Evaluating the Florida Land Market

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Evaluating the Florida Land Market

Bart Waldon

As a longstanding mecca for both tourism and retirement living, Florida continues seeing swelling population growth with over 900 new residents daily according to Census reporter analysis. Yet increasingly land scarcity looms amid this demographic surge within a geographically confined region. Florida consists of just over 50,000 square miles total according to the United States Geological Survey, already hosting over 22 million full time residents and hosting over 120 million visitors annually. With less virgin land available for both commercial and residential development, these macro tailwinds further constrain supply dynamics. 

At the micro level, over 7 million acres are specifically set aside for conservation and recreation adding protections further shrinking developable land pools in areas seeing greatest demand. For these reasons, astute investors analyze Florida land valuations closely weighing both short and long run appreciation potential relative to market value trajectories when sourcing acquisition deals. Location concentrating demand drivers proves pivotal, as certain metro regions and infrastructure corridors support fundamental expansion needs better over time than mere speculative growth plays in tertiary areas investors hope emerge later. 

This guide delves into real-time Florida land market conditions identifying smart regions to target for sustainable returns on vacant ground zero raw land positions or improved parcels.

Demand Drivers in the Florida Land Market

Several factors drive demand for land in Florida, leading to appreciation in land values over time:

Population Growth

Florida has long been one of the fastest growing states in the U.S. Over 1,000 people move to Florida every day on average. Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville are major population hubs, but growth is occurring across the state. With a warm climate and lack of state income tax, Florida remains attractive for retirees, families, and workers. This steady population growth supports demand for residential and commercial development.


Tourism is a huge industry in Florida, powered by world-famous theme parks and beaches. In 2021, a record 118 million tourists visited the state. Both domestic and international tourism continue rising over the long run. Tourism supports demand for lodging, retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, and second homes. Proximity to major tourism destinations can make land more valuable.

Business Expansion

Major companies are expanding operations in Florida, especially in technology, finance, and healthcare. Miami is developing as a tech and startup hub. Low taxes and labor costs relative to other states draw businesses to Florida. This business investment leads to commercial real estate development and rising demand for vacant land.

Limited Supply

Although Florida is a large state geographically, only about 20% of land remains open for development. Protected wetlands, forests, and farmland limit the supply in many regions. Scarcity of easily developable land sustains rising values, especially in high-growth areas. Limited land supply intensifies competition for prime parcels.

Recent Land Value Trends

Land values surged in Florida from 2012 to 2019, with median prices per acre rising over 75% in that period according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. This rapid appreciation was driven by strong population and job growth post-recession.

However, the market has cooled the past couple years as migration and tourism slowed due to COVID-19. With higher mortgage rates also reducing housing affordability, demand has softened. Median land values per acre fell 10-15% from mid-2021 to mid-2022.

Longer term, values are still up significantly from a decade ago in most of Florida. But the boom years appear to be over, at least temporarily, until population growth accelerates again. Local market conditions vary, so current prices must be carefully benchmarked.

Risk Factors in the Florida Land Market

While Florida offers appealing upside potential, land investing in the state also comes with hazards to weigh:

  • Overpaying - Offering too much for a parcel erases potential returns. With the market cooler, comparable sales must be scrutinized to avoid overbidding. Be conservative on valuations.
  • Limited demand - Lower-quality or remote parcels may have weak demand, even at low prices. Absorption can be very slow. Only target land in growth path of major regions.
  • Development costs - Zoning, permitting, and infrastructure costs can be high in Florida. Estimating development expenses is crucial.
  • Flooding - Low-lying coastal land risks storm surge flooding. Even inland parcels may flood during hurricanes. Check flood maps thoroughly before buying.
  • Holding costs - Property taxes, insurance, maintenance and interest costs accumulate over a long holding period. The expenses add up.
  • Higher interest rates - Rising mortgage rates reduce what buyers can afford, which softens demand for finished building lots. Expect slower absorption.

Proper due diligence and conservatism are vital to mitigate these risks when investing in Florida land. Next we will explore tips for evaluating parcels.

Key Factors for Evaluating Land Parcels

When assessing a specific land parcel for investment potential in Florida, here are key considerations:

Location - Most critical is selecting land in growth paths of dynamic regions. Evaluate proximity to jobs, amenities, infrastructure, and public services. Being near a high-traffic intersection is ideal for commercial sites. Easy access to highways helps residential land.

