COLUMN: A new real estate reality with distress sales are in short supply

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

The Emerald Coast real estate market is back, and running in high gear.

Data and statistics look more positive every day. In Walton County, the median sales price of detached single family homes in August was up 38.9 percent over last year. The number of closed sales rose by 4.8 percent for the same time period. Sellers received 92.9 percent of their original list price for property. According to Florida Realtors, this is usually the last measure to indicate a market has shifted from down to up.

One significant set of numbers is not part of this upwardly bound momentum. Sales of perennial buyer favorites — short sales and foreclosures — are going down, down, down. Data shows that foreclosure/REO sales have plummeted 36.8 percent from August 2012, and short sales are down 59.1 percent. The number of properties on the market has also fallen by a little over 20 percent from last August, meaning that Walton County has only 8.9 months of inventory of places for people to buy.

The picture is clear, but many buyers have not yet adjusted to the new reality.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come by our office or call in to request a list of available foreclosures. They are often disappointed to learn that foreclosures and short sales are in short supply, and the ones on the market sell for close to market price. In some instances, foreclosure sales prices have actually raised the market prices of area properties.

After several years of sloshing through a swamp of distress sales, lenders have become more efficient and smarter about how these sales are handled. Lenders now expect a distress sale home or condo or lot to sell for its appraised price, or very close to it.

They dribble properties on the market one by one, raising the list price of the following property with each completed sale.

So what’s the next great value in the South Walton County real estate market?

New homes and resale homes that have been updated may now be the best “bang for your buck” in real estate. Local builders have geared up to build new homes, with a wide range available. A new condominium is now available for reservations on Scenic Gulf Drive (Old 98). Local Realtors report that new homes are selling as soon as they are framed up, with buyers eager to select colors and fixtures.

Meanwhile, sellers who have updated their homes and condos find buyers are most interested in places that compare well to new ones. With compellingly priced distress sales largely gone, buyers are no longer willing to clean and paint and replace old appliances. They want spotlessly clean, turnkey properties that they can enjoy now.

Jennifer Howard is a Realtor at Sandestin Real Estate. Learn more at