MANATEE COUNTY -- The median sales price for a home in the Manatee-Sarasota metropolitan area rose to $199,000 in September, up 17.8 percent over the same time last year, according to the Florida Realtor's Association.
Housing prices across the state continued to rise in September even as homeowners began listing more homes for sale, easing what has been a tight inventory.
"Throughout the year, we've seen Florida's housing market strengthen and that positive momentum continued in September," said Florida Realtors President Dean Asher of Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. "Home values are rising and many homeowners across the state are seeing improving home equity. Those trends are helping to ease tight inventory levels in many areas as people who had been waiting on the sidelines decided to list their homes for sale."
Statewide median home prices were $170,000 in September, up 17.2 percent compared with a year ago, according to the Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations.
"September marks 22 months in a row that the
statewide median sales prices rose year-over-year for both single family homes and for townhome-condo properties," Asher said.
Debbie Roth, broker-associate with ReMax Alliance in Bradenton, said existing home sales are not rising as fast -- new home construction and million-dollar sales are pushing year-over-year sales numbers. When you take those out, she said, we're still seeing modest appreciation like 3 percent year-over-year.
The good news is inventory is beginning to loosen up a little, she said.
"We are putting a lot of stuff on the market all of a sudden," Roth said.
She said homeowners should not look to sell at 2004 prices and those who borrowed heavily against their houses are still probably underwater,
"The stuff that was short a year ago is still short," she said. "The ATM housing market is still hurting us."
What's fooling buyers is the new home construction where most homes are listed at $200,000 and above and the sales of luxury homes, which have been on the rise, she said.
On the west side of Bradenton, sellers should expect to list existing homes for sale in the mid- to low-100,000s, she said, depending on the condition of the house. Areas around IMG Academy and in certain sections of Lakewood Ranch are fetching much higher prices.
It's a similar story across the nation as sales of existing homes fell in September for the first time in three months, retreating from an almost four-year high as rising prices and mortgage rates discouraged would-be buyers.
Sales dropped 1.9 percent to a 5.29 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday in Washington. Prices climbed 11.7 percent, pushing affordability to an almost five-year low, the group said.
Higher borrowing costs will probably hold back demand, slowing the housing rebound that's been a source of strength for the economic expansion. At the same time, the damage done to fourth-quarter growth by the partial government shutdown raises the odds the Federal Reserve will delay cutting back on bond purchases, which means interest rates may stabilize around current levels.
"We see a little bit of a bumpy ride," said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities in Stamford, Conn., who projected the drop in sales. "The jury is still out on home sales and how much of a pullback we might see due to higher mortgage rates."
Nationwide, the median price of an existing home increased to $199,200 from $178,300 in September 2012, Monday's report showed.
That matches what happened in Florida. The Sunshine State bucked the national trend of a slowdown in sales as more houses closed year-over-year. Realtors are still looking for more inventory diversity to keep the market strong going forward.
"Not too long ago, the focus was on the strength and longevity of Florida's housing market recovery, but we've moved into a slightly different stage of growth," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. "Now, the focus turns to growth in different segments of the real estate market. For example, it is very difficult to find homes for sale priced under $200,000. Investors have taken whatever has come on the market in this range. However, despite this, inventory has definitely stabilized and appears to be on the verge of rising.
"More sellers are coming into the market -- new listings are up -- and investor demand appears to be cooling off a bit, as shown by the fact that cash sales as a percentage of all sales are falling."
"If people want to do a short sale they better do it right this second," Roth said. "We don't know if the federal government is going to extend the exemption for phantom income -- the amount between what the bank gets and what the homeowner still owes."
She said the Bradenton-Sarasota market still has some investor-type purchases out there, but also some first-time homebuyer offerings as well, as more homes come on the market.
The national numbers show investors are beginning to pull back as the number of cash sales fall.
-- Material from Bloomberg was used in this report.