Open for business
It’s a buyer’s market for houses in Charlotte County
By BOB FLISS CHARLOTTE BUSINESS EDITOR, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
It’s a buyer’s market for houses in Charlotte County.
The median price of an existing single-family home in Punta Gorda and unincorporated Charlotte County dropped 12 percent in May, compared to the same month in 2006, according to figures released Monday by the Florida Association of Realtors.
The May local median price was $186,900, compared with $213,400 a year ago. The median price also dropped 5 percent from $197,100 in April.
A median price is a typical market price, in which half of the houses sell for more, half for less.
Meanwhile, May sales volume was way down, again compared with figures from May 2006. A total of 235 houses changed owners, a 39-percent drop from the prior-year total of 387.
By comparison, the state continued its trend of yielding relatively little on price while absorbing a big hit on volume. This has occurred in part because while markets like Charlotte County have come down in price, some of Florida’s smaller, affordable markets like Tallahassee, Ocala and Gainesville have posted modest gains.
Statewide, May volume was down 34 percent €” 12,607 houses sold in May, compared to 19,072 a year ago. But at least volume was up nearly 5 percent from 12,016 houses sold in April. The median price of these dwellings was down 5 percent over the year €” $237,000 against $250,100 in May 2006. The May median price was down a fraction of a percent from $237,800 in April.
Alan Mitchell, president of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors, noted that a more useful comparison may be how May sales volume stacks up against the previous months of this year.
His answer: not that bad, and he has the numbers to back him up.
The biggest volume month of 2007 so far has been April, when 254 houses were sold. March was almost an exact repeat of May, with 237 sales. And all three months were an improvement over February’s 216 sales and January sales of just 155 houses.
But Mitchell added that sales volume is of less concern right now than the downward trend in prices, which he essentially sees as a positive development because it creates opportunities for buyers.
“Charlotte County is open for business … In talking to groups around the county, I have asked a lot of folks if they are trying to sell their homes … and some appear concerned that if they sell today, they will not get what their neighbor got a year ago,€ Mitchell said.
“I usually ask them: €˜What did you pay for your house, and are you still going to make a profit if you sell your house at the going rate today?’ In most cases, their answer is €˜yes’,€ Mitchell said.
Mitchell added that “these are folks who have been holding their houses for a while. If you take someone who bought last April, May or June, they’re going to lose some value.€
Judy Jirout, president of the local Realtors Multiple Listing Service, agreed that between the lower prices and continued favorable interest rates, the current “soft€ market is actually a good time to buy.
“We’ve always been known as being one of the most affordable markets (in Florida) and it’s nice to maintain that,€ Jirout said. But sooner or later, property values will resume their long-term climb €” which may be reason for house hunters looking for a bargain to make a deal sometime this year, she added.
Elsewhere in Southwest Florida, real estate markets continued to function at a slow pace during May:
€¢ In Sarasota and Bradenton, the market appeared somewhat more stable, as 772 houses were sold in May, compared to 796 in April, and 834 in May 2006. The May median price was $294,700, down fractionally from $294,800 in April and 9 percent from $322,600 in May 2006.
€¢ Fort Myers and Cape Coral showed a huge drop in volume over 12 months €” 575 houses sold in May, compared with 993 in May, 2006. Interestingly, the April to April figures were similar €” 573 houses this year compared with 916 last year. But prices in the Lee County market refused to budge, at least compared with its immediate northern neighbors. The May median sale price of $281,500 was down about half a percent from $283,200 in April and not quite 2 percent from $286,500 in May last year.
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