Sales are up 30 percent in Alachua County

Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.

Alachua County's housing market started its typical seasonal slowdown in September as new homeowners settled in for the school year, but sales continued at a brisk pace compared with the same time a year ago.

Realtors reported 169 closed sales of existing single-family homes, a 30 percent boost over the 130 sales of September 2012, according to data from the Gainesville Multiple Listings Service. That marked the fourth month of 2013 in which sales topped 30 percent in year-over-year comparisons.

The trend is expected to continue with a 37 percent boost in pending sales that have yet to close.

"Buyers are now buying before interest rates go up, before prices go up," said Gia Arvin of Matchmaker Realty. "The news saying the market is hot — I think they're reacting to that.

September's total was down from the 225 sales in August.

The median sales price in Alachua County was $157,760 in September, a 5 percent increase over $150,750 in September 2012. It was down from August's median sales price of $170,000, largely as the result of a large drop in the sales of homes in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. The median sales price of short sales also dropped from $158,000 to $112,500 over the month.

Arvin said the market is facing a shortage of available homes on the market.

The drop in inventory has slowed, down just 6 percent over the year to 1,281 listings in September, but at the rate of sales for the month, the inventory dropped from a 9.6-month supply a year ago to a 6.9-month supply.

"I wish we had more to choose from in the lower price ranges that are not short sales," Arvin said.

Statewide sales were up 19 percent over the year, and the median sales price was up 17 percent from $145,000 in September 2012.

U.S. sales of all housing types — including single-family homes and condominiums — were up 11 percent over the year but dropped nearly 2 percent from August, which saw the highest level of sales in nearly four years.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said the drop was expected.

"Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth," he said in a news release.

The average rate for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.49 percent in September, the highest rate since July 2011, according to Freddie Mac.

The national median sales price for all housing types was $199,200 in September, up 12 percent from September 2012.

Condo and townhome sales in Alachua County jumped 52 percent from 31 a year ago to 47 in September, while the median sales price was up 25 percent from $60,000 to $75,000. Statewide, condo sales were up 11 percent over the year, while the median sales price was up 24 percent to $130,000.

Arvin said lending standards have loosened a little on condos, with some deals financed at 5 percent to 10 percent down, compared with a minimum of 25 percent down a year ago.

Anthony Clark is the Gainesville Sun business editor.

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