From real estate development to agriculture, land in Florida continued to fuel record-breaking prices in 2022, according to the Lay of the Land 2022 Market Report. The report also highlights a drop in land transactions as interest rates kept rising.
Issued by SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler at the annual Lay of the Land Conference, the report analyzes transaction volume in the residential market, ranch, and recreational land, farm and nurseries, citrus, timberland, and transitional land. The findings are a good reflection of the real estate market as the US and Florida continue to recover from the economic policies enacted during the pandemic and indicate where the market is headed in 2023.
“From nearly $5 trillion pumped into the economy to combat the effects of the pandemic to rising interest rates, it’s no surprise that we saw fewer transactions last year and possibly into this year as the Fed attempts to combat inflation and rumors of a recession continue to swirl,” said Dean Saunders, co-founder of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler. “With an average of 1,142 people a day moving to Florida, the state’s real estate market is well-positioned and will continue to see substantial growth, making it an attractive investment if there’s an economic downturn.”
The report points out that power companies’ solar farm purchases and Florida’s investment in conservation acquisitions are having an influence on the demand for land. The decreasing cost of solar panels is just one of several reasons for the rising interest in solar farms. According to the report, 28,640 gross acres of transitional sales were for solar-powered development in Florida, representing an 83 percent increase from 2021.
Demand for conservation land has increased over the last two years with the Florida Legislature making investments of $700 million into Florida’s conservation programs, such as Florida Forever, Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, and the Wildlife Corridor. In 2022, there were over 100 transactions for conservation with purchases in fee-simple acquisitions and conservation easements. 22 of those were conservation easement sales totaling 24,867 acres for approximately $47.5 million. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 902,011 acres of land with approximately $3.3 billion.
“Consistent funding has been one of the biggest challenges facing conservation efforts,” said Saunders, who spearheaded the creation of the conservation easement program when he served in the State Legislature. “We have been fortunate that the Governor and State Legislators have made conservation a top priority and are making a significant investment to balance conservation and development so we can protect our local waterways and drinking water sources and critical wildlife habitats while accommodating new development.”
The report also highlights the real estate market on Florida’s Treasure Coast, growth in the value of farm and timberland assets in South Georgia, as well as land transactions in the Everglades Agricultural Area and Miami-Dade County’s Homestead Area Farms.
Some of the report’s key findings include:
Ranch & Recreational Land
- The 2022 volume of sales containing over 500 acres was significantly less than it was in 2021. However, the volume of sales exceeding 1,000 acres experienced a significant increase compared to 2021.
- The Pandemic drove the demand for people escaping city life and now the market is starting to normalize and prices stabilizing in 2023.
Residential Lots & Land
- Residential land and finished lot prices in Central Florida were up compared to 2021, but it varies by county and overall volume eased down.
- Demand for housing is still ahead of supply, but changing interest rates, inflation and supply chain disruption have slowed residential developers and builders down some. The need to develop communities will not subside anytime soon.
Farmland & Nurseries
- The report tracks 61 transactions across 27 different Florida counties. Most of these farms consisted of fruit and vegetable production, irrigated farmland and sod farms. Sales, interest and activity remained extremely strong in 2022.
- In 2021, farms averaged $14,146 per acre and in 2022 averaged $12,616 per acre. However, sales volume increased significantly, and the report found more transactions as a whole in 2022 compared to 2021. Large agricultural tracts are continuing to be placed on the market in 2023.
- Citrus groves continue to make up a significant portion of Florida’s agricultural real estate sales as they have become extremely attractive for residential and commercial development.
- Compared to 2021, 2022’s average sale price per acre was approximately 19 percent higher.
- The price range and average sales price for timberland were considerably higher in 2022 compared to 2021. This is in large part due to 1031 investors and investors diversifying away from the stock market.
- Most buyers were from Central and South Florida, but investors also came from other parts of the US and internationally. Overall, Florida continues to be a desirable place to invest in timberland markets.