What's Happening to the Florida Keys?

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Strict environmental laws mean that only 30 of the Key's 800 islands will ever be inhabited.

The Florida Keys, sometimes called America's Caribbean, are one of the most unique locations in the USA to call home. The Keys are a chain of over 800 islands, stretching 110 miles from Key Largo to Key West. They offer the ambiance of island living with the convenience of easy access by car or plane. However, strict environmental laws mean that only 30 of the 800 islands will ever be inhabited. These same laws place severe restrictions on new home construction in the Keys.

The laws were promulgated not only by concerns for the environment but by concerns for people as well. The reasoning is simple: US 1 is the only one access road in or out of the Keys. Should the threat of a hurricane require an evacuation of the Keys, government regulations mandate a limit on population density in order to accommodate a safe and orderly evacuation. When asked what effect this had on the real estate market in the Keys Kip Hoover, REALTOR for Coldwell Banker Schmitt in the Keys answered: In addition to facilitating a safe evacuation, these restrictions have the added benefit of helping to promote our relaxed, laid-back way of life. If these laws were not in place, we would look like parts of California or mainland Florida: high-rise hotels and condos with wall-to-wall people and automobiles.

For someone living in the Keys, this is a clear benefit. Low population density and limits on new construction are important attributes sought by real estate investors and second home buyers. When asked how these environmental laws effect the pricing of real estate, Mr. Hoover remarked: These laws have a direct effect on the supply-demand equation for real estate: with supply strictly limited and demand continually rising, prices for real property in the Florida Keys are well supported.

When pressed for sales figures he said: Current year sales are proceeding nicely. In fact, in dollar terms, this is the fourth best year on record for real estate sales in the Keys. We clearly have more inventory on hand now than in recent years. However, homes that are well priced continue to attract eager buyers. The facts are indisputable: over 1,000 people relocate to Florida every day and over 50% of the visitors to the Keys are Florida residents. Given that a substantial percentage of those visitors have aspirations of becoming property owners in the Keys, demand for property in our market has just begun to gain momentum.


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