Buying a Home in Jacksonville, FL: 6 Things Buyers Should Know

Buying a Home in Jacksonville, FL: 6 Things Buyers Should Know

Posted on Aug 05, 2021

From beaches and walkable historic districts to a laid-back waterfront downtown area, Jacksonville has a lot to offer.

The Jacksonville, FL real estate market is fairly competitive right now, so it pays to know what you’re getting yourself into. Every city and state presents unique challenges for buying a home. Here’s what you need to know about buying a home in sunny Jacksonville. 

1. Is it a good time to buy a home in Jacksonville?

The real estate market is hot right now, so you might experience a lot of competition when you go to buy a home in Jacksonville. On the other hand, mortgage rates are at historic lows - which means that even if you pay more for a home upfront, you can ultimately save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your loan. This is especially important if you’re a first-time homeowner who’s putting down less than 20% at closing

“The market is kind of crazy. It’s been very, very hot this year - so hot that houses are turning over in 24 hours. It’s 'slowed down' to about 2 days now so if you like the home, don't wait,” local buyer agent Lee Krause advises Jacksonville home buyers. “If it's the top one on your list and it’s only missing a few small features or needs some remodeling or something, I would suggest you jump on it immediately. Buyers need to understand that if you drag your feet, you’re going to miss it.”

2. What should homebuyers know about Jacksonville, specifically?

In a city like Jacksonville, location is important. The average commute time for this city is 24.6 minutes - but if you live far from the city center, or don’t have easy access to important transportation arteries, you might find yourself spending a lot longer on the road. The I-95 and I-295 are the two most important routes, as they connect to nearly every road in the city.

“Jacksonville is the largest landmass city in the US. Everything is an hour from everything, it doesn't matter where you live - anything you have to do it’s going to take you 30, 45 minutes, maybe an hour to get there,” explains Krause. “We’re very spaced out - it doesn't seem like it when you're in your own little community,  but when you go to the beach or something, unless you live on the other side of the river, then you’re an hour from the beach.”

Map of Jacksonville

3. Do Jacksonville home buyers need to prepare for hurricane season?

Jacksonville doesn’t experience as many hurricane warnings as other parts of Florida do: the area has seen a single category-3 hurricane since tracking began over 150 years ago (whereas Northwest Florida has seen 14 hurricanes that were a category 3-5). However, both hurricanes and flooding remain potential realities of any Florida city. Flood insurance is vital for living in Florida and is something home buyers should plan on when budgeting for their home. It’s also important to keep this in mind as you look for homes for sale in Jacksonville - though living right near the water may be relaxing, the risk of flooding goes up.

“You need flood insurance in Jacksonville - we’ve got low-lying areas everywhere. If you're close to the beach, it can flood all the way back to about 8th street and it’s pretty severe when we have hurricanes,” advises Krause. “And sometimes with the rain, the wind, and the ocean coming in, it can drive the flooding further and further inland.”

Because weather damage, intense sun exposure, insect activity, and flooding are so common here, home inspections should never be skipped - the risk of there being a potential issue with the home due to past damage is just too great. 

4. When looking at homes for sale in Jacksonville, FL what should home buyers look out for?

According to Krause, one thing buyers (especially those coming from Northern states who aren’t as familiar with Florida’s taxing environment) should take a closer look at is appliances. They often wear out more quickly here, especially high-use items such as HVAC units.

“I tell my buyers that we need to check out the HVAC because it's very important to have air conditioning here,” notes Krause. “If it’s 10 years old or older, they’re going to be looking at a replacement relatively soon, and the average expense of a new HVAC system (outside unit and inside) is around $8,000-$10,000. Sometimes it’s a negotiating tool I use - if it’s 12 years old, what can we work out if they’re going to have to replace it soon for $10,000?”

Jacksonville additionally has the highest hard water levels in the state of Florida. While hard water is safe to drink, it creates mineral build-up in hot water heaters. For this reason, Krause advises being extra vigilant when checking the water heater.

“Check the faucets. Is there hot and cold water? The elements on the hot water heater can go bad quickly because we have heavy water. It corrodes the elements a little faster than normal,” she explains. “I like to find out when the elements were changed, as well as the age of the appliances. Buyers should be prepared that when the appliances are 12 years old, you’re looking at a replacement for all of them pretty soon.”


5. Is Jacksonville a good place to invest in real estate?

According to data from Redfin, Jacksonville’s real estate market is up 18.3% year over year, which is a healthy appreciation rate. Of course, the US is currently experiencing an incredibly strong seller’s market that may cool down eventually - but still, homes have seen a steady appreciation in this area over the past 5 years (5 years ago the median sale price was $170,000, versus $265,000 today). 

Jacksonville has been steadily growing in population size every year, which means that there is a continual demand for homes in the region.

And when it comes to the local economy, Jacksonville is on the rise. Annual wages rank second among Florida’s 12 metropolitan areas, and Total Gross Domestic Product has more than doubled for this region over the past 20 years. High wages and economic growth help spur the housing industry - which is good for real estate investors. 

First-time homebuyers are often looking for investment opportunities - in other words, getting into a neighborhood while it's still in its early growth stages to allow for maximum appreciation. These neighborhoods are typically cheaper to buy into than the more established, trendy areas of the city. Based on metrics like YoY appreciation and median sale price, some of the best areas to buy a house in Jacksonville are:

Hillcrest - nearby neighborhoods Riverside and Avondale have been hot lately, and Murray Hill and Hillcrest are likely to follow suit. 

  • Median sale price: $179,500
  • +7.5% since last year (via Redfin)

Englewood - the popular neighborhood of San Marco next door with its outdoor bistros and chic bars is giving this area a boost. Invest in this area to take advantage as the hip neighborhood areas continue to expand outward.

  • Median sale price: $228,500
  • +16.0% since last year

Clay County - encompassing several neighborhoods, Clay County is developing quickly and has opportunities for healthy property appreciation.

  • Median sale price: $290,250
  • +23.5% since last year 

“South of Jacksonville [in Clay County] we have Orange Park, Fleming Island, and Green Cove Springs. Green Cove Springs is very reasonably priced right now if you’re okay with older Florida homes,” says Krause. “This area can be considered rural, but it’s building up - it’s grown up a lot. If investors were to purchase in any one of those areas for Airbnb, flipping, etc., there are plenty of properties. There’s also Ortega - near the Navy Base - and there are a lot of single-family homes as you get near the Navy Base that would do very well as investment properties.”

6. Why is Houwzer a Top Brokerage for Buying Jax Homes?

You may have noticed a great agent can be the difference between a smooth home purchase and one beset by problems. There's a reason Houwzer has over 1,000 online reviews averaging 4.9/5 stars: they're changing real estate to better serve clients by leveraging technology and salaried agents to make the home buying experience educational and methodical, yet enjoyable. 

Houwzer has upended the old model by paying their buyer agents a salary – ensuring that the goal is finding the homeowner the right home, rather than stretching their budget for a bigger commission or pressuring them to settle to get to the closing table sooner. They listen to what the clients really want and are ready to work with them as long as it takes to find the right house. 

Houwzer has also brought services like title and mortgage in house in order to create a more seamless process while saving homebuyers money in the process. 

Interested in learning more?

Talk to a local Houwzer agent

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