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Home sales bounce back in May

By John Hielscher

john.hielscher@heraldtribune.com

Home sales perked up again in Southwest Florida last month, as more owners have decided to put their properties on the market.

Buyers closed on 2,702 existing single-family homes and condominiums in May in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, 149 more than the year before, according to data released Wednesday by the Florida Realtors trade group.

That 5.8 percent increase followed a modest sales slump during April, as the region marked the end of the peak buying-and-selling season.

New listings of re-sales also rose over the year. Singlefamily new listings were up by 8.5 percent in Sarasota County and by 2.3 percent in Manatee, while new condo listings were slower with 1.3 percent and 0.8 percent gains, the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee reported.

“We definitely see more activity with new listings this year,” said Xena Vallone, the group’s 2017 president. “New listings tend to rise in delayed response to increasing prices. With an increase in home prices, potential sellers are more interested in listing.”

Price increases varied across the region.

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The median price of a single-family home actually fell 1.1 percent in Sarasota to $260,000, while it jumped 7.8 percent to $299,000 in Manatee and 12.5 percent to $216,513 in Charlotte.

The median price of a re-sale condo rose 3.1 percent to $255,700 in Sarasota and 11.7 percent to $186,250 in Manatee. But in Charlotte, condo prices dropped 6.5 percent to $148,000.

A combined $727 million worth of home and condo re-sales were recorded during May in Sarasota-Manatee, up by $31.4 million, or 4.5 percent, over the year.

Still a seller’s market

Southwest Florida remains a seller’s market.

At the current pace, the supply of homes for sale would be exhausted in 4.5 months in Sarasota and 4.3 months in Manatee. A balanced market between buyers and sellers is six months.

But the inventory of for-sale homes increased 10.9 percent in Sarasota and 6.6 percent in Manatee over the year, although the supply was lower than in April.

“Inventory rises when new listings outpace the number of listings that go off-market,” Vallone said.

Statewide, buyers closed on 27,850 singlefamily homes in May, a 7.6 percent gain over the year. Condo sales were up 8 percent to 11,538 units.

Homes sold for a median $239,000, up 7 percent, while condos traded 8.1 percent higher, at $178,000.

“Closed sales of existing homes in the Sunshine State not only rebounded from a relatively flat April, they positively surged to record highs in May of 2017,” said Brad O’Connor, chief economist at Florida Realtors. “To be more specific, May’s sale totals were the most ever recorded (by Florida Realtors) for a single month in either property type category. In both cases, these totals were also markedly higher than the very strong number of sales racked up in May of 2016.”

National picture

Nationally, Americans shopping for a house are facing an intensifying set of pressures: Fewer and fewer homes are being listed for sale, while prices are climbing at a pace that most incomes can’t possibly match.

The May sales report by the National Association of Realtors showed a housing market unable to meet the demand from would-be buyers. Sales edged up 1.1 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.62 million, a decent gain amid a relatively stable job market with a robust 4.3 percent unemployment rate. But many possible buyers are finding their ambitions thwarted because there aren’t enough homes for sale. Sales listings have plummeted 8.4 percent over the past 12 months to 1.96 million. On an annual basis, the number of homes for sale has declined for the past 24 months.

Homes are staying on the market for a median of just 27 days, the briefest period since the Realtors began tracking the measure in 2011.

The sales growth in these circumstances is a “testament to just how strong the draw of homeownership is right now,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at the real estate firm Zillow.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that current buying conditions in many markets are terrible, with sellers in complete control and buyers forced to contend with cutthroat competition and intense pressure to make a deal,” Gudell said.

The lack of homes on the market has caused prices to rise are more than double the pace of wages. The median sales price has risen 5.8 percent from a year ago to $252,800.

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