Florida among the 'coldest' markets for home sale price stability

Florida among the 'coldest' markets for home sale price stabilityBeing the sunshine state is not enough to keep Florida "hot" when it comes to home sales prices.

A new study by ZipRealty shows seven Florida zip codes scraping the bottom of the statistical barrel when accepted offers are compared to original asking prices. By contrast, Florida's sunbelt peer on the West Coast, California, had seven zip codes in the top 10 "hot" spots, where offers crept well above asking price -- all but one of them in or near the San Francisco Bay Area.

The quarterly survey tracks which zip codes are "hot" -- where offers came in higher than list prices -- or "cold," where the opposite was true. For Florida, during the quarter ending June 30, Bokeelia, an island community off Florida's Gulf Coast, fared worst with offers as low as 75% of asking price, followed by Jupiter, due east, near West Palm Beach on the Atlantic Coast. Other hard-hit locales in Florida were Alva, Boca Raton, and three beach communities, Highland Beach, Delray Beach and Palm Beach. Rounding out the bottom 10 were Minooka, Ill., Osterville, Mass. and Winchester, Conn. -- which had the nation's coldest results, at 71.6%

Cecile Frost, a southwest Florida agent, told WalletPop she has seen some improvement recently. In addition, Bokeelia and Alva both are relatively rural communities, each with only about 30 homes selling in the past quarter. So one lowball offer accepted can dramatically change the statistics. The two combine, Frost says, to create unrealistic expectations on the part of some consumers.

Still, she adds, there are deals to be had.

"When it comes to places like Bokeelia or Alva, you can still get a good bargain there," she said. "A lot of homes are still going pretty close to asking price, but there are still some pretty good deals. On average, we have a lot of people looking, a lot of investors in the area"

Hot areas included Bay Area communities in Berkeley, two parts of Oakland, two areas of San Jose, and Rodeo. Also hot were the loop area of Chicago, North Las Vegas and, in a surprise for anyone who has been there, a high desert area east of Los Angeles hit hard by the housing downturn: Adelanto, Calif.

In those areas, accepted offers ranged from 103% to almost 108% above asking price. For the Bay Area communities, where few houses sell for less than $400,000 and many soar much higher, those three to eight percentage points can mean a serious chunk of change.

East Bay agent Michael Anderson says he was not surprised to see Berkeley on the list, since "Berkeley has always been hot." But Anderson said he was caught a bit off guard when the Berkeley effect started bleeding over into Oakland, where real estate had been more depressed by the economic downturn.

"North Oakland has been very hot as well," he said. The area had a lot of distressed properties "and a lot of those are being flipped by investors. When they put them back on the market, there's a bit of a bidding frenzy."

Anderson quickly figured out what was happening and begin advising sellers to make sure their properties are "in tip top shape" to compete with their refurbished neighboring properties. For the buyers, he is giving them more sobering advice: sellers may take the highest offer right off the bat, offering no opportunity to counter.

"We have to educate them that no matter what you may read in the media, the market is turning around," Anderson said. "A lot of people sat on the sidelines and now they're in ... There's a lot of competition out there and you've got to give it your best, first shot."

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