High-End Real Estate

An uptick in sales of luxury properties is expected to continue into 2017.

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Courtesy Sandestin Real Estate / will sullivan

This stunning Spanish-style home in Bay Estates is a Sandestin Real Estate listing.


Recession. Banking crisis. Oil spill. And a presidential election season that left investors nervous about the country’s financial future. Northwest Florida’s housing market has faced uncertainty and hit after hit over the past decade. But the region weathered the various storms, and today home and property sales across Northwest Florida are brisk — including sales in the “high-end” market, where price tags soar into the multi-millions of dollars.

Nationally, the news is mixed. In some areas, such as the cities of Chicago and New York, high-end home sales are down or slowing. In others, like Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, sales are up. In some regions, higher interest rates are expected to cool buyer interest. In others, including the 850 region, the rates apparently are making no difference when a buyer’s sights are set on a particular prize.


Lovin’ the Sand

Predictions from local Realtors are that 2017 will be a stellar year for high-end home and property sales along Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast.

To put it simply, “people love the beach,” says Jeff Troy of Bay County-based Counts Real Estate. His office is on Scenic Highway 30A in Seagrove, a more exclusive enclave of small communities strewn along the coast in South Walton County.

“Rosemary Beach is selling well,” Troy says. “There have been a couple of $10 million sales. Those people just really want a house on the beach. They like the area, and they want it. And there are definitely investors buying in the area because the short-term rental market is so good here. It’s not uncommon to get 10 percent on your investment. You won’t always get that, but for the last couple of years, the prices have gone up by 8 to 14 percent.”

At Sandestin Real Estate Sales, executive director Kitty Whitney said, “We believe good things are in store for 2017. People are relieved that the election is behind us and we may see some policy changes that will encourage spending.”

Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort is home to million-dollar-plus properties along the beach and in the Burnt Pines neighborhood. Buyers, Whitney said, tend to be people with a history of vacationing in Northwest Florida.

“They flock back to the beach to buy what starts out as a second home and eventually they become permanent residents,” Whitney explained.

She employs “Sandestin Living” magazine as a marketing tool and targets drive markets – Atlanta, Birmingham, Jacksonville and others – and fly markets that offer direct flights to the Gulf coast.

Whitney singled out a $9.7 million listing at Burnt Pine as a remarkable home replete with custom art, décor and finishes.

“We recognize that as the price rises, the number of prospective buyers declines, but this is the kind of house about which someone will say, ‘This is worth the money.’” 

Courtesy Sandestin Real Estate / will sullivan

With pristine pools and breathtaking beach views, it should be no surprise that the Emerald Coast is selling homes swiftly.


While he sees some buyers come from Northern states, Ed Smith, who owns ReMax Coastal Properties in Destin with his wife, says the majority of those seeking homes are from an hour or less drive away from the region.

“A lot of people say their parents used to bring them here as kids,” says Smith, who specializes in waterfront properties. “Many are buying as second homes or rental properties or for investment. Most buyers are boomers whose parents accumulated money that these people inherited, and now they tend to buy what they want. We don’t see a lot of foreign investment, although there are some Canadians in the market.”

Smith adds, with a laugh, “In this area, we consider a foreign investor to be from Alabama.”

Recent sales in the area include a 10,000-square-foot home sitting on 2 acres with 200 feet of frontage on the bay and a tennis court. That went for $3.75 million. A similar home located on 1 acre sold for $2.5 million.

 “We’re hearing from sellers and buyers who say they have not felt this optimistic about the economy in a long, long time,” Smith says. “If that’s any indication, I’d say 2017 is going to be a good year.”