Florida Housing Prices Are Not Expected to Drop During COVID-19 Pandemic

A home for sale in St. Augustine, Florida, USA. Photo: Paul Brennan/Shutterstock.com

Housing prices aren’t expected to drop significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The group Florida Realtors says that’s because builders have been cautious since the last recession. They’ve built fewer homes, and Florida has a statewide shortage. Florida Realtors’ Chief Economist Brad O’Connor says new home sales are down anywhere from 30% to 40% statewide. 

The Palm Beach real estate market entered the season last fall with a strong wind at its back. But in March it got affected strongly by a global pandemic-coronavirus. Summer 2019 had established a sales momentum that swept through the fall and continued into the early spring. As much as $671 million in single-family transactions were recorded during the six-month period that began in October, according to quarterly sales reports. Compare that to the $253 million that changed hands in the same period a year ago.

Among 2020s biggest real estate deals was the most expensive property ever sold in Palm Beach: $105 million in December 2019 for hair-and-beauty mogul Sydell Miller’s estate at 1415 S. Ocean Blvd. on the stretch of coastal road dubbed Billionaires Row.

Nice home with two-car garage in Jacksonville, Florida, USA on April 30, 2020. Photo: Pipas Imagery/Shutterstock.com

By mid-March the coronavirus threat had Palm Beach shaking in its boots. Town officials quickly moved to issue a March 16 emergency order that set a nighttime curfew and closed beaches. Residents were soon hunkering down at home. Restaurants closed their dining rooms. Businesses, retail stores and hotels, led by The Breakers, temporarily shuttered their doors.

As the stock market plunged and people avoided commercial air travel, the initial couple of weeks of panic and paralysis were followed by several more weeks of sluggish sales. That scenario continued even after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an April 1 emergency order designating real estate offices and related industries “essential businesses” that could stay open during the crisis.

But as of last week, the town’s single-family market appears to be finding its feet again, as multiple brokers, agents and real estate attorneys told the Daily News.

City dwellers who have endured the pandemic indoors may certainly better appreciate Palm Beach’s pleasant climate, open spaces and easily accessible outdoor amenities should disaster strike again, said broker David Fite of William Raveis South Florida, which has an office in Palm Beach.

Palm Beach has long attracted buyers for its beauty, climate, tax advantages and a sense of security and safety, according to agents and brokers. Brokers now include Palm Beach’s relatively low number of officially counted cases of coronavirus-related illness at 18 with two reported deaths. Even with the recent escalation of activity, the effects of the initial news about the coronavirus can’t be overstated, several brokers agreed.

Broker Linda Gary of Linda A. Gary Real Estate saw the panic firsthand during the first weeks of the health crisis. “I did have a couple of contracts where the buyers canceled and now they’re both sorry they did,” Gary said. “I’m getting a lot of calls from people looking for homes.”

Ava Van de Water, whose regional duties at Brown Harris Stevens include managing the Palm Beach offices, said the initial slowdown was dramatic.

Since mid-March, brokers and agents have consistently reported an unprecedented demand from Northerners hoping to find rental properties in Palm Beach.

Available houses for rent, which are always in short supply at the height of the season, were quickly snapped up during the first weeks of the crisis.

And condos for rent were similarly scarce, but for a different reason: Many homeowners associations quickly locked down their complexes by barring visitors, including real estate agents, their clients and moving-company workers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.