May 8, 2012Despite near-record-levels of investor and cash purchases, Miami-area home sales fell about 7 percent in March compared with a year earlier amid a sharp drop in the number of transactions under $200,000. The region's median sale price was flat compared with February but rose year-over-year for the third consecutive month, a real estate information service reported.
In March, 9,541 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the metro area encompassing Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties. That was up 24.0 percent from the prior month and down 6.9 percent from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.
It's normal for Miami-area sales to jump up between February and March. On average, sales between those two months have risen 30.9 percent since 1997, when DataQuick's complete Miami-area statistics begin.
March's total sales were 16.5 percent lower than the average March sales tally of 11,429 since 1997. However, if newly built homes are excluded from the sales mix, then the number of houses and condos that closed escrow in March was just 3.8 percent below the historical average for the month.
Although the Miami region's new-home sales rose 5.2 percent in March compared with a year earlier, they were 72.3 percent below average for the month. New-home sales have risen year-over-year for the past five months.
When viewed by price segment, March sales in the Miami area dropped 17.2 percent year-over-year for homes priced below $100,000, and fell 11.1 percent for homes below $200,000. Sales between $200,000 and $600,000 posted a 5.5 percent annual increase, while the number of homes that sold above $800,000 fell 6.9 percent from the same month last year.
In the Miami region's multi-million-dollar luxury market, 74 homes sold for $2 million or more in March, up 34.5 percent from the month before and the same as a year earlier. During the first three months of this year 185 homes sold for $2 million or more, up 5.7 percent from the same three-month period in 2011. The figures are based on public property records, where either a price or loan amount was available.
In the overall Miami market, the median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in March was $134,950, down insignificantly from $135,000 the month before and up 12.5 percent from a year earlier. March's year-over-year increase ties this February's annual gain as the highest since a 13.4 percent annual increase in April 2006. The Miami area's median sale price has increased year-over-year for three consecutive months. Prior to January this year, the median hadn't risen on a year-over-year basis since September 2007. The median stopped falling year-over-year in December 2011, when it was exactly the same as a year earlier.
Despite the March median's 12.5 percent gain compared with a year earlier, it was 53.5 percent lower than the Miami area's peak $290,000 median in June 2007.
There are multiple reasons for the median's 12.5 percent annual gain in February and March. In addition to widening price stability and any price pressures that might be forming, there's been a shift toward more homes selling in mid- to higher-end areas. Also, sales of newly built homes, which typically sell for more than resale houses and condos, made up a slightly higher share of total sales this March compared with March 2011.
In March, the region's resale condo median fell 7.1 percent month-to-month, in part because the February median had been inflated by a bulk purchase of high-end condos in Miami Beach. But it rose 15.6 percent year-over-year, marking the sixth consecutive month in which the resale condo median posted an annual gain.
The median price paid for resale single-family detached houses rose 3.1 percent in March compared with February, and it rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier, marking the second consecutive month with a year-over-year gain.
Another key price gauge analysts watch, the median price paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses, rose again in March to $88 for the overall region. That was up 2.3 percent from $86 the month before and up 3.2 percent from a year earlier - the second consecutive year-over-year again following 19 months of annual declines. The March figure stood 54.2 percent below the peak median of $211 paid per square foot in May 2006.
At the county level in March, the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses edged up to $78 in Broward County, up 2.6 percent month-to-month and up 6.1 percent year-over-year. It was the third consecutive month to post an annual gain. The median paid per square foot rose to $96 in Miami-Dade County, up 3.2 percent month-to-month and up 7.6 percent from a year earlier, marking the fourth consecutive month to post an annual gain. Palm Beach County's median paid per square foot increased to $98 in March, up 2.1 percent from the month before and up 0.5 percent from a year earlier, marking the first annual increase since May 2010.
The median price paid per square foot for resale condos in March was $84, down 4.5 percent from February but up 12.3 percent from a year earlier, when this median hit its trough for the current housing cycle. The figure has risen year-over-year for six consecutive months, but in March it remained 60.2 percent below its peak of $211 per square foot reached in April 2006.
Driving much of the demand for the region's lower-cost homes are absentee buyers, who purchased 41.8 percent of all homes sold in the Miami area in March. That was down from a record 42.6 percent in February, and up from 39.4 percent a year earlier. Absentee buyers are investors, second-home buyers and others who indicate at the time of sale that their property tax bill will be sent to a different address. (Absentee statistics go back to January 2000). Absentee buyers paid a median $95,000 for all new and resale houses and condos that they purchased in March, down from $102,000 the month before and up from $81,500 a year earlier.
March buyers who had a foreign mailing addresses in the public record accounted for 7.2 percent of total Miami-area home sales for the month, and bought 11.3 percent of the existing (not new) condos that sold. Of all homes bought with a foreign mailing address in March, about 81 percent were existing condos. (Note: Not all foreign buyers use a foreign mailing address, hence cannot be tracked with public records.)
Many absentee buyers are also cash buyers, who purchased 67.6 percent of the Miami-area homes sold in March. That was down slightly from a record 68.7 percent the prior month and down from 68.6 percent a year earlier. March's cash buyers paid a median $100,000, down from $105,000 the month before and up from $86,000 a year earlier. Cash deals are where there was no indication in the public record of a purchase loan recorded at the time of sale.
Meanwhile, use of a form of low-down-payment financing that's popular with first-time homebuyers - government-insured FHA loans - dipped in March to 35.4 percent of all home purchase loans. That was down from an FHA share of 38.0 percent of purchase loans the prior month and down from 39.5 percent a year earlier.
See Miami home sale chart at DQNews.com.