Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines in the Southwest Florida market.
Anyone watching the real estate market during the last year knows bidding wars and above-listing sale prices have defined this tumultuous time. Homes have gone under contract for the asking price or higher on the same day they were listed. This buying frenzy has kept many investors on the sidelines, waiting for the market to cool.
Although the irrational exuberance has begun to slow a bit in Southwest Florida, the fundamentals that created it remain strong. Many of the same conditions that created last year’s sellers’ market are still in place; most importantly, supply is still way below demand. Low inventory, the arrival of new millennials moving into the buying market, and the historic slow rate of new home construction are keeping prices high. Typically, the national real estate cycle fluctuates every seven years, but the country is currently in the 11th year of an uptick in new single-family homes sold.
Southwest Florida seems to be the epicenter of the feeding frenzy for real estate sales. Prices have soared to historic rates in Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties. As an example, a residential property in Cape Coral (Lee County) that sold for $267,000 in 2020 was valued at $366,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021—a 37% increase. By the end of 2022, that same house could be $500,000.
The total number of residential permits for Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties totaled 25,184, a 37% increase from 2020. New residential single- and multifamily homes in Lee County saw a 28% increase, while Collier and Charlotte saw 48% and 50% increases, respectively.
Those numbers are reminiscent of the “boom” in 2005, when those counties saw 44,000 total permits. If there were to be a massive influx of residents looking for homes in Southwest Florida like we saw in 2005, the builders would simply not be able to meet the demand due to the shortage of supplies and other factors.
Homeowners have seen their home values increase dramatically, so they are opting to sell and rent, leading to an increase in multifamily properties. They’re selling out—choosing not to buy in—but renting an apartment or house instead. In other words, they’re riding it out until the market softens.
This activity has created an interesting and emerging trend for investors. The build-to-rent model seems to be a win-win for both investors and residents looking for options other than home ownership. Builders and developers clearly are seeing this trend: The number of build-to-rent homes is expected to double in 2022.
Florida is the second-fastest growing state in the country. Lee County, in particular, saw 23,000 people relocate to the area from July 2020 to July 2021. In Florida, the median price of sold single-family homes in January 2022 was $375,000, and Lee Country sits at $413,000. When you look at the percentage change, Southwest Florida outperformed the state in every county other than Sarasota. There is no question this area is blessed and we’re doing better than the rest of the state.
The number of existing homes sold increased by 16% in Lee County from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties all set records for single-family home sales, with Lee coming in at 19,226.
One of the factors driving booming home sales in Southwest Florida is a great migration to Florida from around the country. Florida is the most business-friendly state in the country, accounting to a new report from WalletHub. Florida solidified its standing as a national tech hub last year, adding more new companies in that sector than any other state. Goldman Sachs, Tiger Global Management, and D1 Capital Partners have all decided to make Florida their home, bringing with them wealth and jobs. The U-Haul Growth Index, a marker for migration and growth trends, reported that 10 of the top 25 U.S. growth cities are in Florida, and four of those cities are in Southwest Florida.
Inventory Is Moving Fast
It’s kind of torture to be a buyer in the Southwest Florida market. Buyers are going through multiple offers, and the national stats show that the average time on the market for a home is 19 days; normally, it’s around 80 to 90 days. What’s causing this is the lack of inventory. In Lee County, the number of single-family homes available decreased by 13% over the last year.
In February 2009, when the bubble had just burst, there were 4,220 single-family homes in Lee County under $100,000. In June 2021, there were three. Now, there are none.
In Lehigh Acres, the median sales for homes and lots have skyrocketed more than 138%.
In Cape Coral off-water lots, sales have increased by double-digit percentiles and costs have ballooned 173%. The median sales price is now $41,000 compared to $15,000 in January 2021. When it comes to waterfront property in Cape Coral, Grimes said the median asking price eclipses $1 million and, on a canal, more than $2.5 million.
When it comes to luxury homes ($1 million to $5 million), Lee County is outpacing Collier County (percentage wise) with an increase of 109% from 2020 to 2021. Lee County saw 1,169 homes sell in that range in 2021, up from 558 in 2020.
In regard to homes over $5 million, Lee saw a 208% increase from 2020 to 2021, with 37 sold in 2021 compared to 12 in 2020.
Timing Is Everything
If you are an investor, you surely know how important getting in at the right time is. That’s why now is not the time to sit on the sidelines with your capital. Yes, prices are rising and will continue to do so. Many of the same factors that have been driving sales are still in place and will remain there for the near future.
Most people see the rising prices and the rising interest rates and think it’s a bad time to get in the market. Many experts do not share this opinion, mostly because there is not just one housing market. Each market, from regional down to the neighborhood level, is unique. Southwest Florida is a standout for many of the reasons already highlighted. The region is expected to see this rate of population growth for the next several years. Even if the real estate market cools in the next year or so, home prices aren’t going to drop; they are just going to rise at a slower pace.
So, if you are on the fence about whether now is the right time to get in the game, consider the timing. There’s no “magic hour” or perfect time to buy or sell a property. As an investment, real estate trends upward, so it’s never a best practice to wait in order to beat the market. If you would like more information on market trends in Southwest Florida, download the Buyers Guide: Build To Rent Southwest Florida.
Robert Knight is the founder and CEO of White Stone Developments. He has 15 years of experience in the real estate industry as an investor, contractor, and Florida realtor. He is a local market expert in Southwest Florida, currently focused on new construction opportunities in the Cape Coral/Port Charlotte area.
White Stone is a leading investor-focused builder helping build-to-rent investors find off-market land and build single-family and multifamily homes specifically designed for long-term rentals and Airbnb investments.