BROOKSVILLE - Marisa Brewer, broker with Preferred Property Associates, said she is pleased with the progress made in the county's housing market in 2013 and believes next year will continue to show an uptick in sales due to consumer confidence.
From January to November 2013, there have been 2,956 existing homes sold in Hernando County. That already outpaces last year when total sales for the year were 2,787.
By comparison, there were 2,447 sales in 2009; 2,544 in 2010; and 2,582 in 2011.
"I think we're going to see more sales in the higher-priced range," said Brewer, referring to homes costing $200,000 or higher.
The lower-priced homes will continue to sell steadily as long as they are priced right, she said.
"We are seeing the banks fix up the foreclosure homes," she said. "They're investing money and bringing them back to standards so they are selling more quickly. But unfortunately, the short sales are going down and we're having a hard time closing on (those) right now."
There were 249 single-family home transactions in November, down from 278 in October, according to statistics from the Hernando County Association of Realtors' multi-listing service.
Of the 249 transactions, 76 were foreclosure sales - the second highest of the year so far. Sixteen were short sales.
The average sale price of a single-family home last month was $107,000, down from $109,000 in October. The average home remained on the market 98 days, compared with 88 in January.
Still, Hernando County has much ground to make up to reach sales levels set in the mid 2000s. For example, there were 5,001 existing homes sales in 2005 and the average price was $181,000.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said economic development goes hand-in-hand with increased home sales.
A robust home construction sector puts parts suppliers, plumbers, subcontractors and building materials people to work, he said. That, in turn, fuels the economy because it pours dollars into the economy.
Sossamon said Hernando County is still working through the "cycle of foreclosures," and hopes to see more positive news in that area next year.
Meanwhile, nationwide housing production was up 22.7 percent in November, fueled by an increase in single-family and multi-family starts, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
"This report is in line with our latest survey, which shows that builders are increasingly confident that buyers who have sat on the sidelines are feeling more secure about their economic situation and are now moving to purchase new homes," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
Judson said the upward trend would be stronger "if not for persistently tight lending conditions for buyers and builders facing rising costs for building materials, lots and labor."
NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said the industry "hit a soft spot this fall when interest rates jumped and the government closed down.
"But mortgage rates still remain very affordable and pent-up demand is helping to boost the housing market," Crowe said. "We expect a continued steady, gradual growth in starts and home sales in 2014."