Wouldn’t it be nice if you had special glasses that allowed you to see the future? It sure would make investing in real estate easier. Unless you know something I don’t, predicting the future comes down to three things: knowing past trends, matching them up with current realities, and then applying your gut instinct that comes from experience in the market to that information. When armed like this, you have a better than fighting chance to win – and win big – with real estate here at the beach. I like to think of myself as your real estate coach using these newsletters to give you usable insight into past trends, current market conditions, and analysis that comes from my almost 20 years of buying, selling and owning real estate here at the beach. With this in mind, let’s break them down.

Trends – When are the most buyers in the market?

Knowing when the most buyers are in the market is always advantageous, whether you are buying or selling. Why? Well, it tells you the level of demand for your class of property. A lot of demand generally means you can capture a higher price in a hot market or, at the very least, a sale in a cool market. If you are a buyer in a high-demand market, you know that your offer better be good right off the bat, and you have less room to wheel and deal. If you know demand is lower, perhaps you can leverage that knowledge to take a more cautious approach with offers. However, be careful though because all real estate is local, meaning even though the market as a whole might be hot or cool, specific neighborhoods or buildings will have their micro markets. You will be well-served to know your specific market. Reach out to us for your specific market. Alright, let’s look at our main markets:

Destin Area Condos

We went back ten years looking at how many sales there were per month to see if there was a trend that would show us a “Selling Season” where noticeably more sales happened in certain months than in others. As you can see, there is.

In the Destin condo market, March marks the start of the selling season, with the average number of sales jumping by more than 400 units from February to March. The number of transactions stays high through June, before dropping by more than 150 units in July. After that, sales continue to decline, with the exception of a small increase in December, until March rolls around again.

The takeaway? The peak selling season for Destin condos is in the spring and early summer. However, it’s important to note that there are sales every month – even in January, the slowest month, there are still over 950 sales on average. So, if you want to sell or buy at any time throughout the year, there are buyers and sellers to be found.

Destin Area Homes  

We analyzed sales data from the past ten years to identify any trends that could indicate a selling season for Destin Area homes. Our findings show that the high selling months, or “Selling Season,” are typically June, July, and August. This trend is consistent with the end of the school year in May, which historically marks the beginning of the summer selling season. Sales tend to rise by 80 homes from May to June, as kids get out of school. Transactions remain high throughout the summer and then drop by 116 in September when kids return to school.

We also observed a noticeable spike in sales in March, which we believe is due to investors buying homes in our “beach” neighborhoods before the high spring break season begins.

The key takeaway for sellers of Destin homes is that the opportunity for a successful sale is highest in June, July, and August, and then drops off afterward. However, it’s important to note that all real estate is local, so it’s best to seek specific advice and insight on your neighborhood.

30A Condos

We have gone back ten years to analyze if there is a trend indicating a selling season for 30A Condos, and it appears that there is – sort of.

It’s worth noting that 30A is different from the Destin and Panama City Beach markets due to its smaller number of condos. This means that outliers can have a larger influence on trends, but there are still patterns to analyze and learn from.

Upon examining the graph, we see that March, June, September, and even December stand out as spikes followed by two months of decline. It is my belief that these spikes occur because buyers come to town for spring break, summer vacation, purchase in the fall as the number of sellers increase, and at the end of the year for tax purposes.

What does this mean for buyers and sellers? It means that timing can work to your advantage. If you’re looking to sell or buy a condo, consider taking these spikes into account.

30A Homes

Looking at the number of 30A homes sold per month over the last ten years, it’s apparent that March through August are consistently high, indicating that the spring and summer seasons are when more people are in town and buying real estate. As kids go back to school in September, transactions trend down. However, there is a familiar spike in December as folks are looking to buy before the end of the year.

The takeaway is that the selling season for 30A homes is relatively forgiving, especially from March through August. It’s important to keep in mind that all real estate is local, and you will need to obtain specific advice and insights for your neighborhood.

Panama City Beach Condos

Looking back over the last ten years, we can see that sales of Panama City Beach condos are similar to those of Destin condos. Both peak in the spring and early summer before gradually declining towards the end of the year.

The takeaway? The selling season for Panama City Beach condos is typically from March through June, so if you’re planning to sell your condo this year, now is the ideal time to do so. However, keep in mind that real estate is always local, and it’s important to seek specific advice and insight about your neighborhood.

Panama City Beach Homes

Looking at the number of Panama City Beach home sales over the last ten years, we can see a clear trend. Sales typically start to jump in the spring and remain high through July, before beginning a steady decline in August. This trend continues until December, when we see a year-end spike in sales, followed by a drop-off in January and February.

The takeaway? The selling season for Panama City Beach homes is from March to July. If you’re looking to sell your home this year, now is the time to do so. Remember, all real estate is local and it’s important to get specific advice and insight on your neighborhood.

Current Market Realities

To determine where prices for real estate are headed you simply have to look at three numbers: 

  • The Price of Everything (Inflation)
  • The Price of Money (Mortgage Rates)
  • Unemployment (Income)

The value of real estate will go up if these fundamental ingredients are present. If they are not… things get dicey and almost certainly… prices for real estate will come down.  Why? Economics tells us people just can’t afford it.  It’s that simple.  

