CRESTVIEW — The Hub City’s proximity to Eglin Air Force Base has somewhat insulted the real estate market from the recent recession, according to Dino Sinopoli, a Re/Max Agency One Realtor and former Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce president.


CRESTVIEW — The Hub City’s proximity to Eglin Air Force Base has somewhat insulted the real estate market from the recent recession, according to Dino Sinopoli, a Re/Max Agency One Realtor and former Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce president.



"In general trends, because of the Air Force base being here, we didn't drop as much as other areas (in the south county) that were all second homes and condo markets," he said. "We had real people, with real jobs, that weren't losing their jobs."



Click here for video of North Okaloosa County houses under construction.



The arrival of 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers and Eglin 33rd Fighter Wing airmen, along with their families and support staff, was a boon to area home rentals and sales.



At first, local agents barely kept up with the demand for rental homes, which has since leveled off, Sinopoli said.





"When the Army first came here, you could rent anything for any price. It was nice," he said. "People were crawling over each other to get a rental. You put a rental on the market and it would rent. This year, it's not happening like that. Now, it's a nice, even flow."



Newcomers would frequently rent a home or a townhome while having a new house built, taking time to pick the exact neighborhood in which to live, he said.



New buyers in the market



"Two years ago, when the 7th Special Forces came in, I've never sold so many brand new homes," Sinopoli said. "They came down here (from North Carolina) with $1,000 deposits. They consecutively kept coming down and buying new homes."



In addition to military families buying local houses, the economy’s recovery is encouraging once-skittish residents to make the investment.



"It's keeping our market very, very strong," Sinopoli said. "We've had a lot of investors. I've had more cash buyers than I had before. People aren't getting good returns in the bank, but they're getting 10 to 14 percent returns on their property."



Foreclosed and older houses can cost $40,000 to $80,000. The average range for a new house is $175,000 for 1,800-square-foot homes to $225,000 for four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot homes. A three-year-old home in good condition sells for about $175,000.



Subdivisions being completed



Economic improvements have revived developments dormant during the recession. The Zachary Estates, Carnegie and Lake Silver Homes subdivisions off Lake Silver Road can be completed due to the military influx.



Two-and-a-half years ago, Duggan Pond in southeast Crestview had two homes completed, but “now it's almost finished off" with 108 properties available, Sinopoli said.





Fox Valley, near Foxwood Country Club in southwest Crestview, has been completed.



Construction is booming north of U.S. Highway 90 in Liberty Oaks off Old Bethel Road.



"Well-priced homes move well in this market," Sinopoli said. "New-home prices have increased, but existing inventory homes, not so much so. Buyers are picking newer homes rather than a comparable ‘used’ home because ‘new’ is always better.



"If you have a used home in good condition and you have it priced well, you will sell it. If you're even a little overpriced, it won't sell."



With the local housing market’s uptick, there's been a membership spike in the Emerald Coast Board of Realtors, which represents real estate agents from Pensacola to Panama City. Its membership — once around 3,500 agents — plummeted by more than a thousand when the recession struck, Sinopoli, a former board member, said.



However, with the area's strong military presence, Crestview is rebounding faster than elsewhere in the state.



"Because of Eglin, we didn't drop as much," Sinopoli said. "Tampa dropped 50 percent of its market from ’07. We dropped maybe 25 percent, at most. Some of those months were hard, but we pulled through.”



HISTORY



Hamner "Doc" Powell, a Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad station agent, built Crestview’s first house in the late 1800s. It stood near the downtown tracks, according to "Crestview: The Forkland," by Betty Curenton and Claudia Patten.



The city's first brick house, belonging to businessman William J. Rice, was erected in the 1920s and still stands on the corner of Pearl Street and Hickory Avenue. Dr. Roy Nakaiye, who purchased it in 2011, promised to maintain it as a historic architectural landmark.



Downtown Crestview bears many legacies from its early days, including several historic homes and a diamond street layout that occasionally confuses newcomers until its original triangular blocks meet the newer district’s square blocks north of First Avenue.



Today, houses in new subdivisions rise on curving streets that sometimes confuse visitors and public safety agencies.



With developments popping up, the Crestview Fire Department relies on frequently updated GPS maps on tablets rather than a wall map of the community.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.