Fla.’s Housing Market: Closed Sales, Median Prices Up, Pending Sales Down in March

In March, Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales and higher median prices year-over-year, but pending sales, new listings and pending inventory showed lower levels compared to March 2019, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 26,611 last month, 6.4% higher than March 2019.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Florida and across the U.S. started to intensify in mid-March: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state-of-emergency declaration on March 9, 2020, and President Donald Trump approved the governor’s request to declare a major disaster for Florida on March 24, 2020.

“In times of economic upheaval like what we’re experiencing under COVID-19, having a place – a home – to take shelter is essential,” said 2020 Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms, a Realtor and co-owner of Florida Suncoast Real Estate Inc. in Bradenton.

“The governor has declared real estate an essential service and transactions are still occurring across the state. However, many buyers and sellers have understandably pressed the pause button due to the pandemic and the current climate of uncertainty.

“As a result, new listings and new pending sales are trending downward. In March, new listings for single-family homes were down 3.6% compared to a year ago, while new listings for condo-townhouse properties were down 10.4%. In times like this, a buyer or seller looking for support can turn to a local Realtor for knowledgeable advice and guidance.”

Statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties in March rose year-over-year for 99 consecutive months.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $275,000, up 7.4% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations.

Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $210,000, up 10.8% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2020 was $272,400, up 8.1% from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $249,900. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in February was $579,770; in Massachusetts, it was $395,000; in Maryland, it was $295,000; and in New York, it was $301,000.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market in March, statewide closed sales totaled 10,823, up 4.7% from the level a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

To explain the mixed picture reflected in the March housing data, Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor noted a large share of home sales that closed in March actually went under contract in January and February, particularly sales that required financing – and with those closed sales “locked in,” the prices for those sales were locked in as well.

“This aspect of closed sales and median sale prices make them lagging indicators for the market, especially in times of turmoil like we’re currently experiencing,” he said.

New pending sales, which is the count of how many home sales went under contract during the month, show how the landscape in Florida’s residential real estate markets was changing in March, O’Connor said.

“On the single-family home side, we had a year-over-year drop in new pending sales of 22.6%, while over on the condo and townhouse side, we saw a decline of 35% compared to last year. New pending sales were really the first metric to turn in a downward direction after the stock market began to fall in late February, as buyers increasingly became wary of making a commitment as large as a home purchase in the face of such sudden economic uncertainty. This trend only accelerated through the end of the month, when the local closures and stay-at-home orders started to be issued across the state.”

According to Chief Economist O’Connor, drops in both new pending sales and new listings indicate that both demand and supply are in decline, at least in the short run.

“For now, we should expect to see significantly lower sales counts for April and May than we did last year, but movement in sale prices will be more stable for the time being, since the reductions in both supply and demand have countervailing impacts on home values,” he said.

“However, the longer-term forecast is still hazy.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.45% in March 2020, down from the 4.27% averaged during the same month a year earlier.

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