Number of Under Contract Homes Reach New High
Residential real estate may still be soft in some places nationally, but not in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The number of completed home sales fell a bit in February, according to new figures from local Realtor associations, but the number of homes under contract — the best indicator of current home-sales activity — rose to nearly a 12-month high.
The new numbers are a good sign for the Gulf Coast economy, where for decades the state of the real estate market has often determined the economic health of the region. It is a marked change from even the end of last year. In January buyers seemed to come to life and in February, agents say, the activity at times seemed frenetic.
So-called "pending sales" — sales expected to close in 30 to 90 days — hit 1,130 last month in the territory covered by the Sarasota Association of Realtors.
In Manatee County, the 794 homes and condominiums under contract represented a 48 percent increase from a year ago.
The interest from buyers also appears to be having an impact on pricing.
The median sales price of $167,500 reported by the Sarasota association was up 3.4 percent from January and 22 percent from a year ago. Manatee's median of $175,000 was up 9 percent from January and 13 percent from a year ago.
Statewide and nationally, there was a similar pattern to the one being seen in Southwest Florida, though less pronounced.
In Florida, sales declined 4.8 percent during February but the number of pending sales rose 36 percent for homes and nearly 20 percent for condominiums and townhomes.
The statewide median was $134,000, up 7.2 percent from a year ago. For condos, the price was $95,000, up nearly 16 percent from February 2011.
Nationally, sales also dipped but the overall sales pace for the winter was the best in five years.
The National Association of Realtors said that home sales fell 0.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million. That is down from a revised 4.63 million sold in January — the highest level since May 2010.
The last three months have been the best for winter sales in five years. A mild winter and a stronger job market have helped boost sales ahead of the all-important spring buying season.
In Southwest Florida, the pricing gains appear to be impacting even distressed properties, which for years now have been weighing down the values of properties of all kinds.
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