Sarasota Real Estate Market Hits Seven Year High

Last month Sarasota County saw real estate sales attain a seven year high, a level not seen since September 2005. Pending sales reached the highest level in 12 months, confirming that the current market surge will continue for the next few months.

Another clear sign of a strengthening market is the median sales price. For condos the median price was $192,000, an 11 percent increase on March 2011’s figures. The average sales price for single family homes was $174,000, 9.8 percent higher than last March. The number of distressed properties fell to 32 percent from 37.4 percent in February, a three year low, which accounts for the recent price resurgence. All of this is positive news for the local economy as home sales are a catalyst for more jobs, higher salaries and a better standard of living.

A drop in available inventory of homes is another positive sign. The level of 4,463 is close to the decade low figure of 4,408 in August 2011, and the combination of high sales and low inventory has dropped the months of inventory to an eight year low. A well balanced real estate market has an average inventory of 6 months so a lack of available housing will most likely push prices up.

We have not seen 4.8 months of inventory since 2004 for single family homes and 6.7 months inventory for condos.

Single family home prices are now 21.4 percent higher than the low of the market reached 13 months ago, while condo prices are almost 30 percent higher.

Currently distressed listings equate to 15 percent of the market. If the percentage continues to trend lower, we could begin to see median sales price increase going forward.

Jane Ebury –

Luxury Living Looking Up?

The buzz around town and on the keys is that Sarasota has had a phenomenal season. Reports are coming in from delighted restaurant owners, motel managers, valet parkers and shop retailers that our visitors not only came for the season, but they also spent money while they were here.

The real estate community is quietly optimistic about the positive signs for the year to date and the upward trend is being lead by the luxury end of the market.

According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, there were a total of 34 homes and condominiums sold in Sarasota county in March 2012. This is a whopping 48% increase over last year.

The luxury end of the market has been especially stagnant in the past few years so this is extremely encouraging news.  These increased sales mirror the upswing in the luxury new home construction market which began at the beginning of 2011.  Wealthy homeowners and investors are finally feeling confident enough to spend some of the cash which has begun to burn a hole in their pockets.

One of the problems that potential homebuyers and investors are facing is the lack of raw material.  The inventory of available homes is at an 8 year low,   hovering a little below six months’ supply, the number generally considered to be optimum for a balanced real estate economy.  The reduced inventory is likely to translate into higher prices.

This news may well be enough to convince homeowners who have been sitting on their properties waiting out the downturn, to put their homes on the market and make the move to fresh pastures.

Part of our job as Realtors is a commitment to keeping buyers and sellers informed about the nuances of the high end real estate market.  Rest assured that Murray Realty is working tirelessly to make sure that buyers are aware that values are rising and inventory is low.

It appears that luxury living really is on the up!

Bev Murray –

Steve Murray Interviewed By The Sarasota Herald Tribune

This informative Q&A style piece was an informative reflection on running a successful luxury home building business in today’s market:

Originally from London, Steve Murray first visited Sarasota in 1976, when his father bought a place on the Bobby Jones golf course. Since moving here permanently in 1999, he has developed a luxury waterfront home-building business. Murray Homes has built 60 houses. On Bird Key alone, he has built or remodeled 23 residences and just finished renovating the Bird Key Yacht Club. Correspondent Chris Angermann sat down with him to discuss his expertise.

Q:How is business in the aftermath of the housing boom and bust?

A:My clients are innovative and extremely business-savvy. As a result, they saw things happening earlier in their own businesses, before the bubble burst. They left the market early and came back early. They got their lives in order, secured themselves and had the ability, wherewithal and depth-of-pocket to take advantage of a depressed market and pick up bargains; and they did exactly that. They’re buying properties at good prices in order to put a house up, and end up ahead of the market because they bought low. In many cases, I’m building houses on lots with short sales and bank-owned properties — we tear it down, start over.

Q:What is the most important thing in building high-end waterfront property?

A:You have to be sure you have the right team — architect, structural engineer, landscape architect, interior designer and general contractor. When they get together in concert, working for the customer, the project is much more successful. Synergy is important in order to produce an outstanding house.

There also needs to be strong control and understanding of the structural costs. Ideally, I sit down with the architect and owner before the design happens and discuss budgets. How much they want to spend — can we do what you want with your budget to make it look like the house you want? We work backward and forward with the structural engineer, as well, to make it more cost-effective.

I am involved in the process as much as I can because, as project managers, we are the people who live with the owners for the duration, which can take anywhere from 10 to 20 months. They need someone who focuses on all aspects for them and services them during the warranty period.

Q:What are some of the issues unique to waterfront property?

A:The hurricane and construction codes we have to adhere to are some of the strongest in the world. In home building and remodeling, we are protecting against that 100-year flood, or the storm with 150-mph winds, so you could live in your house all the way through and come out unscathed. That requires extremely strong construction products, such as windows, tie downs, roofs, balconies, decks, as well as additional structural elements.

That’s also why renovations are expensive. You’re not just adding something; you’re going into the integrity of the existing structure to make it right. Thirty percent of your cost goes into making your house good and strong, but you can’t touch or see any of that when the renovation is done.

So our basic building costs are more expensive, which comes as a shock to Midwesterners. But after an hour of discussion and education, they understand the issues. There is so much concrete, so much strength and structure, that the house will be around for 200 years.

Q:Is that one of the reasons you believe in using good architects?

A:Yes. I cannot recommend enough to the building public to consider who they use as an architect. The house is going to be there for a long time. Not only that, resale value is important, and I want to make sure customers are building something that can be sold, if not for a profit, then at least not for a loss. It costs the same to put up good or bad architecture. The difference is that good architecture will sell and achieve a higher price; bad architecture will sell at a loss or take longer to sell.