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Home sales on island red hot in June: ‘It feels like season’

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS, (Week of June 28, 2012)

The record-breaking pace of the barrier island real estate market continued during June, defying the usual summer slowdown.  The number of home sales in the past two months was up 100 percent over the same period a year ago.

“I don’t really know the reason for it, but it has been remarkable,” says Premier Estate Properties Broker-Associate Cindy O’Dare. “I have been busier this year than ever before with no breaks since the beginning of January, and it hasn’t stopped. It still feels like the season.

“I listed three houses in the past 30 days and all three are already under contract. Someone listed a home in Central Beach one day last week; I saw it on the hot sheet that morning. By the afternoon, they had a contract and two backup offers.”

“Our sales are up a good 25 percent compared to last year at this time,” says John’s Island Real Estate Company Broker Bob Gibb. “We are really seeing our momentum continue into summer, in contrast with last year when momentum died toward the end of May. Even with some of the negative economic news that has come out, we hope to maintain strong sales through July and August.”

“We are exceptionally busy considering the calendar date,” says Michael Thorpe, co-owner of Treasure Coast Sotheby’s International Realty. “And we are not just wrapping up transactions that originated in the season with buyers who didn’t sign contracts until April. We are seeing new prospects, many of whom have already sold their homes up north or have school-age children and who need to be relocated by mid-August.”

Norris & Company Real Estate agent Andrew Harper sees the same late-breaking activity in his business. “We are still getting walk-in clients who are coming in looking for properties. That is always a good sign for summer.

The number of single-family homes and lots sold on the island between April 26 and June 20 doubled this year compared to the same period last year, from 42 to 83, according to MLS records.

Countywide, single-family closings were up a more modest 20 percent in May, from 210 last year to 257 this year; condo closings were up 10 percent, from 78 to 85, according to Indian River County Realtors.

“So far, in the first six months of 2012, we are looking at same dollar volume as all of last year,” says Buzz MacWilliam, owner of Alex MacWilliam Real Estate.

“Our number of sales in early summer is up 25 to 30 percent over last year at this time, and that comes on top of last year being up significantly over the year before.”

Island agents say continued availability of money so cheap it is almost free and increased confidence in the real estate market helped push the pace of sales going into summer.

Pent up demand is also a factor.

“There was lot of political wrangling about the national debt last summer,” says Thorpe. “It was very nerve-wracking for a lot of high-net-worth people and people nearing retirement and they put off buying decisions. Now that they see the world didn’t come to an end, I think that delay will boost sales this summer.”

“People are tired of putting their lives on hold for the economy,” says Gibb. “They see cheap money and they see many of the better properties starting to disappear.”

Paradoxically, declining inventory – fewer homes available – may be the most powerful factor pushing the late-season sales boom.

“Inventory is starting to dissipate, which I am glad to see because prices can’t go up until supply goes down,” says Gibb. “People are starting to realize they better get in now before prices rise.”

The supply of homes on the island has fallen dramatically in the past six months.

In November 2011 there was a 15.3-month supply of homes, meaning it would take that long to sell all of them if no new listings came on the market. By May, that number had dropped by nearly two-thirds and only a 5.6-month supply remained.

“Oceanfront inventory is the lowest it has been in seven years,” says O’ Dare. “Riverfront inventory is beginning to go down as well.”

“For the first time in a long time, sales are exceeding new listings,” says Thorpe. “ I think when we look back in 90 days or so we will see that sales were up dramatically through the summer.”