Real Estate Trends: Fla. ‘outperformed’ the U.S.

Real Estate Trends: Fla. ‘outperformed’ the U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 27, 2017 — In 2016, Florida’s economy outperformed the nation in part because of better job creation, according to several economists who spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of about 500 Realtors® at the 2017 Florida Real Estate Trends event Thursday during Florida Realtors Mid-Winter Business Meetings.

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that the pace of U.S. home sales in 2016 at 5.5 million was “the best in a decade.” Since it’s nowhere near the 7.2 million sales peak in 2006, however, it leaves room for continued growth in 2017. And while interest rates are trending higher, it hasn’t had a dampening effect on home sales.

“A 4.2 percent mortgage rate is still a great rate,” Yun said. “As long as we’re around the 4 to even 5 percent mortgage rate, home sales are likely to stay on pace. As mortgage rates rise, job creation – which Florida excels at – could be a great neutralizer and good for home sales. In fact, Florida is outperforming the country because of better job creation.”

Other speakers who shared their views on 2017 included Dr. Elliot Eisenberg, a nationally known economist and former senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Michael Johnston, Florida regional sales manager, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; Dr. Julie Harrington, director of Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis; and Dr. Brad O’Connor, chief economist for Florida Realtors.

“The good news, here in Florida, you’re in the right place,” Eisenberg said. “The South is the right division to be in – the economic recovery here has been much more robust. Florida is doing fine economically, unemployment is OK, and foreclosures are diminishing.”

He agreed with Yun that while mortgage rates will continue to rise this year – albeit slowly – the markets will be fine as long as jobs are being created.

“Housing is improving, but in fits and starts,” Eisenberg said. “There’s not enough inventory of homes for sale, and builders aren’t building, especially at the entry-level. Bigger houses are being built, but it’s not profitable for builders to construct more affordable homes.”

Eisenberg cited worker shortages, burdensome land-use regulations and costs – land, labor and regulation – as some of the constraints homebuilders face when it comes to building entry-level homes.

“We have to try a myriad of solutions, but getting the land costs down and easing land-use regulations will be the single most important factor in solving this issue,” he said.

According to Eisenberg, forces at work in Florida and across the U.S. that are dampening real estate sales include:

  • Low inventory – December 2016 data, which is just a few days old, shows that the existing single-family home inventory nationwide is 3.6 months; in Florida, it’s 3.9-month months. A 6-month supply is generally considered a balanced market between buyers and sellers.
  • New model of renting – Six million single-family units have been taken off the market because institutional investors snapped up many homes during the Great Recession and created a new method of renting.
  • Mortgage rate lock – many people don’t want to sell because they’ll lose the really low mortgage rate they’re currently paying.

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