The West Augustine real estate market is so competitive that some houses are sold within days of being listed for sale, but while small used to mean affordable housing, this is no longer the case.
The high home prices mean that many locals cannot afford to buy, and rent has increased to levels that are not sustainable for most people working in the area.
“Families must pay more for their housing, renters have less to get by on at the end of the month. Homeownership is out of reach for too many, and those of modest means are forced to live farther from decent jobs,” says SJHP Executive Director Bill Lazar. “This is key, especially for some employers in North Florida who are already facing a shortage of workers.”
As is happening in most of St. Augustine many people moving here come from out of state, and for them, our expensive home prices often seem like a bargain compared to the real estate markets, where they are moving from.
"All of these people from New York, New Jersey, and California, they're paying cash," says Shirley Randau, a realtor from Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage and co-owner of the new Shubachi Asian Food Truck in the area."They have already sold their house, so they don't care about the price, they just want a house."
|Short-term rental on Bruen Street currently rents for $3,500 a month.|
A trend that is spilling over from Lincolnville is that of short-term rentals. We now have homes renting for as much as $3,500 a month on a short-term basis.
In an April 2021 Lincolnville Neighborhood Association meeting former St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver, who has studied the topic of sea level rise intensively, spoke about the coastal vulnerabilities and the risks of sea level rise to the City of St. Augustine. She concluded that "the bottom line is that in nine years or so we will have about two feet of rising water in St. Augustine."
When asked about West Augustine, Shaver warned that any area close to the water will flood, but she also said that "the other side of West Augustine ... that is probably the highest land around. She continued by saying that "What has happened is over the last couple of years people have heavily invested in West Augustine. So West Augustine will be there."
A builder recently pointed to the trees around us, before he declared that all of our trees would soon be gone because the builders were going to build anywhere they could in the West Augustine community.
Some homes are sold even before they are listed, and some are pulled after a few days, because of the high interest. With listings that describe our area as being just a few miles from downtown St. Augustine, it is easy to see why people from out of town want to move here.
West Augustine is the "hot, up-and-coming area," Randau says. "Two years ago it was easy to find a lot, but now investors are fighting over the same lots. When we used to submit offers over here, there would be 2 or 3 offers, 5 at the most, but now there's 15 - 30 offers on a house."
Randau explains how she used to drop off her daughter at the Webster School feeling scared of driving in the area about 15 years ago. "The last five years, especially the last three years, things have changed over here, and it is a totally different area." She goes on to say that the most desired area in West Augustine is "north of West King Street up to Royal St. Augustine on 4 Mile Road ... but eventually, the area south of West King Street will start getting built up too."
As for those who have lived in the community for years, or those who have grown up in the community, and especially those, who own land, the letters asking to buy are becoming more frequent.
Lincolnville was once a mainly African American community, but as home prices went up and rent increased, many people of color moved west. The gentrification of Lincolnville is especially clear in the most recent U.S. census data.
The same thing is now happening in West Augustine, and as members of the community sell off their ancestral land, and as investors continue to buy up land, tear down trees and build, West Augustine's character will change.
Change is coming, in fact, it is already here.
This 3 bedroom, 2 bath home on Bruen Street just sold for $278,000. The 1440 Sq. Ft home was built in 1998, and in 2015 it was sold for $139,900. That is an increase of $138,100 in six years.
This 1,344 sq. ft home on Tenant Ln. in West Augustine had been listed for $234,900 in April, and had a price cut to $224,900 in June before a final price cut to $209,900 this August. It is currently under contract. In 2018 this home was sold for $46,500, and while it has been renovated, it is still quite a price tag for a small home built in 1962 on an 84 x 57 lot.
|796 sq ft. newly built home|
on Pearl Street for sale at $184,900.
The above home on Pearl Street is a new build under contract for $184,900. It is a 796 sq. ft. 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home on a 6,534 sq. ft.
And more small homes are coming, such as these homes next to the American Legion.
|Homes are being built next to the American Legion on Pearl Street.|
|New homes and homes being built on N Clay Street.|
|New homes built on N Orange Street.|
When asked for advice for first-time homebuyers, Randau says "Fix your credit and save up for a big down payment. Nowadays you compete with all of these cash buyers and with investors, who are willing to put more down." She explains how buyers are often asked to cover the seller's closing fee, so basically, the buyer will end up paying more, and she goes on to talk about the dilemma of selling your house in this market, because as she asks "Where are you gonna move?"
The housing market is not the only place, where West Augustine is feeling the pressure. Rentals run high, non-refundable application fees add up, and locals are unable to afford the high rents.
|N Orange Street home for rent in West Augustine, Florida for $1,800.|
This 3 bed, 2 bathroom, 1352 sq. ft home on N Orange Street rents for $1,800, and it was barely listed before someone moved in.
As for frustrated renters in our community, Randau says "I always ask renters, why do you rent, if you can buy? It used to be that you could rent around here for $1200, now it's $1600, $1800, $2000 for a 3 bedroom. Instead of you wasting that $1800, live with your parents, live with your family, until you fix your credit, and until you save up a big down payment. If you're paying $1800 in rent, you'll keep on trying to catch your tail."
We cannot fault homeowners for selling their homes at the height of the market, but this is how gentrification happens. The question is where will people move to, if they can no longer afford to live in the community where they grew up?
Housing Assistance in St. Johns County
At the moment the market is so tough that even our local affordable housing organizations have difficulties finding solutions, but you can reach out to the below organizations to see what assistance you can get finding affordable housing either through renting or buying in West Augustine, and you can also find help, if you are in danger of being evicted, or if you're having trouble with your mortgage.
525 W King Street, St. Augustine, FL
7 Hopkins Street, St. Augustine, FL
1300 Duval Street, St. Augustine, FL
117 Bridge St., St. Augustine, FL
Call 211 for help on housing assistance programs.
222 San Marco Avenue, St. Augustine, FL
100 Whetstone Pl., St. Augustine, FL
If you are a Webster family in need of help connect with the Community Partnership School at Webster through this referral form.
* This piece was originally posted on the West Augustine News Connection on September 2, 2021.
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