Bay County real estate still in recovery from Hurricane Michael

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — In 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed 60,000 home and displaced between 10,000 and 20,000 people. A little more than a year and a half later, people are still waiting to get back into their houses.

“We’re still trying to catch up from the homes that we lost,” Brian Hinton, Central Panhandle Association of Realtors president, said. “As a reason, I think we had a very strong marker with interest rates.”

Since then, Hinton says that the housing market itself has seen favorable numbers, with the strongest market being workforce housing. But, the lack of inventory of properties between $150,000 and $200,000 as a result of the hurricane is creating bidding wars.

“We still really don’t have the rooftops that we need,” Hinton said. “But people are finding a way to buy those properties.”

The coronavirus, surprisingly, has not had as big an effect on the market as expected, Hinton said, noting that interest is still high and deals are still closing. The social distancing and stay at home orders have made the process more efficient.

“A lot of our home owners want to restrict having crowds or having people through their home that they cannot control. So certainly showing have dropped,” Hinton said. “But we’ve gotten better smarter at what we’re doing. And give the buyers credit as well, they’re getting more efficient and better at shopping.”

But there has been a shift in the clientele interested in the area.

“I have had a lot more investors than just single people looking for a single property but they’re out there and they’re ready to go and lending restrictions have tightened up a bit but we’re still working through deals and getting them done,” Chris Jennings, realtor, said.

Jennings is also a short-term rental owner in Panama City Beach. One question often asked is why short-term rental owners affected by the short-term rental ban don’t change their operations to accommodate long-term residents.

“Most of these beachfront condos have huge mortgage payments and in addition to that, there’s a lot of added costs with that,” Jennings said. “Most of these building don’t include electric in their HOA fees and then they’re HOA fee is anywhere between $400 to $100 a month so it wouldn’t really be affordable for a beachfront condo owner to rent on a long term and it wouldn’t be affordable housing because when you add all those costs together it would be $2000 or $3000 a month, easily.”

Jennings owns a studio unit in the Fontainebleau, which he recently renovated for about $20,000. Although it is on the smaller side, he said, “I wouldn’t be interested in renting a place like this for less than $1,800 to $2,000.”

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