May 20 2016 19502 1

May 20 2016 19502 1


Home prices inched higher to start 2016, though signs point to a market turning more favorable for buyers.

The median price for existing, single-family homes in January hit $285,000 in both Palm Beach and Broward counties, local Realtor boards said Tuesday. That represented annual increases of 4 percent in Palm Beach and 8 percent in Broward.

Closed sales also were up in the two counties, rising 7 percent in Palm Beach and 6 percent in Broward.

Miami-Dade County figures will be released Wednesday.

The number of home listings remains low across South Florida, and that typically gives sellers the upper hand. Even so, real estate agents say they're noticing a shift in the market that's giving buyers more leverage than they've enjoyed in the past few years.

In January, the typical home in Palm Beach County sold in 44 days, down from 52 a year earlier — but that's still the highest level since last spring, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. Days-on-market soared in Broward, to 59 days from 49, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said.

Many sellers are overpricing their properties, but savvy buyers can see the padded prices and are refusing to cave, agents say.

"Sellers are being irrationally exuberant, and that's playing into buyers' favor," said Gary Lanham, an agent with Coldwell Banker in South Florida.

Lanham said a Fort Lauderdale house recently was listed for $396,000 — a heady price for a two-bedroom property with no pool. Finding a few issues with the inspection report, a prospective buyer, Lanham's client, insisted on and received a $15,000 discount off the sale price. The deal is expected to close in March.

"Buyers have a lot of confidence right now," Lanham said.

Chip Rowand, an agent for Keller Williams, said buyers are showing little interest in even touring overpriced homes. Rowand said he's seeing more price reductions and expired listings.

"Homes that are priced right are selling in 30 to 45 days," Rowand said. "But listings that are overpriced get stale, and the longer it sits on the market, the less it sells for."

The tri-county South Florida region ranks sixth nationwide among the top markets for buyers, according to a report released Tuesday by the real estate website. Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Hartford, Conn., and New York are the top five.

Zillow determined the top buyers' markets by analyzing the number of days listings spent on the Zillow website and the percentage of homes on the market with a price cut.

The data suggest a "slowing of activity in [South Florida] — especially Miami's luxury market and among foreign buyers who have seen their purchasing power erode due to the strengthening U.S. dollar and increasing concern about economies in their home countries," Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said in a statement.

Also, Tuesday the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index showed that prices rose 7.1 percent in the tri-county region in December from the same period a year ago. Still, that's less than the 8.1 percent annual increase in November.

The index is a widely watched barometer that tracks home prices in 20 metro areas nationwide. Unlike Realtor board data, Case-Shiller measures the prices of the same house over time. But the index lags the Realtor figures by a month.

Scott Agran, head of Lang Realty in Boca Raton, said South Florida housing is undergoing a "gradual rebalancing," but he doesn't expect a major slowdown.

"If you're priced fairly, there are still plenty of buyers out there," Agran said. "I don't think the market has stopped or stalled. It's just taking a breather."

Victor DeFrisco Headshot
Phone: 561-951-3759
Dated: May 20th 2016
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