MANATEE — Brisk June sales of existing homes added to a multi-month fever pitch in Manatee and Sarasota counties that has buyers pursuing properties harder than any time since 2004.
Combined sales of condos and single-family homes in the bi-county area totaled 2,058 for the month, outpacing the same period in 2014 by 17 percent, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics. Median prices also surged, with the strongest growth in the Sarasota single-family market at 17.9 percent year over year.
The sales growth capped a historic level of market activity, say officials with the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.
“There hasn’t been a string of four consecutive months with sales this high in the history of this region,” said Stafford Starcher, the association’s president.
Those high sales numbers came as the inventory of homes for sale dropped to the lowest levels of the year. The inventory for single-family homes dipped to 3.7 percent in Manatee County and 3.2 percent in Sarasota County.
As the number of homes for sale dropped overall for the third month in a row in the two counties, prices remained steady from May. The price plateau was a brief respite from a growth trend dating back to the start of 2011.
In Manatee County, the median selling price of a single-family home was $253,700, up 3.6 percent from a year ago but down about $4,000 from May. Sarasota County registered a median of $230,000, the same as the previous month but still the highest mark in five years.
The peak prices and low inventory have brought out both buyers who intend to occupy the homes they buy and investors. Sylvia Isaacs, a Realtor with the Bradenton office of Michael Saunders & Co., said her clients find themselves needing to make quick offers on homes they like. They also must be prepared to wait out scenarios in which multiple parties make offers.
“Once something decent hits the market, it gets snapped up pretty quickly,” Isaacs said.
Statewide, residential real estate numbers generally echoed the local market. The median price of a single-family home in June was $203,500, up 10 percent from 2014. Sales were up 19.3 percent. Nationally, the median selling price of all housing types was $236,400, according to the National Association of Realtors. The total number of homes selling during the month was 5.59 million, seasonally adjusted.
In the Manatee-Sarasota condo market, selling prices were up from the year before, but still well below peak levels set in April. Sarasota County condos went for more, selling at a median of $210,000 compared with $155,000 in Manatee County. The statewide median was $152,076.
Is cash still king?
One market statistic that fell in June was the percentage of cash sales. Although the total number of bi-county cash transactions was largely the same as in June 2014, they decreased compared with total sales.
Of single-family homes sold in Manatee County for the month, 33 percent went for cash. Sarasota County saw a higher percentage, 46.3. More than 60 percent of condo sales in the two counties were also done without the benefit of financing.
Don Schroder, a broker sales associate with the Manatee Avenue office of ReMax Alliance, said investors in particular are now taking advantage of a more relaxed lending environment to mortgage properties rather than spend cash out of pocket.
But, he noted, cash buyers still grab sellers’ attention.
“A cash buyer has a leg up on anybody going for a mortgage,” said Schroder, who specializes in higher-priced and island properties. “We know cash is king.”
Buyers who do choose to finance a home purchase are finding that to be an easier proposition than a few years ago. David Freed, a senior loan officer with Lakewood Ranch-based Blue Skye Lending, said the relative availability of government-insured mortgage programs and loosened lending practices at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have put more money into the lending market.
The biggest issue for lenders in the Manatee-Sarasota market is the rapid rise of home prices. In some cases, Freed said, appraisal values don’t match selling prices. When that happens, buyer and seller can renegotiate the price or let the deal go.
“During the last six months, there seems to be more issues because the market is seemingly so hot,” Freed said. “It’s difficult for appraisals to keep up with that.”
Homebuyers who are able to find the homes they want are getting a better deal than during the height of the housing boom in 2008 and 2009. According to Freed, the average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages this week stood at 4.25 percent. That compares to nearly 7 percent seven years ago.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.