Manatee-Sarasota home sales surge in volume, price

Area January home sales up strongly as condos lag

sfrater@bradenton.comFebruary 22, 2013 

The Manatee-Sarasota area posted 20.5 percent year-to-year gains in January home sales, with 835 single-family homes sold with a 17.9 percent median price gain to $165,000, according to data released Thursday by Florida Realtors.

Condo performance in the region lagged, registering a gain in unit sales of only 1.9 percent with 378 closings, and a 6.2 percent decline in prices to a median of $121,967.

This is the 13th month in a row that statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo units have increased year over year, according to Florida Realtors' data. The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.6-months' supply in January; inventory for townhouse-condos was at a 6.2-months' supply, according to Florida Realtors.

"I'm particularly impressed with the rise in percentage of list price received by sellers," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo. Sellers of single-family existing homes in January received an average of 92.2 percent of their original list price; sellers of townhome-condo units received an average of 93 percent.

"This can encourage other potential sellers to come forward, thus easing the market's inventory crunch," Tuccillo said. "But, despite the progress of Florida's housing market, it's still being held back by the difficulty consumers have in accessing credit."

The decline in the area's median condo prices was the second-worst performance in the state, following Ocala's 16.5 percent slide. Every other metropolitan area in Florida posted condo price gains; the state as a whole averaged an 18 percent condo price improvement from January 2012.

Realtor Debbie Roth of Bradenton's RE/MAX Alliance is guessing that the weaker condo numbers reflect lower-priced "former apartment rental units, like the Sanctuary of Bradenton on 26th Street West, formerly called Saddle Creek Apartments, that were converted into condos back in the day," she said. Those units are selling from "the high-teens to the $30s, and thus lower the overall condo price performance in the market."

Overall, however, Roth was bullish.

"We're seeing more inventory getting into the market," she said. "I listed three properties within the last 10 days and have received multiple offers on each, and these are 'at market' prices. It seems much more like the normal older days."

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 13,679 in January, up 11.7 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Looking at Florida's year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 6,670 units sold statewide last month, up 2 percent compared to January 2012.

"This year started out strong for Florida's housing market," said Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, a broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando.

"Homes sales continue to rise, mortgage rates remain near historic lows and the inventory of for-sale homes is lower than it's been in years.

"Plus, the time it takes for a home to sell is dropping; the median days a home is on the market declined about 15 percent for both single-family homes and for townhome-condo properties," Asher said. "However, overly restrictive credit requirements remain an obstacle for many potential buyers, who find it difficult to access affordable financing options."

Meanwhile, pending sales -- contracts that are signed but not yet completed or closed -- for existing single-family homes last month rose 31 percent over the previous January. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $145,000, up 12.4 percent from the previous year. Pending sales for townhouse-condos in January increased 17 percent compared to the year-ago figure. The statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $112,000, up 18 percent over the previous year.

The National Association of Realtors reported that the national median existing condo price in December 2012 was $184,100. The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in December 2012 was $180,300, up 10.9 percent from the previous year.

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Housing industry analysts note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.

Meanwhile, according to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.41 percent in January, down from the 3.92 percent average during the same month a year earlier.

Stephen Frater, Herald senior business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @DarthSifjr

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