Permitting - Confirm zoning and development requirements with the local municipality before buying. Does the site require rezoning or special permits? Roadway, electric, and water access will also need permitting. Understanding the full scope of approvals avoids headaches later.

Demand - Study recent construction and absorption trends in the submarket. Drive the area to observe developer activity and inventory for sale. Pre-sales are strongest indicator of demand. Growing regions will have tight supply and over 50% pre-sales before starting new phases.

Site conditions - Inspect for wetlands or floodplain. Environmental remediation costs can make a parcel unfeasible. Topography and shape will impact development potential and costs. Irregular land can reduce usable space significantly.

Access - Corner land with road frontage on multiple sides offers most flexibility for home sites or commercial building entrances and signage visibility. Oddly shaped or landlocked parcels are far less usable.

Carrying costs - Estimate annual property taxes, insurance, maintenance expenses and interest costs. Holding period will determine total carrying costs so estimate conservatively. Higher expenses require more appreciation to realize a profit.

Market comps - Appraise based on recent sales of similar parcels in the same market. Adjust for size, access, zoning, and site conditions. Used conservatively, sellers are 75-85% of peak values currently.

Following these guidelines helps assess financial feasibility and reduce risk. Set minimum internal hurdles for targeted returns based on your cost of capital and risk tolerance. Be selective and patient in this cooler market.

Why Invest in Florida Land?

With its sunny climate, beaches, theme parks, and lack of state income tax, Florida has long attracted flocks of new residents and visitors. This steady population growth supports rising demand for housing, retail, offices, and entertainment in the state. Florida's major metro areas like Miami, Orlando and Tampa have experienced rapid appreciation in land values in recent decades. Here are reasons Florida land remains an appealing investment:

Strong population growth - Over 1,000 people move to Florida daily on average, keeping housing demand robust. Florida gains over 200,000 new residents per year.

Tourism expansion - With world famous attractions and beaches, Florida keeps attracting more tourists yearly. This fuels commercial real estate development.

Job creation - Major corporations are expanding operations in Florida, especially in technology, finance and healthcare. New jobs encourage relocations to the state.

Constrained land supply - Wetlands, forests and farmland limit the supply of easily developable land in Florida. Scarcity sustains values.

Pro business environment - Florida has low corporate taxes and reasonable labor costs. This attracts business investment and middle-class residents seeking affordable living.

The long-term demographics and business climate remain positive in Florida. While land values have moderated recently, the state offers attractive upside potential for patient, disciplined real estate investors over the coming decade.

Final Words

While the Florida land market has moderated recently, patient investors can still find profitable opportunities with rigorous analysis. Targeting high-growth regions and utilizing conservative valuations helps build in margins of safety. Carrying costs must be carefully estimated and managed.

With proper due diligence and selecting only the most favorable parcels, land investing can still produce attractive risk-adjusted returns in Florida. Use an expert land advisor to assess feasibility if you lack experience evaluating land deals. Focus on demographic and job growth trends in local markets. And be ready to act quickly when an ideal parcel becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which regions of Florida are seeing the strongest land value appreciation?

The Orlando, Tampa, and Miami metro areas have experienced the strongest land value growth in recent years thanks to major population and job expansion. Areas along the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando are also popular with investors.

What types of land are most desirable for development in Florida?

Land near high-traffic intersections with road frontage on multiple sides is most sought after for commercial development. For residential builders, parcels near amenities and infrastructure while avoiding flood zones are ideal. Proximity to highways is also favorable.

How risky is buying land in Florida right now?

There are risks of overpaying and demand softening further as mortgage rates rise. Conduct rigorous due diligence on valuations and absorption potential. Target metro regions with strong population growth and diversified economies to mitigate risks.

How long does it usually take to sell land in Florida?

In stronger markets, retail land brokers typically sell residential building lots within 6-12 months. Commercial and industrial land can take 1-3 years to sell depending on macroeconomic conditions influencing business investment.

What factors most influence land values in Florida?

Population and job growth in the local metro region are the primary drivers of land values. Interest rates impact affordability. Tourism trends also affect commercial land values. Limited supply due to wetlands and regulations sustain prices longer term.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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