Florida’s Housing market ends year on high note

South Florida home prices soared in December, an upbeat end to a year that saw sellers regain the upper hand amid growing confidence in a revitalized housing market.

Broward’s median price for existing single-family homes last month hit $230,000, the highest of 2012 and a 21 percent increase from a year earlier, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said Tuesday. Broward’s median price increased on an annual basis in every month last year.

There were 1,238 homes sold in December, up 15 percent from December 2011. Cash deals jumped 35 percent, to 549 from 407. Sales and prices of existing condominiums also rose across Broward last month.

After a long housing downturn, the market in 2012 was reminiscent of the boom years. Bidding wars broke out, pitting first-time buyers against seasoned investors. Homes sold quickly, depleting the supply in many areas.

“You really have to know what you’re doing to buy a home in this market,” said Stephen B. McWilliam, immediate past president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors.

“We expected 2012 to be a good year for housing, and it delivered in spades,” Zillow.com chief economist Stan Humphries said in a statement. “Strong demand paired with limited inventory in many markets helped fuel a robust and often rapid recovery in overall home values, good news for homeowners after years of poor performance. We expect this recovery to continue into 2013, but at a more sustainable pace.”

Mike Larson, an analyst with Weiss Research in Jupiter, agrees that the market needs to slow down so prices don’t far outpace income growth, creating another bubble.

“You don’t want prices going up 20 percent a year,” Larson said. “Haven’t we seen that movie before?”

Statewide, the median home price last month was $154,000, a 14 percent increase from December 2011, according to the Florida Realtors.

In Palm Beach County, the median price rose 21 percent in December to $229,750, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. The median means half sold for more, half for less.

Michael Citron, an agent in Broward and Palm Beach counties, said some buyers are so frustrated by the lack of inventory that they’re pursuing properties on their own, often bringing him what turn out to be expired listings from websites. When buyers do find homes, they have to act quickly.

“They have to be very, very aggressive,” Citron said. “I can barely let a client think about it overnight or they’ll lose it tomorrow. It’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling buying a house now.”

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