Local real estate market stays strong in April

The Sarasota Association of Realtors (SAR) reported 759 property sales were closed in the Sarasota market last month, continuing a strong spring surge that reached the 800 level in March. Sarasota’s real estate market is at its highest levels since late 2005 when sales started to decline.

Prices also maintained their highest levels of the year in April for both single-family homes and condos. The available property inventory dropped to 5,258 from 5,501 in March.

“We are glad to see the continuing strength of the market in 2011,” said SAR President Michael Bruno. “It’s especially encouraging to note that condominium median price hit $185,500 for April, despite about a third of the sales as distressed properties. The normal arm’s length median sales price hit $272,000 for condos, which means buyers definitely see added value in these non-distressed properties.”

The April statistics even compare favorably to 2010 when the $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit initiative fueled last year’s surge. This year’s numbers are strong simply on the basis of the wealth of quality homes and condos. Buyers are finding tremendous values at all price ranges and are making offers, according to the Sarasota Association of Realtors.

Single-family home sales stood at 533 for April, roughly the same as last April at 529. Condo sales were at 226, also about the same as last April at 228. The median sale price for single-family homes was at $155,430, slightly lower than last month ($159,250) and this time last year ($165,000). For condominiums, the median sale price hit $185,500 in April, up from $173,000 last month, but about 4 percent lower than last April’s figure of $193,175.

Distressed property sales represented only 36 percent of the overall market, down from 43 percent in March and 47 percent February. The downward trend is encouraging, said Bruno, and will hopefully continue into the summer and fall.

Pending sales dropped to 959 after climbing to 1,208 in March. April was the first month this year that pendings fell below the 1,000 level, likely reflecting the annual snowbird departure. The statistic is a strong indicator for the next two or three months of sales, as pending sales reflect current buyer activity.

Last April, pending sales stood at 1,160, but that figure was pushed upward by the approaching April 2010 deadline for the homebuyer tax credits. This year’s upward trend is being fueled by buyers of all sorts — investors, second-home buyers and those who realize that today’s lower home prices coupled with low interest rates present buyers with an opportunity not seen in years, according to the Sarasota Association of Realtors.

SAR’s press release stated the drop to the lowest inventory level in six years (5,258) could mean additional upward pressure on sales prices moving forward. Last year at this time, 6,160 properties were available, and the drop in inventory coupled with the continued strong level of sales has meant a drop in the months of inventory to 6.2 months for single-family homes and 8.6 months for condos.

The six-month level is traditionally a point that represents the beginning of a seller’s market, when buyers begin to compete for available properties and drive up prices. Only 27 months ago in January 2009, there were 25.3 months of inventory for single-family homes and 38.4 months of condo inventory.

“The market continues to trend in the right direction, and there has been very little fluctuation in the strong numbers,” explained Bruno. “Even without the federal tax credit, Sarasota is emerging as a market leader. It’s very encouraging to hear from our brokers and agents that they are experiencing strong foot traffic at open houses, and closings are moving forward.”

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