Despite the massive hurricane Irma that hit Southwest Florida at one hundred and eighty-five miles per hour in October of 2017, economic conditions rebounded which has kept the dream alive of owning a Florida home. The question is: For how long?
Florida has been adding 2.7 $billion to its gross domestic product daily according to a study by the Florida Chamber Foundation. It reported in July that Florida’s GDP will top $1 trillion in 2018 due to fundamental factors, not any volatile temporary trend. Low unemployment, expanding population (11 percent growth in the last ten years) and tourism are some of ingredients in the formula; not included are employment growth and goods and services/ taxable sales.
The September employment figures indicate that Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent with the addition of over 400,000 jobs. Manufacturing jobs increased by 19,500, much of which is located on the east coast and fathered by the aerospace industry.
Leisure and hospitality added 105,200 jobs and construction added 70,700 jobs. These were the two employment areas most affected by the hurricane that rebounded simultaneously with the storm’s aftermath. Irma’s major damage in Southwest Florida was from fallen trees; the homes with concrete block construction endured and suffered primarily cosmetic damage, if any.
There is speculation regarding a potential downward economic wind shift due to rising inventory of homes for sale and mortgage interest rates (which are lower than 10 years ago). The increase in home inventory is returning to historical normal levels which has been absent from a long period of whirlwind selling. While the home sales increase has been stimulated by six years of slowly rising interest rates the affordability issue has grown in equal concern.
Conversely, individual stock market gains and other economic factors from a strong economy has fueled home buying and price increases of new construction. Buyer demand continues.
In comparison to the “bubble years” that deflated in 2008, Florida homeowners have an average of 25% home equity. Nationally, the increase rose to 21% over the past three years in contrast to 2008, when homes were used as ATM machines. As home values dropped, homeowners were left with little or no equity, and many were over leveraged owing more than the home was worth. Cash-out financing topped $824 billion and now is only $172 billion, most of which is used for appreciating assets unlike the past.
Florida voters passed Amendment 2 in November, which made permanent a 10 percent cap on non-homestead property assessments each year. A permanent constitutional cap now gives the state's small businesses some assurance they wouldn't be priced out of the market on Jan. 1 of each year simply because property values went up.
Florida businesses will save $31 million dollars each year thanks to the Florida Legislature, which cut the state's business rent tax again. The new rent-tax rate on commercial leases drops to 5.7 percent on Jan. 1, 2019.
Every housing market in Florida is local and home prices vary across the state. The Naples Board of REALTORS® third quarter of 2018, sales of homes were up 13 percent overall from a year ago. After a stall from hurricane Irma the luxury sales were up 20 percent for homes worth over 2 $million from the third quarter of 2017. Another strong leader was the $300-$500 thousand price range that also earned 24 percent of sales in the Naples market. Looking back over the past year the Naples market has seen increases in home prices, sales, and median prices. Employment has soared, and the state is poised with economic protection.