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Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 4, 202205:00 AM EST

Work in California, live in Northeast Florida? There are roadblocks

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While the cost of living on the West Coast is higher, the real estate market there also is tight despite median prices that are more than double what they are in Florida.
by: Dan Macdonald Staff Writer

When it comes to Florida’s thriving real estate market, sources generally cite buyers leaving high tax states to settle in low tax states.

Inflation encourages those thinking of making the move.

One source of new residents is California, where the cost of living can be high. For example, gasoline sells for $4.82 a gallon, which is $1.21 more than the U.S. average according to AAA.

A Feb. 16 report from the California Association of Realtors stated that in January, the median price for a home was $765,580 compared with $348,000 in Florida.

A California homeowner could sell, head east on Interstate 10, buy two houses in Florida and still come away with a profit of about $70,000. 

The California median price is up 9.4% from $699,920 in January 2021.

Despite all the talk of how remote work frees employees to seek a new lifestyle elsewhere, there is not a mass migration. 

The California lifestyle is appealing, said Oscar Wei, California Association of Realtors deputy chief economist.

“In California you can go to the beach and the mountains in the same day and only have to travel a couple of hours or so,” he said.

Oscar Wei

Wei said increased home prices aren’t confined to California. 

While home prices in California rose 9.4%, Florida prices increased 23%, he said.

Outside of price, the California market is much like Florida’s.

It shows 1.8 months of inventory compared with 1.2 months in the Jacksonville market. In 2019, California’s inventory was closer to four months

“Ideally we’d like to look at the long-run average of six months (inventory) but that is long gone,” Wei said.

Like in Jacksonville, single-family homes are in short supply. California will need another 3.5 million new homes in the next three years.

Wei doesn’t think that number is achievable, so those in the housing market may have to settle for condominium or apartment living.

The customers for new California homes are Californians, Wei said.

The state’s job market is strong. Those raised in California can remain in the state. Millennials are reaching the age when they are considering buying their first home. Longtime Californians are retiring and are downsizing.

Moving to the more rural eastern portions of the state brings lower prices, Wei said.

The report said a buyer would need an annual income of $148,000 to buy a median-priced home in California. A 30-year fixed mortgage (including taxes and insurance) with 20% down and an interest rate of 3.28% would command a monthly payment of $3,700.

 

Michael DiClemente, president and COO of Watson Mortgage Corp. in Jacksonville and a member of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, said those numbers are optimistic.

Anyone entering into that deal would be house rich but cash poor, he said.

Running similar numbers for the Jacksonville market, the buyer’s income would have to be $70,000 to afford the median-priced Jacksonville home.

He urges caution.

“These numbers assume that the buyer has no other debt. No car debt and minimum credit card debt,” DiClemente said.

“These numbers are possible but I wouldn’t advise it.”

Remote working is a reality, but it isn’t always what it seems.

For example, a Californian moving to Jacksonville with plans of working remotely for his West Coast employer may find a road bump.

To qualify for a mortgage, DiClemente wants a letter from the employer stating that such a move is allowed.

“Companies are allowing people to work from home but many want you to be within a 50-mile drive of the office,” DiClemente said.

He has seen that come up as a problem more often in loan applications over the past year.

Another factor is if an employee chooses to move out of a high-cost state, rather than being transferred by the company, the employer may cut the salary to reflect the lower cost of living.

“We need to know if the buyer will be able to maintain their salary and that their employment will continue. Some employers don’t want to put that in writing,” DiClemente said.

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