We expect home building this year to be up about 5% over 2002, which was a record-breaking year. 2004 should be a strong year, too. Our hottest market is homes in the $250,000 range and it should stay that way if interest rates remain at modest levels. The military is our largest payroll. We have the second largest Naval base in the country, next to San Diego. That means lots of families and off-base housing.
Biggest source of concern for builders:
Jacksonville doesn’t know whether it wants to be a big little city or a little big city, so growth, capacity and concurrency are concerns. We don’t have impact fees in Duval County (Jacksonville). I think we can show overwhelmingly that growth pays for itself, but some of the surrounding counties have them. There’s also a group in the state that is trying to get a constitutional change so that all land use changes would be done by referendum. That’s a real concern.
Because of the strong Navy presence, we’re also concerned about the next round of military base closings. We recently lost a submarine and aircraft carrier to other bases. When you lose a carrier with its 5,000 sailors and their families, it’s like losing a small town.
Jacksonville has been growing and it’s expected to continue to grow. We also have lots of land.
We’re basically a single-family detached market, but we are seeing more multifamily housing being built. Housing is becoming considerably more vibrant in the downtown area, where old hotels and larger buildings are being converted into loft housing. Lofts are a trend that has finally hit Jacksonville. Several condos and apartments have been built where the old shipyard used to be.
Our remodeling stats are up. There are many good buys in existing homes out there. Springfield, an older neighborhood just north of downtown, is coming back nicely. The rate at which people are moving out of the area is slowing down. Seniors want to stay close to their children. I know I want to live next door to my grandchildren.
I see the high-end market — homes over $800,000 — getting a little softer. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have million dollar homes, but now they’re not uncommon. The really big money has been buying two adjacent waterfront homes and tearing them down to build a larger home. 60 years ago, you could buy a home in town for $4,000 and one on the water for $7,000.
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