MANATEE — The Manatee County housing market is showing signs of stabilizing after several years of falling prices, soaring foreclosures and fewer sales.
Sales of existing single-family homes and condominium units have picked up in the second half of 2009, as low prices and a federal tax credit have attracted investors and first-time homebuyers.
“Now is the time to buy because there still are a lot of good deals out there,” said Barry Grooms, the 2009 president of the Manatee Association of Realtors.
The number of homes sold in the Sarasota-Bradenton market has risen each month from July through September, the Florida Association of Realtors said. Condo sales also have increased, with sales more than doubling in September from a year earlier.
The median price of an existing single-family home in September was $164,000, comparable to August’s $164,200 but down 18 percent from September 2008’s figure of $200,800.
“A lot of this activity is the direct result of prices going down,” Grooms said.
Also helping: more lending by banks, which also are becoming more comfortable with short sales and approving them faster, he said.
Buyers also are more confident in the economy and are increasingly getting off the fence and making offers, enticed by low prices and an $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit, Grooms said. The local condo market, which has suffered the worst in the housing slump, is showing signs of renewed life.
Local Realtors sold 247 condo units in September, more than double the 119 sold in the same month a year ago.
The median condo sales price was $134,800, compared to $156,400 in September 2008.
Another sign of market stabilization is fewer Manatee County homes are for sale. There was a 6.2-month supply in September, down from 22.6 months just a year ago, according to the local Realtors group.
But housing analysts warn that rising prices likely will cause banks to release more homes from their backlogs of foreclosures, potentially flooding the market. That, coupled with a predicted third wave of new foreclosures next year, could drive prices down even more, wanalysts said.