MANATEE -- Florida's housing market reported more new listings, higher median prices and fewer days to a sales contract during the first quarter of 2016, according to the latest housing data released by real estate industry group Florida Realtors.
The statewide median selling price for single family, existing homes during the first quarter of 2016 was $203,500, up 11.8 percent from the same period in 2015, according to Florida Realtors data. It was the fourth straight quarter that showed double-digit pricing growth.
In the condo and townhouse market, prices were up 5.5 percent during the quarter to $153,000.
Higher prices did not slow sales. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 57,913 in the first quarter of 2016, up 0.3 percent over the same period in 2015.
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In Manatee and Sarasota counties, home prices have risen steadily over the past five years. Median selling prices in March notched near the five-year highs across all categories of housing. Manatee County single-family prices saw a 1.8 percent increase over March 2015 to $269,735. In Sarasota County, the March median price of $244,000 was up 17.4 percent from the previous year.
Condo prices were also up, hitting a median of $196,000 in Sarasota County and $160,000 in Manatee County.
Brad O'Connor, Florida Realtors chief economist, said much of the increase can be attributed to a shrinking number of bargain-priced dis
tressed properties. Foreclosures and short sales have become rare over the past year. He also said homes priced at what he termed an "affordable" level are also more scarce, pushing the median price higher.
Manatee and Sarasota counties exemplified the trend. Foreclosure sales of single-family homes have dropped by over 50 percent in both counties in the past year. Short sales are also down by double digits.
In March, Linda Formella, president of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, said lower-priced housing is becoming so rare that many people interested in buying homes may be forced to rent.
"Prices have gone up so much, we're seeing a segment of the market pushed out," she said.
Local real estate professionals have been saying for the past year that the favorable pricing has induced more sellers to put their homes on the market. That has, in turn, increased the supply of existing homes available for purchase. Statewide, inventory was at a 4.5-month supply in the first quarter for single-family homes and at a 6.3-month supply for condo-townhouse properties. A six-month supply is considered to be a level at which the market is considered balanced between buyers and sellers.
Across the two-county area, March inventories for single-family homes and condominiums ranged from 4.7 to 5.4 months, up from 4.5 to 4.8 months a year earlier, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics.
Even with the larger supply, buyers across the state are quick to sign purchase contracts. During the first quarter, the median time to a contract was 53 days for single-family homes and 54 days for condo-townhouse properties. That's about nine days faster than in 2015.
In Manatee and Sarasota counties, 2016 follows up the most productive year ever for the existing home market. Home sales last year totaled 20,691, the highest recorded in a century.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027.