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Florida real estate: Interest rate hike could deter sellers; market remains stable

NewsFlorida real estate: Interest rate hike could deter sellers; market remains stable

One of the hottest real estate markets is beginning to plateau months after heading toward stability.

In February, the market continued to hover in its current state, with ample inventory and decreasing sale prices.

St. Lucie was the only Treasure Coast county to experience an increase in the median sale price:

  • St. Lucie: Increased by $1,770, from $368,230 to $370,000
  • Martin: Decreased by $34,000, from $574,000 to $540,000
  • Indian River: Decreased by $23,865, from $385,000 to $361,135

“What we are seeing now is, basically from January into February, the market started to pick back up, so I am interested to see what those numbers are going to look like when we’re looking at to close out of March,” said Chris Krzemien, president of Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors.

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Two more indicators that market is plateauing was the consistency in January and February in the median time to contract — meaning when the seller accepts a buyer’s offer — and how long it takes to close on the sale, he said.

Median time to contract in February

  • Martin: 41 days, compared to 11 in February 2022
  • St. Lucie: 43 days, compared to 11 in February 2022
  • Indian River: 49 days, compared to 19 in February 2022

Median time to close in February

  • Martin: 79 days, compared to 51 in February 2022
  • St. Lucie: 81 days, compared to 65 in February 2022
  • Indian River: 94 days, compared to 59 in February 2022

Housing inventory decreased

For the last five months, the real estate market has been steadily headed to neutrality, favoring neither the buyer nor the seller, after a year of rocket-high prices, limited inventory and cash grabs. Seven interest rate hikes in 2022 — plus one on Jan. 31 and another one on Wednesday — has helped slow the pace.

In January, more housing inventory gave buyers more options and the opportunity to negotiate lower asking prices, but the number of listings dipped in February across the Treasure Coast:

St. Lucie

  • February: 1,599 active listings
  • January: 1,715 active listings

Indian River

  • February: 819 active listings
  • January: 841 active listings

Martin

  • February: 515 active listings
  • January: 530 active listings

Krzemien predicted listings could decrease even further. High interest rates could prevent homeowners from selling their properties right now — especially if they bought when the Federal Reserve decreased interest rates to stimulate economic growth during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that we’re not going to see a huge increase in listings,” he said. “The motivation to sell and move on to another property and start a new mortgage at a substantially higher interest rate certainly deters people from wanting to list properties right now.”

Months worth of housing supply

A healthy real estate market has about three months to four months worth of homes for sale. It’s been hovering around 3 to 3.5 on the Treasure Coast. In February, Martin saw no change and St. Lucie and Indian River saw only a miniscule decrease:

Martin

  • February: 3.3
  • January: 3.3

St. Lucie

  • February: 3
  • January: 3.2

Indian River

  • February: 3.4
  • January: 3.5

Federal Reserve interest rate hikes

To curb inflation, the Federal Reserve Wednesday raised the federal interest rate by 0.25%, so it now ranges between 4.75% and 5%.

That’s still relatively low compared to the historic high of 18.45% in October 1981, when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) instituted an oil embargo, causing record inflation. The historic low was 2.68% in December 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lenders hope buyers will take advantage of a deal they’re offering to boost sales, Krzemien said.

“I know that there are multiple lenders that are doing a program where if interest rates were to come down substantially and somebody wants to go and refinance the property at a later date, they (lenders) are waiving their lending fees to give people incentive to go ahead and buy that house,” he said. “Marry the mortgage and date the rate.”

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