A seven-person panel of local bankers talked interest rates, loans and the state of Alachua County real estate at the May 5 Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors (GACAR) Commercial Council Meeting. The panel was made up representatives from the County’s varied financial institutions, including TD Bank, Fidelity Bank and Sunstate Federal Credit Union.
The overall sentiment of the group was cautiously positive, as the group has seen housing prices rise and the market slowly recover. Since January 2012, the group said that they had seen more cash transactions, a pickup in demand for financing, a more willing attitude to take the risk of building and loosening regulations.
Timber is doing well, said Zak Seymour from Farm Credit of Florida, and there is a lot of opportunity in the agricultural industry. He said that he’s had buyers from outside of the area come in and want to purchase anywhere from 20 to 40 acres for recreational facilities, cattle pasture and future home sites.
“We’ve got a lot of money to lend, and we’re eager to lend it,” said TD Bank’s Bob Cameron.
As far as interest rates are concerned, Cameron said that they are currently at an almost historic low, and he is approving long-term, fixed-rate loans that he wouldn’t have approved in the past. There was a sentiment that once federal regulations change that interest rates will rise quickly but all hoped that they wouldn’t, because if they come up too quickly then it will shock the system. Skyrocketing interest rates could potentially destroy a fragile recovery, but each agreed that they don’t seem to be going up any time soon.
While the group said that they weren’t seeing much demand for large developments, small-scale loans for industrial facilities, restaurants, office buildings and medical facilities are on the rise, as well as deals on new churches. Builders are also building spec. homes for the first time in four years, they said, and homeowners looking to refinance are facing a much better atmosphere.