Why are houses so cheap in Lehigh Acres, Florida?

Florida is one of the most desirable states to live in, but it has grown costly over time. Lehigh acres is one of the most affordable options if you’re considering moving to the Sunshine State. So, why are houses so cheap in Lehigh Acres, Florida?

The typical home value in Lehigh Acres is $309,900, cheaper than the US average. This is due to its foreclosure history, high crime rate, limited amenities, and abandonment. But home prices here have increased by 45.5% in one year. The surge in price is because of its growing economy and population.

Many are worried about history repeating itself, with home prices now close to the previous highs or above. That’s quite likely if the recession should occur, given the country’s currently high inflation levels. Here, we discussed why houses are so cheap in Lehigh Acres.

Cost of Homes in Lehigh Acres

Homes in Lehigh Acres aren’t exactly cheap. But they cost less than the national and state average price. According to Zillow, the average cost of homes here is $309,900. This makes it one of the few places with the most affordable housing in the state. It’s also one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the US, with home prices up by 45.5% in 12 months.

History of Lehigh Acres

Lehigh Acres is an unincorporated town in Lee County, Florida. The community has a  history that dates back to the early 50s. In partnership with others, Lee Ratner converted his Lucky Lee Ranch into a real estate development named Lehigh Development Corporation. The price at the time was a $10 down payment and $10 per month.

The initial development was a two-way street within an incomplete grid. The street was to allow those who bought land in the development to be able to visit their land. At the time,  there were no basic utilities on the land. But it attracted several people for decades. Lehigh Acres was ideal for middle-income families and snowbirds who wanted to live in Florida. The town even had the famous Lehigh Resort and Hotel, where several entertainers performed.

By the 80s, it had become clear that the Lehigh Development Corporation would not be able to sustain the development in the area. So Lee County partnered with a developer in 1992 to improve the area and add more infrastructure.

The town witnessed the housing boom in the early 2000s. Prices of homes in Lehigh Acres rose significantly between 2003 and 2007, and construction during the period was very high too. In 2006 alone, there were over 7,500 new houses. The easy mortgage money in the early 2000s was responsible for increasing the housing costs in Lee County and towns like Lehigh Acres. But the financial meltdown of 2008 affected Lehigh Acres significantly. The value of homes and unemployment rose as many depended on the construction and real estate markets for jobs.

Factors Responsible for Low Cost of Homes in Lehigh Acres

There are several reasons for the low cost of homes in the town. They include:

1.      Foreclosure History

The housing market crash in 2008 is the major reason for the low cost of homes in Lehigh Acres. After the housing crash, Lee County was the foreclosure capital of the US between 2008 and 2013. It had the highest rate in the country, with about 42% of properties in one zip code going into foreclosures. In 2005, the median cost of a single-family home in Lee County was $315,000 before the crash, dropping to as low as $81,000 in 2011.

2.      Abandonment

During the housing crisis, several abandoned homes and empty lots were in Lehigh Acres. The result of this was very low prices. Lehigh Acres, during the recession, was practically a ghost town as more people moved out.

3.      High Crime Rate 

The foreclosures in the town led to large-scale abandonment. With that, the crime rate in this town also increased significantly. In addition, burglary and theft were rampant in the city. This further decreased the already low demand for homes in the city. With low demand, the prices of homes in the city were historically low.

Even though the town conditions have improved, the crime rate is still high. The overall crime rate in the city is 48% above the national average. This is due to its violent crime rate, which is a substantial 60% higher. However, the crime rate here decreased by 15% in the past year. Therefore, the chance of being a crime victim here is 1 in 29.

4.      Lack of Amenities

Leigh Acres was originally developed to be a retirement and tourism destination. This means the number of amenities here is quite minimal. However, now that the city is growing back. Plans for infrastructural amenities are also growing with it. The quality of schools in the area still leaves much to be desired. The average test scores here are 8% lower than the national average and even further below the Florida average. The county plans to build new schools and renovate old ones to increase capacity.

Why Lehigh Acres Home Price Is Rising

However, the price of homes in Lehigh Acres is increasing at a dramatic speed. This is due to the following reasons:

1.      Population growth

Lehigh Acres population has been on the increase in the past decade. While the town seemed like a ghost town a decade ago, it has grown incredibly over time. Between 2010 and 2020, the population increased by 31.69%. That’s more than the 22.96% overall growth in the Lee County population.

The population growth in Lehigh Acres is due to its affordability compared to other areas near it, such as Fort Myers and Cape Coral. With new people moving in, the construction rate has also increased, and most people who bought homes here during the crash are now seeing their homes valued at twice the price they paid.

2.      Economy

The economy of Lee County has improved substantially over time. After losing almost half its tax base due to the housing market crash, the county lowered regulations to attract businesses. The result was top companies such as Car rental company Hertz and IT consulting firm Gartner established their headquarters in the county. Beyond the big companies, the number of businesses in the area has also increased. During the recession, the Lehigh Acres strip mall was 40% vacant. Now, it’s fully occupied, and the town is working on a new town center.

In Conclusion

Lehigh Acres’s house used to be very cheap due to its history of foreclosures and other factors. But that has changed in recent years. Although it’s still cheaper than the national average, it might not be for long if it keeps increasing at this rate.