Housing market starts the year with a bang

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

Home buyers started the year with a bang in Alachua County with sales up 39 percent in January compared to January 2012 and the median sales price up 16 percent, Florida Realtors reported.

Realtors reported 121 closed sales of existing single-family homes in January compared to 87 a year prior and the median sales price rose to $170,000 from $146,000.

"We are hearing Realtors getting multiple offers and there's a lot of full-price offers. It's not just people looking for more bang for their buck," said Greta Rice, president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors.

January is typically a slow month for home sales heading into the spring buying season that culminates in June of each year. Early indicators point to a strong spring, with 217 new pending sales in January, up 58 percent from 137 a year ago. Pending sales are homes under contract that have not closed.

With the pace of sales picking up and the total inventory of homes listed for sale down 18 percent over the year, Alachua County has a 7.9-month supply of inventory compared to 11.5 months a year ago.

"We're very close to that healthy stage again," said Rice, who is also the broker at Tioga Realty.

Florida Realtors forecast home appreciation of 4.5 to 5 percent at the end of the year compared to a home's selling price now, she said.

Tighter lending standards are slowing sales a little, Rice said.

Countywide condominium and townhome sales leaped 93 percent from 28 a year ago to 54 in January, with 42 of those being cash sales. The median sales price was up 13 percent from $62,000 to $70,000.

With a 5.8-month supply of inventory, Rice said the condo market is fairly healthy.

"That's not to say everything's roses because we've still got a lot of short sales, but investors are gobbling up even more than they did (in December)."

Statewide single-family home sales were up 12 percent in January over the year, and the median price rose 12 percent from $129,000 to $145,000. Condo and townhome sales were up 2 percent, and the median sales price rose 18 percent to $112,000.

Nationwide single-family home sales rose 0.2 percent from December to January and nearly 9

percent over the year. The median sales price of $174,100 was a 13 percent increase.

A seller's market has developed in much of the country with inventory insufficient to keep up with rising demand, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. U.S. housing inventory is at a 4.2-month supply, the lowest since April 2005.

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