Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Housing Market Charted Growth May Slow in 2000

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Housing Market Charted Growth May Slow in 2000

Article excerpt

Charles Clark remembers when living in the Baymeadows area was a lot different.

"Baymeadows used to be way out there ... you used to need a passport to go out there," Clark said jokingly yesterday at the First Coast Real Estate Outlook Conference & Expo. Now, Baymeadows is just one of the many busy areas in Jacksonville's booming housing market.

Clark, who tracks housing development activity on the First Coast, shared some of his research with a group of brokers at the conference, held at the University Center at the University of North Florida.

Overall, Clark left the brokers with a sense of cautious optimism.

"We are in a very healthy market," he said. "The economy is doing everything it can to support housing. Interest rate increases have not affected the housing market."

Clark predicted a moderate decline in housing starts this year, which would translate into about 500 fewer housing starts in 2000 compared to 1999.

"We have never been in these uncharted waters before," Clark said. Usually, he said, the economy would have experienced a downturn that would impact the housing market, but that has not happened since 1992.

The First Coast's housing market has a mixture of strengths, Clark said. New home sales have been strong, but most of the homes being built here are too expensive for first-time home buyers, he said.

"We are not really building for the first-time home-buying market," Clark said.

"Seventy percent of the area's population is being pushed out of the new-home market."

So first-time buyers are looking for existing homes that are more affordable.

"There is a huge demand for resale homes," Clark said. "In fact, last year there were a record number of resales because everybody cannot afford to buy a $150,000" home.

As part of his presentation, Clark gave a rundown of last year's new home sales in various areas of the First Coast.

The largest housing submarket is the Southside, which had 1,650 homes sold last year. …

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