Last year there was an increase in home sales in Northeast Florida compared to previous years on the market.
The region as a whole improved, according to the annual report by the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. About 4,000 more homes were sold in 2013 than in 2012 — a 21.7 percent increase.
The median sales price increased in 2013 by 15.3 percent, totaling $153,400. Homes also spent less time on the market, selling at a rate of 23 days faster than in 2012.
Judy Siler, a realtor in Palatka, said Putnam is one of the poorest counties in Florida, but it is catching up to the high home demand of its surrounding counties in Northeast Florida.
In 2013, there were 635 homes sold in Putnam County, she said, which is 154 more than the 481 sold in 2012. Of those 635 homes, 289 were under $49,999, showing to be the most marketable. There were 168 homes between $50,000 and $99,999; 84 were between $100,000 and $149,999; and 47 were between $150,000 and $199,999. The numbers were lower in home sales above $200,000 with 47 homes sold at that price or higher.
Linda Merritt, an official from the Dixie Gilchrist Levy Counties Board of Realtors, said residential sales in Dixie and Levy totaled 206 in 2012 and 258 in 2013.
Among the counties in this region, Putnam County west saw a 44.3 percent increase in home sales last year, the third-largest increase among other counties. The highest change in home sales was 53.3 percent in Baker County, and the lowest was about negative 9 percent in Ponte Vedra Beach north. The median percentage increase in home sales was 22.1 percent in the Fleming Island area.
More populated counties saw increases as well. Mary Petrucci, an official from the Realtors Association of Citrus County, said home sales also increased between 2012 and 2013 in Citrus from 2,053 to 2,440. The Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors showed an increase from 1,824 home sales to 2,511.
Palatka realtor Siler said, “Everything goes in cycles in real estate. It’s been really exciting that we’ve had so much opportunity here because the market back in 2010 and 2011 was really slow.”
According to the Florida Realtors, home sales increased to 227,411 single-family closed home sales in 2013, compared to 203,426 in 2012.
Siler said the increase relates to the decrease in the unemployment rate and people finding better opportunities.
“People decided to start jumping on the wagon before prices went up too much,” Siler said.
Siler said in the current market, buying a home is cheaper than renting it, so cash buyers, first-time homebuyers and investors are taking advantage of that. With a lack of rentals available due to high mortgages or foreclosures, investors are buying more homes to convert into rentals.
John Tuccillo, a chief economist for Florida Realtors, also said an increasing employment rate makes for a strong housing market. Other external factors, such as the constant migration of people to Florida, expand the home sales market.
Overall, Tuccillo said buying a home in the current market gives buyers better choices in the long run.
“What we’re looking at is a window of opportunity, in respect to interest rates and prices,” he said.
Ben Bates, the owner and president of Coldwell Banker in Palatka, said the economy has become more stable over the years.
According to Coldwell Banker statistics provided by Bates, the average amount of time a home was on the market in Putnam was faster in 2013 than in 2012 by 21 days. The average sales price in Putnam also increased by $2,603. Overall sales saw a 3-percent increase for the year.
Bates said in 2003, the average sales price for residential properties was $80,614. The market peaked in 2006 at $142,995 but decreased significantly in 2011 at $70,206. However, the prices stabilized in 2012 at $83,748 and then $86,351 in 2013.
“Our market has finally leveled out and recorrected itself,” he said.