THE ISSUE: Niceville's rebranding as a luxury inland community has sent housing costs there soaring. 

LOCAL IMPACT: More people with middle incomes are moving to Crestview, and the number of homes sold has increased significantly compared to last year.

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CRESTVIEW — Average housing costs in Crestview have increased 13 percent this year, according to the data of Jeremy Fretwell, a broker at RE/MAX Gulf Coast Realty in Fort Walton Beach, who last week conducted a study of market places in Okaloosa County.

“Our average price went from $155,000 to $178,000 — that’s an increase of 13 percent in one year. That’s pretty healthy.” He added, “The number of homes sold went up 12 percent from 1,149 houses to 1,299.”

According to Fretwell, some first-time home buyers are heading north through Okaloosa County to Crestview to purchase homes as area properties surrounding military bases increase in price.

“The coast is getting more expensive; Fort Walton, Niceville and Destin, all the areas close to the military bases are getting more expensive,” he said.

“You have an area like Fort Walton, where you look at it geographically and you say, ‘okay that’s kind of boxed in by the Gulf on the south side and the military base on the north side.’ So what you’ve got in the middle there is what you’ve got in Fort Walton.”

First-time and mid-level home buyers are being priced into Crestview, where housing is more affordable.

“Niceville is pricing itself as more of an inland luxury market. Their prices are routinely now hitting — in some of the new construction — $175-$200 per square foot, which is head-and-shoulders over some areas which are inland and not near the beach, that is,” Fretwell said. “With those markets increasing in pricing, your typical consumer in the housing market, say, your entry-level to

“With those markets increasing in pricing, your typical consumer in the housing market, say, your entry-level to mid-level buyer, where are they left to go? They have to go farther north, which is Crestview.”

Bill Reddington, an associate at RE/MAX Southern Realty in Destin, said that a decrease in the quantity of housing in Crestview has not hampered sales in the area.  

“There are over 400 properties actively for sale now. Last year, they sold over 13,000 over the course of the year. That would tell me that inventory is low,” he said.

In response to the question of whether the sale of lower-cost housing (such as mobile homes) indicates that the economy of Crestview is improving, he said, “There are 41 houses for less than $100,000. You can buy a house as inexpensively as $24,900, but it needs work.”

Reddington added that although the “world slowed down” during the housing market crash of 2008, the market has since improved dramatically in the city. 

“When the crash happened, the world slowed down, and when 2010 happened, and the oil spill, it slowed the world dramatically. It’s picking up in Crestview, which is down to 17 foreclosures.  So that’s got to be good for Crestview,” he said. 

However, he added, “People are still afraid of the economy.”