When Orlando native Garrett Fields set out to buy a home in his hometown last year, he quickly discovered his options were limited.
“First, it was the price point,” said financial planner Fields, 27. He saw that single-family homes in the city were out of his budget. “Most of the family homes I’ve been looking at have been pretty good at [$300,000 range]. “
While homebuyers all over central Florida battled through bidding wars, Fields settled on a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in College Park for $240,000.
In Orlando’s scorching housing market of the past two years, many buyers have stopped fighting for single-family homes and are switching to townhouses, condos and duplexes, according to a new study of residential real estate sales last year.
Although metro Orlando was one of the largest markets in the country, single-family homes accounted for 69.7% of all owner-occupied home purchases in 2021, According to a study from the home inspection software company, Inspection Support Network.
Nationally, single-family sales have trended downward, from 78% in 2019 to 75.9% last year.
The lack of single-family homes available for sale has helped push buyers into multi-family housing, says Tancy Soderstrom, president of the Orlando Regional Association of Realtors.
“Remember the frenzy we were in,” she said. “If a house ever came on the market, you’d think the open house was a block party. There would be 60 cars for one house.”
The supply of single-family homes has declined nationwide since the Great Recession of 2008. The collapse of the real estate market has left thousands of unsold homes, making developers wary of building more.
The popularity of single-family homes has spread through the roofs during the pandemic as big-city residents from across the country, who enjoy the freedom to work from home, opt for more space in less crowded areas, with Florida a particularly hot target.
In Orlando, the housing stock is at an all-time low with less than a month supply of homes for sale starting this past March, according to the Soderstrom Association. Experts say that six months of supply is necessary for a balanced market.
Adding to that crisis was the simultaneous rise of more millennials entering the market, Soderstrom notes. Millennials, the largest generation in American history, will account for 43% of homebuyers in 2021, according to a survey from National Association of Realtors.
“Millennials are really buying,” she said. They will buy one big family, but it depends on the lifestyle. Some want that apartment, some want the house.”
“A lot of young professionals prefer a country house or condo because the upkeep [involved with a standalone home] Soderstrom said.
A passionate camper, Fields says part of the reason he chose a country house over a condo was because it gave him outdoor space and a garage. “Every condo I’ve talked to, I couldn’t grill on the porch,” he said. “It just wasn’t for me.”
Abby Stassen, 36, purchased a condo south of downtown in February. Stassen, a Chicago native who says she usually prefers “freedom to rent,” decided to buy when skyrocketing rents began eating away at more of her income.
“It was cheaper to take out a mortgage than to rent,” she said.
Staying close to town was more important to her, says a writer at FullSail University, than the square footage you could have bought in a remote town.
“If I couldn’t live in it [a downtown neighborhood]I don’t even want to live in Florida.”
Fields says he enjoys being able to bike around Orlando and not have to ride in a car everywhere. He said, “If you want these amenities and you don’t want to live in Winter Garden, drive like here…you’ll pay for it.”
Stassen also did not want to deal with the upkeep of the house. “I don’t have a green thumb,” she said. “I don’t like lawns.”
Apartments and homes also carry an HOA fee. Fields said it costs about $300 a month.
Inventory has risen again over the past eight months to 2.6 months from supply, and house prices are beginning to moderate, according to the latest housing report from the Soderstrom Association.
Soderstrom says she believes single-family home sales will start to pick up once people find homes closer to the city center again.
“[Inventory] It’s still low, but it’s a lot higher than it was,” she said. “People who used to buy homes in Polk County… now they don’t have to.”