Buyers are fleeing more expensive regions of the U.S. because of the pandemic and low interest rates.
Low interest rates and an influx of residents from the Northeast and California helped several Ponte Vedra real estate agents make 2020 the best year in their careers.
Agents who sold the region’s most expensive homes in 2020 said they are seeing more new-to-the-area buyers than ever, many coming from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and California.
“People are moving out of the urban areas to smaller communities because of the COVID concerns,” said Elizabeth Hudgins, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Atlantic Beach.
“We have no state income taxes. Now that you can live anywhere, why not live in a warm climate? That’s what is drawing a lot of people.”
Hudgins sold 2020’s second-highest home by price at 1193 Ponte Vedra Blvd. for $7.6 million and the fourth-highest sale of the year down the street at 1197 Ponte Vedra Blvd. for $7.25 million. She has been a Northeast Florida Realtor for more than 30 years.
Hudgins said Ponte Vedra and the beaches, especially oceanfront properties, have been in high demand.
Justin Lott, team lead for the Justin Lott Home Selling Team, said the pandemic caused people to want more square footage for uses like a home office, home-schooling space or a gym.
“At the beginning of 2020, you had a lot of people who were quarantined and realized they didn’t like their house, they didn’t like their property,” Lott said. “They really wanted to improve their property or their lifestyle.”
Lott represented the buyer in the sixth-highest home sale of 2020 at 465 Beach Ave. in Atlantic Beach for $6.7 million, the only top 10 property in Duval County.
Ponte Vedra buyers also were looking for oceanfront properties, a lower density neighborhood and outdoor entertaining space. Pools are at the top of prospective buyers’ lists, Lott said.
Low interest rates and Florida’s lack of income tax made relocating to the area even more appealing.
“The Beaches have been a great benefactor of that,” Lott said.
Before the pandemic, Ponte Vedra’s location in the St. Johns County School District was one of its most attractive offerings. Now, people are interested in the lifestyle the area provides, said Jonathan Young, the owner of Blackstone Real Estate.
Young said his sales were 26% higher in 2020 than in 2019. He sold 1217 Ponte Vedra Blvd. for $7.67 million, the top home sale of the year.
With a low inventory of homes for sale, Young said listings are hard to come by, for both agents and buyers.
To some extent, Ponte Vedra always is a low inventory market, since there are only so many high-end homes. That has only been compounded by increased interest in the area.
“It is certainly more competitive to get the listings,” Young said. “When you’re representing a buyer, it’s challenging to get them the property that was just listed.”
That could change in a few months as more people are vaccinated and life begins to return to normal, Hudgins said.
“As the year goes on, people are going to be more comfortable putting their houses on the market,” she said.
As a result of the low inventory market, high-end homes that could typically take more than a year to sell are moving faster, said Tricia Bowers with Marsh Landing Country Club Realty. Her sale at 733 Ponte Vedra Blvd. sold in six months for $7.395 million. It was the third-highest sale by price of the year.
“The market just picked up out there,” she said. “There were a bunch that sold in that time frame.”
Spring and summer typically are busiest for Northeast Florida real estate agents. While sales were slower in 2020, winter was when many sales took place.
“We have been inundated with business over the holidays, whereas in 2019, 2018 and 2017, we were seeing a bit of a slowdown,” Lott said. “Real estate agents can take a little bit of a vacation. Not in 2020. We had Christmas off, and then back to work. It’s something that I think is going to continue into 2021.”