By June Fletcher
For beleaguered buyers, there’s good news: Choice is coming back to the housingm arket.
After months of tight supply, overall resale inventory rose 27 percent in February, to 5,577 homes from 4,406 homes a year earlier, according to the Naples Area Board of Realtors.
The monthly report, which was released Friday, covers all of Collier County except Marco Island.
“More inventory means more opportunity for buyers,” NABOR President Rick Fioretti said. “That’s a good thing.”
Months of supply, which is determined by dividing the number of active listings by the number of closed sales in the prior 12 months, was 6.8 in February.
Nationally, six months of supply is considered a market that’s between buyers and sellers, with neither having the upper hand. A lower number favors sellers, and a higher one buyers.
But because of the seasonality of Naples’ housing market, balance won’t be achieved until there’s a 12-month supply, appraiser Cindy Carroll said in the report.
The influx of supply slowed sales dramatically during the height of the buying season, partly due to the volatile stock market, the Canadian exchange rate and a shortage of inventory in the low end of the market, said Mike Hughes, vice p resident and general manager for Downing-Frye Realty.
Worries about the outcome of the election, which could affect the future of capital gains, also may have spurred some sellers to put their homes on the market now, Fioretti said.
Pending sales, or homes under contract, declined 22 percent in February, to 993 from 1,289 a year earlier.
Closed sales were down 23 percent, to 518 from 672 — the lowest number since November 2013.
The slowdown in sales is making more sellers willing to negotiate and to fix up their homes to stimulate sales, Fioretti said.
See HOMES, 10B
It’s also inspiring new homebuilders to give real estate agents higher commissions for bringing in customers, he said. Buyers are getting more incentives too, ranging from money toward closing costs and upgrades to premiums for prime lots.
However, Jeff Jones, managing broker at Coldwell Banker’s Naples-Park Shore office, said in the report that supply still isn’t sufficient to keep up with demand.
That’s why homes and condos still are being snapped up quickly. Average days on the market dropped 15 percent over the year, to 79 from 93.
That’s also why overall prices are still on the rise, to $323,000 from $290,000, an 11 percent increase.
Home prices saw the biggest increase in the highest end of the market, where they rose 5 percent , to $3.75 million from $3.572 million a year earlier.
But they fell 8 percent, to $625,000 from $682,000, in the $500,000 to $1 million segment.
Areas along the beach and in central Naples saw prices rise fastest, the report said. Slowest price growth was in North Naples, which also saw the largest uptick in supply over the year.
Bill Coffey, brokermanager of Amerivest Realty Naples, noted that February saw the lowest number of closed sales since November 2013, and the highest inventory level in two years, “If we continue to see a dramatic increase in inventory each month likewe did for February, then we may eventually see it affect median closed prices,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, sales are slowing and inventory is rising on Marco Island, too, noted Gerry Rosenblu m, broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fl! orida Realty.
Comparing February with the same month a year earlier, pending sales of single family homes dropped 36 percent, to 41 from 64, while condos fell 35 percent, to 55 from 85.
Close d single-family sales decreased 13 percent, to 33 from 38, and condo sales were down 37 percent, to 36 from 57.
Overall median home prices rose 7 percent in February from a year earlier, Rosenblum noted. But he also pointed out that out of a total of 1,138 listed properties, there were 295 price reductions during the month, including some sellers who reduced their prices more than once. Only 12 sellers raised their prices.
“I think it is crystal clear that sellers understand the market is pushing back on asking prices,” he said in an email. “And the sellers are responding appropriatel y by lowering their prices.”