Compared with 2007, I see a dramatic improvement in unrepresented buyer activity as well as in Realtor® requests for showings. July through December 2007 was a precipitous slide to a December standstill. But 2008 started off on the right foot with January activity in the "fair" column, February was better and March is a benchmark. When I say benchmark, I mean the bar to beat or exceed. Buyer activity, offers and showings are strong. Our phone at ADDvantage® is ringing continually and activity is increasing as well.
The National Association of Realtors says, "Existing Home Sales Rise in February" and the call volume at ADDvantage®, a Florida based flat fee MLS firm, confirms the action. Our flat fee MLS service covers Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Naples, Sarasota, Jacksonville and other Florida cities in between.
So what does this mean to home sellers listed in the MLS in Florida? I believe Tampa remains weak in the low end $130,000-$200,000 range, but we see plenty of activity in $300,000-$500,000 range. Jacksonville has always been holding on better than Sarasota, Ft. Myers, Miami or Orlando because the economic base in Jacksonville seems wider and more stable. The Ft Myers area has been negatively affected by the over speculation in Cape Coral. Miami struggles with the highest pricing in Florida, but along with Jacksonville, remains most likely to rebound in 2009. Orlando real estate seems priced right but falls behind Jacksonville with buyer interests.
The new FHA loan limits have increased substantially to $261,609 in high-cost areas and $144,336 in other areas. (See article in Realty Times written by Lew Sichelman). Why is March ushering in better sales activity for Florida? I see four major factors:
(1) Sellers are listing their homes closer to what they would accept as opposed to pricing with "room to negotiate."
(2) We see strong out-of-state interests in our listings.
(3) The weak dollar has made Florida real estate a real bargain. First time buyers are using FHA, seller concessions and creative financing to take advantage of the price dip.
4) Lastly, we have new sellers entering the market who were previously trapped in the 2005 mindset of "Where did my value go?" It seems these sellers are now "selling" which allows them to become buyers.