Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Housing data points to Romney victory in Fla

If the housing market is any sign, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will win in Florida today -- maybe the biggest swing state of the contest.

Swing state housing analysis conducted by RealtyTrac this week gives Romney the nod over President Barack Obama with real estate voters in Florida.

Romney would win the majority of swing states (5-3) and their electoral votes (58-37), but Obama would still secure enough to squeak out a victory in the overall electoral vote count, 274-264, according to the RealtyTrac survey.

Hopefully we will know the true outcome by tonight.

The presidential data was based on a recent Swing State Housing Scorecard by RealtyTrac that analyzed key housing market data like average home prices, unemployment, foreclosure inventory, foreclosure starts and percent of distressed sales.

Florida’s housing market is worse off compared to four years ago based on four of those metrics — falling average home prices, rising unemployment, increasing foreclosure inventory, and growing foreclosure sales — while only foreclosure starts have improved since Obama’s big win in 2008.

Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire also favor Romney in the housing study. Nevada, Virginia and Ohio go to Obama.

Please don’t forget to vote today, and stay tuned to Bradenton.com for all of the results!

Also, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What the housing market looked like last election

A majority of the talk in political arenas has, and will continue, to focus on the U.S. economy until a president is elected in November.

It has been the focus of TV ads, debates and even new reports trying to sort out if the economic picture is brighter now than when President Barack Obama rode the wave of change into office four years ago.

A new study released by RealtyTrac shows the housing picture in Manatee and Sarasota counties has mostly improved, with home prices the slowest measure to rebound. While the job market also has shown signs of life this year, it has not yet restored to the rates of 2008.

Foreclosure inventory in Manatee has slimmed from the 4,587 in 2008 to 4,362 today. In Sarasota, the tally has shrunk from 6,838 to 5,660, according to RealtyTrac.

A drop in new foreclosure starts and continued demand for middle-class housing has fueled the trend, shrinking supply of all housing types in the area.

Manatee had 4,508 new foreclosure starts in 2008 and only 1,593 today. In Sarasota, the 6,349 new foreclosures four years ago has evaporated to 2,738.

Although those indicators show signs of progress, prices have been slow to respond.

The average sales prices in Manatee in 2008 was $319,201 compared to $216,527 today. In Sarasota, the $274,335 average also continues to run higher than the latest reported figure of $199,310, according to RealtyTrac.

Unemployment, which often drives trends in the housing market, has improved slowly of late. But it has yet to catch the pace of 2008.

Since 2008, the jobless rate in Manatee has risen overall from 8.7 percent to 9.7 percent. The same was true for Sarasota, where the rates climbed from 8.4 percent to 9 percent even during that time.

The share of sales that were distressed (foreclosures and short sales) fell in Manatee from 15 percent in 2008 to 13.5 percent now. Sarasota's dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent.

The housing health check looked at the measures for all 919 US counties with the information available.

“The U.S. housing market has shown strong signs of life in recent months, but many local markets continue to struggle with high levels of negative equity as the result of home prices that are well off their peaks. In addition, persistently high unemployment rates are hobbling a robust real estate recovery in most areas,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “While the worst of the foreclosure problem is in the rear view mirror for a narrow majority of counties, others are still working through rising levels of foreclosure activity, inventory and distressed sales as they continue to clear the wreckage left behind by a bursting housing bubble.”

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lakewood Ranch sees housing surge

As I reported in my story Thursday, existing home sales in Manatee and Sarasota counties have climbed through summer, increasing prices and shrinking inventory.

The trend is evident in Lakewood Ranch, where strong housing numbers also have carried over to new home construction, the region's employment backbone.

There have been 397 new homes sales in Lakewood Ranch through Aug. 31, a 48 percent surge over last year’s pace, when a total of 391 closed during the entire year, according to Schroeder Manatee Ranch, the community’s developer.

So far this year, buyers have closed on 251 resales in the massive master planned community. That means 61 percent of all 2012 sales have been new homes, a number you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Florida.

SMR has 27 builder retail contracts in The Lake Club this year. There are now 214 homes under various stages of construction.

Typically, new homes in Lakewood Ranch are priced about 10 percent above resales, but as the number of foreclosures continues to fall, prices of existing homes are regaining value.

That’s pushed resale prices in the community just 2 percent below new for a comparable property, a trend largely fanned by a lack of resale inventory and contributing to the construction demand.

During the downturn, there were more than 600 existing homes listed on the market in Lakewood Ranch; now there are 115.

About 36 percent of the resales this year have been all cash deals, according to SMR.

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Home building activity on the rise in Manatee

If you read the Bradenton Herald today, you hopefully caught my housing story on how recently thinning inventory of existing single-family homes has impacted the market. If not, catch up here.

As supply slides, bidding wars are erupting on foreclosures. Other desirable properties also are beginning to attract multiple offers, sometimes more than even a seller’s first asking price, records show.

The trend should ultimately increase values across the board –  giving underwater homeowners who have been stuck in an unfit property since the crash with a renewed opportunity to sell.

It also will boost interest in new home construction, which already has unfolded in many measures.

