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An Invernessian in America: Pandemic-related property buzz is also felt Stateside

By Diane Knox

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Diane walking Barkley at Jacksonville Beach.
Diane walking Barkley at Jacksonville Beach.

The negative effects of the past year’s Covid-related restrictions will take a long time to fully recover from.

Lost careers, furloughed jobs, downturn in tourism – the list goes on. But one area that seems to have thrived is property, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

The lockdown property boom has exploded over the past 12 months and the housing market is at a high that we haven’t seen for a long time.

I read that total average price rises throughout Scotland have been just shy of £20,000 since the pandemic hit, and it’s no surprise the same thing is happening in Florida.

It was expected – with more people working remotely, the burden of travelling to an office or being among workmates ‘physically’ is not so essential, and the ability to work from home is more cost-effective, less stressful with a lot more freedom.

Where I live in Jacksonville Beach has become more and more attractive with a higher number of northerners in the US being lured to the coastline to enjoy the sunshine, the beaches and the relatively low cost of living compared to the likes of south Florida and California.

Jacksonville Beach has always been a little bit of a hidden gem – tourists from the UK would traditionally visit Orlando and head south to see Miami, Tampa, Clearwater, the Keys, few would choose to go north on I95 and drive two hours to Jacksonville. Unless you love golf and want to splash out $350 to play TPC Sawgrass, THEN you’ll make the drive!

Jacksonville Beach.
Jacksonville Beach.

Because it’s never really been seen as an advertised holiday destination, the cost of living in Jax Beach has always been significantly lower compared to a lot of the well-known beach towns, and property and accommodation has always been in vast supply. Until now…

My boyfriend and I decided to sell our home a few weeks ago. He bought the house in 2016 and five years later the value had rocketed. Plus, it’s on a pretty busy road so we decided it was the right time to capitalise and hope the flow of traffic outside would be less of an issue. And it was. Six days later we accepted an offer!

However, we almost ignored the next step of ‘where are we going to live next?’ We figured we’d rent for a year before buying our next home, time to give the market a chance to settle itself down a little bit.

But wow, the rental market is crazy!

We’d find a suitable house, request a tour and before we could even book one in, the house would be gone. This happened 10 times daily.

So we started putting in applications without even viewing the houses, hoping someone would view our application favourably and accept us.

Same thing, houses would be gone in a day. I’m not even sure the same thing applies in Scotland, but leasing companies would charge $50 per person to just apply and be turned down. (There’s a gap in the market for a straight-forward leasing agency in Jax Beach!)

We eventually got a rental house sorted this week, and I think the fact I’m Scottish played a role, the owner loved the accent and had a lot of questions about my homeland.

I’m going to buy him some shortbread and whisky as a thank you.

So now the joy of packing and moving begins, and knowing we’re going to be house-hunting for the next year.

Related article: An Invernessian in America: Golf will take a seat on the bench when Euros are on

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