The state housing market gained strength in first quarter 2013 with increased closed sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and a tighter inventory of homes for sale compared with the same quarter in 2012, according to housing data released Thursday by Florida Realtors.
"The first three months of 2013 demonstrate that Florida's housing market is gaining momentum and continuing to bolster the state's economy," said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. "More people went back to work as more jobs were created in Florida during the first quarter."
Peter Crowley, co-owner and broker for RE/MAX Alliance Group with offices in Sarasota and Manatee counties, said his office sees the same trends in the first quarter.
"The last two months of pending sales are two of the best months we've had in the last several years," Crowley said. "The trends in sales and pending sales are very good. One concern here locally and statewide is the lack of inventory. We have plenty of demand.
"Simply finding available property is a concern because it will cause prices to continue to bump up unless we see some of the foreclosures come on the market."
As more jobs come online, the state's population is growing again, Asher said, providing "a solid foundation for growth in the housing market. It's taking less time to sell a home and, coupled with tight inventory, that shows buyers are eager to lock in historically low mortgage interest rates and take advantage of favorable, but rising prices."
Crowley said the homes sales news has a far-reaching effect on Florida's economy.
"There are two main things at play," he said. "Builders are ramping up building activity and that's good for people in construction industry. Also, with the home price increases, people in general feel more confident about their own economic situation. People feel like they have value in their home again."
Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 48,976 in the first quarter, up 10.2 percent compared with a year ago, according to Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.
Pending sales -- contracts signed but not yet completed or closed -- for existing single-family homes rose 26.8 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $153,000, up 13.4 percent from the first quarter a year ago.
Housing industry analysts note sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.
A total of 24,655 condo and town house units sold statewide in the first quarter, up 3.2 percent from the first three months of 2012.
Pending sales for townhouse-condos in the first quarter of 2013 increased 13.7 percent compared with a year ago.
The statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $116,000, up 18.4 percent over the same quarter last year.
The median days on market was 60 days for single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties in the first quarter.
The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.3-months supply. Inventory for townhouse-condos was at 5.8-months supply for the same period a year ago, according to Florida Realtors.
"In a sense, these numbers are old news since we release the monthly numbers separately," said John Tuccillo, chief economist for Florida Realtors.
"But they are important in that they confirm the sales and price trends we have seen shaping up in the market. If you look back at the quarterly numbers, comparing year to year, you see, at least in single-family sales, the steadiness of the market since 2009. We expect that the year-over-year increases we have seen for the past several years will continue into 2014."
The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.5 percent in the first quarter, down from the previous year's average of 3.92 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
Toni Whitt, business editor, can be reached at 745-7087. Follow her on twitter @toniTwhitt.