Relocating Disney workers already hunting for homes in Lake Nona, Realtors say

Oct 25, 2021 | ARMEL NEWS

By   –  OBJ Staff Writer & Orlando Inno Reporter, Orlando Business Journal


The Walt Disney Co.’s relocation of 2,000 jobs from its California headquarters to Orlando won’t be fully realized until 2023, but some Disney employees already are in the market for their Florida forever home. 

That’s according to two Realtors prominent in the Lake Nona market, where Disney will move some of its corporate operations. For example, Deanna Armel, CEO of Armel Real Estate Inc., told Orlando Business Journal she’s working with several buyers who work for Disney (NYSE: DIS). “They’re starting to trickle in. You’ve got them coming in and purchasing.”

Meanwhile, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty agent Peter Luu on Oct. 14 listed a $6.2 million Orlando home at 13337 Kirby Smith Road, just outside Lake Nona. Luu told OBJ it’s likely the buyer will work for the entertainment giant. “My prediction is this buyer will be a Disney transfer because they will have the financials and will want something different. This is likely a high-end executive purchase.” 

The Disney effect

The fact Disney employees are already in Central Florida’s housing market lines up with past predictions. For example, Luu previously said past corporate relocations to the area indicated top executives relocating from California would begin to look for homes up to two years in advance of their moves. Then, vice presidents would start house hunting a year in advance. 

These new entrants to the market likely will have big effects for the housing sectors in Lake Nona and other parts of Orlando. One reason is it’ll put more strain on the region’s already-low inventory. The Orlando Regional Realtor Association reported there was less than a month’s supply of homes on the market in September, far less than the six months of supply that indicates a balanced housing market. 

In addition, potential relocation perks that cover moving and closing costs will swing the advantage in favor of these buyers even more, Armel previously said. “They have a cushion of $25,000-$50,000.” 

While Central Florida home sales declined in September for the third straight month, a seller’s market persists. There were 3,879 local home sales last month, down 5% from 3,999 sales in August, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. Meanwhile, the median home price declined for the first time since September 2020, sitting at $318,000.

Trends in the residential real estate market are important, as every home sale in the state has an estimated local economic impact of $90,300, according to the National Association of Realtors. In addition, the housing market often is considered a reflection of the local economy’s overall health.

A boost for Lake Nona and beyond

Meanwhile, the job relocation, perhaps the largest in Orlando’s history, is an economic boon for the region and has set off a rush to build new homes and commercial space around Lake Nona to support these future residents. 

Most of the relocating professional roles will be related to Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division — which include theme parks — who are not fully dedicated to the Disneyland Resort. Walt Disney Co.’s headquarters will remain in California and the relocating jobs will represent less than 5% of the total number of Disney jobs in California.

However, it may just be the start of a larger move of professional jobs from the West Coast to Central Florida by Disney. That’s because it’s common that relocating companies move employees in waves to new cities, site selection expert John Boyd previously told OBJ. Boyd, a principal at Boca Raton-based The Boyd Co. Inc., is not involved in Disney’s relocation.

Disney — Central Florida’s biggest employer with about 60,000 local workers — in September paid $46 million for nearly 60 acres in Lake Nona for its future campus. Office real estate experts previously told OBJ the property may be able to support 1 million square feet of office space, which could support roughly 6,600 jobs, based on industry standards.

Former OBJ Senior Staff Writer Jack Witthaus contributed to this report.


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