By several measures, the housing market in Flagler County is healthy. But calling it a “boom” may be premature, if not undesirable: memories of the last boom’s aftermath are still roiling the foundations of the local market, namely in property valuations, which have taken a decade to reclaim pre-boom values.
Earlier this week Flagler County government called construction in unincorporated Flagler “extremely active,” with nearly 100 building inspections scheduled for last Wednesday alone.
“We’ve been averaging about 70 per day,” said Chief Building Official Mark Boice. “But 60 is a busy day for four inspectors. Anything more than 15 (per inspector) is a full day.”
The Building Department, the county said, is one of Flagler County’s enterprise funds – meaning that none of its $1.9 million budget comes from property taxes, as all of its revenue is generated through fees. The county issued the information through a release–an unusual move that may reflect the county administration’s attempt to justify a request for additional personnel: budget season has just begun.
But the number is echoed by activity in Palm Coast. The city averaged 182 inspections a day in May, after averaging nearly 200 a day in March, and hasn’t seen a month with fewer than an average of 173 per day all year. Last year, Palm Coast’s building division conducted nearly 40,000 inspections, up 30 percent from 2016.
The activity is reflected in permitting as well. From a low of just 81 permits for single-family homes in 2011, the city last year issued 633 single-family residential permits issued, up 33 percent from the prior year. Through April this year, the city has issued 219, which would result in an annualized total of close to 800.
Ron Wysocarski, broker and CEO of Wyse Home Team Realty in Port Orange, which tracks development activity in Flagler and Volusia through a monthly report, attributes the construction activity to a lower inventory of homes in the past two years. “During that time, countless buyers struggled to close a deal on something and eventually stopped searching. They ended up either renting a place or moving on to other areas,” Wysocarski said. New construction is now “filling the gap.” Economists he follows, he says, project at least two more years of brisk construction.
According to the Flagler County Association of Realtors’ latest tabulations, 230 home sales closed in March, an 8 percent decrease from a year ago, with a median sale price of $227,000, up from $219,000 a year ago. Whether in march or in the previous three years, the number of sales doesn’t point to any sort of breakout boom: if anything, it’s been relatively flat–or stable, to use a term Realtors prefer in the circumstances–with a seasonal weakening of sales each autumn. Cash sales in March spiked to their highest level in a year–but that’s the March effect every year as buyers play the tax calendar. Overall, cash sales, averaging 60 to 65 a month without the March spike, are well below where they were three years ago or more. The media sale price has grown slowly but steadily: it’s not bubble growth.
And the time between a house is put up for sale to the time when it’s sold has shrunk from the 70-day range three years ago to the 50 to mid-50-day range presently. There’s a five-month supply of homes on the market.
“The fear for many is that it feels like we’ve already seen these conditions 10 years ago,” Wysocarski said. “What we’re experiencing in the market right now is different, though. Those boom years before the recession were predicated on loose lending practices, and a lot of the loans written during that time failed and ended in foreclosure. Because most loans are now being better documented, the belief is that families today are proving they can pay for these homes. Provided there’s ample employment in the area, I believe we will not see a repeat of the unfortunate market conditions and the precipitous drop in home values that we saw 10 years ago. Home values tend to rise or fall based on economic events, not real estate events. Jobs are key.”
Flagler County’s jobless rate has been in the 4 percent range for months, falling last month to a post-recession low of 3.7 percent, and the county’s population has been increasing steadily, with the Census Bureau’s latest estimate placing it at 110,500. What’s less clear is the demographic character of the population increase. School enrollment figures have not grown at the same rate as the net population increase, suggesting that more retirees, or people who are not in the workforce, are moving in. “I would caution that although school enrollment figures might be one indicator of growth, it only tells part of the story,” Wysocarski said. “For example, families with very small children who are relocating to the area won’t affect those school enrollment numbers until their kids reach school age, which could be a few years.”
Wysocarski also notes that new construction doesn’t necessarily mean arbitrary relocations, as fewer families are willing to commute from Flagler to the Daytona or Jacksonville areas. “Fuel costs are rising,” he said. “There’s added cost and inconvenience associated with car maintenance and repairs. And for some buyers, there’s an increase in childcare costs because the kids spend an extra hour or more each day under someone else’s care. The true costs of a commute can quickly surpass any savings people might see in their mortgage payment. There’s also the value of the time lost during a commute. We find that the loss of family time alone is a big road block for most people.”
