ST. PETERSBURG - The Pinellas Realtors Organization says for the first time since it has kept sales records, there is less than one home for sale per home buyer. That is viewed as evidence the local real estate market is at or near a bottom.
"We're going to see the bottom because of the inventory," PRO president David Bennett told FOX 13 News. "I think it's going to create itself now -- the base -- because the inventory is substantially down from just a year ago."
Statistics for March show a 40 percent drop in active listing compared to a year ago, and a 15 percent increase in average sales price, to $199,900.
In March 2007, there were more than 11,200 single family homes for sale in Pinellas, a number that now stands at 3,450. Bennett said straight forward supply-and-demand economics is returning to the marketplace.
"We are recovering, we're getting out of that cycle that we previously had," Bennett said.
The Pinellas statistics also show banks have changed strategies, now preferring short sales over foreclosures. The opposite was true last year.
That change is also noted by HomeEncounter, a Tampa-based real estate consulting firm that tracks real estate in the greater Tampa Bay area.
"It's definitely a good trend to see a movement away from foreclosures. We want to see that," Peter Murphy explained. "It shows the banks are just 'real-ing up' to the idea that if they can fix this problem before it goes into foreclosure, then they have less of a mess on their hands."
But Murphy thinks distressed properties continue to drag prices down, especially when he looks at the Hillsborough-Pinellas-Pasco-Hernando market.
"The only thing that's bottomed is foreclosure sales," Murphy said. "Conventional sales and short sales are still falling in prices."
Both experts agree distressed properties remain the biggest worry, and both agree every county in the Bay area now has pockets of neighborhoods where real estate has bottomed. In Pinellas that would include the beaches and downtown St. Petersburg.