Central Florida Homes for Under $200,000? It Can Be Done!

Aug. 04, 2021 | Written by: By Trevor Fraser

Central Fla. Homes for Under $200,000? It Can Be Done!

With the area’s rising housing market, finding a home in the $200K and under range isn’t easy, but it’s possible if buyers know where to look and are prepared to act fast.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Even as a real estate agent, finding a home in Central Florida’s housing market wasn’t easy for Christine Plant. She began looking in April when the pandemic forced her two daughters to move back in with her and her husband.

A swiftly rising housing market and a $200,000 financing limit meant that Plant had to look beyond the areas she was familiar with. “I was not able to touch anything downtown,” she said.

In January, Plant, 47, found a four-bedroom home for $195,000 in a town she had never been to: Deltona. Now her family has the space but a much longer commute to their jobs. “They’re leaving at 7 for 8:30 start times and they’re still going to be late,” she said.

Plant’s plight is one familiar to many prospective home buyers in metro Orlando. Median home prices in the area crossed $315,000 last month, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, putting many homes out of reach for residents of a city that repeatedly ranks at the very bottom of wages.

Finding a home that is reasonably affordable is still possible, says ORRA president Natalie Arrowsmith, but buyers need to know where to look and be able to act fast.

“I would say there are several communities in Central Florida where buyers can get homes for under that $200,000 mark,” Arrowsmith said. “The problem is we have a million people looking to grab that home the second it comes on the market.”

Only five ZIP codes around Orlando have kept average sales below $200,000 in the past 90 days: 32805, 32808 and 32811 representing the Washington Shores, Pine Hills and Orlo Vista communities west of downtown, and 32821 and 32822 near International Drive.

However, with inventory just barely up from a record low in April, Arrowsmith said just finding a listing is the real struggle. “They’re under the median but they’re nonexistent,” she said.

Of course, luck can still be a factor. Aubrey Kuperman, an assistant director of undergraduate studies at UCF, was only toying with the idea of buying a home in January when she saw a listing for a ground-floor condo in Lake Eola Heights, one of the most expensive neighborhoods. She says she drove over the second she saw it and made an offer right there.

“When you find something in that neighborhood for under $200,000, you grab it,” she said. Kuperman, 29, scored a two-bedroom townhouse for $192,000. She says it helped that she had 20% to put down.

Arrowsmith says location isn’t the only thing home buyers on a budget need to think about sacrificing. “What we find sometimes is that homes that are of low price need more work to be done,” she said.

Plant said her home, built in the 1960s, needs a lot of work, both on integral things and updating the décor. “I’m walking into what my grandparents thought was the cream of the crop,” she said.

So far, her family has had to fix things from outdated electrical panels to broken toilets.

Looking for a fixer-upper may reduce the price, but Arrowsmith cautioned people who need FHA loans or other financing agreements to be careful. “Some homes that are in need of work may not have financing options that are available for homes that are move-in ready,” she said. “One of the crucial key points is to speak to a lender first.”

Plant notes that, though her closets and bathrooms are smaller than she was hoping for, her mortgage is significantly cheaper than what she was paying in rent and doesn’t have any HOA or condo association fees. “I’m saving a bundle,” she said.

Kuperman had to make minor repairs to pass inspection. She also began renovating right away. “I gutted the bathroom before I moved in,” she said. So far, she estimates she’s spent more than $20,000 getting her house the way she wants it.

“It needed some love, but what it had was location, location, location, two porches and skylight,” she said. “With that, I could make it work.”

Plant says a lot of her clients come to her with dreams of homes they’ve seen on social media or in magazines. “I tell them you have to look at the possibilities,” she said. “Don’t expect to walk into your dream.”

She’s been getting to know her new hometown. And she says it’s the potential she sees in her home that exciting now. “Sometimes you don’t realize what your dream actually is until you step out of that box,” she said. “Sometimes it’s nicer to build your dream than to live in somebody else’s dream.”

© 2021 Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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