By: Alessandro Secino, Esq.

Henderson Franklin was again honored to sponsor 2022 Market Trends, which took place on March 16, 2022, with speakers Randy Thibaut, founder of Land Solutions, Inc.Denny Grimes, President of Denny Grimes & Team at Keller Williams Realty, and Justin Thibaut, CEO of Land Solutions, Inc.

The presentation discussed the current conditions of the real estate market in Southwest Florida and provided a future forecast about what the market may look like in the coming year. The presentation also focused on the primary areas of the real estate sector: residential development, resale properties, and the commercial market.

Overall, the end of 2021 was a continuation of the rapid growth that comprised 2020 and 2021, as waves of new residents and businesses entered into the market. All sectors of the market are currently seeing growth, but nowhere is this more evident than with residential development and resale, as low inventory coupled with high demand has prompted price fairly dramatic price increases across the three counties of Lee, Collier and Charlotte. The ultimate question, however, will be whether this will continue or will the market begin to decline as prices continue to creep up higher.

Residential Development

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In 2021, Southwest Florida saw a 47% increase in new single-family residential permits issued amongst the three counties, with Lee County seeing the highest increase of 59%. Total residential permits increased 39% percent to approximately 25,000 permits. These percentage increases, while dramatic, still pale in comparison to the number of permits issued in 2005, which numbered around 44,000 permits prior to the crash in 2008. Similarly, multi-family residential permits increased by 19% over the last year.

These numbers illustrate that low resale inventory is driving up the prices, leading buyers to seek new construction and rental properties. Presently, the current inventory of resale properties cannot match the demand of new homebuyers entering the market, leading to homes rising in value by as much as 77% in some areas over the last year.

As a result, new buyers who cannot find already built homes or are priced out of the market are now turning to rental properties until inventory becomes available or prices soften. The same is true for sellers who took advantage of increased home values are renting until prices come back down.

With resale inventory so low, it begs the question of where is all this new development going? Most of the new development is taking place inland from the coastal communities. The two leading developments in terms of total permits issued are Ave Maria and Babcock Ranch, which account for a combined 1400 new permits in 2021.

In many respects, the theme for 2021 was rising prices. This is especially true for the real estate market in Southwest Florida. These dramatic price increases led to shifting behaviors from buyers and sellers, but until either supply increases or demand lessens, prices are going to continue to rise.

Resale Market

The resale market in Southwest Florida is what presenter Danny Grimes calls “the greatest market of all time,” and for a good reason. 2021 saw a record number of homes sales in Lee County with over 19,000 homes sold, an increase of 16% over the previous year.

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In addition, home prices have similarly increased; from January 2020-January 2022 in Charlotte County, median sales prices increased by 50% from $240,000 to $360,000. The areas within Southwest Florida are also areas with the best location such as Captiva, Boca Grande, and in the Park Shore Drive/ 5th Avenue area in Naples.

While the market in Southwest Florida is seeing unprecedented numbers of sales, there are not enough properties to meet the demand of buyers. Currently, inventory levels are down between 20 and 30% amongst the three counties, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as high inventory and high prices are conditions that may lead to a bubble and subsequent crash. If there is a true downside to the current market, it is that there are no properties in Southwest Florida under $100,000. Even vacant properties in Lehigh Acres, an area considered most affordable within the region, have seen a 90% increase in vacant land values.

Almost every person involved in the real estate industry in Southwest Florida is trying to determine when will this market will begin to decline again? There is no predictable answer to this question, however we will begin to see the signs of this when properties are going up for sale and not being purchased or sitting on the market for longer periods of time.

Commercial Property

Commercial sales volume over the last year has nearly doubled, with an over 87% increase, which surprisingly enough is mostly attributable to retail sales. In 2020, investors were fleeing retail assets with COVID shifting commerce electronically, however 2021 saw current retail properties shifting from retail spaces selling goods, to a more service-based retail user such as car washes, gas stations, and convenience stores. With these new users, we are seeing existing retail spaces being revitalized by new companies such as Sprouts who are acquiring properties within existing shopping centers.

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Despite of the increase in retail, industrial properties are also in high demand despite only accounting for 19% of the 87% increase in sales volume. Rental rates for industrial properties are up almost 10% in the last year along with increases in construction of industrial spaces.

Finally, office spaces (much like retail) saw investors moving away from those assets due to the work-from-home shift COVID brought on. However, office space properties actually accounted for 26% of the overall growth in sales volume over the last year. Presenter Justin Thibault likened this increase in office space sales going from a pandemic to an endemic stage, where workers are heading back to the office in more hybrid models. In a sense we are learning to live with more hybrid work models, and office space properties are increasing as a result.

Overall the commercial market — which was perhaps on the shakiest footing as a result of COVID — has begun to rebound and grow. As we see larger companies like Amazon move into the area, the demands for commercial properties should also increase. Charlotte County may very well be the beneficiary of this new investment as there is room to build industrial properties within close proximity to the airport in Punta Gorda.

Take-Away

The Market Trends report focused largely on current market conditions, which is not surprising considering the increases in growth throughout all sectors of the Southwest Florida real estate market. With that said, it is difficult to ascertain what the future may hold, as it appears the current growth is not showing signs of slowing down.

As we enter into a post-COVID economy and already experiencing rising inflation and global turmoil, it will be interesting to see if we begin to see a slow down in the real estate market here in Southwest Florida.