Winter Haven Real Estate Market Guide for 2022 & 2023

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With a population of just over 42,000 people and a median home price of $315K, Winter Haven is not exactly a metropolitan area. Despite this, it continues to impress with its high rate of appreciation of 37% from April 2021 to April 2022. In fact, the Winter Haven real estate market is one of the hottest markets for investors right now. But is a slowdown to be expected going forward?

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About the Winter Haven real estate market in 2022

Winter Haven Florida - Legoland
Image Source: Ziggymarley01, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Winter Haven is a hot spot right now. Before the pandemic, the Polk County region was ranked No. 1 in the country for home value appreciation by Realtor.com. And since then it hasn’t slowed down. Polk County is currently the second fastest growing metro in the US.

The reason for Winter Haven’s population growth is the influx of workers from Orlando and Tampa, motivated by cheaper home prices. The unemployment rate in Winter Haven is also low at 2.9%.

What about home prices in Winter Haven? As of April, Realtor.com puts the median price of homes in Winter Haven at $315K. It’s one of the markets experiencing the highest appreciation rates right now. Winter Haven real estate prices have appreciated by 37% YOY. Also, average days on market for listings decreased from 66 days in January to 45 days in April.

However, it’s important to note that crime rates in Winter Haven are higher than 66% of Florida neighborhoods according to Neighborhood Scout.

Yet Winter Haven attracts investors and developers both from around the country and internationally. Over 45% of home sales in Winter Haven were cash sales in the first quarter of 2022, according to data from Florida Realtors. And 100% of homes in Winter Haven sell for around their asking price.

5 reasons to invest in the Winter Haven real estate market today

Why should you invest in the Winter Haven real estate market in 2022?

1. Good schools

Education is the second largest employer of labor in Polk county with over 13,000 employees employed by the Polk County school district. The average student-teacher ratio in Winter Haven Fl is 15:1. And 78.9% of young people have completed high school.

While lower than the Florida average, school test scores in Winter Haven are 3% higher than the national average. This is one of the reasons why young families are moving here.

Based on a Great Schools rating of 10/10, the highest rated elementary school in Winter Haven is Hartridge Academy. The best public high school in Winter Haven is Chain of Lakes Collegiate high school, also with a 10/10 rating. The best middle school is Jewett Middle Academy Magnet, rated 5/10.

2. Located close to Tampa and Orlando

The driving distance between Winter Haven and Tampa is a mere 50 miles away. That means that if you’re renting in Winter Haven and need to get to Tampa for work or play (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), you’ll be there in about 55 minutes flat.

When it comes to travel time from Winter Haven to Orlando (which is only 47 miles/76 kilometers away), you’ll be there in just 52 minutes.

And because so many people visit these cities each year (and often more than once), we think that makes Winter Haven one of the most desirable places for renters as well as landlords.

3. Presence of Legoland draws tourists

In Winter Haven, you get your own piece of the world’s largest Legoland resort. Not only does this 150-acre interactive theme park feature more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, restaurants, shopping and a Peppa Pig theme park—it also attracts tourists from all over the globe.

For those looking for a bit more culture than just Lego blocks, Winter Haven is home to Bok Tower Gardens. This is one of the top national landmarks in the United States. This botanical garden features beautifully-landscaped gardens and an historic Mediterranean-style estate. It also hosts several major annual events like the Bok Tower Garden Concert Under the Stars Series.

4. Low cost of living

If you’re looking for a low-cost of living and a lakefront lifestyle, Winter Haven, Florida has everything you need.

What is the cost of living in Winter Haven Florida? According to Bestplaces.net, compared to the rest of the country, Winter Haven’s cost of living is 11.9% lower than the U.S. average. However, grocery costs are 2.6% higher than the national average.

Over 50 lakes within the city limits means that waterfront living is accessible to all residents, no matter where they live or how much money they make. Florida has no state income tax which makes investing in Winter Haven FL all the more attractive.

5. Population growth and a thriving economy

Florida’s economy is booming, and it’s providing an excellent opportunity for real estate investors. According to the BLS, Florida experienced 5.4% job growth between January and September of 2021. This is significantly higher than the national average of 0.8%, adding about 524,000 jobs within that period.

The Winter Haven – Lakeland MSA has been the 2nd fastest growing in the United States with a growth rate of 45% from 2010 to 2020. Winter Haven is located at the center of Florida’s super region, an area that spans from Tampa to Daytona that generates $300 billion per year in economic activity — making this region the 9th largest economy in the US.

Winter Haven is also one of Florida’s strong commercial real estate markets. The Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL commercial real estate market is stronger compared to the overall U.S. market with a NAR Commercial Real Estate Market Conditions Index of 58.1.

