Hurricane Michael caused Crystal Fogg and her children to move to Fountain where she found a three-bedroom, two-bath property for $1,195 a month, more than what she was paying before.
She considered this a “beach price for a county property.”
“Now I’m locked into a year lease. The cost of living here is bad. I wish my heartstrings didn’t hold me here,” said Fogg. “The rent price is too high. I would have expected to see this for $1,000 before the storm. A friend who moved to Ohio after Michael is paying $800 for something similar and that’s standard for a house like this up there.”
Fogg’s predicament is common throughout Bay County after the hurricane, since residents are reporting a sharp increase in housing costs after the storm decimated the area. Real estate experts confirmed the increases and said it’s because of a high demand for housing but low supply.
John Shook, who has been a real estate broker in the Panama City area for almost 19 years, said the increases aren’t price gouging but instead “normal economics” because “scarcity will cause the price of a product or commodity to rise.”
“The urgency for finding a place is stronger than ever,” said Shook. “Many rental properties are destroyed and have become unlivable.”
Shook said a three-bedroom, two-bath single family home in Panama City before the storm would have been at least $1,200 to rent “unless it was in very bad shape,” whereas now the cheaper places might start at $1,600, “and it is an attached townhome.” Other local real estate workers said prices in Panama City Beach have doubled.
“There’s a high demand for rentals because so many people were displaced,” said Amanda Corbin, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida.
Rentals are mostly on the Beach because fewer homes were affected there, said Corbin.
Despite the drawbacks for people looking for housing, local real estate agents said they’re busier than ever after Hurricane Michael and actually expect positive long-term affects because investors are moving into the area.
“It’s going to be a beautification effect in the long-term. Now there will be a lot of new homes, commercial buildings and businesses,” said Robert Ellis, a real estate agent with Counts Real Estate Group. “The real estate market is still strong. This is a growing area and Mexico Beach will be built back stronger.”
But while the real estate sector is optimistic, residents said they are suffering right now. Rae Walker said she is “close to being permanently homeless due to the rise in rental prices,” while Scott Tibbetts said he has had a difficult time finding a place to rent big enough for his family for what he was paying before the storm.
“I’ve decided to just buy a house because it’s cheaper,” said Tibbetts. “I had to move my wife and kids out of state while they wait on me to find a place we can afford.”© 2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.), Collin Breaux. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.