No. 1 in the nation: Crestview-Fort Walton-Destin had more home sales than other small metros
Homes have been flying off the shelves in Northwest Florida.
According to a recent report by Porch.com, a home services platform, the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan area is No. 1 among the nation's small metros for average monthly home sales per 10,000 residents this year.
The ranking is based on sales made from January to September 2021.
In that time, the local metro area saw an average of 39.1 monthly sales for every 10,000 residents.
Among small metros, Punta Gorda ranked No. 2 in sales with 35.5 per 10,000 residents and Sebastian-Vero Beach took the No. 3 slot at sales 28 per 10,000 residents.
Florida communities ranked highly in mid-sized and large metro areas as well.
In midsize metros, nine Florida communities landed in the top 15 of the highest sellers list: Naples-Marco Island (1), Cape Coral-Fort Myers (2), North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (4), Port St. Lucie (5), Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (7), Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (9), Ocala (11), Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent (12) and Lakeland-Winter Haven (14).
In terms of large metros, the top 15 included Jacksonville (1), Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (2), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach (5) and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (6).
To come up with its rankings, Porch.com crunched data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm.
A total of 244 areas were included in the study, where complete data could be found.
"No real surprises here, including the number of Florida markets making the list," said Budge Huskey, president and CEO of Premier Sotheby's International Realty in Naples.
Real estate experts attribute Florida's draw to many factors, from its white-sand beaches, strong public schools and diverse cultural offerings to its low crime rates, range of outdoor recreational activities and plethora of shopping and dining spots.
A smaller population and more elbow room have made the region particularly attractive since the pandemic hit.
Pandemic drives sales
Porch.com points out that the "unusually high demand in the real estate market has been a consistent fact throughout the COVID-19 pandemic."
The report states: "While real estate sales — like most aspects of the economy — ground to a halt in March and April of 2020, buyers since then have been snapping homes up quickly, often offering to pay above asking prices and make other concessions to land a deal."
The website attributes the spike in demand primarily to the "favorable economic conditions for middle and upper-income earners."
"While lower-wage workers were at much greater risk of economic instability during the pandemic, most professional class workers were able to keep their jobs by transitioning to remote work, save money from reduced spending in categories like travel, entertainment, and food, and enjoy strong returns in the stock market," the report states.
For buyers not paying in cash, low-interest rates have helped.
"Good household financial conditions and low mortgage interest rates put homeownership within reach for many buyers," according to the report.
Porch.com also points out that nationwide, seasonally-adjusted monthly home sales dropped to less than 400,000 in May 2020, early on in the pandemic, then started to rebound, peaking at more than 650,000 in October.
"Monthly sales since then have leveled out at a lower level, but still well above pre-pandemic levels," the report states. "This volume of homes is moving off the market even in spite of the fact that the inventory of homes for sale was at record lows for most of the pandemic."
Not like New York
Porch.com shared that most of the leading states offer "a combination of relatively affordable real estate, strong economic opportunities, and temperate climates that make them an appealing alternative to high-cost states like California and New York, which are seeing greater numbers of people moving away."
Denny Grimes, president of his team at Keller Williams Realty in Fort Myers, described Porch.com's report and analysis as "spot on."
Florida is benefiting from an exodus from other states that traditionally have been its feeder markets anyway, such as New York and New Jersey, he pointed out.
"Florida has been on their radar from the Mississippi east for a generation or three," Grimes said.
There's a trifecta of factors working in the state's favor, he said, the opportunity for buyers to get equity out of their other homes, to find lower prices on average for homes in Florida, and to work remotely.
"If I can work from home, then why not live somewhere I want to live?" Grimes asked rhetorically.
He expects the positive real estate trends to continue, as long as Florida "can hold the line on what it's all about," a warm and welcoming place, he said, with a great quality of life, where people are more "middle of the road" and "conservative."
"I've heard some say the mayor of New York should be Realtor of the year in Florida," Grimes quipped.
Florida, he said, has to be careful not to become like the states people are fleeing. To help make his point, Grimes offered up this example:
"Ruth's Chis has a great brand for a steak house and they should be that. Now if someone wants to turn them into a pizza parlor as well, it probably will dilute what they are good at."