Home Sales Prices Fall as Sellers Lose Edge
Home prices for February went down from the month
before, and buyers and sellers are in a waiting mode.
BY MATTHEW HAGGMAN
Interactive | Report on South Florida housing market
Posted on Fri, Mar. 24, 2006
Sarah Caldicott is moving to Chicago because she's sick of hurricanes.
But one problem: After six weeks, she hasn't received a single offer on
''In my community, homes sold last year were selling from three days
to three weeks,'' said Caldicott, who has lowered her asking price to
$835,000 for a five-bedroom home in Weston. ``I'm double the average where
things were last year.''
Caldicott's experience reflects what the numbers show for February: Prices
for single-family houses in Broward and Miami-Dade counties are down from
the month before, although they're up from a year ago. Sales are modest,
and inventory is high.
What it all points to is a market where both buyers and sellers are struggling
to adjust to the new reality that the boom days are gone. Some market
watchers think growth will be steady, if slower, while a few predict a
tumble in prices -- especially for condos. But for now, both buyers and
sellers appear to be in a waiting mode, playing somewhat of a game of
''I am seeing a stalemate,'' said Marc Blackburn of Century 21 Prestige
Realty Group in the Upper Keys. ``Buyers are not willing to pay the price
and sellers are not willing to come down.''
The median price for existing single-family homes in
Miami-Dade dropped to $368,700, from $376,300 in January. It was the
third consecutive month of price declines, but they're still 19 percent
up from last year.
Similarly, a median-priced single-family home in Broward is now $360,800
-- down from $370,500 in January. But in Broward, prices have wobbled
more in recent months, and they're also up 13 percent compared to last
REACHING THE LIMIT
Skyrocketing home prices may finally be reaching the limits of what people
will pay, especially with interest rates creeping up. But the price slowdown
is also because buyers have so many more homes for sale to choose from.
In Miami-Dade, the number of homes on the market increased from 8,811
in June to more than 20,000 in February. Broward's jump has been even
more dramatic: leaping from roughly 7,000 homes in June to more than 22,000
'I believe we have truly evolved into a buyers' market,'' said Harvey
Abraham, owner of Keller Williams Properties in Weston.
Last year, Abraham would bring his laptop to showings so he could prepare
offers on the spot. Now he tells sellers to consider incentives such as
picking up some of the closing costs.
But one economist said that while the housing market is adjusting from
its lofty heights, the economic fundamentals remain strong. For instance,
mortgage rates are below 7 percent, the region's population is growing
and foreign investment continues to stream into South Florida.
''The question is whether we have a systemic risk,'' said economist J.
Antonio Villamil of the Washington Economics Group. ``But we don't see
LESS THAN LAST YEAR
Meanwhile, the number of single-family homes and condos sold in February
dropped significantly -- by more than 20 percent in each county and housing
sector -- compared to last year.
But February sales were up modestly compared to January. And there are
indications that sales are set to increase further. In the last three
months, for instance, the number of pending home sales has increased,
said Ronald Shuffield, president of Esslinger Wooten Maxwell.
But most observers agree that the old days of buying and selling for
a quick profit are gone.
''The times of buying up property and flipping immediately for a 40 to
50 percent profit,'' Gustavio Rubio, senior vice president of Coldwell
Banker in Miami-Dade. ``We are not going to see that for a while.''
Miami Real Estate