August 23rd, 2012 2:53 PM by Sherry Lee
Home sales surge in Palm Beach County, statewide as inventory plunges below normal market levels -
Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
By Kimberly Miller Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
From Palm Beach County and the Sunshine State to the nation overall, home sales and prices jumped in July compared to last year, leaving sellers smiling and buyers on an increasingly frustrating scavenger hunt.
The 1,247 single-family homes sold last month in Palm Beach County marked a 21 percent increase from 2011, while the median sales price of $217,500 was up 15 percent, according to a report released Wednesday by the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.
Statewide, single-family home sales were up 10 percent in July from the same time in 2011. The median sale price increased 8 percent to $148,000.
“We really need to recognize that over the past year, we have seen a market reversal, from a clear buyers’ market to a neutral market to one that is verging on a sellers’ market,” said John Tuccillo, chief economist for the Florida Realtors, which also released a report Wednesday. “This is a precursor to price growth.”
Nationally, home sales were on the rise with a 2.3 percent hike from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million and were 10.4 percent above the sales volume in July 2011.
The median sales price increased 9.4 percent nationally in July from a year ago to $187,300, marking the fifth consecutive month of price growth. The last time that happened was in January to May of 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors. July’s national price leap was also the strongest since January 2006 when prices rose 10.2 percent from the previous year.
But all the exaltations over a market rebound ignore one thing, said West Palm Beach-based Realtor Sherry Lee — the pipeline of foreclosures still inching their way through the courts or already sitting on bank ledgers waiting for re-sale.
“Where are the houses?” said Lee, who knows banks are buying back homes during Palm Beach County’s near daily foreclosure auctions. “I’d love to have them because I have a lot of buyers looking.”
The county’s inventory of single-family homes dropped to less than 5 months in July, a 57 percent decrease from last year and below the 6 months that is considered normal for a healthy market. Statewide, inventory was at 5.3 months in July, down 41 percent from where it was last year.
Jupiter resident Paul Yakaitis has been looking to buy a home in the $100,000 price-range for 10 months. His standards aren’t high, he said. A one-bedroom fixer-upper would do. But he hasn’t even been able to make an offer either because the home isn’t on the market yet, or it gets bought before he can make his move.
“It’s kind of frustrating because I’m ready to buy,” Yakaitis said. “It’s a real waiting game.”
The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday it is asking that foreclosed homes owned by federal mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be released “expeditiously” to bolster inventory.
“The market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “Housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average interest rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.55 percent in July from 3.68 percent in June. The rate was 4.55 percent in July 2011.
First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of purchases nationwide in July, up from 32 percent in June.
Lee, the West Palm Beach-based Realtor, said she is trying to help a first-time homebuyer who can spend up to $155,000. He’s already lost out on seven homes he’s bid on, and is waiting to hear on an eighth.
“I’m not holding my breath and neither is he,” Lee said. “Every time we show up at a brand new listing there are already five people looking and he gets outbid every time.”