Jason Giraulo, a Palm Coast government spokesman, said the area is also busy with commercial development. In 2017, the building division issued 515 permits. So far in 2018, there have been 177 permits issued. Rickie Lee, the city’s chief building official, attributes the numbers to a nationwide strong economy.
“He noted that although new commercial construction did not increase as rapidly in 2017 as in 2016,” Giraulo said, citing Lee, “existing commercial buildings are being retrofitted or remodeled more frequently and new businesses are moving into those. Additionally, residential construction is growing not just in new subdivisions, but citywide with new builders also building in well-established sections.”
Steve Vanne says
This is great now only if they can fix the drainage problems. Every time it rains on my street it floods. But we got great looking flowers along belle terre. Keep up the great work palm coast…
All the construction is ruining the quality of life in Palm Coast. All the trucks all the noise making it less desirable place to live.
Instead of growing so fast maybe we should be looking at working drainage, sidewalks, roads to relieve traffic congestion
There are to many people here in Palm Coast now. Don’t need any more. The streets are over crowded! It was nice back in 1992. May be time for me to move.
You people need to stop complaining. Did you not move here to getaway from the congestion up north.
? Perhaps its time for a visit up there as a reminder.
F Section Homeowner says
Flagler County’s website linked to a survey being conducted by the regional transportation organization for our area. I encourage everyone to complete the survey, as many comments appear to be highly relevant. There is a location at the end of the survey where you’re able to share your thoughts in general.
That’s why we are “complaining”. We moved away from that and now it’s happening here.
With thousands upon thousands of vacant lots waiting to be built on what did you expect to happen? If you moved to Palm Coast because you thought it would stay “Small town” living you clearly didn’t think it through. Palm Coast is just getting started. It will likely be pushing 300,000-400,000 people once fully developed.
Well you came down here and made it what it is now. What did you think was going to happen?
You people are hilarious. Complaining about new construction and linking that to drainage. That is like saying the government is building the houses. Or do you think every person who buys a home needs to go out with a shovel and dig? If that is the case, quit complaining and start digging. And then you are complaining that houses are selling Resulting in new builds. But these are the same people complaining about the vacant homes and their unkept lawns. Schizophrenia is alive and well!!
My wife and I are having a house built on a beautiful canal lot with Seacoast Homes, and can’t wait untill we can be able to become all your neighbors. We currently live on the west coast of Florida and are looking forward to starting a new chapter in Palm Coast. Also getting ready to have a fishing charter business. See you soon.☺
Concerned Citizen says
LOL at all the people complaining who moved here from somewhere else.
You’re part of the reason Palm Coast is growing. You moved here from somewhere else. Did you not think othere’s wouldn’t do the same thing?
On a serious note though I have said this in prior comments. What is Flagler County doing to improve the infrastructure needed to support growth.
Power,Water, Sewage, Roads and Sidewalks are needed to handle more people. You will also need more Fire Rescue and Law Enforcement services and Sanitation and Utility workers.
You can’t just keep building houses and putting people in them without enhancing your services you provide.
There are so many run down and vacant properties in the area that there is no need to build more. People are moving out as fast as people are moving in and ur county and city government are to blame. This is a hostile place with poor leadership. Code Enforcement constantly harasses people and a fortune is spent on their existence. Neighbors don’t speak to neighbors, the crime and drugs are out of control and the cost of living is unreasonable with no jobs for those that are not yet retired. The prices for homes are out of sight and even the older ones are selling for far more than they are worth. In another 20 years this place is going to look like a real slum and it is only going to get worse from this point forward. People are going to be taxed to death and pay high taxes for old homes so why would they stay here? The city and county can’t get a long, the county and city waste our tax dollars and don’t listen to what the people want and they deceive the people. That may be the case in most all jurisdictions but for this place to be as compact as it is, it is worse right now than most. Before we get stuck with homes that we can’t move, we better all be thinking about tomorrow and get rid of what we have today and get what money we can, while we can. It wasn’t that long ago that Palm Coast was deemed to be one of the worse places to live in Florida https://www.palmcoastobserver.com/article/palm-coast-10th-worst-place-live-florida
I find it great that we are getting new homes, Now we need restaurants to go with it, i mean good places to eat.