Bubble talk is all hot air
Local Real Estate Market Is Heating Back Up

By Amanda Finch Broadfoot

Since the highly publicized 2005 hurricane season, the news media have been full of reports of the “bubble bursting” in the real-estate market. Don’t believe everything you read, say local experts, because it may not tell the whole story.

Certainly, bad weather has had an effect on the market. The University of West Florida’s Haas Center released a report in April of 2006 with the following statistics:

• Home resales were down in all five counties in Northwest Florida in the fourth quarter of 2005 over the year before.

• Walton County experienced the largest drop in the region at over 60 percent.

However, new home sales generally were up across the region, according to the report:

• Okaloosa County saw an increase of more than  57 percent in new-home sales.

• Walton County had an increase of more than 10 percent in the same period.

“We saw an anomaly, from October 2003 to about October 2004 – right up until Ivan hit,” said Richard Eimers of the real-estate firm The Eimers Group. “We had unbelievable growth.”

However, Eimers added, that growth was caused in large part by the “discovery” of the Emerald Coast market.

“It was an undervalued market,” he said. “It was artificially low.”

Many home buyers experienced 40-percent to 60-percent appreciation in their homes at that time, Eimers said. However, soon “we’ll be back on a more reliable appreciation,” he predicted. “It’s going to fall back down to 12 percent, rather than 40 percent.” Nevertheless, that’s still a very good investment, he pointed out.

Based on the Haas Center’s late-April economic projections, we can expect the market to heat up along with the temperatures throughout 2006, with an expected seasonal slowdown in the winter months.

“There’s a lot of substance in this market,” said Eimers.