MANATEE -- Sales of existing homes dropped sharply in Manatee and Sarasota counties and statewide in November, as the holiday season and a perceived short supply of move-in-ready homes brought the housing market almost as low as it has been all year.
The drop-off came even as the inventory of homes on the market and new listings stayed steady.
The drop-off was hardly unexpected, however, as the same month last year was a low point for the Manatee and Sarasota markets in 2013.
According to Multiple Listing Service data, a total of 910 single-family homes sold between the two counties in November, down sharply from the 1,259 that sold the month before. Condo and townhome sales also were down, with 361 units moving for the month.
Only January saw a lower sales volume. About 870 single-family homes sold between the two counties that month, according to the MLS.
Throughout Florida, homebuyers pulled back for the month, purchasing 17,772 homes for the month, down from nearly 22,000 in October.
Gina Uliano, an associate broker with Wagner Realty's Manatee Avenue West office, said the drop in sales was not unexpected. She said the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays typically have buyers heading north for the last weeks of the year and backing away from house-hunting.
"I don't think it's a sign of the market turning," she said. "It's a seasonal thing. Unless they have to move, most families don't like to move around the holidays."
Sales for Uliano's office in December have been stronger, with more than 50 recorded. She said the new year will only accelerate that trend.
On the surface, the supply of homes for sale didn't seem to be a factor in November. The 606 new single-family listings that hit the market in Manatee Coun
ty in November were down just slightly from the previous month while inventory stayed at 4.4 months. Sarasota County's inventory was a little tighter at 4.1 months.
Peter Crowley, owner of ReMax Alliance Group, said those numbers don't tell the entire story. He said buyers are looking for move-in-ready homes, but the number of those properties has declined.
"The number of desirable properties is very tight," he said.
Buyers are also putting down payments on new homes that are under construction or have yet to be built. Those homes do not show up in the MLS statistics.
November statistics showed one other trend continuing. During the month, Manatee County residential properties continued to be more expensive than those in Sarasota County. The median sale price for a single-family home in the county was $235,000 in November. In Sarasota County, the median was $193,000.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.