Palm Beach County home sales hit a six-year peak in May, enticing more folks to list their homes — particularly in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, realtors said.
Closed sales of single-family homes jumped 14.4 percent compared to a year ago to hit their highest level since at least 2007, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.
The median price of a single-family home in Palm Beach County climbed 28.6 percent to $263,750 compared to a year ago, according to figures released Thursday, though it was down slightly from April. That’s still nowhere near the dizzying $400,000-plus heights of the real estate bubble, but it’s considerably more than the $205,100 median in May 2012.
“People are finally feeling a comfort zone,” said Kevin Kent, past president of the realtors association.
Many who have been underwater — or owed more than their homes were worth — now see a better climate to sell, he said.
“We’re seeing a stablization in the market,” Kent said. “And now that we’re seeing movement upward in interest rates, that’s getting people off the fence too.”
Nationally, sales of previously occupied homes passed 5 million in May for the first time in three and a half years.
Statewide, closed sales of existing single-family homes reached 22,375 in May, up 18.7 percent compared to a year ago, according to Florida Realtors. Median sales price: $171,000, up 15.9 percent from the previous year.
All of it seems to be luring more sellers off the sidelines in Palm Beach County, a market where inventory has been growing tighter.
Listings for single-family homes priced between $250,000 and $300,000 increased 20 percent over a year ago and 41.2 percent in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, the realtors group said.
For townhomes and condominiums, listings increased 36.6 percent in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range and 39.1 percent in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range.
But there are aspects of the housing recovery “comparable to the artificial boom of the last decade,” said Jack McCabe, a housing analyst in Deerfield Beach. He sees sales driven largely by hedge funds and other private investors who are buying up homes and often renting them out.
“Realtors are doing a real good job of creating this perception you need to buy now,” McCabe said. But he cites factors driving an “unusual and temporary rise in the markeplace.” Because of the lack of inventory, he said, hedge funds are willing to overpay for properties.
Of the 1,472 closed sales in Palm Beach County in May, 762 of those were for cash — often an indicator of corporate investors rather than ordinary individual buyers. Cash sales in the county were up 19.1 percent compared to a year ago, a bigger gain than the 14.4 percent growth in closed sales overall.
But realtors see the overall market strengthening. Pending sales of single-family homes — those with offers not yet closed — in the county increased 60.6 percent compared to a year ago.
“Clearly, our local real estate market has emerged, and consumer confidence is strong,” said Tim Harris, president of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. “What we can expect now is a reemergence in new home construction.”
Palm Beach County home sales
May 2013 May 2012 Percent change
Closed sales 1,472 1,287 14.4
Cash sales 762 640 19.1
Median sales price $263,750 $205,100 28.6
Source: Florida Realtors