By Cindy Jo Ayers
If you have been stopped in traffic at the traffic light in Trenton or if you have tried to back out of Akins BBQ in Bell, you have had to wait because of traffic passing through. The amount of traffic on US 129 has increased greatly in the past few years.
The cause of increased traffic is increased growth in the Tri-County area.
To find out more about this growth, local realtor Brad Smith of United Country Realty in Trenton was asked about his company’s success in the past few years. Smith said, last week, that the real estate market began to recover in 2015, it has been on a gradual gain since then. He reported that when covid first hit, there was a couple of slow months. Smith said, “After the first few months of covid the home and property sales have grown exponentially.” In 2020 his company sold over 650 units.
Smith went on to say that so far this year they were on track to top last years sales. Smith’s company is a franchise of United Country Realty and of the 600 real estate companies that are a part of United Country Realty his company sits in first place with their sales, so far this year.
It seems that people who are moving here are desiring to live the rural lifestyle that has always been here in Gilchrist and the Tri-County area.
Smith said, when he talks to new people buying a home or property in this area he encourages them to help us keep the country lifestyle that local people have always enjoyed. While people move here because of the atmosphere and environment, they also put a great value in good schools, low crime, and the friendly people who have lived here for generations.
Several people who listed their homes with Smith have told him they are selling now because the prices are high at this time. Smith said, he has listed several homes recently for twice what the property appraiser has them appraised at.
It seems that the Covid Pandemic has made people value country living once again and some remember what their area in south or central Florida once was, years ago. They buy here hoping to return to the days of old Florida.
If you look at the number of building permits issued in Gilchrist County last year the growth is evident. Tara Howell of The Gilchrist County Building Department searched the records and found in the year 2009, 562 building permits were issued from the county. In 2020 the Building Department issued 1,007 building permits, and in 2021 from January 1 until July 24, the county has issued 748 building permits, which means 2021 may very well exceed the record growth of 2020.
Natalie Rankin, who is the owner of Hometown Realty of North Florida in Bell, reported that 2020 was her best year since she opened her business in 2005. Rankin agreed that it looked like 2021 might actually turn out to be better than last year. Rankin said, “It’s unbelievable how busy we are.” It seems people are looking for the rural lifestyle and some are just buying vacant land so they will have the land here to build a home on later.
Rankin said, recently she has talked to people from Minnesota and another couple from Washington State hoping to move here because of the schools and the area’s conservative viewpoints. She is also working with a buyer who is from rural New York, who told her the State Government in New York has made it very difficult to own your on business, even in the rural parts of the state, due to their burdensome rules and regulations. That buyer told her, he loves Florida’s governor and this area’s conservative viewpoints.
She feels many people are attracted to this area, not only because of the rural lifestyle, but also for our like mindedness in their values, and the conservative political climate here. Rankin said, she sees a trend that people, from as far away as Colorado, are migrating to the area because of the political climate in Florida.
A local title company owner stated that in the first six months of 2018 and 2019 his company did well with transactions. In 2020 it was a record year for them with 470 transactions in the first six months. In the first six months of 2021 he has tracked closings, and as of the end of June they have had 582 transactions. So, 2021 is on trend to be another record year. At this time they are up 41% over 2018/2019 in property transactions. The local closing agent said, it has been amazing and he feels that a lot of people’s lifestyle has changed since Covid.
A gentleman who has been in the mobile home industry for the past 20 years, and now works out of a mobile home company in Chiefland, reported that 85% of their sales are paid for without financing (aka cash sales) and he reported that 2021 is the best year he has ever seen for mobile home sales. His company has received a lot of business from Alachua County people wanting to move out to this rural area.
We have what everyone wants here, country land and homes, good schools, low crime and conservative lifestyles, which all play an important part in the growth we are experiencing.
Gilchrist County Property Appraiser, Damon Leggett said, he understands that life-long Gilchrist County residents are concerned about the price land is selling for in the county now. Leggett said, homestead property in Florida assessed value can only go up to 1.4% in 2021’s tax roll. Leggett explained, “because it is based on CPI (Consumer Price Index). Property that is not homesteaded cannot be assessed over 10% in a year, no matter what the property next door sold for.”
Leggett said, that agriculture property value is based on what ag property is being rented for and timber property is based on things like stumpage and soil types. He also said, “property owners should remember that even though property values climb in a time like this, they also can go down, like they did ten years ago.” He reported that the values doubled from 2005 to 2009, but then went all the way back down to where they were, to start with. We also have the Save Our Homes Act which protects homeowners with homestead exemption so the assessed value does not increase more than 3% in a year no matter what the CPI is at the time.
The 2021 tax roll has been finalized, and has seen a 1,565,500 million dollar increase over last year’s tax roll. The current certified tax roll is 1,866,000,000 billion dollars. Leggett said, “there has been a lot of new construction added to the tax roll last year, in fact $31,500,000 of new construction has been added to the tax roll.” Leggett said, “most of the new construction was homes.” He reported that he has been surprised by the amounts some of the homes and properties have been selling for in Gilchrist County.
But, then who is to say if a willing seller and a willing buyer agrees on the price, is that not the market value?
The County Commissioners, the Town of Bell, City of Fanning Springs, and the City of Trenton, along with the School Board and the Suwannee River Water Management District have the last say in what people here will pay in taxes when they set their Millage rates.
The millage rate is a tax rate whose value is based on the market value of a property and is used for calculating local property taxes.
So, it looks like Florida, the Tri-County area, and Gilchrist has what in-state and out-of-state buyers are looking for, and they are moving here at a rapid pace.
Growth in Gilchrist
By Cindy Jo Ayers