High-end homes back in demand

High-end homes back in demand locally

This home at 8807 SW 31st Avenue in Haile Plantation sold for $1.63 million.

Million-dollar homes returned in 2013 as the market for high-end houses that fell harder than the overall market started its comeback.

Buyers closed on four homes of at least $1 million in Alachua County last year after no sales topped that mark in 2012, according to the Alachua County Property Appraiser’s Office.

A broader look at the luxury home market shows that sales of $600,000 or more dropped 81 percent from a high of 80 in 2006 — including 12 of $1 million or more — to 15 in 2012. By comparison, the overall market dropped 69 percent from its peak in 2005 to 2011.

And while the overall market started to turn around in 2012, the high-end market hit rock bottom that year before doubling in 2013 with 33 sales of $600,000 or more.

Realtor Ken Cornell, a senior vice president with Bosshardt Realty Services, said the earlier recovery at the lower end, where lending was less restrictive, has now opened up lending at the higher end, with a lot of buyers moving up in price.

Cornell handled a handful of sales of $500,000 or more last year and currently has two listings of about $800,000.

“As lending has started opening up again, banks are able to do these jumbo loans, so we’re seeing a lot more folks out buying homes over that $500,000 threshold,” he said.

Cornell said a couple of lenders are making loans to doctors with 100 percent financing.

Fifth Third Bank has tried to carve out a niche at the high end by offering loans tailored to physicians, including loans with zero down and no mortgage insurance, said Frank Soldano, area sales manager over Gainesville, Jacksonville and Orlando.