Miami Sales

Miami Housing Market Continues on the Rise "↑"

Florida's housing market continued to report a tight supply of homes for sale and rising median prices in February, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide remained relatively flat last month, totaling 18,033, down only 0.5 percent compared to February 2016.

"Florida's economy is growing, with more jobs being created," said 2017 Florida Realtors President Maria Wells, broker-owner with Lifestyle Realty Group in Stuart. "And a growing economy boosts the state's housing sector as well. However, many local markets are reporting a low inventory of for-sale homes at a time of increasing buyer demand. For sellers, it's a good time to list their homes, as they continue to get more of their original asking price at the closing table. In February, sellers of existing single-family homes received 95.8 percent (median percentage) of their original listing price, while those selling townhouse-condo properties received 94.7 percent.

"In these kinds of market conditions, serious home buyers must be prepared to act fast, and work closely with a local Realtor to find the right home for their needs and their budget."

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $225,000, up 12.5 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Thestatewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in February was $167,500, up 11.7 percent over the year-ago figure. February marked the 63rd month in a row that statewide median prices for both sectors rose year-over-year. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), thenational median sales price for existing single-family homes in January 2016 was $230,400, up 7.3 percent from the previous yearthenational median existing condo price was $217,400.In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in January was $489,580; in Massachusetts, it was $330,000; in Maryland, it was $261,868; and in New York, it was $250,000.

Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 7,949 last month, up 4.1 percent compared to February 2016. Closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales last month: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 39.6 percent while short sales for single-family homes also dropped 39.6 percent. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

"Florida's market for existing single-family homes in February continued to perform in line with what we've seen over the past year and a half," said Florida Realtors®Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "Due primarily to fewer distressed properties on the market, sales of single-family homes edged down. However, non-distressed sales of single-family homes were up almost 10 percent year-over-year, showing that the traditional market – as opposed to the niche distressed market – is healthy and continues to grow.

"Meanwhile, Florida's condo and townhouse sales are off to very good start in 2017. Coming off a 6.2 percent year-over-year increase in January, condo and townhouse sales rose 4.1 percent year-over-year in February. For perspective, the last time statewide condo and townhouse sales rose on a year-over-year basis for two consecutive months was in August and September of 2015."

For the second consecutive month, inventory remained at a tight 4.2-months' supply in February for single-family homes, and was at a 6.4-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.17 percent in February 2016, up significantly from the 3.66 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.

4 Benefits of Getting Pre-Approved

During the mortgage pre-approval process, a mortgage lender will review your financial situation to determine whether or not you’re qualified for a loan. If you do appear to be qualified, they’ll also give you a maximum amount they are willing to lend.

It’s a worthwhile process for several reasons. Here are the four main benefits of getting pre-approved for a home loan, before you start shopping for a house.

1. You can identify problems early on in the process.

Lenders can uncover a lot of potential problems during the mortgage pre-approval process. Maybe your debt levels are too high in relation to your income. Maybe your credit score is too low. The sooner you can find out about these things, the better. It gives you more time to correct them.

Without this process, you could spend days or weeks shopping for a home only to find out you’re not qualified for a loan. That’s a waste of time and energy. Identify problems early, and then work on correcting them. This is the sensible approach. It’s also one of the key benefits of getting pre-approved.

2. It helps you narrow down the house-hunting process.

Imagine this: You spend three weeks looking at homes in the $300,000 price range. You look at them online and also by driving through neighborhoods. Then you find a house that is perfect for you. So you approach a mortgage lender to apply for a loan. The lender says they’re willing to lend you $225,000 — max. This can’t be right, can it?

So you speak to three other lenders, and they all give you similar numbers. You’ve just wasted a lot of time by shopping in the wrong price range.

This is another area where mortgage pre-approval benefits you, as a home buyer. Granted, your own personal budget is the most important spending limit to keep in mind. But it also helps to know what the lender is willing to lend you. That way, you can limit your house-hunting process to the types of homes you can actually afford to buy.

3. Real estate agents will want to work with you.

Many real estate agents are reluctant to work with buyers who haven’t been pre-screened by a mortgage lender yet. Here’s a scenario that illustrates why:

Let’s say I spend three weeks showing homes to a nice couple who are buying their first house. They find a suitable house, and they go on to speak with a lender about getting a loan. It turns out they both have very low credit scores and a mountain of debt. No mortgage loan for this couple. And I’ve just spent three weeks of my time showing them houses they can’t even afford.

These days, most agents will only work with buyers who have a mortgage pre-approval letter from a lender. They want to make sure you’ve been “vetted” by a lender, before they spend a lot of time helping you with your house hunt. It’s perfectly logical when you think about it.

4. Sellers and their listing agents will take you seriously.

This piggybacks on what we just talked about. If you try to schedule a showing to see a home, the listing agent will probably ask if you’ve been pre-approved by a lender (or if you have some other form of financing lined up).

They do this for the same reason we discussed earlier. They would rather deal with buyers who have been pre-approved, because it indicates there’s a good chance they’ll get financing.

How to Prevent Fraud in Home Sale Closing!!

Question: I am buying a new home, and the closing company told me that I could not use a certified check for the money I'm paying at closing. It wants me to wire it and confirm the wiring instructions before I send the money. I don't see why I need to jump through these hoops. What's going on? – Vince

Answer: Your closing agent is trying to protect you. The scary truth is that fraud is running wild out there, and the criminals are always coming up with more sophisticated ways to rip you off.

In the latest scam, fraudsters will hack into your real estate or title agent's unsecured email account by either guessing the simple password or buying it from the black market. They will sit back and watch the emails until you are a few days from closing. Then they will send a fake email that looks just like it was sent from the person you trust. However, it will contain false wiring instructions that have you send your funds to their account and not the closing agent's. To make matters worse, fraudulent cashier's checks are so rampant that I don't know of a single closing agent that will accept them anymore.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy scam to avoid. Visit your closing company and get the wiring instructions in person. If this is not feasible, insist on using a closing company that uses secure, encrypted email. While it can be a hassle to deal with encrypted email, it is your best protection from this increasingly common scam. Not only is your closing company dealing with your money, it also is dealing with your most personal information. You want to make sure that when the company emails this, and stores it on its servers, the company has appropriate information security measures in place. When in doubt, call and ask.

Finally, when you do get your final numbers, call your closing company and confirm that the wiring instructions you received are the correct ones. If you have never heard of your title company except by emails you received, confirm that the phone number you are calling is correct by cross-checking it on the internet.