Credit: Jacksonville Business Journal
When the three-story home nestled on a three-acre, high bluff spread spanning 190 feet on the St. Johns River and San Jose Boulevard West sold earlier this year, it represented more than the sale of a custom-built, Richard Skinner architected home.
Draped in live oaks outside and with “extraordinary” interior finishes in every room, its $7 million sale price became the highest sale price ever recorded in Jacksonville and the second-highest priced home sale ever in Duval County. “Rare to find a home of this caliber along the riverfront for sale,” wrote listing agent Anita Vining, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty and a top producer of waterfront properties along the St. John’s River and the Atlantic coastline.
“The quality and extraordinary finishes found throughout the entire home and property are unlike any home you will find currently on the market,” she wrote. “It would be very hard to replicate for the asking price.”
The influx of new residents, businesses and opportunity to Northeast Florida are driving record home sales and prices across the region. This is especially true in the luxury sector.
It shows no signs of abating. The current percentage of new construction home sales in Northeast Florida is 20.7%, with active listings up 19% and new to market listings up 4.8% (year to date), according to Northeast Florida Association of Realtors MLS.
What buyers seek in luxury amenities, beyond prime locations and extraordinary finishes, are lifestyle touches. Wellness features, such as home gyms and pickleball courts; proximity to the waterfront, culture, sports and the arts; and high-performing schools and world class healthcare found at Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health and MD Anderson, each help lure buyers, said Linda H. Sherrer, Founder and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty.
Florida also enjoys such enviable lures as a welcoming climate, a business-friendly regulatory environment, and no state personal income taxes, which is especially important to high networth buyers from high-tax markets like California and the Northeast.
The numbers are holding steady. Among the 84 people moving to Northeast Florida each day – it topped 100 daily during the height of the pandemic – are executives and families relocating here for business. Each new arrival tends to bring an entourage, said Ann King, President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty.
“With each head of a company that comes here, you have key executives who follow,” said King, noting that a fifth of the company’s local business is corporate relocations. “People find this a very good price point and a great opportunity to invest in local real estate.”
Both relocations and entrenched employers fuel the luxury market. Northeast Florida is home to 80 corporate headquarters, including four on the Fortune 500. European companies are planting their U.S. o£ces here, hoping to capitalize on the region’s attributes, King said. Those corporate-enticing amenities also include geographic convenience, such as an international airport, the seaport and access throughout the Southeast.
Luxury homes here for some are second homes in a highly desirable market that’s accessible to life and business, Sherrer said. Some used to sell their primary residences to make the move. Many now see the second home as a smart investment with a deep discount compared to other markets.
“To California, we look like such a bargain,” Sherrer said.
The market keeps growing. Unlike other land-starved regions around Florida, Northeast Florida has room for growth. Whether new growth, infill or waterfront teardowns, communities such as Atlantic Beach, Avondale, San Marco, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine, Green Cove Springs, and Nocatee, ranked as one of the best-selling master planned communities, give the region ample room for growth, especially at the luxury price points.
While recently high interest rates have some middle-market buyers concerned, luxury buyers aren’t bashful. Half of all deals of $1 million or more are all cash purchases, King said.
“Cash in luxury has been a driving force,” Sherrer said.
Between the lifestyle, climate, location and amenities, Northeast Florida is a “little sweet spot” for luxury buyers, Sherrer said. She expects the market will strengthen in the coming year.
Vining’s February sale on the St. Johns River might not hold its record-breaking status for long. She recently listed another home on the river, one with more acreage and water frontage. The asking price: $7.9 million. “An absolutely gorgeous home,” she enthused. Maybe even a deal.
“If you picked it up and put it on the oceanfront,” she said, “it’d easily be a $15 million property.”