09 April 2010

Statewide Open House, $8k credit ending soon, March Statistics


Spiffy idea: this Saturday and Sunday, 10 and 11 April, Florida Realtors are holding the first statewide Open House Weekend. 

The purpose of the event is twofold: it offers prospective buyers a convenient way to see as many homes as they can cram into two days. And it gives curious people an insight into their neighbors' living rooms. (That is not the second reason according to the Florida Association of Realtors, that’s my take). It is also a coordinated approach to attract buyers and help them learn about prices and availability in their local housing market.

How do you find participating houses? More than 35,000 blue balloons featuring the Realtor® logo will be flying above mailboxes at participating open houses from the Panhandle to Key West. Not sure how a blue balloon with the Realtor®-logo looks like? No sweat:

The timing is no coincidence: interest rates are low, inventory is still above average (see graph below), and the Florida Open House Weekend is two weeks before the April 30 deadline for the home-buyer tax credit (see below).

Florida Realtors aren’t the only ones giddying up: colleagues on LinkedIn told me that – among other states – North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Illinois also designated April 10 and 11 as Open House Weekend.


If you’re not in a home-buying mood while reading this: you’re not missing out on anything. But: if you happen to be in the market for a house (or condominium), please don’t throw $8k into the Intracoastal. Take advantage of the federal tax credits for house purchases.

But they expire soon: buyers must sign a purchase contract by April 30 and close on the deal by June 30. First-time buyers get up to $8,000 in tax credits, existing owners can get up to $6,500 in tax credits.

Email or call me immediately if you feel the itch to go out now and buy a little something. Ideally something modern, please.



It may be an effect of the federal tax credits (see above), or it may be... I don’t know what else it may be. A major jump for sure. But a turn?

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as they say in German (speak after me please: “Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer”). So let’s not get overly excited. But the numbers baffled me. The March market for all single family homes in the Tri-County area*:
  • Inventory for sale: 26,358 units, 10 months supply
  • Median asking price: $316,333
  • Median asking price per sf: $158
  • Units sold last month: 2,739
  • Median selling price: $210,233
  • Median selling price per sf: $112

(Mar 2009 – Mar 2010. Red: SFH asking prices in Tricounty area, green: selling prices, blue: inventory in months)

From February to March, nothing really changed, except that a truckload more houses (+50.1%) sold, at a slightly higher price (+9.0%). If nothing internally is different, what else could it be? External factors. Compare the September/October-dip in inventory (when everyone thought the tax credits would expire in November) with March. So for the likely culprit, you don’t need to look farther than one chapter up.


Following this market-segment closely, I counted 13 modern sales last month. 26 modern properties dropped out of the race as unsold, 31 homes had price reductions, resulting in a $151,000 drop in median asking price. One bold seller went up 10%; talk about anti-cyclical behaviour. 
  • Modern houses for sale per 31 March*: 273
  • Asking price range: $189,000 – $42,000,000
  • Median asking price: $1,299,000
  • Median asking price per sf: $364
  • Modern houses sold March: 13
  • Volume sold: $18,263,250
  • Median asking price of sold homes: $829,000
  • Median selling price: $754,250
  • Median selling price per sf: $260 (more than double than general inventory)
  • Median Days on Market: 89
The increases are staggering: +66% median list price, +31% median list price per sf, +51% median selling price, and +12% median selling price per sf. As in previous months, sellers are jumping the gun: asking for more doesn’t directly translate into getting more. But the spike in March is strong.

Again: if this is a trend-change or a fad we will know earliest in August or September, when all possible effects of the tax credits are eliminated (for the credits to be applicable, closings have to place by 30 June, means we will see July figures by mid-August). My feeling: it won't last.

Two comments about available homes: Sometimes prospective buyers want to hire me with unreasonable expectations. At the lower end of the price range, one can expect a fixer-upper with modern bones, and a major need to strip and renovate. At $189,000, there are no Singers, Nims or Duckhams. Please be realistic.

And: could one qualified reader please contact me about this $42m house and buy it?

It skews my data. And it’s just sitting around, right on that ocean there, lonely and not getting any younger. Do you have my number?

I sure hope you enjoyed reading my April 1 post last week as much as I had fun writing it. Have a good weekend, and happy open-house hunting.

(*known/observed properties only)

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