Florida: Nearly 20% of Homes are Vacant

I just got back from a spring break vacation, which included a few days in Florida (and the prerequisite stop to see Mickey & friends).  So it caught my eye when I read a report at CNN Money that nearly 20% of Florida homes are vacant.

1.6 million homes are vacant

The Census Bureau revealed last week that 1.6 million homes there are sitting vacant, an increase of more than 63% in 10 years. I fully realize that Florida’s housing market was hit hard by the recession, but nearly 1 in 5 homes empty? Astonishing. With so many homes on the market, it would appear it’s going to be a while before prices recover. In fact, economist Richard DeKaser told CNN Money, “It’ll take about eight years just to put the vacancy numbers back into the single digits.”

Good news for future retirees

That’s depressing news if you own a home in Florida and you want to leave. Much better news if you may want to retire there someday and you’re looking to buy. The latter better describes my situation. Not that I’m going to retire tomorrow (not with three boys and nearly ten more years of college to pay for). But someday. Hopefully.

I know Florida isn’t paradise for everyone. It can be hot, overcrowded, and traffic can be a nightmare. Sounds like another favorite retirement spot where I used to live… Vegas. But there’s got to be a reason why so many people choose Florida to spend their golden years. I can think of two reasons: weather and water. That photo to the right from another one of my Sunshine State vacations pretty well sums it up. My boys and their friends can’t find this in Oklahoma.

“Best decision I ever made”

I met one retiree who moved from New York six years ago. “Best decision I ever made,” he told me. When his friends back in Brooklyn call and complain about shoveling snow, he complains right back at them. “I don’t think I could help you shoveling right now,” he tells them. “I’m a little sunburnt.” The value of his home has taken a real beating, but as he puts it: “I don’t care, I’m not going anywhere.”

Prices “near the bottom” next year

I’ll add a third reason Florida is attractive to retirees. Now more than ever. Homes are cheap, especially compared to California, another place I’d like to spend my years in the rocking chair. There’s a quote in the CNN Money story that really grabbed my attention. Housing market analyst Ingo Winzer says, “If you’re buying in Florida for retirement, maybe you buy next year when prices will be near the bottom. If you’re buying for investment — don’t.”

Anyone for a game of bocce ball?

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