Lay of the Land 2023 Market Report Analyzes Florida's Land and Real Estate Market

March 07, 2024   |   Brokerage
deer on florida land

The Lay of the Land 2023 Market Report, presented by SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler, offers an in-depth analysis of Florida's land and real estate market.

LAKELAND, FL, March 7, 2024 - Despite the fluctuations in the real estate sector during 2023, Florida's agricultural and residential land sectors experienced record-breaking prices and a diverse range of transactions, according to the Florida Lay of the Land 2023 Market Report. The report highlights the players behind the most significant deals and the properties being targeted by buyers, such as investment funds, the State of Florida, Florida Power and Light, and international investors.

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Presented at the annual Florida Lay of the Land Conference by SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler, the report delves into transaction volume across various sectors, including the residential market, ranch and recreational land, farms and nurseries, citrus, timberland, and transitional land.

Despite a decrease in deal volume compared to 2022, the findings reveal a trend where the price per transaction commanded a higher value. Notably, the Ranch & Recreational market witnessed a nearly 9 percent increase in the average price per acre in 2023. Additionally, transactions and investments in land conservation efforts surged, with the State of Florida allocating $1.07 billion to safeguard and conserve sensitive rural land. Another significant highlight was the upsurge in utility-scale solar projects during 2023, with over 60,000 acres acquired for solar energy purposes.

"As we confront uncertainties such as interest rates, elections, and global tensions, Florida's land sector remains ripe with opportunities, benefitting from its strategic positioning both domestically and internationally," explained Dean Saunders, co-founder of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler. “With its diverse economy, expanding population, job growth, and vibrant real estate market, Florida will maintain its resilience and provide abundant opportunities for land investment throughout the state.”

Here are some of the takeaways from the Florida Lay of the Land 2023 Market Report:

Ranch and Recreational - Florida

In 2023, the number of transactions for Ranch and Recreational parcels between 100-500 acres dropped by 25.7 percent to 75. The decrease might indicate a tightening market, with fewer available properties in this size range or potentially a shift in investor focus. The larger parcels of 500+ acres experienced a drop in deals of 16.13 percent to 26 in 2023. This reduction could suggest a consolidation trend among larger landowners or a hesitancy in the market to engage in larger-scale investments, possibly due to economic uncertainties or changes in land use policies.

Land Conservation - Florida

Last year was one of the best for Florida land conservation. The public sector joined forces with private landowners to close 151 acquisitions to preserve over 120,000 acres totaling just over $359 million: a 51% increase in transactions, a 232% increase in acres, and a 277% increase in investment from 2022. This equates to the conservation of 190 square miles of Florida, ensuring perpetual protection against development. These preserved areas serve as thriving ecosystems for birds and wildlife, contribute to aquifer recharge through rainfall, and naturally store water in wetlands, lakes, and streams.

Residential Lots & Land - Central Florida

Throughout most Florida counties, residential land and finished lot prices witnessed an uptick in 2023 compared to the previous year. Among the 18 counties reported, the average price for residential land reached $73,690 per upland acre. Notably, Hillsborough ($186,687), Orange ($178,692), Volusia ($161,641), Osceola ($127,261), and Brevard ($111,151) emerged as top counties in terms of price per acre. Meanwhile, Martin ($55,464), Pasco ($71,568), Polk ($33,649), Lake ($46,617), and Sarasota ($93,295) led in both the number of upland acres sold and their corresponding price per acre. In 2023, the average price for a finished single-family lot across the studied 18 counties stood at $75,551, reflecting a notable 14.5% increase from 2022. Noteworthy counties in terms of lot sales volume and their average prices per lot included Polk ($53,769), Pasco ($70,298), Osceola ($72,107), Manatee ($92,469), and Volusia ($82,399).

Farmland - Central Florida

In 2023, Florida farmland continued to experience high demand, particularly for large acreage parcels producing substantial income. This interest primarily stemmed from two key groups: owners/operators and institutional investors. The average price per acre increased by nearly 24%, reaching $17,786 for parcels under 500 acres. Transactions involving 500 acres or less totaled $79.3 million in sales volume in 2022, with an average price per acre of $13,516. This trend extended to farmland sales exceeding 500 acres, with 15 transactions totaling $138 million in 2023, up from 10 transactions totaling $98 million in 2022. However, the average price per acre decreased by 3% to $7,912 in 2023, down from $8,116 in 2022.

Citrus - Central Florida

For the past few years, the citrus industry has seen a higher-than-average volume of transactions making up a significant portion of Florida's agricultural real estate market. Yet, the volume of transactions drastically decreased 69% from 2022 to 2023 while the acreage volume stayed relatively the same. This decrease in the overall number of transactions could be attributed to properties being converted or that there are simply fewer groves to be converted. For 2023, this report highlights 40 citrus grove sales across various counties totaling 15.699 gross acres, with a combined value of nearly $141 million. Compared to 2022, the average sale price per acre in 2023 increased by approximately 10%.

Timberland - Florida

After the peak of timberland market activity in 2022, activity in 2023 seemed somewhat subdued. Persistent economic concerns and fluctuations in the stock market prompted great interest from investors looking to diversify their holdings into hard assets such as land. The bulk of the buyers were from Central and South Florida. Although the total number of transactions and sales volume were both lower than in 2022, the average per-acre sales price was considerably higher in 2023, reflecting the strength of the timberland asset class and Florida’s real estate market in general.

Transitional Land - Florida

With the combined sales of a sample totaling almost $1.75 billion and 86,339 acres throughout the state, the average sale price of Florida transitional land was $20,276 per acre in 2023. This price per acre mainly represents transitional land that changed from woodlands to a farm or ranch. The price per acre for residential, commercial, or industrial transitional land was several times that, depending upon the potential profit the buyers could realize from their planned projects.

Solar Power - Florida

Last year, 24 transactions encompassing 60,996 gross acres in transitional sales were dedicated to solar-powered development, totaling $449 million. These sales signify a remarkable 113% escalation in the acreage acquired for solar energy production compared to 2022 and a 291% surge from 2021. Osceola County accounted for the majority of the total acreage in solar sales and the largest transaction in the state.

Homestead Area Farms - South Florida

In 2023, sales primarily comprised improved farmland/row crops, tropical fruit groves, and other agricultural lands. However, there were only 5 transactions exceeding 40 acres, notably lower than in previous years, attributed to sharp increases in agricultural land prices and mortgage rates. Recent demand and price hikes led to the sale of longstanding agricultural ownerships to developers at prices surpassing those viable for agricultural use. Transitional properties typically sold for over $200,000 per acre, with one 40-acre parcel selling for $8.3 million or $208,948 per acre.

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About SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler

SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate is a full-service land and commercial real estate brokerage representing buyers, sellers, investors, institutions, and landowners since 1996. We are recognized nationally as an authority on all types of land including, agriculture, ranch, recreation, residential development, and international properties. Our commercial real estate services include marketing, property management, leasing and tenant representation, loan sales, valuation, advisory, and counseling services for office, retail, industrial, and multi-family properties. With over 100 expert advisors located in Florida and Georgia, we provide our clients with professional knowledge and resources to ensure the buyer’s and seller’s needs are met.

Lay of the Land
Market Report

The Lay of the Land Market Report continues to be the single source compiling verified Florida land sales data to evaluate market trends throughout the year. We provide data to landowners that can be accurately interpreted and applied, leading to more informed, relevant decisions.

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