POINCIANA – Few communities in Central Florida have experienced the roller coaster ride of extreme highs and lows in the housing market quite as dramatically as Poinciana.
The community of 84,000 residents, located in unincorporated parts of Osceola and Polk counties, was riding very high between 2004 and 2007, when a residential construction boom had houses being constructed every 90 days. A community that was still officially classified as being “rural” by the federal government watched as its population soared well past that of older, neighboring cities like St. Cloud and Haines City.
And when the housing market crashed, so too did the economic boom that Poinciana had been experiencing, leaving the community with a painfully high home foreclosure rate, and far too many vacant, newly-built homes.
As the nation’s housing market continues to search for a bottom point, the Federal Reserve announced on Thursday that it would begin buying billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities, or bonds made up of home loans that get packaged and sold to investors. The Fed’s aim is to help push low mortgage rates down even more to spur refinancing activity — and future home sales.
So with the housing market still struggling, Poinciana would seem to be a likely candidate for a community dragged down by a high inventory of unsold homes, and with virtually no building activity going on.
And that would be wrong.
As it turns out, inventory in Poinciana is getting low, new homes are being built, and moderately priced houses are finding buyers – and fast, said Annette Brown-Best.
“Right now, there are under 500 homes for sale in Poinciana,” she said. “That’s no inventory at all.”
Brown-Best, who lives in Poinciana, worked in a local real estate until February, when she retired. She’s now a member of the local civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, which is working to improve the community.
And she noted that whatever is happening to the housing market on the national level, Poinciana is operating on its own terms.
“As soon as a house goes on the market, it’s gone immediately,” she said.
A good example, she said, is at the Bella Pointe gated community.
“Homes have been selling there for $130,000,” she said. “I went back in there a month ago, and the houses are up to $140,000 with no amenities, and those are selling like hotcakes.”
Two other Poinciana developments, Bellalago and Solivita, are starting to build again – a complete reversal of the last few years, when builders shied away from new construction while the unsold inventory stayed high.
Now, the buyers are coming back, and so are the builders.
“The houses are going up here like crazy,” Brown-Best said.
“I’ve noticed a lot of signs on Pleasant Hill Road by builders advertising new homes,” added Keith Laytham, the president of PRSC. “There are a whole bunch of new homes for sale in Solivita. Something is happening here.”
If the housing market is experiencing a recovery in Poinciana, it’s part of a growing national trend, the National Association of Realtors reported on Sept. 5.
The typical amount of time it takes to sell a home is shrinking, and is now within the range of historic home buying norms for traditional sellers, NAR reported.
Nationally, the median time a home was listed for sale on the market in July was 69 days. That’s down 29.6 percent from 98 days in July 2011.
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, issued a statement noting that “As inventory has tightened, homes have been selling more quickly. A notable shortening of time on market began this spring, and this has created a general balance between home buyers and sellers in much of the country.”
Brown-Best said there are some clear signs of why the local market would be improving. One is the fact that since Poinciana is still classified by the federal government as being a rural community, so local residents qualify for federal loans to buy a home, including loan provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Likewise at Solivita, an active adult community that mainly is home to retirees, there are a lot of reverse mortgages being written to clients there, Brown-Best said.
“We have more government loans coming into Poinciana than ever before,” she said.
In addition, the ongoing construction on the Poinciana Medical Center — the community’s first hospital which is slated to open next summer – is bringing jobs and new businesses to the community, Brown-Best noted. That makes Poinciana property more appealing – and valuable.
“We have building going on here in Poinciana because we have a hospital coming in here that will be making money,” she said.
In fact, Brown-Best said she thinks that with Poinciana’s shrinking inventory and rise in home sales, the county governments in Polk and Osceola should make a commitment to investing more money into local transportation and recreation projects.
“The taxes for this community are being met now because all the houses are sold,” she said. “Poinciana wants some of that money.”
Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, agreed that as Poinciana has attracted new businesses and the hospital, it’s time to push government leaders to recognize the lack of schools, parks, and improved roads here.
“Poinciana is the most royally wronged community in the entire region,” Murdock said. “Only recently are we becoming an understood community where people take credence in what we say.”
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