What to expect from the Winter Haven real estate market in 2023

Here are some key trends to watch in the Winter Haven and Central Florida real estate market for 2023:

1. Long term home appreciation

If you’re an investor, you probably have warranted fears of a bubble bust as many markets in the US are overpriced right now. But based on past data, Winter Haven is one neighborhood that has seen consistent home appreciation. According to Neighborhoodscout, since the year 2000 to 4th quarter 2021, Winter Haven real estate has appreciated by 169.38% at a 4.61% annual appreciation rate. Lake Ashton and Downtown Winter Haven have seen the most appreciation.

And it’s not just the prices of homes that’s going up—the population of the Lakeland-Winter Haven area is growing faster than nationally, which means that demand for Winter Haven real estate will continue to grow.

2. Multiple offers on home sales continue into 2023

In the midst of a housing and inflation crisis sweeping the U.S, competition for homes is still tipping the scales in the seller’s favor.

Experts believe housing should hold up well compared to other industries due to low supply. Hence while a slowdown is predicted, there will still be multiple offers on homes for the next two years.

This is due to the higher costs of building materials slowing down the construction of new homes. Along with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict impacting global oil prices and construction material availability.

3. Mortgage rates expected to climb

The first few months of 2022 saw the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage skyrocket from 4.75% to over 5%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. This is its highest rate since late 2018. This could add hundreds of dollars to buyers’ monthly mortgage bills.

This increase in rates is putting pressure on homebuyers to wait. As such, Fannie Mae revised downward its forecast for total home sales in 2022 to 5.96 million units, which represents a 13.5 percent decline from 2021.

4. Rents keep growing

33% of Winter Haven residents are renters compared to 67% of homeowners. But with affordability becoming an issue, we might see more people rent rather than own. And it’s not just home prices that are growing, rents have also risen.

Realtor.com says that the median rent in Winter Haven is currently $2000. RentCafe puts the average rent for a single 949 sq.ft apartment in Winter Haven at $1,323. Based on NAR stats, rents in Winter Haven have risen YOY at 13.1% compared to the national average of 6.4%.

5. Inventory issues ease

Fannie Mae predicts that multifamily housing starts will continue to increase over the next year. However, by the end of 2023, economic conditions will result in a lower level of multifamily starts. On the other hand, rapidly rising interest rates will have a more immediate impact on single family home starts.

Generally, housing starts are increasing. In fact, there were 7.7% net delivered units as a percentage of inventory in the Lakeland – Winter Haven region in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 2.2% nationally, according to NAR stats. And there were 4.5% under construction units as a percentage of inventory during the same period compared to 3.3% nationally.

How to buy investment property in Winter Haven

To buy investment property in Winter Haven, you’ll need to be prepared for a few things. First, let’s talk about debt. If you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck and are looking to kickstart your investing career with a rental property, you might want to hold off on buying anything right now.

If you have student loans, unpaid medical bills, or children who will attend college soon, purchasing a rental property may not be the right move for now. If that sounds like you, try saving up some money before making that plunge into real estate investing.

When choosing a profitable rental property, look for a location with low property taxes, a decent school district, and plenty of amenities—things like restaurants, coffee shops, shopping centers/malls, trails and parks (if there are outdoor activities nearby), and so on. These things will help attract renters and make sure they stick around for the long haul! Winter Haven has all of these – making it an awesome place to invest in real estate.

1. Choose the right property type

If you’re fairly new to investing, and do not want maintenance headaches, you might want to stay away from fixer-uppers for now. While you’ll find homes needing considerable repairs that you can get for a bargain price in Winter Haven, they might not be worth the stress. Well, unless you are skilled at large scale home improvements, or have a trusted contractor who does these improvements for cheap.

Two low-maintenance options for new investors are condos and single family build to rent homes. The downside to investing in condos is that they are difficult to finance and might come with expensive HOA dues.

Single family build to rent properties are becoming popular right now as renters want more amenities and more privacy. Read this article to learn more about build to rent homes and communities.

2. Calculate your potential return

As an investor, you need consistent cash flow and that’s why you should always take measured risks. Instead of chasing down double digit returns, a 6% return in your first year as a landlord is considered healthy. Over time, this number will rise.

Let’s say you buy an apartment building for $300,000 and rent it out for $2,000 per month. You’d make $24,000 over the course of a year—that’s an 8% return on your investment. So how do you figure out your potential ROI from the start?

Estimate your annual rental income by searching for similar properties as yours. Look at their rents and multiply that by 12. Then get an average. Use your annual rental income to calculate net operating income. That is, annual rental income minus total expenses (aside mortgage payments and taxes). Your expenses could include insurance, closing costs, furnishings, property registration and licenses.

Lastly, calculate your CAP rate by dividing your NOI by the purchase price of the property. Financed real estate uses cash on cash return, where you divide the NOI by the total yearly mortgage costs plus down payment.

3. Browse affordable property listings in Winter Haven, Florida

With its median resident age at 42 years old—and with plenty of spots for kids to play—Winter Haven is an ideal place for young families. And there’s no better time than now to invest.

We have an inventory of new homes for sale in winter haven, Florida coming up in August and September, so check back often to get updates on these awesome new homes.

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