There aren’t enough flame emojis on the Internet to describe the Lakeland housing market. In August 2022, the median home in Polk County sold for $313,409, a 27.7% jump year-over-year. Yowza. 🔥
With interest rates on the rise, prices show few signs of cooling off. But for those hoping to dip their toes in the home buying waters soon, it helps to know what trends to expect. Put on your floaties, and let’s hear what the local experts predict.
Look out for the ‘burbs
Wendy Wilson, a realtor with CENTURY 21 Myers Realty, said the suburbs are seeing growth due to new Lakelanders looking for more space. That means areas in Lakeland Highlands, Medulla, and Christina could see heavy house buying activity, thanks to more people working from home and willing to move further from the urban core.
While median home prices for single-family homes in Lakeland are well above $349,000, places like far North Lakeland are more in the $250,000 range — and, likewise, bidding wars will heat up all over.
Don’t give up on Polk County
Buyers hoping to find areas with less competition may want to think about getting a sweet pad outside of Lakeland proper. Jared Weggeland, realtor, builder, and remodeler with Focus Group Florida, said there may be more options in nearby towns, noting “the further out you go, the less competitive it becomes.” He’s also seen new home builders getting competitive and offering big discounts to move inventory.
Worth it to wait?
Both Wendy and Jared expect that interest rates will continue to increase, and home prices will also continue to appreciate. Wilson says that “interest rates are higher than a couple of years ago, but still lower than they have historically been,” and according to Weggeland, there is a 69% shortage of homes available on the market. Basically, get on that dream home now.
What about renting?
Wilson said Lakeland rentals have some stiff competition — but whether they are “affordable” remains an open question. According to a recent study by Attom Data Solutions, it’s more affordable to buy a home than to rent in Polk County. Lakeland still has more renters than owners, so demand is high and apartment complexes are seeing huge growth.
Eyeing places northeast
Weggeland mentioned towns in Northeast Polk County as potential hot spots. He noted that builders in cities like Auburndale and Lake Alfred are offering “absolutely fantastic sales” and incentives for buyers looking for a deal.
The supply + demand problem
Wilson said that the availability of houses on the market has remained low, but the market is starting to balance out. It may still be a seller’s market, but “there are not as many bidding wars and offers way over listing price.” Weggeland proposes the shortage could be due to builders not being able to get permits fast enough to keep up with demand.
The City of Lakeland currently has 15 affordable housing projects either planned or under construction. These will offer more options for renters at lower rates. Organizations like the Lakeland Housing Authority also work to offer federal rent subsidies, affordable renting opportunities, and more through Section 8.
A final piece of advice from the realtors: Don’t wait to buy. As both rent and home prices continue to increase, buying a home could allow you to pay less per month while building equity.