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Date of Issue: February 09, 2006

Island home inventory climbing, but market still strong

Despite record levels of single-family homes, condominiums and duplexes for sale on Anna Maria Island, the market is still strong and people are still buying, Island real estate agents say, although prices may be leveling off.

The record increase in listings is fueled by the fact that with the current demand for Island living and rise in prices, many investors who bought within the past four years are now "testing the market," and some longtime residents are considering "cashing out" their equity by selling, agents say.

According to the multiple listing service used by Island real estate agents, there were 240 single-family homes listed for sale on Feb. 1, along with 174 condominiums and 78 duplexes.

That’s a hefty increase in inventory since Dec. 31, when the Anna Maria Island Property Sales Report’s year-end review listed 167 single-family residences up for sale, along with 174 condominiums and 57 duplexes.

But there’s no cause for alarm in the industry and Island real estate is not yet a buyer’s market, said Gail Tuteweiler of Wedebrock Real Estate.

"Prices are still holding and people are still buying," she said, although successful sellers are open to negotiations to be competitive. "We are still getting a lot of inquires and sales are still going through," she added.

The rise in properties for sale could be due to a number of factors, Tuteweiler believes, but it’s just "natural" that some people on the Island considering retirement are "downsizing" by selling their home and moving elsewhere to a less expensive property.

"There’s still a heavy demand for Island living, just more properties to choose from," she added.

While the apparent large inventory on the Island might make the real estate market look "slow," that’s not the case according to the AMIPSR, which said gross sales of Island properties were up 46 percent in 2005 compared to 2004.

And property values are still increasing, said Barry Gould of Island Vacation Properties, just not at the same rate seen in the past few years.

"A home purchased a year ago for $1 million would now be selling for $1.1 million," he said.

"There may be a lot of properties on the market, but the market is just moving toward ‘normalcy.’ There are still buyers and still sales."

And, he noted, listings on the Island have only increased by about 80 percent from last year at this time, while in Manatee County, the number of listings increased by more than 300 percent for the same period.

The "normalcy" could be a bit different than last year, when the AMIPSR reported that average price paid for a single-family home on the Island rose 28.2 percent compared with 2004, with the average single-family home selling for $764,000 in 2005 against the $615,600 average for 2004. The average condominium sale price jumped from $436,000 in 2004 to $601,000 in 2005, a 37.8 percent climb.

Gould said a number of people who purchased property the past few years as investments or for rental income are now looking at the prospects of "cashing out," which has caused an increase in the number of listings the past few months.

"They are not anxious to sell, but want to be in the marketplace as the high season approaches," he added.

He expects a number of sales the next three months as more and more winter visitors arrive for the season. Buyers, however, are now looking more at the long term and consider a home purchase on the Island as a livable unit, not as a rental or investment property, Gould believes.

"Market increases are now just normal. There is still a great demand for Island property and always will be. No one will ever lose money buying Island real estate," he said with confidence.

The report also said that as of Jan. 16, 2006, there were 21 single-family home sales pending on the Island with an average listing price of $923,000.

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