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Date of Issue: February 18, 2009

Island real estate marketers poised for sales

The Anna Maria Island real estate market appears poised for a winter season of buyers looking for great bargains.

And the bargains are out there, Island real estate agents say.

Canalfront homes are mostly selling in the $400,000-plus range, with one such property recently selling out of foreclosure for $380,000. Three years ago, a similar property might have sold for upwards of $600,000.

Non-waterfront single-family homes can be found in the upper $200,000 range, while condominiums are a great value with some in the mid-$100,000 price range.

“There is a lot of interest in Island property,” said Jesse Brisson of Gulf-Bay Realty. “But a lot of people are just waiting to see if prices drop further.”

“We’ve had a lot of walk-in traffic and a lot of inquiries, but, in my opinion, a lot of people are just waiting on the sidelines to see if prices will go down further. They are just not sure if we’ve hit bottom, but I believe we have already.

“Prices have been stable the last 12 to 18 months. I just don’t see this market going any lower,” he said.

What might help people “pull the trigger,” he said, is if banks open up and start loaning money.

Brisson said that in two recent sales, buyers had a 50 percent down payment, but the banks were still leery of making a loan.

Other Island real estate agents say banks have gone back to the old-fashioned method of making home loans.

Banks are back to loaning money for a house with “20 percent down and good credit,” said Barbara Sato, broker-owner of Sato Real Estate. “It’s the way banks used to do business.”

And judging by the number of inquiries in the past two weeks, Sato is hopeful that banks will be busy the next three months with Island loan approvals.

“We have no complaints. We’ve had a lot of walk-ins. People are beginning to show up,” she predicted.

Mike Norman of Mike Norman Real Estate said he was “hopeful” that sales would start to pick up, but a lot of potential buyers are waiting to see how the federal stimulus package impacts the market.

“Inquiries are excellent. We’ve had a lot of traffic, but they say they are waiting to see what happens. No one can predict the future. Right now, there are a lot of good buys on the Island. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

While some real estate buyers are in a holding pattern, seasonal rentals have been excellent, Norman said.

“We’re up 20 percent from last year at this time. The vacationers and winter residents are here,” he said.

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