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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019 3 months ago

Winter Park real-estate market still going strong heading into 2019

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Demand is greater than ever for homes in Winter Park, Orange County’s crown jewel.
by: Tim Freed Associate Editor

Winter Park continues to see its niche market thrive, according to experts and local real-estate agents — even if it isn’t thriving as much as last year. Numbers from the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association show sales were slightly down in 2018 compared to 2017. The Orange County market is down about 3% from a year ago, and communities such as Winter Park and Maitland have followed that trend. Sales in the 32789 ZIP code from January to November in 2018 decreased by 66 sales compared to 2017. The market in 32792 saw a decrease of eight sales, while 32751 saw seven fewer sales.

But the market still remains healthy, and it’s not a bad sign to see things slow down slightly, 2019 Association President and Watson Realty Corp. Regional Vice President Jeffrey Fagan said.

“Everything’s in context — if you look at the growth that occurred in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in price and units being sold, we necessarily have to slow down a little bit,” Fagan said. “A thriving recovery is one that’s more balanced as opposed to something skyrocketing. If something skyrockets too fast or too long, it suppresses the total long-range growth. I, for one, was relieved to see the market cool off slightly and go with more of a balanced market as opposed to a strong sellers market.”

Mortgage rates increasing is also normal to see, especially considering they were artificially suppressed by the government, Fagan said.

“For the past decade, we’ve had very, very low mortgage rates,” he said. “Ultimately, mortgage rates and interest rates need to return back to some sense of normalcy, which is what you’ve been seeing throughout 2018 and you’re going to likely continue to see in 2019. That’s a necessary thing that has to happen.”

Looking ahead to 2019, Fagan said Orlando proper — the whole metro area including Winter Park and Maitland — likely will see sales drop a little bit more. The success of 2018 still could carry over to at least the first half of 2019 though, he said.

“Prices will continue to be pressured upward, because we don’t have a lot of inventory and new-home building will slowly increase, albeit the price point of the new home communities for the most part will be higher than I would like to see,” Fagan said. “I’d like to see some more affordable new-home communities coming in. I think interest rates are going to slowly move up, too.”

Lower inventory has in some cases pushed many Winter Park residents to renovate or expand their home instead of trying to buy a new place of residence, Fagan said.

“Once people get in Winter Park, they want to stay in Winter Park,” he said.

Regarding the homes throughout the city, Fagan said Winter Park has a varying price point: from affordable housing all the way to luxury properties.

“The higher-priced homes won’t see some of the appreciation going forward as some of the lower priced, because if something’s lower priced and it goes up a little bit as a percentage of its total price, it’s a bigger percentage increase,” Fagan said. “At the end of the day, Winter Park is a strong community, has been a strong community and will continue to be a strong community.”

Winter Park certainly belongs within the top 10 hottest markets in Orange County in terms of number of sales, despite the community’s smaller size, Fagan said.

“You do have strong demand, because it is such a nice community supported by very good schools and supported by a lot community activity and things to do,” Fagan said. “All of those things make it very appealing to home buyers. … It’s one of the premier destinations in Orange County.”

Winter Park real-estate agent Mick Night, of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, said Winter Park as a whole always will be in demand because of its unique character, charm, Park Avenue, brick streets and chain of lakes that sets it apart from the rest of Orange County. As Orlando continues to grow, that unique small-town market becomes even more valuable, he said.

“I think (the market) is really healthy — I feel like we’ve seen some stabilization in the market this year depending on the price point you’re in,” Night said. “We’ve been on a run since summer of 2012 — that’s when the market started noticeably turning back upward. We’ve been in that run ever since. (2017) was to me the biggest year in the history of my 31 years of the market being at a peak. This year has been more healthy than I anticipated, and it seems to still have a very good energy. I can’t see in the next six to 12 months that we’re going to see much of anything different short of some global event that affects everything.”

Winter Park isn’t so much a bubble but rather a micro-market thats landlocked and in very high demand, said Night’s partner, John Pinel.

No house stays on the market for long in a community such as Winter Park, Night said. That’s especially true with the luxury homes that are more than $1 million.

“You’re going to find that there are more transactions in 32789 north of $1 million than any other zip code, including Southwest Orlando, on an annual basis — and we’re far smaller,” Night said. “(Winter Park) to me is kind of the crown jewel. That only helps insulate Winter Park that much more as far as desirability.”

Tim Freed is an Associate Editor with the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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