MANATEE -- More than 250 homes between Manatee and Sarasota counties will be showcased this weekend as part of a national open house event organized to spur sales.
Members of both local realty associations will join their counterparts at the National Association of Realtors on Saturday and Sunday to offer open houses at a number of single-family homes, condos and townhouses currently on the market.
Area Realtors will be on hand to show the properties, answer questions about the home buying process and maybe even catch a sale or two along the way.
"Especially right now we need momentum to let people know the market is great, and there's still deals out there," said Angie Cegnar, a Realtor with Keller Williams. "This shows we're still in a great market."
Coming off a strong first quarter of home sales, that also saw median prices rise in both Manatee and Sarasota, Realtors are hoping the open house weekend helps continue the trend into summer.
Agents sold 641 existing homes in Manatee from January to March, a modest dip from the same period a year ago. Median prices, however, were up about 8 percent during the first quarter -- closing at $181,500 in March, records show.
Sarasota saw similarly positive activity as sales rose to a seven-year high in March, with 831 properties changing hands during the month. The median sales price for single-family homes also increased nearly 9 percent to $174,900.
This weekend, 94 open houses will be featured in the Bradenton area, with another 161 in Sarasota. Many potential buyers from out of town also plan their visit to the area around open house weekend to scout properties
while they're here.
The biggest problem is a lack of viable inventory, with less than six months worth of existing homes throughout the region, said Deborah Omara, a Realtor with Michael Saunders in Lakewood Ranch.
"There's a lot of people out there interested in buying a house, and they tend to buzz around," she said. "This is a great opportunity for them to see the sign and come through at their leisure. It really does work. They bring their family with them. They bring their friends with them. Next thing you know they're attached to the house, and they're making an offer."
About 45 percent of all buyers used open houses as a source in their home search process last year -- making open houses a popular tool even though the Internet has become a top resource for buyers, according to a study by NAR.
Women are more likely to use open houses than men, as are buyers who were not born in the U.S. or whose primary language is not English.
Older buyers rely more on open houses than younger buyers, and buyers with higher incomes also are more likely to visit open houses, the study shows.
For a complete list of open house locations and times, refer to Saturday's real estate insert in the Herald.
"The Nationwide Open House is a fantastic opportunity for those interested in home ownership to connect with a Realtor who can offer expert guidance and advice on the home buying process," said NAR President Moe Veissi.
"Open houses are also a great way for potential buyers to get a feel for what is available in their local market."
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman