Manatee-Sarasota housing sales pick up, prices rise


MANATEE COUNTY -- The median price of a home in the Manatee-Sarasota county market hit $200,000 in February -- a 12.2 percent year-over-year increase.

The number of closed sales on single family homes also increased 3.5 percent from last February to 937. While closed sales were down 16 percent for condos and townhouses in the Manatee-Sarasota market, the median price was up 15.2 percent to $163,875.

Lily Behrends of Wagner Realty said several factors helped February sales. She said at a meeting Thursday the staff was discussing how Wagner is selling almost at the levels of the height of market in 2006.

"One of the brokers said that a lot of people put everything on hold once the market crashed," Behrends said. "Now that they see prices going up they feel confident to make the move to a bigger house or smaller house."

She said inventory has also increased as builders have resumed "building like crazy with all these new developments."

The cold winter up north, she said, also helped snowbirds decide to buy a Florida home.

One economist credited rising prices to the diminishing number of short sales in the housing market statewide.

Statewide, it was the 27th consecutive month for rising median sale prices in the housing market, according to the Florida Realtors Association.

The statewide median sales price for single family existing homes last month was $165,000, up 10 percent from last year, according to Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in February was $132,500, up 15.2 percent over the year-ago figure.

Looking at Florida's townhome-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 7,578 last month, down 6.8 percent compared with February 2013. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales last month: Short sales for condo-townhome properties declined 59.6 percent while short sales for single family homes dropped 51.9 percent. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

"The majority of results for the residential market paint a picture of a normal growing market," said John Tuccillo, chief economist for Florida Realtors. "The weaker results in sales for both single family homes and townhouses and condos are solely the result of plummeting short sales. This is actually a good sign since short sales are falling because prices are rising, reducing the number of homes that fall into the potential short sales category."

Inventory was at a 5.7-months supply last month for single family homes and at a 6.1-months supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.

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