Lake County has long been known as an affordable housing option for Orlando-area workers. However, the median home price in Lake County has risen at a rapid rate over the last few years. Its growth rate exceeded that of Orange County's by double digits from 2019-2022.
Orlando Regional Realtor Association shared data with Orlando Business Journal that shows the median home price in Lake County has increased by 56.2%, from $224,000 to $349.945 between 2019 and 2022.
Orange County median price has increased 46.7%, from $259,000 to $380,000.
As counties like Orange, Seminole and others run out of space for single-family housing development, counties such as Lake and Osceola are increasingly prioritized by homebuilders and buyers.
Bryan Rubio of Rubio Realty Investments LLC in Montverde, who is a broker, says that the growth in Lake County has fundamentally changed its single-family home market.
It has almost become ridiculous with regards to the pricing. He said that Lake County has always seen growth. But now, it's "grown to another level."
Rubio said that this manifests itself in a new construction market in Lake County, where it's hard to find a home under $500,000 and where buyers are forced to pay more for smaller resale houses due to price pressure.
He said that the area's natural amenities and bedroom community features are now paired with increased highway connectivity, which means many Lake County residents are only 30 to 40 minutes from Downtown Orlando or the tourist corridor of the region.
In contrast, since retail follows rooftops, some areas of Lake County, such as the Hills of Minneola for example, are starting to see commercial developments to serve their newcomers. This trend can become more prevalent when new retail and dining concepts make an area livable.
Gigi Moore, the owner of Orlando's iConnect Real Estate, said: "It is one of those situations where you feel like you are out in the boonies. But then you arrive and see that a Publix is only 10 minutes away. And you have more shopping which is about 20 minutes away."
You start to think, "This isn't that bad because I like my house, I like the neighborhood and I can see plans to bring stores in." Once you see plans for the Publix, I tell people it's all over. Retail is on its way.
Orlando Regional Realtor Association data shows that the median home sale price in Lake County in 2023 has fallen to $335,000, a drop of 4.27%.
Danielle Stroud is the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Lake - Sumter. She said that despite this, it has not been enough to change a trend which increasingly renders Lake County a market where "there's no such thing as affordable housing."
Stroud said to OBJ that the problem is not limited to working-poor people. It's affecting everyone who is trying to find entry-level housing. Even a family with a household income of more than $100,000 will struggle to find something affordable.
According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, Lake County has fewer housing units compared to Orange County - 182,327 versus 575,826, meaning that the increase in home value is felt more strongly because there is less variety of product.
Stroud and her group advocate for Lake County local governments to be more receptive to infill and ADUs. They also want to create a regulatory climate that is more favourable to small-scale developments.
"I think that local governments can be flexible to help entice small-scale developers and local builders.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, a survey of NAHB members' monthly attitudes, shows that homebuilders are increasingly positive about the building environment.
The preliminary national indicator for May is now 50, up from 45 points in April and 31 points in December. In the South of the United States, the index has increased to 55 from 35 in December. A reading of less than 50 indicates that a greater number of builders consider conditions to be poor as opposed to good.