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Home Sales Remain Hot in Southwest Florida

special-reportIT ONLY TAKES ONE TO SET A RECORD

By a single sale, residential property sales in Sarasota County reached a new high point in April.

  • Buyers closed on 1,224 existing single-family homes and condominiums in the county in April, topping the previous record set in April 2004 by one sale.
  • Manatee County posted 813 home and condo sales in April which, while not a record setter, was 9 percent ahead of last year.

Sarasota nearly set the record in March, and both counties are on pace to set new annual sales record in 2015, according to the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

Home Sales Remain Hot

Association president Stafford Starcher calls the Sarasota-Manatee region "one of the hottest markets in the nation," saying home buyers are drawn by the weather, natural environment, business climate, schools, shopping and cultural amenities.

"The fact that people want to move here and buy property here is no surprise, and we are no longer a secret in the national and international marketplace," he said.

Realtors in Charlotte County also are busy. Members of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors reported selling 593 homes and condos, which topped last April by five sales but fell 13 short of March.

"I do believe the market will remain strong into the summer, as it did last year," said Jim Quinn, president of the Charlotte County association. "However, I expect that it will slow down somewhat from March and April, as they were the two best months we have seen looking back as far as 10 years.

"I think the fact that interest rates have remained historically low have helped sustain the market, and some buyers may be taking some profits from the stock market to diversify into real estate before pricing continues to climb any higher. "Also, I still believe our local values are positioned extremely well as compared to the rest of Florida and just about any other waterfront areas in Florida," he said.

  • According to the Florida Realtors trade group, existing single-family homes in Charlotte sold for a median $162,000 in April, up by 8.7 percent for the year. Condos sold for a median $148,700, an 11 percent gain.
  • In Sarasota-Manatee, homes sold for a median $238,950, a nearly 14 percent increase. Condos traded for $175,000, a 7.7 percent jump over the year.

Inventory remains a concern.

Charlotte reported 1,785 residences for sale at the end of April, a mere three months' supply, "lower than anytime recent," Quinn said. A six-months' supply of homes for sale is considered a balanced market.

"Homes that are priced attractively are getting multiple showings very quickly and, in some cases, we are seeing multiple offers very quickly," said Quinn, who is the operating principal at Keller Williams Realty, Peace River Partners Realty.

"Many buyers are learning from experience that they need to move quickly if they find something they like that is priced well, because it won't last long," he said. "Many agents are scrambling for inventory to satisfy their buyer's needs."

The stock of homes for sale was 4.2 months in Sarasota and 4.3 months in Manatee.

"We haven't seen inventory levels this low since last fall, and this market reality tends to propel price appreciation," said Starcher, who works for Re/Max Alliance Group.

The number of distressed sales continues to decline.

Short sales and foreclosures accounted for 15.6 percent of sales in Sarasota and 15.7 percent in Manatee, down from 20 percent and 25 percent one year ago, the two counties' Realtor association reported.

Distressed property listings were down to 6 percent of total inventory in Sarasota and 7 percent in Manatee, down from recent 20 percent levels.

The real estate rebound has helped boost membership in the Charlotte County Realtors group. It now has 1,040 primary members, with seven to 10 new agents joining per month, plus another five reactivating per month, Quinn said. It peaked at 1,300 primary members in 2005 and was at 915 two years ago.

 

Herald Tribune 6/1/2015