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Business 2005

Resales dominate county's thriving real estate market

Officials say the more than $150-million increase in residential property resale revenue in 2004 is a sign of things to come.

By BETH N. GRAY
Published February 13, 2005


Real estate brokers and mortgage lenders in Hernando County smiled all last year, and they expect to continue for the foreseeable future.

The only frowns were aimed at home sale listings.

"We never have enough" is a common refrain in brokers' offices.

"In 20 years that I've been doing resale homes, (2004) was the hottest real estate market I've ever seen in Hernando County," said Gary E. Schraut, owner of Coldwell Banker Schraut & Associates in Brooksville.

Residential property resales hit a whopping $711-million in 2004, county Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek reported.

"Quite an increase," he said, compared with resales of $548-million in 2003.

The price of single-family homes, excluding mobile homes, rose by an average of $23,000 per unit to an average sale price of $136,000, Mazourek said. He pegged the increase to appreciation in the value of both dwellings and land, and increased costs associated with new construction.

Added Marilyn Pearson, president of Century 21 Alliance Realty: "High demand has led to a lower supply of resale homes, which, in turn, has driven up the resale home price. It has created a market where multiple offers on the same property are not uncommon."

Units resold last year numbered 4,895, up from 4,495 in 2003, Mazourek reported.

Most popular with home buyers were three-bedroom domiciles, according to statistics compiled by the Hernando County Association of Realtors. Of 4,389 properties reported sold by the organization's 950 members, 2,214 were of the three-bedroom variety. The biggest segment of those - 395 units - fell within the price range of $120,000 to $139,999. Yet, the average payout for a three-bedroom home reached $156,676.

Three-bedrooms have long been the biggest seller, said Century 21's Pearson, who has worked in real estate in Hernando County for 22 years.

Second were two-bedroom homes, which went to 204 new owners for $80,000 to $89,999, Realtors association records show.

Real estate brokers said there are multiple factors at work in the trends.

"We have people who are moving to pull equity out and move up," Pearson said. "We have people downsizing."

And more people are moving into Hernando, Schraut said.

"It's amazing the number of professional people coming out of Pinellas and Pasco," he said. And that means more affluent home buyers.

Not too many years ago, most home resales averaged $70,000 to $90,000, he said.

"The $130,000 to $170,000 range is the norm now," Schraut said.

Brokers are beating the bushes for such resale listings, some assigning staffers to that pursuit.

"We've actually been trying to find ways to get more product," Schraut said.

Pearson agreed.

"The market has slowly and gradually become a seller's market rather than a buyer's market," she said. "That's been a major change for us."

Sellers could realistically begin packing their belongings as soon as their listings were posted in 2004. Homes sold within an average of 70 days on the market, the association calculated. Residences in the $100,000 to $139,999 price range found new owners after an average of 60 days.

The longest wait - 148 days - was for those homes commanding $400,000 to $499,999. The priciest homes - $500,000 to $999,999 - sold after an average listing of 132 days.

While sellers were practically assured of a turnaround, buyers had an advantage in the mortgage market. Mortgage rates were fairly stable, and attractive, throughout 2004.

At SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast, chairman and chief executive Jim Kimbrough reported interest rates in the low 5 percent range early in 2004. They inched to the low 6s at year's end and dropped back to the low 5s in January, he said.

He said 2004 was "a very good year" for mortgage business at SunTrust.

"If rates stay below 7 percent, you're probably not going to see any slowdown in home construction activity or resale activity," Kimbrough said.

Those involved in real estate expressed confidence that 2005 will bring more good news.

Said Mazourek: "I really see, probably, we're going to get a lot of additional (building) permits for new construction. Since October, we've been averaging 240 per month, but I'm sure it's going to increase (for) single-family construction. We could see from 3,000 to 4,000 permits this year. A couple of years ago it was 1,200. I just think we're going to grow very rapidly."

New home construction will eventually fuel brokers' resale portfolios, Pearson said.

Schraut said his firm had a record year in 2004, and "if things continue in the way they're going, and we have product to sell, I see 2005 being a better year than 2004."

Prospective homeowners just seem to keep coming, Pearson said.

"We have a huge buyer influx from the rest of the country, and the world," she said. "We are an international market."

[Last modified February 8, 2005, 16:44:07]


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