March Was Great Month for South Florida Home Sales

Miami-Dade County home buyers were more active than ever in March, and brokers say it’s due to a pattern of price adjustments.


About 1,280 single-family homes traded that month, a 9 percent increase from the previous record of 1,168 in March 2016, the Miami Association of Realtors reported.


Despite shaky market conditions in the condominium arena, existing condo sales rose 2.3 percent year over year. They were down 10 percent in February.


“Miami’s spring home buying season is off to a roaring start,” said Christopher Zoller, chairman of the association board. “Not only did single-family home sales post a historic total, but existing condominium sales also increased.”


While median prices for homes rose to $322,000 and condo prices increased to $225,000, Nancy Corey with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate said a market-wide price adjustment cued the higher volume.


“As these sellers begin to understand they need to move closer to the buyer demand, they’re going to get more activity,” said Corey, who manages the company’s Miami Beach office.

Domestic buyers who may have felt priced out of the market will become active once again as asking prices drop, she added.


The top states searching for Miami real estate in March were Georgia, New York, California, Texas and Illinois. In the international market, Corey said she’s seeing continued interest from France, Italy and Turkey.


Coincidentally, Brazil was the top foreign country searching for Miami real estate on the association’s website in February, a spot the South American nation hasn’t held in months. The organization ranks search activity by country of origin each month.


Economic instability back home coupled with a strong U.S. dollar pierced Brazilians’ purchasing power over the last year, and Miami felt the hit. In November, the country finished sixth, and in December, it came in fourth. Brazil began rising up the ranks this year, finishing second in January.


While more Brazilians may be eyeing the market, Corey said they aren’t buying. They’re actually trying to sell.


“There’s two buckets right now,” she said. “The first one is a group looking for ways to get their money out of the country because of the economy and safety issues. The second bucket is [people] looking to sell their property here. We have more property on the market by Brazil than we’ve had buyers.”


Luxury Condos


High-end condo sales in the $1 million-plus category also experienced a notable uptick in March, according to Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Inc. A total of 92 units sold compared with 70 in March 2016, a 31 percent increase.


“This spurt of new activity can be directly traced to more aggressive pricing in the marketplace,” said Ron Shuffield, CEO and president of EWM.


Nearly all contracts included an average 19 percent price reduction.


Shuffield said lowering prices is the most efficient way to cure an oversupplied market. Luxury condo inventory has risen 124 percent in four years.


About 2,550 units were listed for sale at the end of January compared with the previous record of 1,850 units at the end of 2006, according to EWM.


An internal study conducted by the firm pointed to pent-up demand among buyers waiting on the sidelines.


Corey calls it buyer fatigue.


“They get tired of not buying,” she said. “That is particularly true in the luxury home market.”


Broward County


Housing sales also rose across the board in Broward County, which has been somewhat shielded from the volatility seen in Miami-Dade. Broward’s housing market is less driven by international sales, which makes it less vulnerable to trouble abroad.


About 1,500 single-family homes changed hands in March compared with 1,440 a year before, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors association.


Condo units and townhouses also fared well. Just over 1,670 units traded compared with 1,628 in 2016.


Homes also got pricier in both categories: The median sales price for single-family homes and condos rose to $331,000 and $148,000, respectively.


Broward also doesn’t share Miami-Dade’s growing inventory issues. Active residential listings decreased 7 percent to 9 percent across the county.


“March 2017 has continued the trend of less inventory and increasing sale prices,” the association said. “When combined with an increase in closed sales, it becomes clear that sellers are controlling the market, but there are plenty of buyers who don’t mind spending more money.”



Carla Vianna, Daily Business Review


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