place to invest," said Dr. Wayne Archer, director. "We have 40 pages of comments from our respondents, and although the dominant theme is the disruption of financing, perhaps the second theme, as one person put it, is people being on the sidelines with full pads and helmets just waiting to jump back in."
11. Homeownership has value. Realtors believe - and research supports that belief - that homeownership provides a variety of tangible and intangible benefits to the community and homeowners. Studies show that home equity is still the largest single source of household wealth, both for the individual homeowner and for homeowners as a group.
12. Greater sense of well-being. Owning a home leads to increased personal well-being. Research shows that people who own their own homes tend to show higher levels of personal esteem and life satisfaction, which in turn helps to make homeowners and their children more productive members of society.
13. Beneficial for kids. Studies show that children raised in homes owned by their families are more likely to stay in school and more likely to graduate high school. They're also shown to have a higher lifetime annual income.
14. Community involvement. People who own homes have a strong financial stake in what happens to their community and tend to become more involved in community and civic affairs. Studies show that homeowners also interact more with their neighbors and communities. Compared to renters, homeowners join up to 41 percent more civic and/or nonprofessional organizations, such as the PTA or Scouts; vote in local elections 15 percent more often; enhance their neighborhoods with gardens 12 percent more often; attend church about 10 percent more often; and have a 3 percent greater chance of being interested in public affairs.
15. An unsurpassed lifestyle. Finally, let's not forget the things that brought people to Florida in the first place, and will continue to attract them - beautiful beaches, fabulous weather and a friendly business climate, with no state income tax. It's no wonder that Florida's combination of temperate climate, outstanding recreational amenities and economic opportunity has consistently put Florida in the top three of Harris Poll's "Most Desirable Places to Live" survey.