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18 APR

Palm Beach County 2013 1st Quarter Housing Review

By Jeff Lichtenstein

1. Short take: Healthy! The average amount of inventory we have is 6.3 months, down from 7.8 a year ago. It still takes longer in the million-dollar market, but after 8 long years, we have arrived at a healthy market.

2. Prices: Prices are way up from a year ago. The market really took off last March. The average price of a home/condo is $292,000; last year it was $229,000 in March. Granted much of this is due to having less low priced short sales and foreclosures available to sell, but the appreciation is terrific

3. Sales: Total sales are up just 2.9% compared to a year ago.  Inventory is down 17%,  so there are just not as many homes and condos to sell.

4. Buyers: Whose buying is all over the place? Lots of cash buyers in the club communities, condos. and zero lot-line homes. Family areas are super competitive and lots of buyers looking for loans. Many going for FHA and some can’t qualify. Buyers need to be doing their pre-approval homework thoroughly and Sellers need to check the pre-approval with a fine-toothed comb.

5. Distressed properties: Short sale inventory is burning off at a fast pace. There was a 34.9% drop in the amount of short sales available. As prices go up, there will be less and less Sellers that qualify or need to short sale. There is still an unknown number of foreclosures coming. I know people who haven’t paid their mortgage since 2009. In some cases banks don’t want to take over and start paying for taxes and insurance. Homeowners have stalled banks as well. Supposedly, we are getting through these faster because there is less of them, but it still remains unclear.

6. Financing: You’ve heard of Angry Birds. Now there are Angry Buyers. Buyers are having a tough time getting loans. Supply of inventory has been heading down in Palm Beach County. Without big new supply going up on the horizon, logically we should see a continued big increase in prices. However, product has depreciated differently. In Egret Landing, where we live, inventory has plummeted and we have seen a rise of prices. Egret Landing has a price range of $300,000 to $700,000, low HOA fees , A-rated schools, and a very good location. I recently put a home on the market in there at a high price. We went through 6 offers! Buyers wanted to buy the house and were willing to purchase it but couldn’t afford it. FHA loans, which require little money down, have loan limitations of $417,000. Buyers are getting maxed out do to this. Other buyers in rental units just aren’t qualifying. Poor credit, not enough work history, and appraisals are making deals tougher to put together. Buyers want homes and get upset when they can’t get them! One confronted me at an open house after losing out to a conventional loan purchaser.

If you are a Buyer getting a loan, you must get a solid pre-approval, not just some standard letter. Credit needs to be strong. The Selling agent is going to want information on your credit strength. You are also competing with cash Buyers or conventional loan buyers. Be prepared to have detailed pre-approvals and financial information to give to the Listing agent. Also, you are competing with cash buyers and conventional loan buyers. Sellers preferably like to see 5%-10% down in escrow. Just because your loan officer tells you he/she can do a 97% loan doesn’t mean you should only put 3% in escrow.

Jeff’s Comments

County Club Communities Bottoming Out.

While non-mandatory and low-HOA communities have seen a boom in prices, in many country-club communities a very different dynamic has occurred. The bottom is just hitting. Some clubs, like Admirals Cove in Jupiter, which has a unique boating/golf combination, bottomed out a few years ago because of the limited supply of this unique combination. Clubs like Ibis and BallenIsles have depreciated more than other communities because of the cost of mandatory membership. Inventory is still high. This is because Buyers on the entry end of clubs couldn’t afford or were avoiding clubs because of the fee structure. However, the prices have dropped enough that Buyers who wanted the country-club lifestyle but couldn’t afford it are now back in play. I just sold a client’s home in Bay Hill Estates, a community with low HOA, for a large number. They were looking in non-mandatory clubs and found the prices to be in the low $400,000s. In BallenIsles they found a 3BR home for $225,000! The $175,000 savings compared to the $400,000 home they were looking at would more than pay for the $57,500 Sports membership initiation (80%) equity and $12,820 in dues. My clients play some golf and like the camaraderie of a club, so this became a wonderful opportunity to purchase. Other than Jupiter Country Club and Old Palm , there is no new construction on the horizon. Mirasol and Frenchman’s Reserve are sold out, so prices will continue to stabilize, all things being equal.

How high can prices go?

Tough to figure out, but if you add up inflation since 2005 and continued baby-boomer population growth, there might be a lot of room for prices to rise. Besides average prices depreciating 30%+ since 2005, there has also been 17%+ inflation since 2005! That means if the bubble did not occur, then prices should have gone up 17%, all things being equal. That 17% rise we just had takes care of inflation but means prices are still at the bottom of the market.


US Inflation Rate

Feb 1, 20131.98%
Jan 1, 20131.59%
Jan 1, 20122.93%
Jan 1, 20111.63%
Jan 1, 20102.63%
Jan 1, 20090.03%
Jan 1, 20084.28%
Jan 1, 20072.08%
Jan 1, 20063.99%
Jan 1, 20052.97%


Therefore people taking a 30% loss on their home are really taking much more. Areas like Palm Beach County have lots of growth coming in future years. The added demand of these home buyers means higher prices if supply continues to not keep up. Supply is not keeping prices in check, but the economy is. Wages have not kept up with inflation. Also, people with poor credit or who went through a short sale has meant lower overall home ownership.

According to Palm Beach County, population projections show strong growth. Right now this is outweighing new supply. Projections might even be higher, as many people are looking at moving their business to Florida because of the increase in US tax rates and Florida’s 0% income tax.

PB County1,325,7431,394,3001,482,9001,568,5001,648,000

Posted in Ask Jeff, real estate on April 18, 2013 at 7:19 am.


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