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Home sales up double digits in the Florida county hardest hit by Hurricane Michael

In this Tuesday, July 2, 2019, photo, volunteers from Baptists On Mission and Home Builders Institute work at the home of Clifton Hall, assisting with ongoing repairs due to damage caused by Hurricane Florence, in Spring Lake, N.C. North Carolina hurricane survivors are frustrated with the slow spending of federal long-term housing recovery funds. (Associated Press)
Published Jul. 29

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Real estate experts say investors and demand caused by Hurricane Michael's destruction led to a 15.5 percent increase in home sales for the first half of the year in the Florida county hardest hit by the Category 5 storm.

Almost 2,050 homes were sold in Bay County, Florida from January to June, according to Florida Realtors.

The industry group also said home prices were up 1.1 percent year-over-year.

Karen Smith, who owns a real estate company, told the Panama City News Herald that the housing demand comes from construction workers who moved to the county to help rebuild and renters who lost their homes.

Hurricane Michael made landfall last October in the Florida Panhandle county.

RELATED: Hurricane Michael destroyed their homes. Then the insurance heartache began

"The storm, while a horrible thing, there's always something good to come from something bad," said Smith, owner of Beachy Beach Real Estate in Panama City Beach.

Many people who previously rented are now looking to buy a home because of soaring rents and little supply, she said.

"It's almost impossible to find anything that's inexpensive because of supply and demand ... and our rental market was already in dire straits before the storm," Smith said. "Typical renters are now going, 'With a little bit of money, I can just buy a home.'"

Investors also are contributing to the jump in home sales, many paying in cash, according to the newspaper.

In the first half of the year, there was an almost 50 percent increase year-over-year in cash sales, according to the real estate agent association.

Several new housing developments also are in the planning stages.

Homebuilder D.R. Horton has approval to start construction on 113 homes outside Panama City. The St. Joe Company has announced plans for a 300-home development and one with 126 homes.

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