MANATEE -- Real estate agents who have been touting a busy summer home sales season this year have had their boasts borne out by actual sales statistics.
With a growing inventory of homes to choose from, Manatee County home buyers are shopping in an environment where the median price has remained relatively steady over the past year. At the same time, real estate professionals say that median is higher than in neighboring Sarasota County thanks to a larger inventory of new homes.
In August, both Manatee and Sarasota counties saw a few more single-family homes sell than in the same month in 2013, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics published this week. In Manatee County, 493 homes sold during the month, five more than the previous August. Sarasota County sales grew by 53, hitting 698.
On the whole, August brought a buyer's market. With about 200 more homes on the market in Manatee County compared to the same time last year, buyers offered less money, paying about 93 percent of list prices on average. Last year, sellers realized an average of 95 percent of their list prices. The median sale price for a home also dropped, down $2,000 on average to $223,000.
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Sarasota County sellers maintained their price point year over year at about $195,000, as the days homes spent on the market dropped by more than a week to 80. Manatee County sellers had shorter average waits, seeing quick action at 57 days.
Gloria Weed, the managing broker for the Lakewood Ranch office of Michael Saunders & Co., said Manatee County's higher median home price has much to do with the sale of new homes in the growing East Manatee suburbs.
"I think East County definitely plays into it," she said. "The prices are definitely going up."
Much of the price difference between Manatee and Sarasota counties, Weed said, is due to the sale of new, high-end homes and a lack of older homes on the market. Factoring these market aspects out, she said, housing price increases are relatively modest for resale homes.
As is usual for the summer home market in the two counties, the pace of home sales has been tailing off since hitting the year's peak in May. Both real estate agents and home builders, including Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities, say they are looking to the fall and early winter for the market to build back to a spring peak in 2015.
The recent pattern has seen the market drop through the fall and bottom out in January. From there, sales tend to increase month over month through May.
Ron Cornette, the marketing director for Bradenton-based Wagner Realty, said his company's agents are expecting to remain busy through the fall and winter. With more than 50 percent of the sales Wagner makes coming in as cash deals, he said inventory is moving quickly, with sellers favoring slightly lower offers from cash buyers over higher offers from buyers who need to finance their home purchases.
Thirty-eight percent of Manatee County single-family home sales in August were for cash, according to the MLS. The statewide cash sale rate is also 38 percent.
In particular, Wagner agents are looking to European buyers to fuel the local residential market. Last year's cold winter is driving them to buy on the Gulf Coast.
"This is the year they're going to come to Florida," he said.
The Manatee and Sarasota trends for August were generally reflective of the state market, though Florida as a whole had a greater supply of homes for sale and lower median sale prices. The median price for a single-family home in Florida last month was $181,000, up $6,000 from the same time last year. The supply of homes for sale was 5.5 percent.
In the condo and townhome market, Manatee County units sold for a median price of $122,000 in August, compared to $177,000 in Sarasota County. The state median was $135,000.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.