The national real estate market continued its rebound from the springtime slump caused by the coronavirus in August, marking its third month of positive sales gains.
Sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops increased 2.4 percent over July, and were 10.5 percent higher than August 2019, according to statistics released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors, which touted the sales as the highest since 2006.
The association’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said the numbers indicated long-lasting strength.
"Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market,” he said in a statement. “Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3 percent and with continued job recovery.”
But in the Tampa Bay area, there are signs that the recovery curve may be starting to flatten.
Pasco County’s single-family home sales were the strongest, at nearly 12 percent higher than last August, according to new Florida Realtors numbers. Pinellas saw about a 5 percent year-over-year increase, which was less than July’s bump, but still in the black. In Hillsborough, there were actually about 4 percent fewer sales than last year, the first time since May that any of these three counties saw a decrease.
Rachel Sartain Tenpenny, CEO and managing broker of Keller Williams Realty St. Petersburg, Gulf Beaches and Seminole, said it’s possible that the pent-up demand is being exhausted, but it’s also likely these trends are due to the dramatically low inventory of homes on the market.
The number of active listings in August were down about 44 percent in Pinellas, and about 48 percent lower in both Pasco and Hillsborough. In all three counties, those drops in August were the deepest in the past year.
Sartain Tenpenny said it was “amazing” that Pinellas' sales still went up 4 percent despite the shortage there, and said Hillsborough’s sales dip is “absolutely normal” considering the even steeper inventory dearth there.
“You can’t sell homes that aren’t available to be sold,” she said. “With the cities all shut down for permitting and construction and new builds, at this rate, our ability to build the homes that are needed is impossible.”
The nation as a whole saw its August inventory down 18.6 percent year-over-year, which was a drop less severe than Tampa Bay’s but still a concern to real estate professionals. They worry that the shrinking supply will mean prices continue to rise at a rate that could leave many buyers behind.
“The 11 percent gain in prices is far above income growth and threatens overall affordability — especially for first-time buyers,” said Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, in a statement. “It’s clear that more inventory is needed to keep home prices from rising too quickly.”