While South Florida housing markets are improving, they're losing ground as "turnaround towns."
California communities dominate Realtor.com's top 10 metro areas with the most impressive recoveries from the housing collapse.
AlthoughMiami-Dade Countyranks third, it's the only Florida metro to crack the quarterly list, dropping from No. 2 in the first quarter.
The list is based on a handful of factors, including recent price increases and the decline in the number of homes for sale. As the housing recovery broadens nationwide, the turnaround towns list becomes harder to make.
"It doesn't mean that Florida isn't in a good spot," said Jill Kipnis, a spokeswoman for Realtor.com. "It just means that some of these markets out west are seeing larger signs of a recovery, so they're higher on the list this time."
Phoenix ranked first, and the other metros in the top 10 are: Oakland; Boise City, Idaho; San Jose; Seattle; Bakersfield; San Francisco; Fresno and Santa Barbara.
In the first quarter, seven Florida markets made the top 10. The real estate website began compiling the list last fall.
Prices in South Florida started falling in 2006, ushering in an economic recession, and the declines continued for the next several years. Sales slowed dramatically as buyers were hesitant to enter a falling market.
But eventually prices reached a level of affordability that was too good to ignore. With sales increasing, values began to stabilize last year. The glut of homes for sale subsided, and now buyers complain that they don't have enough choices.
Real estate agents and some analysts say that the region's housing market has hit bottom. Bidding wars are common as competition among buyers intensifies.
"I'm working with three buyers, and I can't find them a flippin' house," said Marisa DiLenge, an agent with Better Homes & Gardens in Broward.
Jim Heidisch, a broker with Campbell & Rosemurgy in Pompano Beach, said Tuesday that single-family homes priced at $500,000 and less are especially in demand. "The phone rings off the hook for showings, and in some cases there are multiple offers," he said.
Still, some industry observers aren't ready to declare an end to the region's housing woes.
Tens of thousands of South Florida homeowners are unable to sell because they owe more than the properties are worth, said Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach analyst.
It could be a decade or more before values rise enough for these "underwater" borrowers to break even in a sale. Meanwhile, they're at risk of foreclosure.
The three-county area still has roughly 130,000 open foreclosure cases, while 190,000 homeowners are at least 90 days late and have yet to enter the foreclosure process, McCabe said.
McCabe said he's "befuddled" that lenders have not inundated the market with foreclosed homes.
"A lot of people have just forgotten about these pending foreclosures," he said. "They're not going away. They'll have to be dealt with."