Real estate sales along the Emerald Coast continued the steady, gradual improvement from the past several months into March. According to the sales statistics released by the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors (ECAR), single family residential sales increased by 7.4 percent over March of last year. Sales of townhomes and condos decreased slightly by 5.3 percent.



Much of the national conversation centers around distressed properties — short sales, REOs, and foreclosures. Locally, while short sales, REOs, and foreclosures are on the market for purchase, the majority of closed sales continues to be the more traditional sales.



In fact, single family home sales in Okaloosa County were traditional sales by a three-to-one margin with short sales, foreclosures, and REOs combined. Additionally, traditional single family home sales increased by 3.5 percent over last year, while short sale closings decreased by 47.5 percent for single family homes. Townhome and condo sales in Okaloosa County had more dramatic differences. Traditional sales in these categories were 62 percent higher, while foreclosure/REO sales decreased 70 percent, and short sale closings dropped 36.4 percent in March.



Walton County sales experienced similar trends in March. Traditional single family home sales increased 36.1 percent, while short sales dipped 23.5 percent, and foreclosure/REO sales decreased 31.8 percent. Townhome and condo sales in Walton County saw a similar trend. Traditional sales increased 12.8 percent; short sales were down 52.9 percent; and foreclosures/REO sales decreased by 80 percent.



“Short sales and foreclosures are a fact of our market,” said ECAR President Jan Hooks, “and for the patient buyer, they may be the right purchase. However, traditional sales are now the preference of most buyers,” she added.



Also, during March, median sales prices increased for single family homes sold by 18.8 percent and for townhomes and condos, prices went up 18.7 percent from March 2012. Inventory continues its slow decline, shrinking to a 7.4 month supply for single family homes and a 10.1 month supply for townhomes and condos, a 23 and 22 percent decrease respectively. The amount of time residential properties spent on the market increased over last year by 9.3 percent for single family homes and 30.4 percent for townhomes and condos.



Okaloosa and Walton counties continue to experience differences and similarities within their individual markets.  Okaloosa County sales were nearly flat in March, down 4.5 percent for single family homes and down 2.7 percent for townhomes and condos.  Single-family home sales in Walton County increased by 18.5 percent, while townhome and condo sales decreased 19 percent in March.



Median sales prices in both areas continued to increase. Single family home prices in Okaloosa County rose 22.2 percent; townhome and condo prices rose 14.8 percent. In Walton County, single family home prices increased 15.7 percent, while townhome and condo prices rose by 30 percent.



Inventories continued to shrink along the entire Emerald Coast. In Okaloosa County, single family homes are at near healthy inventory levels of 6.5 months, a 19.2 percent decrease from March 2012. Townhomes and condos are down to 11.3 months of inventory, a 22.4 percent decrease. Single family homes in Walton County are at an 8.5 month inventory, 33 percent down from last year, while townhomes and condos decreased to 10.2 months supply, down 18 percent.



“An indication of the health of the local real estate market is the inventory. Too much inventory decreases competition and can result in lower prices,” stated Hooks. “As the inventory shrinks, competition rises, and with it, prices. Though proper pricing and home condition continue to be critical factors in attracting buyer attention and offers.”



In describing home prices, she said, “Realtors in Okaloosa and Walton counties are reporting multiple bids on homes, as well as some offers above the list price. Not every home on the market will have this good fortune, but we are beginning to see this happen locally.



For more details on residential real estate sales along the Emerald Coast, go to www.EmeraldCoastRealtors.com/press-room to view current and historic sales data from ECAR.



This article was contributed to The Log by the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors.