Real Estate Sales to Rebound in Six Months

23 10 2006

Existing home sales across South Florida could rebound in the next three to six months, but demand for new homes probably won’t pick up until 2008, a real estate analyst said Wednesday, adding that “the Realtors will get happy before the builders.” Meanwhile, NAR’s real estate outlook calls for national sales activity to pick up early next year.

“The Realtors will get happy before the builders,” Brad Hunter told more than 400 people attending an Urban Land Institute conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

If hurricane season ends Nov. 30 without another storm hitting the region, hesitant buyers will start making offers on the glut of unsold homes, said Hunter, who runs the South Florida division of MetroStudy, a West Palm Beach consulting firm. It will take about 18 months after that for new home sales to increase, he said.

Other real estate observers are more skeptical of short-term improvement in a local housing market that slowed dramatically in 2006 after the five-year boom when the price of a typical home more than doubled to well above $300,000.

Aside from the threat of hurricanes, buyers are afraid to commit for fear that falling prices will tumble more, Hunter said. But Moody’s issued a report last week that suggested the worst of the housing squeeze has occurred in South Florida.

The West Chester, Pa., research firm said Palm Beach County’s median price for existing homes fell from late 2005 through the third quarter of 2006 but won’t go any lower. Broward County’s median will continue to decline through the third quarter of 2007, according to the report.

Palm Beach County’s median price declined $25,400 to $386,000 in August, marking the first year-over-year drop in seven years, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. The August median for Broward County fell $24,200 to $362,800. It was the second month in a row that Broward’s median declined on an annual basis.

Mortgage rates are holding steady, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said this week that he expects the slumping market to stabilize.

“The key thing that has to happen,” Hunter said, “is that the (buyers’) psychology has to change, and it’s going to.”

Still, rising insurance premiums and property-tax bills are major deterrents to buying homes. Consumers are looking to lawmakers to offer relief on those fronts.

“A lot of people are sitting and waiting,” said Debbie Anderson, an agent for Prudential Florida WCI Realty in northwest Broward County. “I don’t blame them.”

Ashley Ostroff is asking $498,900 for her three-bedroom Palm Beach Gardens home even though her agent said she could get more. Ostroff, a marketing director, has yet to field an offer.

“Even people who are ready to buy now are waiting because of what they’re hearing in the media,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the market is doing. Buy at the price that’s right for you.”

Minto Communities, a Coconut Creek-based home builder, said it’s starting to find more interest in new homes.

About 3,000 people turned out last weekend for a townhouse and condominium development in Sunrise, while 1,500 showed up in August for a single-family home project in St. Lucie County, Minto President Harry Posin said.

“The consumer is responding,” he said. “We just have to work through this.”

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel



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