Home sales remain steady, prices up in island club communities


Despite continued uncertainty in the real estate market, the island’s club communities had a solid season with sales remarkably steady compared to last year and prices up 10 percent to 20 percent in some segments.

“The season started with a bang for us in early January,” said Moorings Realty Sales Co. broker Marsha Sherry. “It was so strong that we were like, ‘Whoa!’ Business slowed in February and March but then picked up again, with April and May busier than usual.”

Bob Gibb, broker at John’s Island Real Estate, reported a similar trajectory, with a quiet March followed by a busier than normal April and May. “The market remains strong,” he added.

At Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club, another of 32963’s premier club communities, broker Anne Torline is caught up in the same late-season surge of interest.

“I have been so busy this week,” she told Vero Beach 32963. “We are seeing more interest in the club this year than usual and that means constant tours with people coming to check out the facilities.”

Gibb said John’s Island Real Estate notched 46 sales between Jan. 1 and April 30 – almost exactly the same number of units the brokerage sold during the first four months of 2023 – but said dollar volume was up 10 percent, due to higher sales prices.

“High-end homes priced $11 million and up had the most inquiries and strongest interest,” Gibb added. In the extended season, November through April, John’s Island Real Estate sold six homes priced at more than $10 million, including a $22 million oceanfront sale at 660 Ocean Road.

At The Moorings Yacht & Country Club, however, condos led the way.

“We sold 21 condos last year between Jan. 1 and April 30,” said Sherry, whose agents close 75 percent of the sales at The Moorings. “This year we sold 20, so that was very stable, but the median price was up 26 percent, from $625,000 last year to $794,500 this year.”

Meanwhile, single-family home prices were stable – up less than 1 percent – and Moorings Realty sold exactly as many this season as last.

“There are a lot of negative stories in the press about the real estate market,” Sherry said.

“People are always worried that the market will crash. But the opposite is true. It is very stable. The numbers speak for themselves.”

At Orchid Island, Torline said 10 properties had been sold or put under contract between November and April.

That number doesn’t sound large, but with only 375 residences, Orchid Island is less than a third the size of John’s Island.

In all three club communities – and up and down the barrier island – low inventory has acted as a constraint on sales, while also helping keep prices strong.

“If we had more inventory, we could sell more houses,” said Gibb. “There is still plenty of demand, but inventory is light. We have the exact same number of active listings now as we did a year ago.”

According to the John’s Island Real Estate website, there are only 35 active listings, a miniscule percentage of the community’s 1380 residences – and 12 of those 35 properties are already under contract.

Inventory also remains historically low at Orchid Island and the Moorings.

“We used to figure that normal inventory was about 10 percent of the properties, but we haven’t been close to that for a long time,” Sherry said. Running down a list of The Moorings 15 subdivisions, she counted fewer than 40 active listings – more like 2 percent than 10.

At Orchid Island, Torline said there are six active listings, less than 2 percent of the community’s homes.

Properties are turning over briskly, for the most part. The median time on the market for Moorings’ condos was 35 days this season, same as last season, and Gibb said new spec homes being built on John’s Island lots often sell before the old house is torn down.

“People are looking for a plug-in and play lifestyle,” said John’s Island Real Estate sales associate Luke Webb, touching on the unique appeal of island club communities, where buyers can gain access to an elite lifestyle when they purchase real estate.

“They want all the amenities in one place, so they don’t have to join multiple clubs,” Webb said.

John’s Island fits the bill, with three 18-hole championship courses crafted by Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Fazio, big, beautiful golf and beach clubhouses, every kind of racquet sport and loads of other constantly updated, topflight amenities.

“You can’t replicate these amenities,” said Gibb, adding that the quality of the club membership and tenor of the community are equally attractive to buyers.

“It is such a warm and engaging community of neighbors and friends. We have seen an increase in activity among residents and third and fourth generation legacies,” people who have golden memories of growing up in John’s Island or visiting grandparents there and want to get back to the life they recall.

The dynamic is similar at the Moorings – which has two championship golf courses, a yacht club, a robust tennis and pickleball program and a full slate of other amenities – and Orchid Island.

“Orchid is very unique in that we have all of the amenities of a much larger club,” said Torline. “People like the look and feel of the club. They like that they can drive their golf carts everywhere. They love that you can normally get a tee time the day before, except at the holidays.

“Just as important, Orchid is a very welcoming community. That is the first thing people who buy here will tell you – they bought here for the amenities, sure, but even more because of the very welcoming way of the community.”

Gibb said crime and high taxes in big cities in the Northeast, Midwest and California continue to push buyers toward Vero Beach.

The advent of Breeze Airways, which now flies directly to Vero from a handful of strategic destinations in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, also has helped.

“The ease of travel to Vero provided by Breeze has had a good effect,” said Gibb. “What a great way to exit the hustle and bustle of daily life in the Northeast and come down to the relaxing lifestyle they remember. We’ve seen a lot of interest come out of White Plains, Islip, Providence and Hartford.”

Torline also cited the upsurge in interest in Vero by people in the Miami area.

“People are tired of the madness down there,” Torline said.

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