Home sales continue strong in Manatee County

MANATEE -- The housing market continued to build strength in August, rounding out a summer of real estate in Manatee that's been the best since the crash.

Robust buyer demand and shrinking supply inched values slightly higher in August, with the median sales price for existing single-family homes now beating the previous year's mark 10 of the past 12 months.

Manatee Realtors sold 257 single-family homes in August, a 5 percent climb from July and 29 percent jump from the same time last year, according to the association.

Although the amount of new listings grew some, market inventory remains just 4.6 months worth of homes at the current sales pace -- a figure that traditionally would signal a seller's market.

That trend is helping prices rebound, albeit slowly. The median sales price in Manatee in August was $169,900, a 9 percent increase from a year ago. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

In Sarasota, the county notched 587 existing home sales in August, a 12 percent monthly rise and 32 percent surge from August 2011, according to the Sarasota Association in Realtors.

Sarasota's $169,945 median sales price remains 3 percent ahead of last year. The county is now down to just 3.8 months of inventory.

High levels of pending sales, which are expected to close within 30 to 90 days, hint the local housing market also may be in for another strong fall.

The biggest problem facing area Realtors now is finding supply to feed the interest out there, with pickings slim for desirable homes, said Peter Crowley, broker and co-owner of the RE/MAX Alliance Group, which has offices in Bradenton and Sarasota.

"We've outperformed last year, which was a good year and good start to the recover," Crowley said. "The activity now really shows this recovery has some legs to it."

Across the country, sales of existing homes rose in July despite similar constraints of affordable inventory.

Existing home sales grew 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million units in July, which also is 10 percent above the pace from a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $187,300 in July, up 9.4 percent from the same time last year and the strongest monthly gain in more than six years.

U.S. home prices price have now shown five consecutive months of year-over-year increases -- a first since early 2006.

The national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.55 percent in July, according to Freddie Mac.

"Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. "Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand."

For more on this story, see later or pick up a copy of Thursday's Bradenton Herald.

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@JoshSalman