Housing sales, prices show market shaking off doldrums

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.

Alachua County's housing market continued to pick up momentum in April with a 9 percent increase in sales over April 2013 while indicators pointed to an upward trend in prices that had been recovering in fits and starts.

Realtors closed on 197 sales of existing single-family homes in April compared to 181 a year prior, while the median sale price of $177,000 was up 11 percent from $159,000, Florida Realtors reported.

Statewide sales were up 4 percent over the same period and the median price up 6 percent to $175,000 from $165,000 a year ago.

U.S. single-family sales were down 8 percent over the year but showed the first month-to-month increase of the year. The median price rose 5 percent over the year to $201,100.

Among signs that a recovery in local prices may take hold, distressed sales that typically sell at a discount dropped from 55 to 35 over the year while the median sale prices jumped 75 percent for foreclosures and 67 percent for short sales.

Sales of all homes below $100,000 plummeted, while sales in the $400,000 to $600,000 range were up 220 percent with 16 sales, contributing to a 23 percent increase in the overall average sale price to $214,429 from $174,770 a year ago.

“What we're seeing here is people willing to pay more for homes,” Craig Wilburn, a broker with Bosshardt Realty Services, said during the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors Top Producer Forum on Wednesday.

As the inventory of lower-priced homes diminishes, he said would-be buyers in that range are becoming renters again. New listings priced at $200,000 or less were down while higher-priced listings were up significantly.

Total new listings were up at the local, state and U.S. level as sellers who had been on the sidelines decided it is a good time to sell.

The median days on the market for sold homes was down from 92 to 81 in Alachua County, and dropped between 48 percent and 65 percent for sales between $200,000 and $300,000.

“Again, that's a sign of demand,” Wilburn said. “When the good products hit the market they sell faster.”

Statewide short sales declined 51 percent for single-family homes and 58 percent for condos as rising prices reduced the number of short-sale candidates, according to Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the increase in U.S. sales from March to April was inevitable after a subpar first quarter, but improved inventory also expanded choices.

Local condo sales jumped 69 percent to 66 from 39 a year ago and the median sale price was up 12 percent to $79,250 from $70,500.

“I think that there is more general improvement in the economy so parents are buying again for their student children and seeing it again as an investment,” said Gary Thomas, GACAR president and broker with Re/Max Professionals. “The condo market was so overbuilt that it had to go through a cycle of cleansing. People are buying again.”

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