More happiness for Floridians
Last week, we started the new year with our happiness survey telling us that Florida residents are the third happiest people in the country. This week we can report on a few things that occurred toward the end of the year which is helping to keep a smile on the faces of Floridians.
The November sales reports were very encouraging in the Sarasota/Bradenton market as well as Florida and the country in general. Single family home sales were up 63 percent compared to November 2008, and condo sales more than doubled for the same time frame. Nationally, real estate sales were up 7.4 percent in November.
Much of this activity can be credited to the $8,000 tax credit, which was originally set to expire on Nov. 30, but now has been extended to April 30. It is estimated that first-time buyers who were eligible to take advantage of this tax credit made up about half of all transactions during November. Additionally, the National Association of Realtors reported that about two million United States home buyers have taken advantage of the tax credit so far, and it is anticipated that another two million will use the credit by the middle of next year.
Although numbers of sales are up, prices are still falling, which is giving added incentive to buyers to get into the market. The Sarasota/Bradenton median single family sales price was $160,000 in November 2009, which represented a 7 percent drop from $172,700 during the same month in 2008. Condo sales experienced a 20 percent decline during this time period to a median price of $141,000. However, even though sale prices were still declining from 2008 to 2009, they appear to have stabilized within 2009. It appears that February 2009 was the pricing bottom with the median for single family homes hitting $144,000.
As uplifting as these numbers look, we still have to deal with high unemployment rates and the possibility of additional foreclosures being thrown on the market as a result of lost jobs. Manatee County’s unemployment rate at the end of the year was 12.9 percent, compared to 11.5 percent in the rest of Florida and 10 percent nationally. Also, there are sellers who are anxiously waiting for the market to improve before putting their properties up for sale. As soon as these homeowners perceive a favorable wind blowing, we could see a surge of new listings flooding an already flooded market.
On another note, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved financial aid to homeowners with defective drywall from China. Since most of the Chinese drywall problems affect homeowners in Florida, this could be good news for those that qualify for the financial aid. The assistance could take the form of reduction of mortgage payments for a period sufficient to allow the borrower to recover from the financial distress and/or spreading repayment over a minimum of six months. For more information, call HUD at 888-297-8685 or log on to www.hud.gov.
For some of us, keeping the happiness flowing may take a little more than a slight uptick of sold properties and some additional government financial assistance. But in the world we’re living in, any little bit of happiness goes a long way, so enjoy it while you can.