The numbers noted on January 2008 home sales figures for the whole of Southwest Florida are giving more credence to real estate observers and agents who are contending that the housing market is ahead of the rest of the state, or ahead of the nation as a whole, in recovering from the doldrums created by the US housing crisis.
According to January figures, the 4 percent increase in sales for the Sarasota-Bradenton region, and the 13 percent raise for the Charlotte County-North Port areas, have marked 2 of only 3 sales gains for the state’s 20 most lucrative and largest markets.
However, the sales gains came at a huge cost, with median home sales prices dropping by 13 percent in the Sarasota-Bradenton region and 21 percent in the Charlotte County-North Port area, as home sellers continued to adjust to the realities of the present housing market.
Comparing Markets In The Southwest Fla. Region
In a comparison of sales in the Southwest Florida region for January, Sarasota-Bradenton real estate agents sold 490 homes in January, as compared to 472 in the same period last year.
In Charlotte County-North, brokers were reported to have sold 175 homes last month, as compared with 155 for the same period last year. The drop in home sales in other parts of the state ranged from 6 percent in Fort Walton Beach to 51 percent in Ocala. During January, pricing in Sarasota-Bradenton slumped by 13 percent to $246,300, and in Charlotte County-North Port it went down by 21 percent to $156,800, basically almost on pricing during the last several months.
According to the Florida Association of Realtors, only 6,737 homes changed hands in Florida last month, which represents a 28 percent reduction from the same month last year.
The median sales price was pegged at $208,600, which also dipped by 14 percent. Home sale prices basically declined in every market in the state, except in Panama City, which saw a 13 percent raise, and Pensacola, which noted a rise of 3 percent. The biggest seen so far was in the Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie market, which saw a 27 percent reduction.
Are Foreclosure Rates Still High?
The reports of the gains in home sales however came with a more sobering note on Monday, with the Southwest Florida region noting around 1,924 foreclosure actions in January, which was only a bit fewer than the ones in December.
At this time last year, the Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties had reported only 198 foreclosures. On a per-capita basis, Charlotte County’s January foreclosures placed it at No. 7 in the state and No. 42 nationally, closely followed by Sarasota County at No. 8 and No. 45, respectively. On a national level, the 233,001 foreclosure actions filed in January rose 8 percent from December and nearly 57 percent from a year ago.
According to RealtyTrac, a real estate firm that records foreclosures nationally, January’s foreclosure numbers demonstrate that foreclosure activity is continuing on its upward trend, though much slower than the 19 percent spike at this time last year. RealtyTrac adds that many key states actually experienced reduced foreclosure activity from the previous month. The state of Florida was third in foreclosure activity behind Nevada and California, two other states which experienced speculative buying during the 2004-05 housing season.
Housing Market Observers Are Painting A Positive Outlook
The housing industry as a whole is still in an upbeat and hopeful mood, despite the depressing foreclosure figures, because industry observers were encouraged by the January figures.
According to Sarasota-Bradenton brokers, they are convinced that the market has hit its nadir, a notion shared by some Florida economists, who noted that the market has already hit bottom in Sarasota, and some are beginning to pick up the pieces, by buying homes right now, and temporarily holding them as rental properties.
Some have found that single-family homes in Sarasota sell for $150,000 or less, and can finance them as a rental property for $1,200 to $1,300 per month to cover their expenses. As of now, local housing analysts are saying that rentals are more favorable in Sarasota than in Charlotte or North Port, because they had such a huge building boom there.