Once upon a time, Easter was believed to usher-in the tail-end of our busiest home selling season. These days, however, its passage is more akin to halftime in a football game. For home sellers, this means there’s plenty more buyer activity to come; as Southwest Florida has become one of the most actively selling markets in the U.S.
What a stellar first half it was for the Sarasota-Manatee real estate market, as buyers showed-up in droves. Many have long since departed, but not before purchasing—or placing under contract—a record number of properties.
For the quarter ended March 31st, 4,052 properties were sold in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. (Source: Trendgraphix) To appreciate the magnitude of this achievement, you’d have to revisit the same quarter of 2005 (a.k.a., the peak of the housing boom) to witness a comparable level of sales. Only this time, buyers are shopping for true and lasting value, rather than the quick flip; and a sizeable majority pay cash.
In addition, the 6,240 “pending” sales logged in the two counties through March was the highest number ever recorded; besting the previous high (also achieved during the boom) by 12%.
While it’s premature to suggest that prices are trending up, the median paid for a home in Sarasota County rose for the second time in as many months during March. It is now 11% higher than a year ago. The median in Manatee County continues to bob up and down; but has remained at or above its year-ago level for the past five months. With inventories so depleted across the two counties, intense buyer competition often bids-up the final sale price on many of the most competitively priced properties.
Meanwhile, the agents from Michael Saunders & Company enjoyed a spectacular first quarter on behalf of their buyers and sellers. Their combined dollar volume spiked 31% over the same period last year on unit sales that were up by nearly 12%. In the month of March alone, they scored a 52% year-over-year increase in dollar volume and a 27% increase in unit sales.
None of this would have happened, of course, without a healing economy, an improving job market and a resulting resurgence in buyer optimism. Because let’s face it, today’s low prices and historically low interest rates—as amazing as they are—add-up to zero without the confidence needed to follow-through.
During the upcoming selling seasons, we fully expect the momentum to continue. With their finances on the mend and their homes in other markets selling, domestic buyers are finally free to pursue their goals of owning here. Plus, based on the fact that the worldwide media has been consistently touting our market as having some of the best values in U.S. real estate, we fully expect another foreign “invasion” by summer’s end.
If you’ve repeatedly scolded yourself for not selling your home in 2005—the last time our market was this overrun with buyers—now is your moment to shine. They’re back, they’re starved for choices; and yours will get more than its fair share of attention—and probably sell rather quickly—if it debuts as a well-priced, well-maintained property. Moreover, if it sells within the next few months, you will still have time to pursue similar low-priced buying opportunities for yourself.