There were 137 new residential building permits pulled in Manatee County in August. While that’s down some from the 154 in July, it remains ahead of last year’s tally by one-third, according to the county.

So far this year, developers have pulled 1,041 new residential building permits in Manatee, a 24 percent jump from the 840 during the same time in 2011.

Much of the progress has come in Lakewood Ranch, which remains a hot spot for buyers seeking new.

For example, Taylor Morrison on Tuesday announced construction of a new model home in one of Lakewood Ranch’s newest communities, Haddington in Country Club East. The neighborhood includes 76 home sites, with houses ranging in size from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Busy week at Bradenton Herald

This is a very busy week in the Bradenton Herald newsroom.

Just 45 minutes north, about 50,000 out-of-state visitors are convening in downtown Tampa for the Republican National Convention. We have several reporters covering all of the action live. For updates, check Bradenton.com frequently.

The event is expected to generate a huge economic boon for Manatee County -- filling up hotels rooms, tables at restaurants and other area attractions.

At the same time, we still have reporters covering any fallout from Tropical Storm Isaac, which turned out to mostly miss our area. Surfers are enjoying the rough waters, and the tourist who are still here are not afraid to make their way to the beaches. So far, no major damage has been reported in Manatee.

The good news: Piney Point, a former phosphate facility near Port Manatee, escaped the storm without any toxic runoff. This is one of the few positive developments to occur at the site since a liner tear in the gypsum stacks last year sent 170 million gallons of toxic water into Bishop Harbor on Tampa Bay.

You can read all about Piney Point here.

The bad news: The storm will increase gas prices in Manatee by as much as 20 cents a gallon in one week as refineries along the Gulf states halt production to protect themselves against potential damage.

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Neal Communities off to strong year

If the sales by Neal Communities are any indication, 2012 is shaping up to be a good year for home builders.

The prominent Manatee County developer continued its speedy pace of new home sales in July, spurred by strong buyer interest in the Central Park neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch and Woodbrook, Neal’s newest community in south Manatee County, the company said.

The 22 sales between those two communities accounted for slightly more than half of Neal’s total of 44 in July and helped push year-to-date sales up to 325, almost 36 percent above the first seven months of 2011.

Also this month, Neal sold four homes in the East Manatee community of River’s Reach, five sales in Belleisle in Lakewood Ranch Country Club East, and four in Lakewood Ranch Country Club. Forest Creek added four sales and Sawgrass chipped in with two purchases.

The recent sales activity has come even after Neal increased its new home prices four times in several different communities within the last 60 days.

“Summer is normally the slow season,” Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities (pictured), said in a statement. “Despite some price increases, our team continues to please buyers with our offerings. This month’s performance nearly matches our year to date monthly average of 46 sales. We’re very pleased and are looking forward to a strong second half with the introduction of new inventory in existing communities as well as community unveilings.”

Market conditions now bode well for new homebuilders seeking to increase supply.

Existing homes for sale in the region have held below the six-month inventory threshold for most of the year, which traditionally signals a shift to a sellers’ market.

The Sarasota Association of Realtors reported that the inventory of homes for sale dropped to 4.1 months supply in June, a new 10-year low.

And Neal is striking while the iron is hot.

Neal’s newest community in Venice, Grand Palm, is set to open in early fall. The recently purchased Boca Royale Golf & Country Club near Englewood also will open in 2013.

For the latest business updates, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Foreclosures show mixed bag

Foreclosures are on the rise again in some of the nation's largest metro areas, including Bradenton-Sarasota.

The region had 5,702 properties with a foreclosure filing during the first six months of the year, a modest 2 percent jump from the second half of 2011 and 20 percent spike from the same time last year -- when foreclosures were still slowed by lender fraud issues, according to data released by RealtyTrac that was embargoed until midnight.

One in every 70 housing units in the greater Sarasota area has been a foreclosure this year, for a rate of 1.42 percent -- placing the area 26 on RealtyTrac's national list of the 212 worst foreclosure rates.

Half of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas in terms of population documented increasing foreclosure activity from the previous six months, led by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater with a 47 percent climb.

Foreclosure activity in the first half of 2012 was up from the previous six months in 125 of the nation’s 212 metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more.

The recent surges were fanned by an uptick in new foreclosure starts, or lis pendens, which have been rising in Southwest Florida for much of the year as banks work to process the defaults that were temporarily put on hold during the robo-signing issues.

But a subsiquent report also released Wednesday by CoreLogic suggests the numbers might not be all that bad.

Foreclosure rates in North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota fell in May from the same time last year, according to the CoreLogic data.

The report shows foreclosures represented 11 percent of all outstanding mortgage loans in the greater Sarasota area in May, a decrease from May 2011, when the rate was 12 percent. Foreclosure activity in North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota was higher than the national foreclosure rate of 3.41 percent.

The local mortgage delinquency rate also slid, with 16 percent of mortgage loans 90 days or more delinquent, a 0.67 percentage- point yearly drop.

For the latest real estate news, follow me on Twitter @JoshSalman