May 13, 2020

FLORIDA KEYS — A solid start to the year for home sales, as well as a local market relatively unscathed so far by the coronavirus pandemic, has real estate agents optimistic for a rebound once visitors are allowed to return to the island chain.

The first quarter of 2020 saw more sales, increased average sale prices, reduced marketing times and fewer properties for sale than a year ago, according to a January-to-March analysis released last week by Coldwell Banker Schmitt.

The promising beginning had agents expecting a banner year before the coronavirus crisis.

“The second quarter started with fewer pendings as a result of the pandemic and some sales were lost. But most contracts are closing successfully without extensions or concessions,” the reports states. Second quarter results won’t be available until mid-summer.

The National Association of Realtors reported similar trends nationwide as pending home sales fell in March.

“The housing market is temporarily grappling with the coronavirus-induced shutdown, which pulled down new listings and new contracts,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “As consumers become more accustomed to social-distancing protocols, and with the economy slowly and safely reopening, listings and buying activity will resume, especially given the record low mortgage rates.”

Despite the disruption to home sales, prices have been holding up, Yun said.

“In fact, due to the ongoing housing shortage, home prices are likely to squeeze out a gain in 2020 to a new record high,” he said.

Still, he cautions that the bounce-back later in the year may be insufficient to make up for the loss of sales in the second quarter.

“Overall, home sales are projected to have declined 14% for the year,” Yun said.

Coldwell Banker Schmitt is hopeful for a rebound in Keys, which may have added appeal to buyers wanting to avoid metro areas.

“The [highway] checkpoint along with the relatively low number of positive COVID-19 cases has served to create the sense that the Keys are a safe haven for property owners who can enjoy the Keys no matter what is going on in the world,” the analysis states.

Below are data for the first quarter of 2020 prepared by Coldwell Banker Schmitt:

• Keys-wide home sales numbered 639, an increase of 5.3% from 607 in 2019. The average sale price was $691,414, up 9.5% from $631,307. The average list price rose 5.5% to $967,092 from $917,017 a year ago. Days on the market fell 8.5% from 118 to 108, while properties for sale dropped 11.2% from 3,006 to 2,669.

Forty-nine homes sold for a price between $500,000 and $2 million, a 17% increase over the first quarter of 2019.

• By region, residential sales were up in the Upper and Middle Keys, flat in the Lower Keys and fell slightly in Key West, where inventory also dropped 26.2% in comparison to the first quarter of 2019. The number of days on the market fell in each region except for the Upper Keys where it rose slightly.

dcampbell@keysnews.com