FORECAST: West/Southwest Orange County real estate 2020
With its myriad lifestyle options and price points, the West Orange real-estate market should remain strong in 2020.
| 4:08 p.m. January 9, 2020
West Orange Times & Observer
Local Realtors and experts agree West Orange County will continue to be a hot real estate market through 2020.
With lower interest rates and the desirability of the West Orange area remaining high, Reese Stewart, 2020 president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, said the market still will be abuzz.
“West Orange County is probably one of the hottest areas in Central Florida,” Stewart said. “The reason for that is the features in proximity, like the major appointment hubs, the shopping and dining areas. There’s also a mix of homes — anywhere from luxury homes to affordable homes, and all the construction going on is adding to the overall inventory. That’s what we see is going on there in West Orange County.”
There’s still activity all throughout the area — from Winter Garden and Ocoee to Windermere and Dr. Phillips. West Orange is facing lower inventory, but that’s because of the extreme desirability of the area, Stewart said.
“What we’re going to anticipate out there is the high demand for homes in the West Orange area,” he said. “It’s going to drive lower-price homes up in value ....”
Many ZIP codes also did see a drop in sales from 2018 to 2019, according to statistics from the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.
Between the months of January and October, Winter Garden saw sales drop from 1,298 in 2018 to 1,124 in 2019. Windermere saw a similar drop during the same timeframes — from 849 to 786.
One of Central Florida’s best-kept secrets doesn’t seem to be a secret anymore. Realtors agree Winter Garden is one of the top places to work, live and play.
“It’s going to continue to stay very hot — the two big areas obviously in the Central Florida area are Lake Nona and the Winter Garden area,” said Mark Hide, of Winter Garden-based Clock Tower Realty. “It’s still a hot market.”
Hide said the numbers tell the story — as of Thursday, Jan. 2, 372 homes were for sale in Winter Garden and the previous 30 days saw 162 homes sold. That equates to Winter Garden having a 2.3-month supply of homes, meaning the homes are selling faster than a typical market, Hide said.
“A normal market is about a six-month supply of homes — obviously we’re in a hot market,” he said. “I think things will continue. We’ve got a lot of construction here, and the downtown area is very vibrant. You’re starting to see people not only buy existing older properties that are selling high but people actually buying those, knocking them down and starting to put newer homes on those just to be close to downtown.”
Inventory remains stable year to year, but homes are selling quickly, Hide said. The average time for a home on the market is about 50 days.
“That sort of averages people maybe not being so realistic (with price) to people who are realistic and will sell homes in one to two days,” Hide said. “What’s happening is Winter Garden is getting very desirable — it’s no longer a clear second choice to Windermere. It’s definitely holding its own now. People like the vibrancy of the downtown and everything that’s going on. There will be people that say, ‘I’d rather live in Winter Garden now,’ whereas 10 years ago that wouldn’t be the case. It would be, ‘Oh yeah, we want to be in Windermere.’”
But what has caused Winter Garden to become so popular?
“The city’s done a great job as far as how they’ve planned and how they’ve developed downtown,” Hide said. “Most of the shops and restaurants are sort of boutique-y — they haven’t gone very commercial. It’s got that old-town feel. … I’ve worked with people all over the (United) States (who) have heard of Winter Garden. I live in Winter Garden, and I just think it’s a great investment, a great place to be — you’ve got the best of all worlds, really. The downtown area is fantastic. It’s got a great local feel. You’ve got Fowler Groves if you want the mall, and you’ve got Horizon West, which is just exploding. You’re close to Disney. You’ve got a lot of major highways around, so the traffic really isn’t an issue at the moment. … It’s by far the best location here in Central Florida.”
Tracey Forrester, of Xcellence Realty, said there’s something for everyone in Horizon West — an area that will continue to see a hot market in 2020.
“Horizon West is going to continue to be a hotbed for people wanting to move into the area, whether they’re coming in from out of town or even local surrounding areas,” Forrester said. “It just offers so much. The rental market is hot, with all the apartment complexes going (in) because they have amenities that are incredible.”
There’s a broad range of homes in the area for buyers — from townhomes in the mid- to high-$200,000 to $300,000 range all the way to single-family homes between $300,000 and $1 million.
“Townhouses are definitely on the rise — a lot of builders are building townhomes, which might actually help with the affordability factor in this area because a single-family home for a first-time homebuyer might not be in a lot of people’s budget,” Forrester said. “But they can still be in the area and own a home by capitalizing on the townhomes.”
Of course, Disney is a huge draw to the area, but so are the schools, Forrester said.
“Even though we’re overcrowded right now, people still want to be in the area because the school system is so highly rated,” she said. “That’s why they’re pushing up the (relief) high school to 2021, because of the growth. People just want to be in the area.”
Access to the nearby highways also is a nice perk, Forrester said. Another toll road is in the works between U.S. 27 and State Road 429 between Clermont and Southwest Orange County.
“Not having to get onto I-4 and still get to where you’re going is definitely an appeal that people are loving about the area as well,” she said.
Inventory is tight at the moment — the lowest it has been in some time.
“In 2020, we’re going to continue to struggle with inventory,” she said. “The builders are building — it just doesn’t seem fast enough for the amount of people that are wanting to move into the area. … The timeframe to build a home just seems to be increasing from a four-month timeframe to a six- to eight-month timeframe.”
Prices should increase slightly in 2020 but remain realistic for potential buyers, Forrester said.
“Home values aren’t going to go up super high — even though we’re in a low inventory, because we don’t want to have another bubble — appraisers are keeping them at value,” she said.
The town of Windermere should still boast a hot market in 2020 as well, Hide said.
“There’s really not so much new construction in Windermere — a few pocket new communities — but a lot of the homes in Windermere are predominantly higher price,” he said.
Statistically, Hide said there were 284 homes on the Windermere market as of Monday, Jan. 6, and 66 sold in the month of December, translating to a 4.3-month supply, Hide said.
“It’s not selling as quick, but I think that’s really because of the price point,” Hide said. “If you look at homes that are over $500,000 out of those 284, 207 are over $500,000. The higher you get in the price point on a home, the longer it’s taking to go on the market, hence they are taking a little bit longer to sell. If you’ve got a four-month supply of homes, that’s less than the six-month (supply) — or what would be deemed to be a normal market. It’s still a good market.
“Back when we had the (Great Recession), we were having a year-plus (supply) of homes,” he said. “They were selling at such a slow rate — it would take you a year to sell everything.”
Hide said the feel of Windermere — with its cozy, gated communities and nature — still has a strong appeal to many buyers looking in a higher price point.
“Windermere has always had that prestigious (feel) with the downtown and the older homes there and the lakes,” Hide said.