Florida Keys News
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Home sales upswing continues

MONROE COUNTY -- Echoing national trends, the Florida Keys housing market recorded strong results during the second quarter of this year, with the Upper Keys leading the way.

Keyswide, the median price for a residential property jumped to $370,000 during the months of April through June, up 8 percent from the same period in 2012, according to Multiple Listing Service data compiled by Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate. The total number of sales rose as well, from 506 to 624 homes.

"As Realtors, there is one question we get asked on an almost daily basis, 'How is the real estate market doing?'" Tracy Larson of Century 21 Schwartz Reality wrote on her local housing market blog. "The answer ... Pretty good!"

As an Upper Keys agent, Larson has reason to be pleased. Median prices in the Key Largo and Islamorada region went up 14 percent between the springs of 2012 and 2013, to $356,000, while the number of closings increased 23 percent, to 216. The result was a 46 percent increase in the overall value of sales, which was $114 million between April and June.

Multiple Listing Service figures don't include sales within the gates of the private Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo, nor does it capture homes that were listed by owners.

Other portions of the Keys also recorded strong housing numbers over the spring, with the notable exception of the Marathon area. In the Lower Keys, median prices rose 9 percent, to $357,000, while closings increased 25 percent.

In Key West, closings went up 12 percent, from 170 in spring 2012 to 191 during the same period this year. Meanwhile, the median price in the Southernmost City jumped 17 percent, to $440,000.

In the Middle Keys, however, the median price slipped to $318,000 in the second quarter, down 15 percent from last year. Closings dipped as well, though only slightly, dropping from 121 last spring to 114 during the same period this year.

Coldwell Banker broker Ed Anderson said he doesn't believe the Marathon-area figures represent a trend. The median residential sale there was up 14 percent in the first quarter, the most of any area in the Keys. Pending sales at the end of June were up as well, and sales figures in the Middle Keys were strong in May and June after a very weak April.

"I just think it's a timing thing," Anderson said. "We'll see at the end of third quarter."

The positive second quarter housing results in most of the Keys came as the national market, still buoyed by low interest rates and also assisted by growing consumer confidence, continued to surge.

In May, the last month for which numbers have been released, sales of existing homes nationwide crept up 4.2 percent from the previous year while prices leapt 15 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. Existing nationwide sales were stronger in May than in any month since November 2009, when buyers sought to take advantage of a federal tax stimulus.

Locally, there are signs that the housing market will continue its positive trend. At the end of June, pending sales throughout the island chain were up 14 percent over last year, according to Coldwell Banker. Meanwhile, inventory has dropped from 15 months to 12 months.

But the market also still faces challenges from distressed properties, which comprised 17 percent of closings last quarter. Still, that's down from a peak of 45 percent in the summer of 2010.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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