Housing market picks up

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Hernando County’s housing market may not be on fire but it is showing signs of rising from the ashes.

There were 307 existing single-family home sales in April, up 43 percent since January’s 214, according to statistics from the Hernando County Association of Realtors’ multi-listing service.

Of those sales, 60 were foreclosed homes and 19 short sales.

The average sales price in April was $101,000, up from $95,000 in January. The average home remained on the market 105 days, compared with 99 in January.

Marisa Brewer, broker with Preferred Property Associates, is encouraged by the April numbers and is waiting for appraisal values to catch up.

“The interest rate is still low for financing and a lot of people are just feeling more confident about the economy,” Brewer said.

Sellers who had been holding back are entering the market, even as investors back off somewhat, she said.

The inventory rate on used homes continues to decline.

Still, Hernando County has much ground to make up to reach sales levels set in the mid 2000s.

There were 5,001 existing home sales in 2005, and the average price was $181,000.

In 2011, there were 2,582 sales, with an average price of $95,000.

New home sales are also on the rise. The county issued 24 permits in April, up from 14 in January, nine in February and 16 in March, according to the Hernando County Building Department.

Meanwhile, Florida’s housing market gained strength in the first quarter of 2013 with increased closed sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and a reduced supply of homes for sale compared to the same quarter in 2012, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors.

“The first three months of 2013 demonstrate that Florida’s housing market is gaining momentum and continuing to bolster the state’s economy,” Florida Realtors President Dean Asher said in a press release.

“More people went back to work as more jobs were created in Florida during the first quarter, and our population is also growing — which provide a solid foundation for growth in the housing market.”

Asher said it’s taking less time to sell a home and, coupled with tight inventory, that shows buyers are eager to lock in historically low mortgage interest rates and take advantage of favorable, but rising prices.

RealtyTrac on Thursday released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for April and it showed that foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 144,790 nationwide properties, a decrease of 5 percent from the previous month and down 23 percent from April 2012.

Total foreclosure activity hit a 74-month low in April — its lowest level since February 2007.

Foreclosure activity represents all homes in the foreclosure process, including those that received a first notice and that drop suggests stability, according to Florida Realtors.

Conversely, judicial foreclosure auctions represent homes leaving the foreclosure process in states such as Florida where they go through the court system.

Nationally, judicial foreclosure auctions increased 22 percent and 31 percent year-to-year, suggesting a new push to move foreclosure inventory.

“The April numbers indicate that the pig is moving through the python when it comes to deferred foreclosures in judicial foreclosure states,” according to Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.