Island real estate bests county

Island real estate agents always say that the “Island is not the mainland” when it comes to comparing property sales between the two areas.

This time, however, the Island and mainland could be on the same course for property sales. In fact, the Island could be outdistancing the mainland in sales.

The Florida Association of Realtors recently reported that home sales in the Manatee-Sarasota area in March 2011 rose nearly 5 percent above the level recorded in March 2010.

“That’s about right for the Island, and maybe even a bit lower than we’ve done,” said Jesse Brisson of Gulf-Bay Real Estate in Holmes Beach. “But, remember, those are just sales reported to the multiple listing service, not all sales.”

All real estate sales would include those sold by the owner. Those sales are not included in the MLS figures, but are recorded with the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court, he explained.

Brisson does his own research in compiling transactions weekly for The Islander and, using local MLS figures first, found there were 37 single-family home/condominium sales on the Island in March 2011. That was a gain of 15.6 percent from the 32 single-family home sales reported for the Island in March 2010.

When Brisson included all home sales on the Island in his search, he found 34 single-family home sales (including condominiums) were sold in March 2010 compared with 40 single-family residences sold in March 2011, a 17.6 percent spike.

“According to my information, either way you look at sales, there was a good increase from 2010 to 2011 on the Island,” Brisson said.

“I think it’s obvious that Island real estate has turned the corner and sales are starting to show a good month-to-month average increase.”

At the same time, however, Island real estate remains a buyer’s market, as prices have inched slowly downward the past 12 months.

The average single-family home sold for $498,370 in February 2011, a 3.9 percent drop from the February 2010 average of $518,750, according to real estate agent John Van Zandt of Island Real Estate in Holmes Beach.

Brisson believes the slight decline in average sale price, coupled with the increase in sales, indicates the “bottom has been reached” and the average price of a home or condominium sale will “inch up” the next year.

He does not see a return to the dramatic climb from 2004 to 2007, when Island real estate prices were rising by 20 to 30 percent annually.

With interest rates now near 3 percent, fewer people looking than during the season, and a buyer’s market, Brisson believes the summer months are a good time for serious buyers to start looking.

“For buyers looking for properties this summer, they’re going to find a lot of good values out there, especially at these prices,” he predicted.