Special Reports

2011 should see Manatee's housing market moving in the right direction

BRADENTON -- Manatee County’s housing market has surely seen it all by now: foreclosures, plummeting prices, fewer sales, Chinese drywall and foreclosure freezes.

The local market, however, did see a few bright spots in 2010.

Local home sales and new residential building permits increased and foreclosure filings decreased. However the numbers were far from substantial compared to conditions before the construction boom.

“Housing markets still remain very depressed across the state,” said economist Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “They are weighed down by excess inventory that built up over the boom and by the flood of foreclosures that banks are now processing through the markets.”

This year, Manatee County has seen 3,678 mortgage foreclosure filings through Tuesday. That is a decrease from 6,322 over the same period in 2009 but about four times the 866 mortgage foreclosure filings seen in all of 2006 in Manatee County.

In RealtyTrac’s latest foreclosure report, released in November, the real estate tracker rated Manatee County with the fourth-highest foreclosure activity in Florida.

“The housing sector and the labor market are going to sort of reinforce their misery on each place in Florida,” Snaith said. “That’s going to be something that we’re going to be dealing with for many years.”

A 2011-13 economic forecast report by the Institute of Economic Competitiveness says the state’s residential construction industry hit the bottom in 2009 and projects improvement for the year ahead. The forecast estimates total housing starts for the state will average 44,000 to 50,000 through 2011.

Alan Anderson, executive vice president for the Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota, believes local improvement is on the horizon, too.

“We’re hoping the uptick in the market for us continues,” Anderson said. “Our permits are up over last year. Not that it’s earth-shattering but it’s definitely in the right direction.”

Manatee County and local municipalities issued 1,099 new residential construction permits as of Nov. 30, up from 963 permits issued in 2009.

In 2005, Manatee County single-family home building permits totaled 4,509 before declining to 2,565 in 2006.

Anderson partly credits the slight permitting increase from 2009 to 2010 to Manatee County’s 50 percent reduction in impact fees, which the Board of County Commissioners approved in April 2009 for a two-year period.

“We still have six, seven months in Manatee County on a current rollback,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be working with our local commissioners to see if there should be an extension to keep this going because the results have been positive.”

Neal Communities reported 315 home sales contracts were signed in 2010, and the home builder also opened Central Park at Lakewood Ranch this year.

At Medallion Homes, Greg Glasser, sales and marketing director, says the home builder was issued 105 new residential building permits in 2010 and closed sales on 110 homes for the year.

“We’re anticipating a great year ahead of us,” Glasser said. “After being up in New York for a weekend I see why people want to come to Manatee and Sarasota to retire.”

Portfolio.com rated Bradenton/Sarasota the most popular spot in the United States to retire, and local home builders and Realtors believe retirees will play a big part in helping the housing market recover.

“This is a good area to live and retire in,” said Cindy Greco, president of the Manatee Association of Realtors and a Realtor at Wagner Realty. “I have definitely noticed in my own business increased interest among home buyers.”

Home sales in Manatee County through November totaled 3,579 homes, up from 3,069 homes sold over the same period in 2009, according to the Manatee Association of Realtors’ statistics.

“That’s all due to price,” Greco said.

The average prices of homes sold during the past five months have ranged from $155,000 to $165,000. In 2005, Manatee County Realtors reported 5,260 home sales at an average sales price of $410,378.

“Prices have been holding steady,” Greco said. “The prices, I personally feel, have been for the last nine months at a price buyers are willing to pay.”

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