Developers, real estate agents expect little long-term impact on home sales in St. Johns County

CHRISTINA.KELSO@STAUGUSTINE.COM A new home is constructed in a development near State Road 207 on Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

The flooding from two recent hurricanes might cause homebuyers to avoid a few specific areas of the county, but there’s no indication people have been scared away entirely.


St. Johns County’s rapid growth doesn’t appear in danger of sputtering even after the widespread damage from Hurricane Irma last week and Hurricane Matthew last year, according to area developers and real estate professionals.

Rosemary Messina, vice president for marketing at ICI Homes, said judging by the activity from the company’s online sales center, there is continued enthusiasm for new homes in Northeast Florida. ICI is currently selling homes in Julington Creek and Nocatee in St. Johns County as well as Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach.

“We have seen not one bit of slowdown, so we are pleasantly surprised,” Messina said. “The people that want to come here, we have really serious buyers.

“It didn’t seem to deter them.”

Jason Sessions of Mattamy Homes said he’s seen the same activity at RiverTown, a budding 4,500-home community in northwest St. Johns County.

Sessions, the general manager for RiverTown, said the second straight year of hurricane activity might actually draw buyers into new homes.

“I think we’re seeing a little bit of the opposite (of a letdown),” he said. “Most of the home damage was done to older homes, and so people are really respecting the quality of the new construction. You can really see it all over the state.”

Reports from other areas confirm Sessions’ conclusion. The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale quoted several large homebuilders saying demand remains as strong as ever.

The newspaper reported a few delays, but industry leaders don’t expect to lose many sales.

Before Hurricane Irma arrived, St. Johns County capped a very busy summer building season in August. Last month produced the most single-family, detached home permits since the recession, at 388.

Every month this calendar year has produced a post-recession high, for each respective month, in terms of permits issued. Through August, there have been 2,840 permits issued for new single-family houses in 2017.

“All of our sales have been doing well,” Sessions said. “RiverTown has been exploding. We’re really excited about that and hope it continues to grow when we come out with some new product next year.”

Overall real estate sales have been pretty strong this year before Irma’s impact, and that is expected to continue.

A report last week from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors showed that closed sales in the region, which includes part of St. Johns County, were down 5.2 percent in August compared with the same month last year. But year-to-date sales were up 1.5 percent, and median sales prices were up 9.2 percent year-to-date.

The only weak link in the market appears to be declining inventory. NEFAR reported a drop of almost 20 percent compared with August 2016.

Realtor Dirk Schroeder of Century 21 St. Augustine Properties noted the strength in the local market despite Hurricane Matthew, which caused significant damage last year.

According to Metro Market Trends, home sales in August for St. Johns County totaled 714, including condominiums. In August 2016, there were 842 sales. While down in volume, the sales were affected by a dwindling inventory.

But prices have climbed. The average price of a transaction in August of this year was $326,716. In August 2016, the average was $308,437.

“As far the effect on our real estate market, St. Augustine sales volume should recover more quickly than last year, as we are better trained to handle the cleanup and restoration,” Schroeder said. “Prices after Matthew really never went down — it was sales volume that was temporarily slowed a bit, and that may occur again this year.”

While the storm cost Realtors several days of potential sales, Schroeder said the long-term effects of Irma will be minimal.

“St. Augustine is such a resilient and sought-after community that we’ll bounce back quickly,” Schroeder said.