August was not a standout month that showed the area has completely recovered from the real estate crash, but there were several positive signs.
Florida Realtors, the largest real estate organization in the state, recently released its market updates for August sales in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties. Single-family home and condominium/townhome sales increased in Walton and Santa Rosa counties compared to last year’s numbers, but Okaloosa County sales lagged.
“Overall, we’re very pleased because there are specific areas that are showing phenomenal growth,” said Cliff Long, chief executive officer of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. “There are other areas that are lagging behind, but as the overall economy improves, we know the housing market is going to improve.
“What we’re dealing with is the new norm,” Long said. “A lot of times, people think we’re dealing with slumping sales, but in reality there’s no such thing as slumping sales in a new economy. This is the new norm and this is the message that homebuyers have to accept.”
In Okaloosa County, 255 single-family home sales were closed in August. That’s down 19 percent from August 2011, when 315 single-family homes were sold.
Although the number was down, the average sale price jumped from $224,253 in August 2011 to $255,262 this August — an increase of 13.8 percent.
The county’s townhome and condo market performed similarly. Townhome and condo sales were down 7.8 percent, from 77 units sold in August 2011 to 71 units in August of this year. The average sale price of $296,439 represented a 7.5 percent increase from August 2011, when the average price was $275,689.
“There were no driving factors that caused us to have slower sales in Okaloosa County compared to our other markets,” Long said. “It’s just the economy as a whole nationwide. I think after the presidential election and lenders are able to see exactly what type of economic infrastructure they’re going to be dealing with out of Washington, then I think the lending and closing is going to pick up again.”
Walton County continued to show strong sales throughout August as its single-family home sales jumped 39.6 percent, from 106 homes sold in August 2011 to 148 sold this August. Townhome and condo sales increased 6 percent: 67 sold last year to 71 this year.
Prices, however, did continue to fluctuate. The average price of a single-family home dropped from $556,622 in August of last year to $396,038 this August, a decrease of 28.8 percent. The townhome/condo market surged, though, increasing from $220,611 last year to $321,786 this August, a 45.9 percent increase.
Both the number of properties sold and the average sale prices for both single-family homes and townhomes and condos increased in Santa Rosa County in August.
The average sale price of a single-family home in Santa Rosa County was $255,262, a 13.8 percent increase from August 2011’s average price of $224,253. Townhome and condo prices increased 7.5 percent, going from $275,689 in August 2011 to $296,439 in August of this year.
Long said he believes the housing market will continue to improve, partly because of a recent increase in Asian buyers who are looking to invest in the Northwest Florida market.
“Our market has no place to go but up,” Long said. “We’re a thriving market, we’re among of the most popular on the Gulf Coast and now that international investors are discovering Northwest Florida, which is an infusion of foreign capital, I think the outlook is very good for our area.”