Builders betting on continued momentum in St. Johns County’s high-end housing market

For those in St. Johns County with the means and desire to buy a new home in the $1 million price range, there are going to be more options this year.


It’s happening because builders are learning that there are more potential buyers than potential luxury homes.

Among those responding to the relatively new demand are The Pineapple Corporation and Glenn Layton Homes. Both are currently working on small but pricey projects within Nocatee. Pineapple is building a 44-home neighborhood called The Vista at Twenty Mile with houses starting in the low $900,000s, and Layton is building nine homes that start in the mid $900,000s in a neighborhood called The Hammock at Twenty Mile.

Representatives from each company said they are just responding to what customers want.

“Right now the demand is very strong,” Glenn Layton said. “We’re fortunate in our marketplace that we’re a destination where people are being transferred into. There’s a lot of job growth in Northeast Florida right now, and people don’t want to wait and go through the building process.

“We’re putting specs in the ground in anticipation of people moving into town looking for a move-in ready home or near move-in ready.”

Layton said three months ago he checked with the Multiple Listings Service and found about 40 transactions last year in the area of Ponte Vedra Beach and Jacksonville Beach that were between $1 million and $1.5 million.

That gave him confidence that he was building something buyers were seeking. His company is also developing an eight-home neighborhood off Ponte Vedra Boulevard with houses going for as much as $2 million.

“The demand is there,” Layton said. “I think consumer confidence is significantly better. To me, the consumer confidence is up higher than it was last year.”

Spencer Calvert, president of The Pineapple Corporation, said his research revealed similar results and decided this was the perfect time to get back in the high-end housing market.

“Since the recovery, we’ve begun to see home values increase in this area and particularly, in my opinion, as a result of the PARC Group wanting to offer a higher-end product here (in Nocatee),” Calvert said.

The numbers certainly show demand is rising for the more expensive homes in the county.

According to data from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, in St. Johns County there were 157 sales in 2016 involving homes priced at $900,000 or more. That was up from 2015 when there were 125 such sales.

Of those 282 sales, only 35 of them were new construction.

“For those buyers looking for new homes and being able to afford the million-plus-dollar price point, the supply, even including Ponte Vedra Beach proper, the supply is incredibly limited,” Calvert said.

While location is always important in real estate, people paying $900,000 or more for a new home are likely to be quite discerning. That’s what made the opportunity to build in Nocatee so attractive to Calvert and Layton.

Nocatee has been one of the fastest-growing master-planned communities in the country in recent years, popular enough to see the construction of about 5,200 new homes so far. And that’s less than half of the projected total build out of 11,000 to 12,000 homes. Home prices in Nocatee currently start in the low $300,000s.

“There’s this missing component in Nocatee as they have been growing over the past couple of years, and that is with the high-end custom luxury market,” Layton said.

Calvert was equally pleased with the development, especially the neighborhood where his company’s houses will go.

“It’s really a function of school district and proximity to the beach and combined certainly with access and proximity to the traditional employment centers in Jacksonville,” he said. “I think the location here is just phenomenal.”

Richard Ray, president and CEO of Nocatee master developer The PARC Group, said he has seen more interest in the high-end properties recently.

“We have been very pleased with the demand for higher-end homes,” Ray said in an email to The Record. “As developers, our objective is to offer neighborhoods for a wide variety of home buyers, from first-time buyers to the estate custom buyer.

“Obviously, there is more overall demand for the home in the $300’s, but the sales pace in our high-end neighborhoods has been very strong.”