County home prices rise as buyers, sellers join the market

mjohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 22, 2014 

MANATEE -- Housing prices hit their highest start-of-year peak in four years in Manatee County in January, riding a 26-month statewide trend.

That trend has also put more buyers and sellers into the market, as both sides try to get their best price.

The median price among all single-family homes sold in January in Manatee was $217,000, up almost 16 percent from the same time last year, according to market data compiled by Florida Realtors.

Increasing prices among foreclosed homes and on short sales were responsible for much of the spike. Taken by themselves, traditional home sales in January notched a median point of $255,000, just 2.3 percent higher than the same time last year.

Average sales prices were even higher. January single-family home sales in the county averaged $272,506, up nearly 16 percent over January 2013. In the condo and townhouse market, year-over year averages jumped almost 11 percent to $170,447. The statewide average was higher, up more than 20 percent to about $220,000.

Statewide, average prices are lower than in Manatee County, though much

higher than last year. Average single family home prices shot up almost 20 percent from the start of 2013 to $252,718.

The price jumps come as a lack of homes for sale pinch the market. Florida Realtors stats show that the county has a 4.6-month supply of homes, down a tenth of a point from the same time last year. Real estate professionals generally consider a six-month supply to be average. The statewide inventory is at 5.6 months.

But inventories have been increasing since hitting a four-year low last May.

Peter Crowley, a broker and owner with Sarasota-based ReMax Alliance Group, said the small inventory bump has his agency at a point where it is getting more listings each month than sales. That extra inventory should temper future price increases in the overall housing market.

Homeowners who have been looking to sell for some time are bringing more homes to market.

"If they're in a position to sell, they're going to do that to catch the busier buying season," Crowley said.

The higher prices at the start of the year could frustrate buyers whose households are at the county's average income, about $48,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Crowley said while it's "somewhat of a challenge" to find lower-priced homes, institutional investors are moving out of the market and leaving those properties for owner occupants.

Deals are still out there. Palmetto resident Shelby Mong purchased a foreclosed Palmetto home in October for $54,950. Although she bought primarily to accommodate her cats - which were previously living with her in a rental home - Mong said she needed to take advantage of a mortgage that was equal to or less than what she paid in rent.

"I just needed to be in a place of my own," she said.

Cheryl Roberts, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co. in Bradenton, said she has several clients who have felt the pressure to buy now. One set of buyers from Minnesota recently went under contract on a home after house-hunting in the Bradenton area for three years.

"I think there was more of a sense of urgency this time around," she said.

Manufactured homes were the only housing in the Florida Realtors study that became more affordable over the course of a year. The average price of a Manatee County manufactured home dropped 12 percent to about $56,000.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter

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