The Greater Gainesville residential real estate market is the healthiest it’s been since the crash of 2008-2009, industry professionals say.
From a buyer’s perspective, supply is good – with many alternatives in terms of price and lifestyle.
“The nice thing about this market is that you can have anything from a half-acre lot to an urban lifestyle within a mile of each other,” said Scott Arvin, this year’s president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors.
Price is a big factor. “The availability of homes between $100,000 and $200,000 is very tight,” Arvin said. “There are many first-time buyers and people looking for something very affordable. On the other hand, many homes are available between $200,000 and $400,000.”
Financing has improved in the last couple of years. “If you’ve got a job and can document your income, you can get financed, although you have to do more paperwork than in the past,” Arvin said.
“People are concerned about the potential for interest rates to rise, so they are going ahead and buying,” he said.
From a seller’s perspective, prices have risen enough to bring more homes on the market. “Prices are finally back to where people bought them,” Arvin said. “For a long time, many people were upside down.”
Major new developments with a wide variety of lot sizes and many community amenities are faring well. “The Town of Tioga and Haile Plantation proved that neighborhoods that are walkable can work, so developers are saying, ‘Let’s do it,’” Arvin said.
One such development is Country Way in Newberry, which includes a town center and multiple-sized lots.
New subdivisions are prospering in Newberry and Alachua. “The regulations are a little more flexible in small towns, making them attractive for development,” Arvin said. “Despite the flexibility, some developers are building urban style communities with shopping mixed with residential.”
The City of Gainesville and the University of Florida plan to create homes for faculty, staff and other people between the UF campus and downtown, noted Mayor Lauren Poe.
“There is pent up demand for this type of urban housing,” Poe said. “The commission favors helping develop housing in the area that will serve more than students.”
The city Gainesville CRA is working with the Gainesville Florida Housing Corporation and the Gainesville Housing Authority to redevelop Seminary Lane, a site in the Fifth Avenue Redevelopment District a few blocks northeast of campus that formerly was a low-income rental community, Poe said. “Everyone involved is interested in something that’s not traditional public housing,” he said.
“People are realizing that if they’re renting a home for $1,200 they can buy a similar home and have a payment of $1,000,” Arvin said.
ADVICE TO BUYERS AND SELLERS
Broker Tommy McIntosh suggested that buyers consider whether they could rent their home out if they needed to relocate. “You always need an exit strategy in real estate,” said McIntosh, the president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Trend Realty.
It’s a sellers’ market for homes under $200,000, he said. “Buyers need to make their offer look better than competing offers in the event a home has multiple offers. They need to realize that sellers are interested in selling their home for not only the most money but also in the shortest time and with the least amount of inconvenience.”
Sellers should look at their home from the buyer’s point of view, McIntosh said. “Look back at what you liked about your home in the first place and make sure the selling points are obvious the minute buyers walk in the door,” he said.
GAINS OVER THE PAST YEAR
The Greater Gainesville residential real estate market has improved in the past year. The Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors reported the following comparisons between December 2015 and December 2016:
• The average sales price was up 7.7 percent, to $241,500 from $224,300
• The average days on the market was down to 63 day from 79 days
• The inventory of homes on sale was down 10 percent to 849 from 943
This area market is relatively small for statistical analysis, so comparisons from one year to the next only indicate general trends, economists note.
Heartwood Neighborhood Builds On East Gainesville’s Heritage
Doris Edwards is excited about people enjoying home ownership in East Gainesville – in the same way her family did a half century ago.
In the mid-60s, when Edwards was a teenager, her mother bought a brand spanking new four-bedroom home that Phil Emmer built as part of his mission of providing affordable residences for families that had been renters for generations. Emmer was a national pioneer in building and helping finance such homes, starting with Lincoln Estates.
Today, Edwards is supporting the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency in planning another rendition of new homes in East Gainesville.
The development, Heartwood, is on a 15-acre site adjacent to Lincoln Estates. It will sport 34 attractive new homes along with walking trails and ponds.
Edwards and her husband Willie have remained dedicated to Lincoln Estates, where they’ve lived for 45 years. “God gives you a mission,” she said. “We seriously thought about moving to land in Newberry 12 years ago, but we decided to stay here and provide a path for young people.”
Heartwood will appeal to people of all races and backgrounds, Edwards believes. “We’ve held workshops about it, and people have embraced the concept,” she said. “They want something they can afford, and they want it to be safe. I also hope it attracts people working at GTEC (the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center).”
Edwards has worked hard on the area’s safety as president of the Lincoln Estates Neighborhood Association with the help of 16 block captains. She also advocated for good lighting in and around Heartwood to promote safety.
Heartwood is one example of recent progress achieved in East Gainesville with the CRA’s help, Edwards noted. The CRA plans to break ground on the site work for the neighborhood in March.
In addition, the CRA is implementing a master plan for the “Cornerstone” economic development center – on 13.6 acres that includes GTEC.
The CRA also created a restaurant site at 1714 SE Hawthorne Road that became the home of Southern Charm Kitchen.
The restaurant has fulfilled the CRA’s dream of becoming a destination for diners. “The only problem is that it is packed all the time,” Edwards said.
“Southern Charm offers the best of soul food, and my favorites are the oxtail, pickled greens and the signature corn bread,” she said. “It’s great seeing people from Haile and Ocala coming over to enjoy it.”
Senior Writer CHRIS EVERSOLE has been a keen observer of business, government and culture in the Greater Gainesville Area while living here over the past two decades. His experience includes work with the University of Florida and Alachua County Government. He also has been a journalist and public relations professional in the Tampa Bay and Sarasota- Bradenton areas, as well as in Michigan, Ohio and New York.