Broward County home prices rise 28 percent in July

Sun Sentinel

South Florida home prices rose in July as buyers continue to battle frustration in a decidedly sellers' market.

Broward County's median price for existing homes soared to $275,000, 28 percent higher than a year ago, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said Wednesday. There were 1,475 homes that changed hands, a 13 percent increase from July 2012.

In Palm Beach County, the median price has declined since April, but July's $249,000 was still up 15 percent from July 2012, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. Sales rose 21 percent, to 1,486 from 1,233.

Steady demand and a shortage of properties for sale over the past year have given sellers all the negotiating power. Many homes are selling quickly near or above the asking price.

Broward broker Dean Ehrlich said a client recently bid $15,000 above the $299,900 list price for a Coral Springs home. The client agreed to pay $15,000 more than appraised value, if necessary, but still lost the house to one of the other 11 bidders.

"And it was nothing special," Ehrlich said. "It was a 1980s house with no upgrades. We need to get to the point where there aren't 12 people trying to buy one house."

Ehrlich and other agents say more listings will help restore balance to the market. As prices continue to increase, more homeowners will be able to sell. Rising mortgage rates also could shrink demand.

Becky Walzak, a Deerfield Beach-based mortgage industry consultant, said she expects home-buying to slow down in January when new lending standards take effect. The Ability-to-Repay rule will eliminate risky loans and prevent lenders from offering mortgages that borrowers would not be reasonably able to pay back.

"If there's less money available, there's just not going to be as many buyers," she said.

The number of new listings in July increased across both Broward and Palm Beach counties from a year ago. But the total available inventory of homes remains down compared to July 2012, the Realtor data show.

About 40 percent of all Broward home sales last month went for cash. In Palm Beach County, nearly half of the buyers didn't need a mortgage. Many of the cash sales are from large investment companies buying properties with plans to rent them out.


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