Home prices and sales continue to increase across South Florida, but the gains are becoming more modest as housing markets settle into "the old normal."
Broward's median price for existing homes in February was $255,000, up 12 percent from February 2013, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said Thursday. Sales increased 1 percent, to 979 from 969.
In Palm Beach County, the median price of $272,000 was 16 percent higher than a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. There were 1,020 homes trading hands, up about 1 percent from last February.
Meanwhile, more owners are starting to list their homes for sale. Broward had 5,565 active listings at the end of February, up 25 percent from a year ago. Palm Beach County had 7,522 homes for sale, up 12 percent.
After the six-year downturn, housing markets in South Florida and across the country started heating up in 2012 as strong demand from investors drove sales and price increases. Some analysts feared prices may rise too quickly, possibly leading to another housing bubble.
But many investors now are pulling out as the bargains diminish. That's cooling off the market and offering more opportunities for first-time and "move up" buyers who plan to live in the homes.
"Call it the return to the old normal," Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Hanley Wood in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "The old normal is good for housing, and much better for the economy than what we have been living through for seven-plus years."
Smoke added that "no one should fear this is a harbinger of housing deteriorating -- it's actually a reflection of the existing home market getting better."