The Florida Keys took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma last September. But as local governments start putting together their budgets for the next fiscal year, they recently got some good news: the property values on the island chain have increased.
Monroe County and the cities in the Keys have spent tens of millions cleaning up from the storm. Much of that will be reimbursed by the federal and state governments, but not all of it.
The tax roll – the amount properties are valued by the county property appraiser — is used by local governments to build their budgets.
The estimated taxable property for the school district, which covers the entire county, went from $27.5 billion to $28.1 billion. The numbers will be finalized July 1.
The increase came even as more than 4,000 structures in the Keys were destroyed or received major damage from Irma, which crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 10.
Monroe Property Appraiser Scott Russell said that many of the older homes and mobile homes that were destroyed by Irma were not worth anywhere near as much as the land they occupied. And real estate sales since the storm have remained strong. The average home sales price in the Keys in 2017 was $612,000, according to local real estate boards.
“The trend is people still want to own a piece of the Keys,” Russell said.
Many expected to see the same kind of drop in real estate prices that affected the area after Hurricane Wilma. That storm did not directly cross the Keys but it sent a damaging storm surge across the islands, including Key West. But Wilma was in late 2005, the height of the real estate bubble that had been pushing prices into the stratosphere. It also came at the end of a two-year cycle of repeated storm threats for the area.
So far, Russell said the high demand and relatively small supply of housing in the Keys is keeping the market strong.
“We may be leveling off to some degree,” he said. “But I still think we’re moving in an upward direction.”