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Discover Jacksonville 2017

There are plenty of

There are plenty of chances to catch a wave in Northeast Florida. Jax Surf Camp in Neptune Beach teaches children ages 6 to 16 the basics of surfing. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union)

HOUSING Golf Village areas in northern St. Johns County. Recent retail and housing projects along Riverside Avenue near downtown have added to the area’s residential options. Development of the Brooklyn area brought new homes with the opening of Brooklyn at Riverside and 220 Riverside. The net result has been the addition of hundreds of new residential units, a retail grocery story, restaurants, specialty shops and an urban park. Just across the street from Brooklyn, construction on the $22-million Winston Family YMCA is underway with expected completion in 2017. According to the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, homes generally are sold within 103 days of a listing. The only thing impeding the sales market is the low inventory of new homes, said Terrell Newberry, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. “Real estate is a cycle,” Newberry said. “We like a steady, gradual growth. Our mean average resale prices are up. If we had a more robust inventory it would be even better.” Still haunted by the housing bubble collapse that started in 2005, builders are excited by the upturn in permits while remaining prudent about lessons learned. “I like where we are now compared to 2005,” said Chet Skinner, president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. “But if you go through what most of us went through, especially from 2008 until the end of 2013 and beginning of 2104, it isn’t that easy for some of us to forget.” Although prices rose 11.9 percent over the same time in the five-county area, the number of September 2016 sales compared to September 2015 sales were down 4.4 percent, Newberry said. Mirroring those numbers was a 15.7 percent decrease – down from 10,765 units to 9,077 — in inventory from September 2015 to September 2016. Another fact is the alarming growth of St. Johns County. Builders in the area are struggling to keep up with the demands for new homes. At the same time, the state of Florida also can’t keep up with the demands for new schools. “People from outside of Florida do their homework on the internet,” Newberry said. “They see St. Johns schools are ranked No. 1. They want their kids in those schools. It’s hard to keep up with those kinds of demands.” That’s why nearly 3,000 new homes are under construction on State Road 210 and on International Golf Parkway in northern St. Johns County. There also are three schools — an elementary and two kindergarten-through-eighth grade — under construction, as well as expansions at several schools. “Prices are up, mortgage rates are down and, depending on who you talk to, the economy is getting better,” Newberry said. “Things are good. We just need more inventory.” Realtors are getting just that. The NEFBA said permits for new construction in May 2016 for Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties were 804, up 39.1 percent compared to the same numbers reported in May 2015. “It really is a healthy market,” Skinner said. “People ask if it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. I say it’s a healthy market. I like where we are compared to 2005. The truth is back in those days it wasn’t a sustainable pace. This is a healthy pace. It’s important not to get too far out.” Skinner is confident the housing market will continue to flourish. “The biggest message for 2016 is if we continue to grow at this clip, you’re going to see people want to start hiring and people wanting to get hired,” he said, “and that’s good for everyone.” 2017 DISCOVER JACKSONVILLE | 25