Orlando-area home-resale prices rose 11% in 2012

Existing-home prices in the core Orlando market rose more than 10 percent last year,

as the area ended 2012 with the tightest inventory of houses available for sale since 2004, according to figures released Tuesday.

The preliminary median home price for December was $131,800 — up 10.8 percent from $119,000 in December 2011, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association’s year-end report.

“With its very consistent improvements in both median price and sales, Orlando’s 2012 housing market clearly demonstrates that it is in recovery mode,” said Global Realty International owner Steve Merchant, chairman of the local Realtors group.

The number of homes sold through association members during the year totaled a preliminary 28,670, or 3 percent more closings than in 2011.

Resale prices have now risen for two years in a row in the Orlando Realtors’ core market (mainly Orange and Seminole counties) after four years of downturns that cut home values in half. The price gains for 2012 were not quite as large as the 13 percent increase in the market’s median price in 2011.

Even with the gains, December home prices in the Orlando area were still less than half of their July 2007 peak.

A predominant pressure helping boost the market has been the shortage of homes listed for sale in the Orlando Realtors’ database. The supply — based on the number of listings and the current sales pace — shrank in December to 3.06 months, compared with a 4.4-month supply a year ago and the six-month supply considered normal for a housing market in balance.

Some neighborhoods are reporting growing demand from prospective homebuyers.

In the south Orlando townhome community of Whisper Lakes, resident Emory Sumlin said prices have almost doubled since the depths of the housing slump several years ago. Units that once sold for about $40,000 now command prices above $70,000.

More importantly, Sumlin said, the type of buyer has changed.

“We were seeing the investor crowd at the low end of the market. They were coming in and scooping them up and renting them,” said Sumlin, treasurer for Whisper Lakes’ homeowner association. “Now we see first-time buyers and people from out of town looking to buy. The investor crowd has gone away for obvious reasons: Prices have gone up.”

It’s clear that buyers are competing more for the diminished number of houses on the market — the average number of days a house is listed before selling was 80 in December, down from 102 days a year earlier.

Whether its buyers or renters, more people appear to be moving to the area. Orlando ranked fourth in 2012 for people moving one-way to a U.S. metropolitan area, according to a report released by Penske Truck Rental. Only Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix had a greater onslaught of moving trucks headed into their metro areas.

“This list fits the general geographic shifts of the country’s population, with our customers being drawn to the Southeast and Southwest regions,” said Don Mikes, Penske’s senior vice president of rental operations.

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