MANATEE -- A recent home sale that has to be one for the records in Manatee County is a sign of just how hot the Florida housing market is again.
"We had a property on the market for about 17 minutes before it had an offer," said Deanna Atkinson, president of the Manatee Association of Realtors.
Single-family home sales in the Bradenton-Sarasota-North Port metropolitan area remained strong with a 16.3 percent improvement year-over-year in April, and median prices of single-family homes saw a 23 percent improvement over last year at $202,946. That's good enough to be the fifth best percentage increase in the state.
Atkinson said you can thank -- or blame -- Manatee County's hot housing market on groups of investors who are watching listings for existing home sales like hawks.
The driving up of prices for single-family homes is causing an issue for first-time homebuyers, she said.
The investors pay a high price with cash, eliminating much of their competition.
"They are coming in and scooping u[ a lot of existing inventory, really making it hard for a first-time homebuyer, who needs financing and has to have a mortgage," Atkinson said.
The investors typically perform minimal housing renovations and rent out the properties, making it even more vital for vacation renters to do their research on any rental, she added.
This storm of investors snatching up existing homes is helping to heat up new home sales.
"The first-time homebuyers and traditional buyers are going to builders and having homes built," Atkinson explained.
Given the trends and upward pressure on prices, it looks like Manatee County and the entire state has become a seller's market.
"Sellers received over 93 percent of their original listing price in April, whether they were selling a single-family home or a condo," Asher said. "Now is a good time for sellers who have been waiting on the sidelines to enter the market."
Realtors across the state said April continued to show a strong housing market with more closed sales, rising median prices, increased pending sales, more new listings and a lower inventory of homes, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors.
"Buyer demand is rising, but the inventory of homes continues to be tight in many areas across Florida," said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. "That's putting some upward pressure on prices. April is the 16th month in a row that we've seen the statewide median sales prices increase year-over-year for both single-family homes and for townhome-condo properties.
Statewide, closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 20,662 in April, up 17.4 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.
Meanwhile, pending sales -- contracts that are signed but not yet completed or closed -- for existing single-family homes rose 31.9 percent over the previous April. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $165,000, up 14.2 percent from the previous year.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in March 2013 was $185,100, up 12.1 percent from the previous year. 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.
Looking at Florida's year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 11,183 units sold statewide last month, up 13.6 percent compared to April 2012. Meanwhile, pending sales for townhouse-condos last month increased 22.7 percent compared to the year-ago figure. The statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $128,000, up 16.4 percent over the previous year. NAR reported that the national median existing condo price in March 2013 was $178,900.
The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.2-months' supply in April; inventory for townhouse-condos was at a 5.6-months' supply, according to Florida Realtors.
"To a certain extent, the real estate story remains the same: Prices and sales are up and inventory is low," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. "We are also seeing a continued stabilization of the distressed property market with short sales down, and foreclosure and REO (real estate owned) sales essentially unchanged."
Tuccillo said it's not just investors affecting the housing market, but the government has had a hand in what's going on.
"Because the government is selling foreclosed properties in bulk and also using online auctions, our sales numbers actually understate the vigor of the market," he said. "The increased importance of government sales in this market is reflected in the continuing fall in inventory."
-- Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on twitter@ImYourChuck