March 29, 2017

FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys real estate market in calendar year 2016 saw declining sales across the board compared to previous year’s numbers, according to reports provided by two local real estate agencies.

Big Pine Key-based real estate broker Banks Prevatt, with Coldwell Banker Schmitt, said the market overall continued to be pretty flat.

According to Coldwell Banker’s report, the number of residential and commercial sales in the Upper Keys for 2016 was 14 percent lower than in 2015. The Middle Keys was down 1 percent, the Lower Keys, outside of Key West, fell 8 percent and Key West dropped 17 percent. Overall, the number of sales from the Lower to Upper Keys dropped 11 percent on the year – from 3,241 to 2,881.

This is the first year since 2009 that the number of sales didn’t increase over the previous year’s numbers, according to the report.

Banks said the two most important figures in this report are that 11 percent dip in the number of sales and a 12 percent increase in properties listed for sale, typically referred to as inventory, compared to 2015. This accurately shows a slowing market, he said.

“If this [these two numbers] happened over a month or two it wouldn’t be too big of a deal,” Prevatt said. “But when it happens over a year something has to give.”

Prevatt added that around July 2015 Coldwell Banker began to notice inventory increasing at a faster rate than sales. And since that time, it hasn’t slowed down.

It wasn’t all bad news for the market in 2016, though.

While the number of sales declined, according to the report, average sale prices rose in most of the markets compared to 2015. The Middle Keys saw a 20 percent raise, the Lower Keys a 17 percent jump and Key West a 20 percent increase. The Upper Keys, however, had a 6 percent dip. Overall, it was a 9 percent raise. 

The lowest average sale price was found in the Lower Keys at $465,000. The highest average sale price was found in Key West at $766,000. The average sale price for the entire Keys together was $527,000. 

Prevatt equates the Upper Keys dip in number of sales and average sale price to clients looking elsewhere in the Keys for a better deal with their money. The Lower Keys, outside of Key West, appears to be where potential buyers can get more bang for their buck, he said.

“It’s possibly just overinflated up there [in the Upper Keys],” Prevatt added.

Upper Keys-based real estate broker Lorie Leal, with American Caribbean, provided a more upbeat interpretation of the numbers. She said she sees a very healthy market right now. 

She highlighted the fact that average sale prices for residential properties have increased each year since 2013. She also added that inventory is pretty regular at six to nine months.

“Affordability is always a factor, though,” Leal said of the drop in transactions in 2016 compared to the prior year.

As for forecasting the first and second quarters of 2017, Prevatt sees much of the same.

“I don’t see anything changing just yet,” Prevatt said. “The trend is continuing for now.”

bbowden@keysnews.com