Palm Beach County single-family homes are selling in nearly half the time they were last year, sitting on the market for fewer than two months as prices and sales volume see a summertime stabilization.
July’s median sales price in Palm Beach County was $249,000, a 15 percent increase from the same time in 2012, but a 4 percent dip from June, according to a Wednesday report from the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.
The total number of single-family homes sold was down 1 percent from June to 1,486 closed deals, but up 21 percent from July 2012.
At the same time, inventory _ the bane of South Florida homebuyers searching in a sparse market _ ticked up in June to a 5.1 months’ supply. It was the first increase in inventory in at least a year.
“Activity is still through the roof even though this is the slowest time of the year for us,” said Realtor Barry Gutknecht, of the Mirsky Realty Group of Palm Beach.
And Gutknecht can attest to the swiftness of some sales. One of his clients looked at a one-bedroom penthouse on the 21st floor of CityPlace South Tower on a Monday. He bought it with cash that Friday.
“People are being conscientious though,” Gutknecht said, warning against overpricing homes. “There’s no hysteria to scoop up everything.”
Statewide, July’s median sales price for a single-family home was up 3 percent from June to $179,500 and 20 percent from the previous year. The volume of sales grew to 20,632 in July, a 1 percent increase from June and 17 percent higher than 2012.
July marks the 19th consecutive month for year-over-year price increases in Florida. A glitch in multiple listing service data found late Wednesday for Central Florida may change statewide numbers slightly.
“Once again, the market is continuing its steady improvement,” said John Tuccillo, chief economist of Florida Realtors, which released the statewide report Wednesday.
The same can be said for sales nationally, which were up 6.5 percent in July from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million homes. That’s a 17 percent jump from July 2012.
The median sales price nationally rose 14 percent from last year to $213,500 and is now 7.3 percent below the all-time record of $230,400 set in July 2006. July also marked the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases. The last time that occurred was from January 2005 to May 2006.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said buyers are motivated by climbing mortgage interest rates and are hoping to secure financing while they are still at historic lows.
According to federal mortgage backer Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.37 percent in July 2013, up from the 3.55 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.
“The initial rise in interest rates provided strong incentive for closing deals,” Yun said. “However, further rate increases will diminish the pool of eligible buyers.”
Becky Walzak, a mortgage expert and president of rjbWalzak Consulting in Deerfield Beach, said she doesn’t expect interest rates to “skyrocket” any time soon and that small increases shouldn’t dissuade buyers.
The important thing is to get pre-approved for financing before searching for a home, she said. Otherwise, cash buyers will always look more appealing to sellers.
In July, 49 percent of sales in Palm Beach County were cash deals. Statewide, 42 percent of sales were all cash.
“It’s very tough to compete with cash buyers from the perspective of financing,” Walzak said. “A lot of sellers got turned off over the past few years because a borrower would come in and they had to finance and all of a sudden they didn’t qualify.”
Florida Realtors pointed to an increase in new listings as an indicator of seller confidence in the market. Palm Beach County had 2,206 new homes listed for sale in July, a 21 percent increase from last year. Statewide, there were 30,071 new listings, a 16 percent increase from July 2012.
At least one attorney said inventory increases could be the result of a judicial push to more quickly process foreclosure cases.
“I don’t see how this couldn’t eventually negatively affect pricing,” said foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner about the court’s effort to flush the system of older cases. “The banks are being forced to take properties they don’t want.”
July snapshot for Palm Beach County single-family home sales
Cash sales, 49 percent
Median days on market, 53
Original list price received, 94 percent
Homes sold for $1 million or more, 98
Homes sold for less than $50,000, 38
Active listings, 6,236
Months supply of inventory, 5.1