Friday, June 24, 2005

Local prices top state and national numbers

Local prices top state and national numbers
Another record broken for median home prices in Bradenton and Sarasota: $316,600
MELISSA FOLLOWELL
Herald Staff Writer

MANATEE - Home prices rose as quickly as the temperature in Bradenton and Sarasota during May when both grew even hotter.

Median existing home prices in the Bradenton-Sarasota market soared to $316,600, almost $86,000 above the state's median prices.

But Sarasota - Bradenton still is well below markets such as Naples. The highest median sales price was Naples at $488,900, a 31 percent increase.

Nationwide, the median cost was $207,000, up 12.5 percent from May 2004. It is only the second time median prices exceeded $200,000. April was the first, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Though local prices climbed, the number of sales was down 9 percent from the previous year, with local observers citing a shortage of inventory.

"More dollars are chasing fewer houses," said Patrick McGuire, sales manager of Buccaneer Realty in Bradenton.

He said he's seen eager buyers offer sellers more than the asking price to seal the deal. In many cases, those willing to go above the list price have lost out on two or three homes already and are not willing to risk it again, McGuire said.

"Our prices are going to continue to grow until our supply catches up with our demand," McGuire said.

Horizon Realty agent Cindy Morton lives and works in Lakewood Ranch and has seen how quickly property in the master-planned community disappear.

"Supply here has dwindled to nothing, and people still want to live here," Morton said.

The area's design is keeping demand high, and the high demand is garnering attention - in some cases even sparking further demand.

"It's kind of like going to a restaurant where there are always lines of people. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd," McGuire said.

He said he anticipates two to three more decades of growth before supply and demand begin to even out.

As prices grow throughout the nation and make it more difficult for workers to own their own home, lenders are exploring ways to make ownership possible for those whose incomes aren't keeping up with the growing cost of real estate.

The Miami Herald reported this month that Fannie Mae will buy 40-year mortgages from lenders, something it didn't do previously.

Though interest rates on such loans are higher than the 30-year counterparts, the loans may attract buyers who are on the edge of qualifying, the article said.

Even that may be of little help to buyers priced out of the local market and employers may have to work harder to attract quality workers, McGuire said.

"Employers will have to pay more money to have people live and work here, similar to the job markets in San Francisco and L.A.," McGuire said.

Re/Max real estate agent Peggy Bunn experienced sticker shock when she visited her daughter in San Francisco. Now the 30-year Manatee County resident sees a picture not so different locally.

"I know how it was in California and I know that's where it's headed," Bunn said. "You pick up anything that lists the greatest places to live and Bradenton is on there."

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