ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St Johns County is seeing home construction at near record levels.

In 2017, St. Johns County issued the second highest number of building permits ever in the county.

Cole Slate is a realtor who focuses on selling homes -- most of them new -- in Northwest St. Johns County.

"In NW St. Johns County, there is so much demand down here," he nodded.

That stacks up with what the numbers show.

In 2017, St. Johns County issued 4,079 single-family building permits. That is second highest -- only to 2005 -- when St. Johns County issued 4,500 single-family building permits.

And who is buying and building?

"Mostly families because of the school district," Slate said. "You see a lot of families coming because of the neighborhoods and their amenities. You'll see some empty nesters coming who want to be close to their grandchildren who have come with their kids."

New neighborhoods -- with homes on small lots -- are also drilling into the southern part of the county where broker Keto Burns works.

"It's a great place to live," Burns commented. "I grew up here. I understand why people want to live here. It's just a little bit out of character, in my opinion, that kind of growth in a rural area."

New home construction now is nearly what it was in St. Johns County before the market tanked.

Slate says lenders learned their lesson.

"I often have customers say, 'Cole, this is a big pain in-the-you-know-what to give lenders all these documents and have them call my employers.' And I have to tell them, 'Look, Mr. Buyer, this is a good thing. If these lenders were doing this 13 years ago, we perhaps wouldn't have gone through what happened then," he said.