As vice president and managing broker of Ponte Vedra Club Realty, Gate Realty and Stockton Real Estate, Len Knight has his finger on the pulse of the local real estate market.
How did you begin your career in real estate?
I started my real estate career in 1979, at the age of 18, booking weekly summer rentals and selling summer vacation homes and investment properties on Long Beach Island, N.J. Even though our summer season was only 10 weeks long, we toured potential renters through properties year-round. I remember many times driving through unplowed snow, down side streets, to reach winterized, ice-cold beach houses, and then proceed to show a family their summer vacation spot. My career started taking off in 1984 when I obtained my broker’s license; the following year, I was appointed vice president of Hill Associates, which became an affiliate of Sotheby’s International Realty.
What brought you to Ponte Vedra?
Family, the desire for a better lifestyle and all the recreational choices available here brought us to Ponte Vedra. Having three boys, two of whom were toddlers, the thought of another freezing-cold winter spent inside didn’t match up to the thought of living in Florida and enjoying the outdoors year-round. We joined The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in 1994, put plans into motion, and made the move. I remember getting the news that Jacksonville was becoming the newest member of the NFL community while we were still in New Jersey and I took that as the first signal that moving to Ponte Vedra was the right choice.
How has the area changed since you first moved here?
I wouldn’t say it has changed, I would say, “improved” is a better description. There have been increases from just one elementary school, middle school and high school, with more currently being built. Most of the clubs in Ponte Vedra have had significant upgrades recently and everywhere you look in Ponte Vedra there are new and improved amenities. The most obvious changes are the major improvements to our highways. JTB used to dead-end into A1A, where the Target shopping center later sprung up, and the extended trip to JAX airport was nothing like it is today. I remember driving here from the airport back then thinking, “Where is everybody?” as there were hardly any cars on JTB.
Has the local real estate landscape changed?
Back then, there were model homes all over and so many vacant lot opportunities, with new-home construction dominating the sales market. Every agent carried a digital pager and on every buyer’s wishlist was more square footage and a three-car garage. Today, there are very few remaining lots and we are seeing an increase in sales where buyers do a total renovation or raze the existing structure and start new.
What are First Coast home buyers currently looking for in a home?
Today, many buyers have switched from “more square footage” to looking for just the right amount; seeking a modest square footage, but not conceding anything in quality and amenities. The coastal look with very open floor plans and an abundance of natural light are high on the list. Also popular are soft, light colors on the walls with light planks of wood on the floors, often a weathered-gray shade, and oversized center islands in the kitchen, with casual seating that facilitates entertaining in the kitchen area. There has been an increased emphasis on outdoor kitchens and outdoor living overall.
What do you enjoy most about living on the First Coast?
The top two on my list are 1) the winters! I love enjoying the many days of near-perfect weather and then watching the news and seeing all the snow falling in other places. When you can walk along the ocean barefoot on New Year’s Day, you can’t help but smile about it. 2) The people! One of the very first things I noticed when we moved here is how friendly everyone is. Even in our very competitive business, I frequently enjoy good times with other companies’ agents and, as a community, the Ponte Vedra area real estate agents are a fantastic bunch.