Buying A House Is Increasingly Difficult — Especially At The Beaches

Jul 11, 2018

Some young professionals said they’re leaving the Jacksonville Beach area because while they can afford rent, buying isn’t a feasible option. Oliver Shahbazian said that’s the case for him.

On a mid-June day, Shahbazian and his realtor were doing the final walk-through before he was set to close on his new home. The house, built in the 1920s, is about 1,100 square feet. And Shahbazian said his favorite part of the place is the front porch.

“In the photo they had two rocking chairs and I think I’m going to definitely get my own rocking chairs,” he said.

Shahbazian is a 28-year-old civil engineer, about four years out of college. He went to the University of North Florida, and he’s been renting a place in Jacksonville Beach.

“I guess the beach was always, I was more comfortable with it and I had more friends there,” he said.

But his first permanent house is about 30 minutes away, in the Riverside area. Finding a place at the beach was just too expensive, he said. He wanted to stay under $210,000 and didn’t expect to have an ocean view.

“The rent is still affordable at the beach, but when it comes down to purchasing it’s very rare that you’re going to get a house under $300,000,” he said.

Jeanne Denton-Scheck, president-elect of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, said Shahbazian is right about the pricing. She’s been selling houses for 20 years, working in virtually every area.

She said in Jacksonville Beach right now, the cheapest home for sale is a 768-square-foot older two bedroom condo for $224,000. And the prices go up from there.

“There’s a few in the threes, very few in the threes,” Denton-Scheck said.

Most buyers are looking in the mid 200s- to - mid-300s range, she said.

“Those houses, they just fly of the market.” she added.

So far this year, the median purchase price for a Jacksonville Beach home is $385,000 according to NEFAR data  — nearly $100,000 more than it was in 2015.

Many listings are half-a-million or more, she said. But then again, it’s always been relatively expensive at the beach.

“Just as a rule of thumb, most first-time home buyers traditionally have not been able to live at the beach,” she said.

That’s as housing prices are increasing everywhere. For instance, where Shahbazian is moving, in Avondale, the median sale price has risen about $50,000 dollars in just three years, from $275,000 to $323,000. That data includes Riverside and Ortega.

He said his experience definitely reflected the current market, which is tipped in favor of sellers,  Denton-Scheck said. That’s because demand is increasingly outpacing supply. As of May, Northeast Florida has about 3.4 months supply of housing inventory to buy. Denton-Scheck said a balanced market is closer to a six-month supply.

“What’s crazy is that most of the houses were only on the market for a couple days,” Shahbazian said. “I’d put an offer in like the second day and I was already too late.”

During the month of May, the average number of days a house was on the market until sold in the Riverside/Avondale area was 51 days. Shahbazian ended up paying more than the asking price on his new home because he was competing with another offer on his house.  

But his realtor, Kelly Rotondo said, the competitive market shouldn’t discourage young professionals from trying.

“I think the biggest thing for younger people is they don’t know that they can buy a place,” she said. “Millennials, they don’t understand the whole aspect of  buying. Someone could be able to buy something, but they don’t know it because they think it’s out of their reach.”

Thankfully for Shahbazian, he says he loves Riverside’s community feel, and he’s excited about all the new restaurants he can’t wait to try.

Editor's Note: This story is part of WJCT’s Beyond the Core project, a listening tour designed to help us get to know the community and to help our audience get to know each other. Beyond the Core stories are based on what we hear at listening sessions. Please visit our Beyond the Core page for more information and to find out whether we’ll be in your neighborhood soon.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.