If suddenly you feel like you see a new home being built every time you turn around in Gulf County, you’re not crazy.
According to numbers provided by the Gulf County Building Department, 60 single family home building permits have been issued so far this year with a $16.5 million valuation, up from last year’s 38 total permits totaling $9.5 million.
“There’s a marked increase in permits, and it’s going to keep going,” said Steve Newman, managing member of Big Fish Construction. “One of the reasons is the pin-up demand and every aspect of building a home is cheaper now.”
Natalie Shoaf, a realtor with the Gulf the Coast Real Estate Group agreed.
“It’s up,” she said. “It’s easier to get lot loans. Some local banks are doing them and it makes life a lot easier.”
Shoaf said that so far in 2013, lot sales were currently at 214 sold, up from last year’s 203 with an average price tag of $61,000-$78,000 for Gulf County.
“St. Joe Beach is up and we’re selling more in WindMark,” said Shoaf.
Shoaf reported that the highest lot price this year checked in at $1.8 million.
According to numbers provided by Shoaf, lots in St. Joe Beach, Mexico Beach and Beacon Hill were up in number of sales but down in average price for the area with 59 sold between the three areas and an average price of $63,000.
This is an increase from last year’s 47 lots, but a lower price tag than the $68,000 average in 2012.
In Cape San Blas, South Gulf County and Indian Pass there was a slight decrease in the number of lots sales but prices have risen and 2013 saw 112 sales between the three areas with an average price of $111,000.
In 2012 the area had 115 sales and the average price was on the low side with $73,000.
Shoaf reported a decline in both lot sales and prices within Port St. Joe, falling from 26 to 14 this year and the average price sank from $27,000 to $17,000.
Wewahitchka was up in sales and price, the 2013 total showing 29 sales with an average price of $14,000, up from last year’s 15 lot sales and $13,000 average.
Gulf County wasn’t hit only by the economic downturn of 2008 but also by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Bo Spring, managing member of Big Fish Construction and president of the Forgotten Coast Builders Association said that the 18 months following the oil spill were full of uncertainty and the number of local construction companies had dwindled down to five.
Spring said that things are beginning to climb again and said that in addition to Big Fish, there are now 8-9 companies serving Gulf and Franklin counties.
Zach Childs at 98 Real Estate Group concurred with the growth in sales, and said that home purchases in the area have started moving into the recovery phase as well.
“In general, the closer a property is to white sand, the more of a recovery in value it is seeing,” said Childs. “The number of single family homes on the market has seen the biggest reduction and most demand.
“This has been great for builders as many people looking for homes in the area find they can build a brand new home for less than an existing one in some situations.”
Childs reported 453 home sales so far in 2013 and is on track to have the most closings of any year since 2005. He said that markets like North Gulf County have yet to see much of a rebound but a high sales volume will drive the number of properties on the market down and value up.
“Now is the time to buy a lot and build your beach house,” said Newman.
He added that raw material and lumber costs are down, but fluctuate with the market, making for an ideal time to begin construction.
Of the projects completed in 2013 by Big Fish, 100 percent of buyers were also end users who planned to live in the home for at least several months out of the year. Newman said that 100 percent of homes were also within walking distance of the water.
“People go to Destin and Panama City and in the end they want that old Forgotten Coast style of living,” said Spring. “This is the Florida vacation they remember from their childhood.”
Newman and Spring both gave praise the Gulf County Tourist Development Council for their work in rebranding the area and helping to bring in tourists who ultimately decide to settle down in Gulf County.
“Our economy is driven by tourism and construction,” said Newman. “The TDC is doing a great job and what they’re pushing fits in with what we do.”