sold-sign_120I've heard it time and again this year from buyers I've worked with. “…we’ve been watching the market for a couple of years, afraid to jump in. This year, we saw that there was less available to choose from. We realized if we wanted to get a Sarasota area home we should do it now, before we can’t find one”…. Here's the most recent update from the Sarasota Association of Realtors, published July 12.

Sarasota real estate market remains strong in June 2011 (from Sarasota Association of Realtors release)

Members of the Sarasota Association of Realtors® continued to sell properties at a brisk pace in June 2011 with 728 total transactions recorded last month. This marks the fourth month in the last 12 with sales exceeding the 700 level - all occurring in 2011. In addition, the median sales price for single family homes hit the highest level since last June, and the total inventory of available properties dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade, which could spur stronger competition for homes and condos.

There were 510 single family home closings and 218 condo closings in June, which continues the strong sales surge in 2011. While the total was somewhat lower than May's 796 sales, and June 2010's total of 776 sales, the current trend has been the strongest since the real estate boom of 2003-2005. The sales even rival the mini-boom from last year's federal homebuyer tax credit incentive. This year, there is no government program propping up the market, so the sales simply reflect a high level of buyer interest. Prices for both single family homes and condos were also above the annual median prices for the past two years, with the single family median sales rising to $175,000, the highest since June 2010 (also at $175,000). The figure was a 10 percent jump from May, when the median price was $159,000. The condo median price slipped to $185,000 from last month's surge to $218,750. But the figure was still much higher than the median for the last 12 month period ($162,000).

The total available property inventory dropped to 4,830, another big decrease from the May figure of 5,010, and now the lowest level in the past 10 years. The inventory reached its apex in April 2007, when 17,089 properties were on the market.

The lower inventory, combined with the higher sales rate, has now dropped the months of inventory to 5.9 months for single family homes and 8.2 months for condos, both figures far below the highs of 25.3 months for single family (in early 2009) and 41.7 months for condos (in late 2008). The 6 month level is traditionally a point which represents equilibrium in the market between buyers and sellers. Once the figure trends downward below 6 months, buyers are often forced to compete for properties, which generally drives prices higher.

In fact, at the lower price ranges below $120,000, where about 40 percent of sales are occurring, the months of inventory has dipped to below 4 months. That means competition is very high for these properties, with multiple offers often reported by agents. The overall market (combined single family and condo) stands at 6.9 months of inventory.

"It is encouraging to see how the Sarasota market has continued this strong momentum in the face of continuing weakness in the national and state economies," said SAR President Michael Bruno. "The inventory of available properties, which is lower than it has been since the 1990s, is a very important statistic. Historically, prices rise as competition for homes increases, and we're seeing that occurring in our market. The percentage of distressed property sales is stabilizing, so prices should naturally continue to rise."

The overall percentage of distressed sales (short sales and foreclosure sales) remained at 38 percent of the June 2011 sales. That compares to 47 percent as recently as February 2011 and a high of 51 percent in November 2010.

"As an association, we have kept our members educated and informed about the ongoing distressed property situation, and they have benefited greatly from this valuable resource," explained Bruno. "Realtors who have kept current on the latest trends and changes within the market have been able to make the best of a tough situation, and the numbers reflect that. We all hope to see a significant drop in foreclosures and short sales in the coming years, and when that happens, Sarasota agents will be ready to handle the new market realities."

Pending sales dropped to 754 from last month's level of 841. They reached a recent peak of 1,208 in March 2011, continuing to reflect our area's typical seasonal slowdown. Pending sales are properties going under contract during the month, and the statistic is a strong indicator for the next two or three months of sales, as pending sales reflect current buyer activity. Last June, pending sales were at 767, so the seasonal trend appears to be holding true.


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