Sunday, June 14, 2009

Market bottom and Real Estate Inventories in South Florida

With my limited resources, and as almost anybody in this country at this time, I try to get some feelings about where the market is at this time and where it is headed.

Since we hesitate to believe the assessments of the realtors main organizations, which historically tend to be overly optimistic, and inject some hope within its members and the public at large, one of the simple but effective tool that we can use is our access to the MLS.

The multi-listing system, while it does not cover the entire of real estate commerce, is however sufficiently inclusive that we can interpolate its results and get generally reliable information.
Of course, there are people who do not use an agent to buy or sell a property. There are properties which have been withdrawn from the MLS but are still available for sale; there are expired listings wating to be placed again on the system.
But these are factors that are permanents and should not affect specific findings, opinions, or judgments.

It is very simple. I just take a note at specifics times of the quantity of homes available for sale in my main areas of interest. I split them between condos and single family homes.

The comparison in the active listings for sale between certain dates should give us an idea about how the inventory of properties for sale is evolving throughout the last months.

The last time I had compared these inventories was May 15, 2009. I had evaluated the changes since March 19, 2009, a period of about 8 weeks, or 2 months. I saw evident signs of inventory reduction.

I had all but forgotten about the whole thing. But then, on June 10th, 2009, it occurred to me that it would be worth to do the same comparison one more time. So I just pulled out all active listings on the MLS in the same locations. And guess what? The same trend continues. Correct me if I am wrong, but except the Brickell Avenue area, there is not one neighborhood or city in South Florida where the inventory has not gone down. OK, I might be exagerating since I didn't really cover all locations. But whatever I looked at confirmed these findings.

So again, I am asking:

Is this the bottom of the market?

Does this constant reduction in the listings announce the long-due recovery?

Prices are still falling, but at a much slower pace. In many area they appear to be stable. Of course that some foreclosure sales are being made at surprisingly low prices, but these are not the whole market. And in some of the most desirable areas, (like the beaches which are my specialty areas), I can feel some pressure on the prices.

How can I explain this? Perhaps less available bargains than ever during the last year or so? Less "steals" to offer to my buyers?

We can't deny that new construction is at a standstill all over South Florida. In the last two years, only the completion of some projects has added new properties on the market. New projects are almost non-existent.

The flow of out-of-town buyers, investors, new first-home-buyers must have done its job of eroding the inventory. It will go on. The assistance that the Federal authorities are putting in place to help middle-class homeowners is starting to show. Prices have made real estate more affordable.

Perhaps not as affordable as we would hope. We can't forget that the real price is the price at which a buyer can afford it without getting in trouble. Sacrifices have always been done in order to achieve the American dream of home ownership. But you still have to feed your family, pay your water, electricity and a minimum of inescapable expenses. (let's not talk about health-related bills which for many people have become another unattainable dream). If you can pay your mortgage, taxes and maintenance fees after saving as much as possible on the rest, then the property is affordable.

Fannie Mae has traditionally ruled that housing expenses for a homeowner shouldn't exceed about 30% of his gross income. That should be the criteria to determine a reasonable market price.

But all this is not what we really want to talk about.

We are analyzing the inventories of active listings of properties for sale.

There is a factor that we cannot ignore. Foreclosures and short sales can and will increase in the immediate future, due to the end of banks "moratorium" on foreclosures but, so far, we haven’t seen a sensible effect on increasing real estate inventory. Or perhaps the acceleration of market normalization would be much more evident if these new foreclosures wouldn't be feeding the market.

This comparison is significant. Not a lot of economics and theories. Just cold facts. As much as 10% less homes for sale in less than three months.

Are we reaching bottom? I am starting to give it some serious consideration.

These are the inventories of condos and homes in some of the most important areas of South Florida.



As of March 19, 2009

As of May 15, 2009

As of June 10, 2009

Aventura Condos

1864

1769

1724

Bal Harbour Condos

270

283

255

Brickell Area Condos

810

714

772

Hallandale Beach Condos

1320

1260

1202

Hollywood Condos

1477

1608

1554

Fort Lauderdale Condos

2903

2918

2870

North Bay Village Condos

304

303

298

Pembroke Pines Condos

1096

971

926

Sunny Isles Condos

1495

1401

1367

Surfside Condos

189

172

168

Weston Condos

331

309

278

West Palm Beach Condos

2732

2510

2470

Aventura Homes

54

47

47

Coconut Grove Homes

156

156

152

Coconut Creek Homes

231

172

153

Coral Gables Homes

607

555

535

Coral Springs Homes

720

568

503

Hallandale Beach Homes

124

114

111

Hollywood Homes

1477

1288

1199

Fort Lauderdale Homes

1902

1733

1676

Miami Beach Homes

492

469

454

Pembroke Pines Homes

837

654

609

Surfside Homes

70

73

67

West Palm Beach Homes

1841

1665

1601

Weston Homes

545

487

473

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