If Frank Ammons could sum up his search for the perfect Lakeland home in one word, it would be “aggressive”.
Ammons, 38, and his wife Mary, 28, looked at four houses in Lakeland that were torn from the market before saying “Mine!” Could say.
“We were very aggressive,” said Ammons. “We’d look at the house, we’d love the house, we’d say we’d make an offer on the house, our agent would turn around and make an offer – and there have been offers,” said Ammons.
Lakeland is a microcosm of a national trend: it is undoubtedly a sellers’ market. In Swan City, demand is high and inventory is low, making the process of finding evacuators like Ammons difficult.
“There’s nothing for sale right now,” said Petra Norris, who has been a real estate agent in Lakeland since 1998. “We need sellers. We need homeowners to sell houses.”
Real estate crisis:Affordable apartments named Lakeland’s’ No. 1 priority ‘for fiscal year 2022
Buyers are reaching for homes faster than real estate agents can bring new ones to market. Inventories are low, prices are high, and buyers are everywhere, fueled by low mortgage rates and a desire to live in “open” Florida, unlike other US states that continue to enforce COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Lakeland agents say they don’t expect any real estate market crash despite the insane situation.
“Just not enough houses”
Norris, owner of Lakeland Real Estate Group, said she had never seen anything like the pandemic market in Lakeland in her real estate business in the city for more than two decades.
Norris and other Lakeland agents said the problem is simple: once you’ve sold your home at the top of the market, you may not have anything new to do.
“We have very little inventory, we only have a few buyers. And there just aren’t enough homes to buy. So it’s definitely insane,” said Nikki Casha, real estate agent and office manager at Live Florida Realty. “Sellers get top dollars on their homes, which is great. It definitely encourages them to sell. But the problem is that we are so low on inventory that some sellers are holding back from selling because there is nothing to buy, and that is what is driving our prices even higher. ”
Andrea Anderson, an agent at S&D Real Estate, said she knows customers who live with friends or who stay in RVs after their property has been sold, waiting for something to come out they can get their hands on .
Federal aid:HUD awards grants for local housing needs
As soon as houses come on the market, it’s an all-out war. Anderson said she gets between 19-25 bids for launching homes in the $ 200,000 to $ 300,000 range, which are currently the most popular in Lakeland. And not for the asking price: Anderson said she had buyers offer $ 20,000 over the listing and was turned down anyway.
“As soon as a house comes on the market, it’s taken off the market or has a listing on the first or second day,” said Anderson.
This can complicate the situation for families on a tight budget. If you look at a home that is already at the high end of what you can afford, you are unlikely to be able to win a bidding war and secure the property. And if you are trying to buy a home with an FHA loan instead of a traditional method or cash, the waiting time for the insured loan can also shut you out of the market.
Norris said that for all property types in Lakeland, the median sales price was $ 257,697 and the median sales price was $ 245,690 in March. This corresponds to an increase of 19.4% and 22.9% respectively compared to the same numbers in 2020.
And while in March last year a house was on the market for an average of 45 days, that number was almost halved to 24 days.
This is all good news for sellers, but it can be frustrating for buyers like Ammons. He and his wife moved from Plant City to Lakeland to open No Limits Church, for which they are both the senior pastors. They needed a house with at least four bedrooms.
After losing Ammon’s house to house before they could even bid, the family decided to make an offer for their new home before they even entered.
“We literally had to make an offer when we looked at the pictures and we had to cross our fingers and hope the pictures were a good representation of what it was,” said Ammons. “And it was.”
Ammons said they paid a little less than $ 300,000 for the four-bedroom, two-bathroom in South Lakeland, which is an estimated 20 to 25% more Ammons than they spent on the same house last year.
And Ammons added that there is no way out of the aggressive market. He and his wife looked at homes between $ 200,000 and $ 400,000 in both suburban and rural areas and found the rush to buy was just as competitive across the board.
Driving the onslaught
Lakeland real estate agents said historically low interest rates are likely behind the moving surge that attracts local moving companies like Ammons and people from other states like Londa Sherwood-Austin, 50, and her husband David Austin 48.
Sherwood-Austin was motivated by another popular factor: a desire to flee to Florida, which has been “fully open” since late September, when Governor Ron DeSantis opened stores at full capacity and denied local governments the ability to enforce charges against violations the mask mandate.
“Washington was completely closed when we sold our house. They were closed for over a year,” said Sherwood-Austin. “It got kind of suffocating living under it.”
Sherwood-Austin and her husband decided to look for a vacation home around April 2020 after realizing they could work remotely. While exploring options in Florida along the coast, the hurricane threat and the pricing of these homes put the couple off. They visited Austin’s aunt in Lakeland and fell in love with the atmosphere and affordability.
When the two returned to Lakeland in August, they were delighted.
“We looked at six to eight different houses [and] We bought one that day, “said Sherwood-Austin.
The couple grabbed a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with a pool and screened porch for $ 367,000 that could easily have cost Sherwood-Austin $ 550,000 or more in their home state, Washington.
And they’re excited: Sherwood-Austin said that while their home in Bloomfield Hills, North Lakeland was supposed to be the vacation home, they “freaked out” and now spend three weeks a month in Lakeland and only one in Washington. The couple even opened an office for their consulting firm Sherwood Austin Business Growth Experts in downtown Lakeland.
Sherwood-Austin, which operates real estate in Washington, said that while it is certainly a seller’s market right now, she thinks buying a home is a good investment as there is room to grow home appreciation.
Will there be a crash?
But with such a high market, there is a natural fear: what about a crash?
Anderson said she doesn’t see a crash in Lakeland’s future as lending is more tightly regulated to ensure buyers can afford the homes they buy.
“I don’t really see we’ll slow down at least three or four years,” said Anderson. “Might turn into CaliFlorida – might see some crazy prices here soon.”
Casha and Norris agree, citing low inventory and excess buyers as evidence that the market will continue to move forward.
And with real estate agents predicting the market will continue to hit new heights for at least the rest of the year, Norris has some advice: get in while you can.
“I wouldn’t wait. If I wanted to sell my house now, I would sell it right now,” said Norris. “Because it’s a great market and there are buyers out there, well-qualified buyers.”
Maya Lora is best reached [email protected]. Follow @mayaklora on Twitter.