Home Prices Inch Higher In March

Home Prices Inch Higher In March

South Florida's home prices inch higher in March

Paul Owers

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South Florida's home prices increased in March, but sales slowed as the market settles into a steady, less-frenetic pace.

"Things are good, but listings aren't selling overnight anymore, unless they're just incredibly well-priced," said Beverly Rothstein, an agent in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Palm Beach County's median price for existing single-family homes last month was $298,450, up 9 percent from a year ago, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches said Wednesday.

Broward County's median was nearly identical — $298,500 — but that was only a 3 percent increase from March 2015, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said.

Miami-Dade County's median price rose 8 percent to $280,000, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

Broward had 1,440 sales last month, up 3 percent from a year earlier, but both Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties saw transactions decline.

Palm Beach County had 1,520 single-family homes trade hands, down 9 percent, while Miami-Dade's 1,168 sales represented a 6 percent slide.

Mike Larson, a housing analyst with Weiss Research in Jupiter, expects the market to lose momentum in the months ahead, though he isn't forecasting any major declines.

"We can't continue to have greater and greater price growth in a market where job gains are good, but not fantastic," he said.

With prices rising, sellers still have the advantage, but buyers are making up ground, real estate agents say.

Zach Finn, broker-owner of Finn Real Estate across South Florida, said he had clients who agreed to sell their three-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home with a pool for $410,000, but the appraisal came back at $400,000.

A year or two ago, in a more overheated market, the buyer probably would have paid all or part of the difference out of pocket, Finn said. But this buyer held firm, not willing to pay anything more than appraised value.

"I think we'll continue to gain a little bit of strength, but I definitely don't see the market allowing prices to spike anytime soon," he said.

One of the biggest mistakes sellers keep making is overpricing homes, Finn said. But at the same time, the number of properties for sale remains limited in all three counties — particularly Broward — so buyers can't afford to be too selective, he said.

"If you find the right place and it's priced well, you need to jump on it," he said.

Judy Ramella, president of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, said federal mortgage rules that started in October are still having an effect on the market, delaying closings while buyers, sellers and real estate professionals grapple with new sets of forms to fill out.

Of the three South Florida counties, the housing slowdown is most apparent in Miami-Dade.

Aside from a drop in sales, Miami-Dade's total single-family sales volume in March was $537 million, off 9 percent from March 2015. The county also had fewer existing condominium sales in March, and the median price for condos dipped 3 percent from a year ago to $209,500.

Miami-Dade's housing market relies heavily on international buyers, who are more reluctant to commit than in recent years due to declining currencies in their home countries.

Both Palm Beach and Broward counties saw annual increases in total sales volume for single-family purchases last month. Palm Beach County was up 10 percent to $711.8 million, while Broward rose 8 percent to $545.5 million.

Palm Beach County's median price for condos in March was $155,000, 13 percent higher than a year earlier. Broward's median condo price was up 6 percent to $137,500.

[email protected], 561-243-6529 or Twitter @paulowers

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