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Projects like 220 Riverside helped the real estate market bounce back.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Dec. 31, 201412:00 PM EST

Real estate 2014: Residential constructions lifts local economy

by: Carole Hawkins

Residential real estate in Northeast Florida saw the welcome return of something resembling normal in 2014.

Realtors around the second quarter saw the bulk of business tip away from short sales and foreclosures and toward traditional home sales. The median home price continued a slow climb to $161,500. And, homes-for-sale inventory dropped low enough in select neighborhoods like Arlington, the Southside and Northwest St. Johns County to convert buyers’ markets into sellers’ markets.

In new home construction, a rising building pace leveled off in the second quarter to 5,400 annual starts — as the disappearance of cheap recession-priced lots drove home prices upward. Still, demand was strong enough to keep inventory tight.

New players came into the market, while the fortunes of others grew.

Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based developer AV Homes announced its presence, purchasing 80 acres near the St. Johns Town Center from the Skinner family to develop a new residential neighborhood, Old Still.

And, the Colorado-based private equity investor that took over and built the Old San Jose on the River condominiums launched a new national homebuilding company, elacora, hiring local industry veterans Victoria Robbins and Lee Arsenault to head its Jacksonville division.

Nocatee moved up from the nation’s fifth fastest-growing master-planned community to third, and the developer responded to its quickly depleting lot inventory by opening eight new neighborhoods.

Canadian-based Mattamy Homes bought RiverTown, a riverfront master-planned community in St. Johns County, from The St. Joe Co. and promptly hired Durbin Crossing developer Jason Sessions to kick-start development there.

New master-planned communities came online, like Tamaya, a 2,400-home development near Beach and Kernan boulevards, and Longleaf, Lennar’s new development on the Westside, which will have almost 800 homes at build-out.

Apartment sales kept up a brisk clip, on track with 2013, though most investment opportunities shifted from A-grade to B- and C-grade properties.

In Brooklyn, the neighborhood’s revitalization took shape as two apartment projects, 220 Riverside and Brooklyn Riverside, rose from the ground. The Fresh Market opened next door at Brooklyn Station on Riverside, and other restaurant/retail tenants await the completion of two more buildings.

In local real estate companies, veterans Millie Kanyar and Audrey Lackie opened The Legends of Real Estate East Coast in Jacksonville Beach under the name they had licensed from the long-time Realty in San Jose. Tampa-based Yellowfin Realty opened in Jacksonville Beach and St. Johns County, and national online broker Redfin entered the local market.

In government, Nassau County passed a new mobility fee system, tying fees that developers are charged for growth to a new county transportation plan. And at the national level, Congress fixed legislation that had caused flood insurance to spike for homes that were sold in a flood-zone. It also extended a provision to not charge tax on debt forgiven during a short sale or mortgage modification.

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