Home sales set record in Sarasota County

MANATEE -- Sales of existing homes in Sarasota County hit an all-time high in April as it and Manatee County continued to set the pace in white hot Florida real estate market.

Even with the end of Florida's peak snowbird season in late March and early April, the 1,224 sales in Sarasota county last month eclipsed the top mark previously set in April 2004 by a single sale, according to the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

April not only brought some of the highest sales totals, but also some of the highest median selling prices in recent memory for homes and condominiums sold mid spring. Statewide, a total of 25,206 single-family homes sold for the highest one-month total since 2011, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics released Friday.

Sarasota County home buyers snapped up 791 of those homes as market activity grew 4.2 percent from the previous year.

In Manatee County, a total of 539 home sales was down slightly from March, but up nearly 8 percent from the year before.

Sellers not only saw their homes move during the month, but they garnered more money for the homes. The median price paid for a home in Manatee County in April was $256,500, up almost 17 percent from one year ago. Sarasota County saw its highest median price since 2011, hitting $221,900. The statewide median price for the month was $195,000, up 11.4 percent from the same time last year.

The condo and townhouse markets followed a similar pattern with prices and sales generally up from March. Sales for Manatee condos hit 274 units in April, up almost 12 percent from one year earlier. But they remained a relative deal compared to Sarasota County, where the median price for a unit was almost $50,000 higher in a market that saw almost twice as many condo sales.

With the demand pressure, the number of homes available for sale continued to drop. However, Stafford Starcher, president of the Realtors Association of Sarasota and Manatee, said his organization doesn't see a housing crunch coming yet thanks to robust new housing construction.

"Even though our inventories are down our builders are doing a good job to supply inventory," he said.

Starcher said he was surprised to see peak sales come so early in the year, but still believes there is more room for sales growth in 2015, albeit at a slightly slower pace. He doesn't expect to see a pricing and selling frenzy anything like what proceeded the housing market crash a few years ago.

"We're not bubbling," he said.

One of the biggest changes in the market came in the category of cash sales. They were down about 10 percent for condos in both counties and for single-family homes in Sarasota County, according to the MLS. They fell off about 2 percent in Manatee County, year-over-year. Starcher said he and other real estate agents in the market are seeing more financing for home purchases, though growth there is slow due to lenders' continued reluctance to extend mortgages.

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