I have been selling houses in Key West for twenty years. In my earlier life in Denver I watched and participated the cyclical market there. I have seen high markets when sellers get their way as desperate buyers try to buy before prices go even higher. I have seen and been a participant in depressed markets when sales dry up.
The Key West market is a bit different than the rest of the US housing market. Our community has had a stable base of full time residents for decades That base has not changed primarily because Key West cannot expand. It cannot expand out to the suburbs because we really don't have much undeveloped land on which to build. Developers cannot build up into the sky because of height restrictions and more importantly rate of growth restrictions mandated by the State of Florida. As a result we continue to sell the same houses over and over again. Sales in Old Town, the Truman Annex, the Casa Marina and Meadows Areas drive the real estate market here. Most locals cannot afford and probably do not want to move to any of the areas I just mentioned. Those areas have out-paced the financial ability of most buyers to buy into those areas. Most but not all.
A few days ago I had a brief discussion with a local Key West home appraiser. I asked him "How's business?" to which he responded "We're really busy - not in Key West. Sales have dried up here. But we are busy up the Keys where housing prices are lower and buyers can get a nice place, maybe on the water, for under $500,000 or so." That may not be an exact quote, but it is the very essence of what he said. We discussed Key West in more detail. He said housing prices here are too high and buyers have stopped buying thinking prices will fall. I have been saying prices are too high and are not sustainable. But each year I see a lot of sales that prove me wrong as the buyers come back into the market at or near the end of our buying season which now ends in May. Those sales usually close a couple of month later.
As of mid January 2017 there are 452 houses, condos, and town homes for sale in Key West and up to Shark Key. The least expensive place is on Big Coppitt Key and is priced at $215,000. There are 281 places for sale priced up to $1,000,000. There are 116 homes available priced between $1,000,001 to $1,800,000. Most of the homes in this price range will be sold to out of state buyers looking for a second home or a potential new retirement home which may be rented to help defray some cost of ownership. There are 55 homes priced at $1,801,000 and higher. Between this date in 2016 through today 38 homes in the $1.8 price range and higher sold which suggests that 31% of the current houses on the market will not get sold by this time next year. That number could go higher if the market responds negatively to the new government in Washington. I don't see a boom in sales if buyers fall in love with the new government. But I could be wrong. I think there is a real skepticism of our current housing prices and that the skepticism is why buyers are staying out of the market. It is real and buyers are not buying. It's like they are playing chicken.
I have been watching as asking prices have begun to decline on over priced houses. Some sellers who really do not need to sell probably will not reduce their asking prices. Sellers who do reduce asking prices may need to negotiate to an even lower price to sell. It's the vast group in the middle that bothers me. I am not suggest potential buyers to wait for a market correction - it could correct upward just as easily as it could go downward. Many of the homes in Key West are literally one-of-a-kind properties. Once that one property is gone, it cannot be replaced. That's why I think buyers ought to remain in the market and buy now and not to wait and see what may be available tomorrow. I don't represent a lot of sellers, but I have got to think they must be getting nervous. And if you are a buyer who let the market escape your means like the the lady in the picture above, now may be the best time for you to get back in the market.