Inflation

Inflation is currently at very high, resulting in increased costs for goods and services. As a result, many people may have less to spend on things like vacation properties or beach vacations.

When can we expect inflation to come down? Inflation occurs when the supply of money exceeds the supply of goods and services. One solution is to increase the price of goods and services until people start buying less, which would force companies to lower prices, bringing costs down. To increase prices, the cost of borrowing money is raised. Mortgage rates, credit card rates, and bank loan rates to companies have all seen significant increases in the past year, as the Federal Reserve has increased the federal funds rate (the rate at which the Fed lends money to banks to lend to people and companies).

The Federal Reserve’s goal is to maintain a 2% inflation rate based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Currently, inflation is around 6.48%, so there is still a long way to go. Expect further rate increases and higher borrowing costs in the future.

 

This second graph shows how inflation has shown up over the years and where the Fed intends for it to go in the coming years. If this holds up, look for inflation to come under control and possible relief for mortgage rates in 2024 or perhaps 2025. Remember, the Fed’s target is a CPI rate (Consumer Price Index) rate of 2%. Look for more increases and higher cost of money. 

Mortgage Rates 

Mortgage rates have a significant impact on real estate prices and affordability. Consider this example: a $500K loan at 4% equates to a monthly payment of $2,387, while at 6.5% it jumps to $3,160 – a $773 per month increase. This means that someone who bought at today’s rates needs to collect an additional $773 in rent every month compared to someone who bought at a lower rate. For property owners competing for fewer renters, this creates a massive price disadvantage (or advantage, depending on where you stand). Alternatively, it could be an extra $773 that a homeowner cannot spend on other things such as vacations, travel, or renting places at the beach.

As shown by this graph, mortgage rates have spiked in the last year, putting a lot of pressure on people who bought properties in the last 12 to 24 months. In addition to paying a high purchase price for the property, they also have a high mortgage rate.

Mortgage Rates Over The Years: The last decade has been very favorable for mortgage rates and looking back over time it would be logical to expect future rates to fall into the 4% to 6% range.  Higher than the 2% to 4 % range we enjoyed during the covid era but certainly not horrible. 

Unemployment 

The third big piece of the puzzle is unemployment because if people feel secure that they will have enough income to continue spending on things beyond the essentials: food and shelter.  If folks lose their jobs or don’t feel secure then they pull back or stop buying stuff and that will impact our prices for real estate here at the beach because they will stop buying vacation homes and rental condos, or they will stop coming to the beach and renting our vacation rentals.

Looking at the graph we can see that unemployment is hold up pretty good.  There has been a small uptick lately and we are hearing about a number of companies implementing layoffs, especially in the tech sector so we will continue to watch that.  Here’s the problem…

The Fed.  Remember, to get inflation down the Fed has been (and will likely continue) raising the federal funds rate to make borrowing money more expensive in an effort to get people to stop spending.  The upside of that is prices come down. The downside is businesses make less money and when they make less money they cut costs.  Often the easiest cost to cut is employees.  When businesses start cutting employees inflation goes up and the economy starts to get shaky.  This is a fine line that the Fed is going to have to walk and one we will watch closely.

Unemployment over the years

Looking at unemployment over the years it’s interesting to see how the spikes coincide with drops in real estate values.  Look at 2009 and 2010 when unemployment jumped we saw prices here at the beach crater with it.  This is why we have to pay very close attention to it.

 

Why Haven’t Prices Dropped?

Great question.  I believe it’s because we are experiencing a lag in the reaction.  Because rents have been so strong for the last few years and property values have appreciated so much, I believe owners feel that the market is still on solid footing and as such are unwilling to come off their prices. 

Will this hold?  Probably not. Why?  Because of simple economics, when the cost of money went up we saw the number of buyers fall off dramatically – the number of sales dropped like a rock. Look at Destin Area condos as an example.  Note: Other areas and houses all saw similar results.     

Will prices drop? 

Probably.  I don’t think it’s because people will stop wanting a place at the beach –  far from it.  I do think that the numbers will stop working.  Meaning, folks can’t afford the monthly mortgage payment if they are going to live in a property here at the beach or the rental income does not meet the requirement to take on the risk for investors. It’s simple math.  But.. but… I also believe that any downturn will be short lived.  We will look at why next month. 

What to do? What to do?   

It depends on who you are… if you are a buy and holder (at least five years and probably longer right now) find a property that achieves your goal for owning and go get the best deal you can get knowing that over time you will likely win… and win big.

If you are an owner that plans to own for a long time (at least five years and probably longer right now) then sit back and ride this market out knowing that over time you will likely win… and win big.

If you a are a short time holder (five to seven years) our advice is to sell now and mitigate the risk of steep price drops.  Note: Most indicators are pointing to price drops as some point… probably soon.

If you are buying to flip and grab quick cash… be very careful.

Bottom Line

We are wealth builders, so our goal (whether you are buying or selling) is to build or protect your wealth – based on your financial goals and the current market conditions. Call us today and lets talk about how you can max out your position as a buyer, a seller or as an owner to continue building your family’s wealth well into the future.

Committed to your success, 

John Moran – CEO

The Smart Beach Investor | Keller Williams Realty AT THE BEACH TEAM 

Keller Williams Realty – For Your Place at the Beach

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