As predicted, June showed signs of beachside sales heating up in terms of the number of homes under contract. Some 66 homes and condos were placed under contract between June 1st and June 28th – exactly double the number of sales that took place in March, according to MLS data for the barrier island from Windsor to the Moorings.
Of the 33 sales that actually closed between June 1st and June 28th, 19 buyers paid cash and 14 secured conventional loans. Of the 99 homes sold or placed under contract in June, 30 of those have at least four bedrooms. That number is up from just eight homes in May, five homes in April and five homes in March having at least four bedrooms. So the trend is that larger, more expensive homes are now selling.
By many estimates, the number of closings and homes under contract in June alone exceeds the sum of sales figures for the previous two months. Several factors are contributing to this summer surge, including the belief that prices have hit bottom, concern that higher interest rates may be coming, and the availability and affordability of construction labor to tackle remodels on newly purchased homes.
The buzz over the June story that attracted national attention reporting Vero Beach real estate to be a whopping 42 percent undervalued – even though largely based on housing west of town and not the island market – has further fueled the fire of urgency under buyers.
Dale Sorensen Jr., general manager of Dale Sorensen Real Estate, keeps a close eye on the productivity of his family’s 60 full-time agents and those of other brokers. The 31-year-old firm currently has 37 houses under contract (seven of those for prices over $1 million) and nine pending.
“People who are very smart know that, in real estate, they are going to make their money on the buy side,” he said. “
Matilde Sorensen, who had described her office as “very busy” in late March and early April, explained that the high level of interest is turning into actual sales because buyers and sellers are doing a better job of coalescing around a price.
“Offers are starting to get much more realistic in relation to asking prices and sellers are getting more realistic about asking prices,” she said. “It’s still a price driven market, but it’s getting a little better. If I had a lot of money right now, I would be buying a lot of stuff.”
Gena Grove, one of the owner/brokers of Norris & Company Real Estate, confirmed that buyers with cold cash still control the market, even to the extent that they are successfully delaying closings until the end of the summer, when they are ready to occupy the homes.
Cash customers (or cash equivalent customers who can secure a mortgage with other assets) are returning to Vero Beach for another round of house shopping, according to Michael Thorpe of Thorpe-Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
“We have had a flurry of people looking in the $5 million to $10 million price range, which is unheard of this time of the year,” Thorpe said. “Usually these people are gone and now they are making trips specifically to Vero to nail something down. People who were going to wait a year or two are deciding to buy now.”
Thorpe said he feels the barrier island real estate market is directly tied to buyers’ confidence in the financial markets and to financial news in general.
Something both Thorpe and the Sorensens said they’re seeing is buyers being more flexible about home choices.
“All over the barrier island, there are great buys in all areas,” he said. “Buyers are not as picky as what they were. They will go to the next street over for a better deal.”
Looking forward, new listings are picking up in light of the increased sales.
Ninety-six new listings were added to the system since June 1, so it looks as if owners who were holding off putting that “for sale” sign up are again taking the plunge.
On June 28, the aggregate asking price of the 418 homes listed for sale on the barrier island amounted to $127.7 million.
John Aliyetti of Norris & Company estimates that figure to represent about six to eight months’ worth of inventory.
Another interesting trend, according to Sorensen, is that investors are beginning to break ground on new spec homes, on the bet that by the time the homes are ready completed, the market will have rebounded.
Christine McLaughlin of Shamrock Real Estate, who specializes in Central Beach, said that the homes at or below lot value which were available in April have sold.
The ones that remain are in the range of $650,000 and upward, depending on size, location and age.
“Buyers lost out because they waited,” she said. “Then they called back to make offers and the properties were already gone.”
In an interesting development, McLaughlin reported an upsurge in annual rentals of beachside properties, which she said is odd for this time of year. She leased five high-end properties in June alone. *** This column first appeared in Vero Beach 32963.