22 Jan

South Florida housing recovery on track


Sales of existing homes and condos increased in South Florida in December and prices rose, as the housing recovery continued.

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2013 / By Martha Brannigan

South Florida’s housing recovery remained on track last month.

Sales of existing single-family homes in Miami-Dade County jumped 16.4 percent in December 2012 from a year earlier, making 2012 a record year for sales, the Miami Association of Realtors said.

In Miami-Dade, the median price for a single-family home jumped 18.9 percent to $214,060 while that of an existing condominium soared 25.4 percent to $163,000 in December 2012 from a year earlier, marking 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Miami-Dade condo sales climbed 9.8 percent to 1,395 units in December.

Broward County’s housing market is showing similarly strong demand and rising prices.

In Broward, the median price of an existing single-family home surged 21.1 percent to $230,000 in December from a year earlier, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors. The median price of an existing condo or townhouse in Broward jumped 24.7 percent to $95,100 year over year, the group said.

Sales of single-family homes in Broward climbed 14.9 percent in December from a year earlier while the volume of condo and townhouse closings increased 4.7 percent over the period.

Sellers have gained the upper hand amid a tight inventory of properties for sale and often can choose between competing offers, according to Realtors.

The number of single-family homes on the market in Miami-Dade fell 27.5 percent in December to 5,000, while the number of condos declined 20.8 percent to 7,844 units, the Miami Realtors said.

“You’re seeing more buyers chasing fewer properties,” said Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors in Coral Gables.

Miami-Dade has just 5.2 months of supply of single-family homes and 5.7 months of supply of condos on the market — less than the six to nine months of inventory typical of a market balanced between buyers and sellers. “When it drops below six months of supply, you’re definitely going to see price appreciation,” Shuffield said.

Cash remains king, especially for condo transactions, a segment where foreign investors play a huge role. In December 2012, 76 percent of Miami-Dade condo sales were all-cash transactions, as were 49 percent of single-family home deals.

“Buyers are quite surprised there is not more inventory after everything they have been hearing,” said Eyvonne Kafourus, an agent with Prudential Florida Realty in Fort Lauderdale. “I see a lot of people coming in from other states, for job transfers and retirement.”

The inventory of single-family homes in Broward fell 35.5 percent in December from a year earlier; the inventory of condos and townhomes for sale declined 25.2 percent year over year, the Fort Lauderdale group said.

“Buyers are getting aggravated, because they are losing deals,” said Charles Bonfiglio, who recently assumed office as president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors. “Eighty to 90 percent [of sales] are multiple-offer situations. They’ve got to move quickly.”

Bonfiglio said offers over asking price are common, although appraisals frequently do not follow suit.

The housing market in South Florida has continued to make gains despite a huge overhang of distressed properties that are a headwind on prices.

In Miami-Dade, distressed properties accounted for 41 percent of total sales in December, down from 54.4 percent a year earlier.

Demand is robust for bank-owned properties and short sales, agents say, and many would-be buyers find themselves outflanked by cash-rich professional investors.

“They don’t last long,” Kafourus said of foreclosures. “You have to be really on top of the market and searching every day. If you are looking to get a mortgage, you’re at a disadvantage to the cash buyers.”

The median days on the market for a single-family home in Broward dropped to 37 days in December from 56 days a year earlier, the Realtors group said.

Florida has been seeing a flow of new arrivals after a period of exodus during the downturn. In addition, foreign investors have rushed in to take advantage of the prices, which are still far below their highs before the crash.

“We’ve obviously turned the corner. We’ve noticed inventory tightening up,” said Philip Vias, a broker associate with Prudential in Fort Lauderdale.

Vias said more buyers seem to be coming in from the Northeast. “What’s held things up is homes weren’t selling up north. Now it’s starting to trickle down.”

Statewide in Florida, single-family home sales climbed 15.8 percent in December from a year earlier as the median price increased 14.1 percent to $154,000.

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