Shore Thing


Jenn Bryndal, Broker and Owner of Engel & Völkers St. Augustine shares her expert insights into investing in prime residential real estate on the northeast coast of Florida. By L-J Andrew

What key ingredients make St. Augustine a popular location with overseas buyers?

As the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited, European-established settlement in the United States, St. Augustine is something of a one-off. It was founded by the Spaniards in 1565 and is probably best known as the location where Ponce De Leon landed whilst searching for the legendary fountain of youth. This rich, fabled history has long struck a chord with European visitors. That said, we also have a loyal domestic following closer to home.

The town has it all. Thanks to its centuries-old foundations, it’s home to a mixture of beautiful architectural styles. A stroll through the quaint streets allows visitors to admire the colonial homes with their often-colourful facades and wooden balconies. Popular Southern styles also come into play with homes that have wraparound porches painted in pristine shades of white. Plus, you can’t miss the grandeur of the Spanish Renaissance architecture seen at Flagler College, which includes Tiffany stained-glass windows.

The short-term rental market here is, not surprisingly, well-established which means we remain a highly popular ‘buy to rent’ destination. With such a unique history and culture being a draw for visitors, we have a good many overseas investors buying local properties, who then go on to let them out as holiday homes.

Is there a comparable region in Florida in terms of the quality of life on offer?

The Sunshine State as a whole is known for its unique and desirable quality of life, but there’s a stunning area just north of St. Augustine called Ponte Vedra which I’d say matches St.Augustine for its quality and calibre of lifestyle. Both sportscenic frontline locations, which means buyers have the pick of prime oceanfront property complete with stunning views. Add to this, the history of St. Augustine and you have quite an exceptional offering.

How has the holiday home market performed during Covid?

We are currently the strongest residential real estate market in the nation. This also applies to the state of Florida as a whole. We have seen average price rises of around 30% over the last year due to the volume of people relocating down to Florida from New York and California. So much so, most properties are currently receiving multiple offers in quick succession.

Tell us about investment opportunities on Anastasia Island.

Anastasia Island is something of a micro-market. It’s the stunning barrier island to historic St Augustine and boasts a variety of distinct neighbourhoods. The availability of real estate stock is finite, hence prices remain strong with excellent capital appreciation especially for frontline detached homes.

For short-term investment, there’s always the option of vacation rental in the form of condominium living. For those looking for a longer-term purchase commitment, property styles range from large estate homes to simple beach cottages, some in gated communities. Buyers can typically expect to pay in the region of $1.3m for a 4-bed, 5-bath property with spacious garden and sea views and expect a return of at least10% in rental income, on top of our real estate market values increasing over 9% each year.

Which neighbourhoods offer the best rental potential?

It would have to be Anastasia Island and Vilano Beach, just north of St Augustine. Some neighbourhoods do however have certain restrictions on short-terms lets. The best way to navigate one’s way through the legalise is to work closely with a real estate agent and tap into their local knowledge and expertise.

What advice would you give to potential overseas buyers looking to put down roots in the region?

The most important first step would be to visit the area and soak up St Augustine’s historic downtown charm, culture, and history. There’s a certain vibrancy there, from fine dining, theatre and community events through to live music that has to be experienced in person.

Our coastline and the state parks are a further natural asset draw. We have three miles of undeveloped ocean front, state park land, that will never be built on. It’s quite magical, with50-foot-tall white sand dunes completely undisturbed.

I’d also advise spending time reviewing the variety of different property options son the market – work with a qualified agent who can show you what’s available and the distinctive neighbourhoods there are. You won’t be disappointed.


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