MANATEE -- A steady buildup in Manatee County home sales throughout the spring shows the local residential real estate market in its best shape since late last spring.
But as buyers negotiate a growing home inventory, sellers are waiting longer to take advantage of some of the highest pricing in 4 1/2 years.
May sales numbers released by the Manatee Association of Realtors this week reveal a single-digit percentage drop in sales from May 2013, but prices are up as the supply of homes for sale grows.
In May, 547 single-family homes sold in the county, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics, up from 501 in April but down from 584 in May 2013. The increase comes in a market where there are 29 percent more homes for sale than the same time last year, at 2,171.
Yet, as buyers have more to choose from, the median price paid continued to increase, reaching $225,000. In May 2013, the median home price in the county was $217,000.
The local statistics largely mirrored what is happening statewide. Over 23,000 homes sold in Florida in May at a median price of $180,000. Both statistics were higher than those in 2013.
Greg Owens, a spokesman for MAR and a broker with Keller Williams on the Water in Bradenton, said he believes prices are where they would have been had the housing market not experienced the massive inflation and crash that started in 2004.
"We're very close to where prices should have been if we'd had a normal increase over the years," Owens said.
Since January, median prices are up 3.6 percent in Manatee, according to MAR numbers. Owens said an increase of that size is normal compared with some annual jumps of 25 percent that were seen during the run-up to the housing crisis.
Even though prices are up, sellers aren't getting everything they want. April statistics showed homes spending more time on market and selling at a larger discount. Sellers got 93.5 percent of their asking price, down from 95 percent for the same period in 2013. Homes are spending a median of nearly two extra weeks on market than last year.
Real estate professionals are expecting a market slowdown in August and September, though perhaps less so than in previous years. Ow
ens said there is a high number of pending sales on the books, sales that should close sometime in the next 90 days. At the same time, he said, the "abnormal" foreclosure and short sale market that created so many distressed sales over the past few years has declined.
Short sales decreased by 56 percent year-over-year in May, while foreclosure sales were relatively steady at 110.
Manatee County townhouses and condos followed a slightly different trend than single-family housing, with sales falling off 6.4 percent from the previous year and down 40 total sales from April. But the median price for those units hit its highest point since the start of 2010 at $157,000. That's up more than 19 percent from 2013.
Bill Weed, a real estate agent with the Lakewood Ranch office of Michael Saunders & Co. who specializes in condominium sales, said the increase is following the trend in the single-family market.
"People want more money for their places, and they're getting it," he said.
Condos had been a relative deal for the past few years, Weed said, but have become less so as the foreclosure market has contracted.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.