— Steve’s Marketplace —
Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
In Polk County, the trending commentary is about the varying degrees of death. And what Sheriff Grady Judd colorfully depicts “graveyard” dead.
In Nassau County, the dialogue is more ebullient. Especially when talking about a real estate market that is alive and well. Mike Hickox, the property appraiser, is giddy and somewhat incredulous in describing our remarkable market.
“In my 40-plus years in the real estate and appraisal industry, I have never experienced a real estate market like the current one,” Hickox wrote in a letter to taxpayers.
It’s a basic matter of supply and demand. The supply of houses is limited here – new or existing – while the demand is unlimited, unquenchable. Hickox titled his letter this way: “Home Values in Nassau County Reach Record Appreciation Levels.”
Hickox qualifies his claims by comparing this market to the one of 20 years ago that collapsed. There’s little comparison really, other than the gargantuan gains in value.
“This market is dramatically different than the market we experienced from 2004 to 2008 which produced a collapse of the housing market,” Hickox said. “The current market is a user’s market opposed to a speculative market, which was driven by loose lending practices and speculative building.”
“This market is being driven by buyers with cash looking to improve their quality of life by relocating to the great State of Florida,” Hickox said.
While the lockdowns of the past couple years have slammed industries like hotels, restaurants and movie theaters, many have recovered. However, some have not, like the former B&B Theater on Amelia Island. Meanwhile, hotels aren’t expected to regain their previous income levels until 2024, Hickox said.
For all of Nassau County, the combined property values have eclipsed $20 billion – an 18 percent increase over last year. Broken down by cities, Fernandina Beach has $3.37 billion in taxable property value, Callahan is at $137 million, and Hilliard comes in at $129 million. Each city experienced double-digit increases in value over the past year.
Getting back to a darker scenario, the mercurial Judd was discussing school shootings in the wake of the incident in Uvalde, Texas. Judd was vividly describing how his department prepares for school shooters.
“If you come to a school in this county, armed,” Judd said, “we’re going to do our best through either our guardians, our school resource officers, or deputy sheriffs to eliminate the threat outside of the school before they ever get to the children.”
Judd held up a photograph of two of his police officers pointing large rifles at the camera. “This is the last thing you’ll see before we put a bullet through your head if you’re trying to hurt our children,” Judd said. “We’re going to charge directly to the threat. There’s no mustering, there’s no gathering up. We go individually to the threat and engage it. That’s what we train for.
“If they’re shooting at us, they’re not shooting at the children,” Judd said. “Now we don’t want to be shot either, but given the choice of being shot and killed or those children dying, we’ll die every time.”
Judd summarized his strong feelings. “We’re going to shoot you graveyard dead if you come onto a campus with a gun, threatening our children.”
Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in several weekly newspapers in North Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].