By Martha Brannigan
Existing home sales in South Florida slowed in November, the latest sign that the housing market is shifting to a more normal pace after a long stretch of torrid gains.
While home and condo prices in both counties continue to post double-digit gains from 2012 levels, real-estate experts broadly agree that price increases also will slow during 2014, just as sales are doing.
“There are definite, definite signs the market is shifting [from a seller’s market] to a more balanced one,” said Mark Zilbert, president and CEO of Miami Beach-based Zilbert International Realty, who has watched prices for beachfront and Brickell-area condos cool modestly from their summer peaks.
Sales of single-family homes in Miami-Dade County fell 2.4 percent in November to 982 closings from 1,006 a year earlier and were down 7.4 percent from October’s level of 1,060, according to Miami Association of Realtors.
Miami-Dade condo sales fell 6.3 percent in November to 1,274 closings from 1,359 in November 2012 and were down 10 percent from October, Miami Realtors said.
Broward single-family home sales fell 11.1 percent in November to 1,076 closings, from 1,201 a year earlier and were down 11.4 percent from October’s 1,214 closings, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors reported Thursday. The results confirm signs of a moderation in sales in October.
Broward condo sales fell 6 percent in November to 1,206 closings from 1,283 a year earlier and were off 11.8 percent from October’s 1,368 transactions completed.
Among the reasons for the slowdown: Rising residential prices and higher interest rates inevitably sideline some would-be buyers by putting monthly payments out of reach. Interest rates on mortgages, while still low, have increased since April and are expected to continue that trend in light of the Federal Reserve’s steps to reduce its bond-buying program gradually over time.
Meanwhile, cash-rich investors are seeing fewer bargains in South Florida.
“As home prices have increased, it’s starting to cool off a lot of investors and hedge funds,” said Stephen McWilliam, past president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors and president of Florida State Realty Group in Fort Lauderdale. “Probably in the first and second quarter of 2014, you’ll see price increases more in line with a healthy market — 5 percent to 6 percent. These 20-percent and 25-percent spikes in prices won’t be there.”
The slowdown in sales comes amid continued robust price gains for houses and condos in both counties.
The median price of a single-family home in Miami-Dade jumped 19.2 percent to $232,500 in November from $195,000 a year earlier and was up 0.6 percent from October’s median price of $220,000.
The median price of a Miami-Dade condo increased 14.5 percent to $180,000 in November from $157,250 a year earlier and was up 5.9 percent from the October median condo price of $170,000.
The median price of a single-family Broward home jumped 28.6 percent to $270,000 in November from $210,000 a year earlier while that of a Broward condo leaped 27.2 percent to $117,000 from $92,000 in November 2012. The median for a single-family home was flat with October’s level of $270,000 and the median for a condo inched up 0.6 percent from $116,250 in October, the Realtors’ group reported.
South Florida’s market still shows plenty of strength, as homes are snapped up soon as they are listed and fetch close to their asking price. A single-family home in Broward sold at a median pace of 31 days on the market while condos went at a median of 36 days, both quicker than a year earlier. And single-family homes in Broward sold at an average of 95.3 percent of original listing price, while condos sold for 94.3 percent of listing price, another sanguine indicator.
The slowdown in sales reflects a big drop in short sales. In Miami-Dade, traditional “non-distressed” sales rose, as did closings on bank-owned properties taken in foreclosure, but short sales plunged sharply.
With the huge spike in prices over the past two years, a lot more South Florida homeowners now have equity in their homes and thus the flexibility to sell without having to write a check at the closing table.
Broward also posted an increase in“non-distressed” sales of homes and condos in November, but those gains were more than offset by sharp declines in short-sales and bank-owned sales.
More inventory is coming up for sale, providing buyers with choices. The selection of Miami-Dade existing homes and condos listed for sale continued to increase in November, with a 14 percent gain in single-family inventory from a year earlier and a dramatic 23.5 percent jump year over year in condos on the market.
More unit owners have been listing their condos for sale, sensing now is the time to sell — before a host of new projects under construction are completed.
“Sellers are finding more competition [from the increase in available inventory] and sellers aggressively pricing their condos are going to find they’re not going to move,” said Zilbert, who closely scrutinizes local market data.
In Broward, the inventory of single-family homes increased 8.2 percent to 5,090 in November from 4,706 a year earlier, and the number of condos rose 14 percent to 7,153 listings from 6,275 in November 2012.
Still, that amounted to 4.1 months of supply of single-family homes and 5.1 months of supply of condos in Broward, which still points to a strong hand for sellers. Analysts typically consider a supply of less than six months — that is, six times the number of homes sold per month — as a seller’s market.
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