MONROE COUNTY -- Florida Keys home prices made a substantial leap in the third quarter, while the number of sales stayed relatively flat.
Between July and September, 418 residences sold in the Keys, down just slightly from 429 last year. The average cost of a residence, however, was $453,000 during the third quarter, up 8.1 percent from last year, according to Multiple Listing Service data compiled by Century 21 Schwartz Realty as well as Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate.
The median home price -- the number at which half of the residences cost more and half cost less -- also ticked upward, rising 6.7 percent, to $342,000.
The increases cut across the entire Keys except Key West. From Stock Island north in the Lower Keys, the median home price rose to $328,000 last quarter, up 6 percent from 2011.
In the Middle Keys, the median price was $337,000, up a hearty 17 percent. The increase was 17 percent in the Upper Keys as well, where the median home price jumped from $300,000 to $350,000.
MLS date does not capture homes sold at the Ocean Reef Club, nor does it include those that are not listed with an agent.
The local jump in home values comes as prices through much of the state are on the rise. Florida's Home Value Index is up 4.2 percent over the past year, according to Zillow.com.
Coldwell Banker Schmitt owner Brian Schmitt said he believes the uptick in Keys housing prices has been driven in part by a decrease in the percentage of distressed homes on the market and by an overall reduction in housing inventory.
Foreclosure and short sale properties make up 12 to 13 percent of local listings, compared to approximately twice that number 18 months ago, Schmitt said. In the meantime inventory sat at 16 months at the end of September, the lowest since 2005.
Schmitt said the 67-unit Indigo Reef complex in Marathon is an example of how the market has improved. Two years ago, approximately 25 townhomes, many of them distressed, were for sale there. Now he knows of just one unit in the complex that is on the market.
"It just sort of tells the story," he said.
Not all sectors of the market are equal, however. For example, in the Upper Keys, the average sales price increased over the last year for oceanfront and dry-lot homes. Meanwhile, prices went down for condos and canalfront homes.
On the other hand, total closings dropped for dry-lot homes. Closings stayed nearly flat for oceanfront homes and increased for condos and canalfront properties.
Century 21/Schwartz agent Tracy Larson said she's hopeful the overall number of home sales will begin rising in unison with prices now that the presidential campaign has come to an end.
"I was talking last night to a buyer and he told me that he was waiting to see how the election turns out before he makes any big investments," she said.