Home prices offer hope

Florida numbers signal recovery as inventory continues to decline, economist says.

Mark Puente – Tampa Bay Times – 5/23/12

Home prices rose last month in Tampa Bay and the rest of the country.

The median price of single ­family homes in the bay area jumped more than 8 percent from $120,000 in April 2011 to $130,000 last month, accord­ing to My Florida Regional MLS data. The bay area recorded 2,566 sales last month, compared with 2,519 in April 2011.

The price bump could offer hope to sellers who have been waiting for increases before list­ing their homes for sale.

So does that mean housing woes are finally in the rearview mirror?

‘The first quarter has been incredible,’ said Nick Fraser, owner of Re/Max All Star in Madeira Beach. ‘Buyers real­ize they can’t beat up sellers any­more over prices. The market has definitely leveled out.’ The median price of conven­tional sales also rose in Tampa Bay from $157,000 in April 2011 to $165,300 last month.

Investors have dominated the market the past 18 months but are now raising their offers to compete with other buyers who are chasing affordable homes.

Currently, supply is down, and demand is up for single-family homes. The supply has dropped to almost four months in Hills­borough and Pinellas counties.

The inventory also keeps fall­ing throughout the Sunshine State.

In April, Florida had a 5.8­month supply of single-fam­ily homes and a 5.7-month sup­ply for condos. A supply of six months is considered a normal market.

Statewide, prices rose as sales remained nearly flat when compared to April 2011. The median price rose 10.2 percent to $144,350. The sales of 17,544 houses last month dropped 0.7 percent, according to the Florida Realtors.

‘The housing numbers for the state of Florida continue to signal recovery,’ said John Tuccillo, Florida Realtors chief economist.

Nationally, the median price for an existing home was $177,400 in April, up 10.1 percent from a year before, according to the National Association of Realtors. March and April marked the first two-month increase in nationwide prices since mid 2010, the group said.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the group, said the housing situation has shifted from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market as the inventory of homes drops. He pointed out that it’s no longer only the investors taking advantage of affordable prices.

‘A return of normal home buying for occupancy is helping home sales across all price points, and now the recovery appears to be extending to home prices,’ he said.