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County housing market continues upswing

Published:   |   Updated: July 6, 2014 at 11:38 AM

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— Hernando County’s housing market continued to show signs of improvement in May, with sales of existing single-family homes up about 7 percent from a year ago.

There were 358 closed sales, compared to 335 in May 2013. And half of the recent transactions were cash sales, according to the latest statistics from Florida Realtors.

The numbers are encouraging in additional ways. For example, the median sales price increased 13 percent, from $100,000 last year to the current $112,900.

And there was a 20 percent increase in active-listing inventory homes — from 1,384 last year to 1,660. These are the number of active listings recorded on the last day of the month. It’s the highest number of active listings since December.

Ana Trinque, president of the Hernando County Association of Realtors (HCAR), said the latest housing market report is encouraging.

“It is definitely trending in the right direction – like the fact that more and more homes sold are traditional sales and short sales and foreclosures seem to be trending down,” Trinque said.

“My only caution is I wish more financing was taking place,” Trinque said. “(There are) still a high number of cash sales. But (it’s) a good track overall.”

Kevin Johnston, chief deputy of valuation and tax rolls for the property appraiser’s office, said Hernando County is seeing an upsurge in commercial activity, which should translate into more residential home construction.

Usually, homes are built first and commercial development follows, he said. But Johnston said the economy has prompted that trend to be reversed in recent years.

“The commercial market is coming back and, with that, residential will follow,” he said.

Meanwhile, pending home sales nationwide rose sharply in May, with lower mortgage rates and increased inventory accelerating the market, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Because of the typical length of time it takes for a sale to close, economists consider pending sales to be a decent indicator of potential future closed sales, according to Florida Realtors.

However, those same economists caution that not all pending sales close successfully and such sales are susceptible to changes in market conditions such as the availability of financing for home buyers and the inventory of distressed properties for sale.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects improving home sales in the second half of the year.

“Sales should exceed an annual pace of five million homes in some of the upcoming months behind favorable mortgage rates, more inventory and improved job creation,” Yun said in a news release. “However, second-half sales growth won’t be enough to compensate for the sluggish first quarter and will likely fall below last year’s total.”

Despite the positive gains in signed contracts last month, Yun cautions that affordability and access to credit is still an area of concern for first-time home buyers, who accounted for only 27 percent of existing-home sales in May.

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