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Lower Rates May Not Help S. Fla. Buyers

Demand is so strong that high mortgage rates haven’t lowered home prices. And while “waiting for a lower rate” sounds good, it could make buyer demand even stronger.

MIAMI – Since 2019 prior to the pandemic, the number of houses and condominiums for sale at or below the median sales prices in South Florida has plunged.

New figures quantify the extremely tight supply of homes in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that middle-class homebuyers can typically afford, and show a prime reason why many house hunters haven’t been able to find houses or condos they can afford to buy.

Consistently through the pandemic that began in March 2020, housing experts have said home prices kept soaring in South Florida for myriad reasons, with short supply being the main one. Now, for the first time the Miami Herald has the data to show just how thin the inventory of homes has been, making it highly competitive for many buyers to land affordable homes.

Each of the three counties in the region has seen a drop between 56% and 87% in the inventory of single-family houses and condos listed for sale from July 2019 to July 2023 at or below median sales prices, according to data from the Multiple Listing Service and Ana Bozovic, a real estate analyst and founder of Analytics Miami and Miami Dealsheet.

“It’s a very difficult situation. You should expect prices to fall when interest rates go up, but not here,” Bozovic said. “That’s because of the surge of economic activity and supply shortage.”

Median sales prices in July were $631,670 for houses in Miami-Dade, $600,000 in Broward and $600,000 in Palm Beach County. Condo median pricing, meanwhile, was $420,000 in Miami-Dade, $280,000 in Broward, and $315,000 in Palm Beach.

Here’s the county-by-county breakdown of the dwindling availability of houses and condos for sale over the past four years:

  • In Miami-Dade, there were 1,103 single-family homes on the market at or below the median in July, a drop of 76% from 4,568 listings in July 2019. The condo market experienced a similar free fall of 72%, to 2,456 listings at or below $420,000 from 8,806 listings four years ago.
  • In Broward in July, there were 1,363 houses listed in that price range, 72% fewer than the 4,836 on the market in July 2019. Also, 2,521 condos were listed at or below the median, 56% fewer than 5,759 condo listings four years ago.
  • The situation looks equally grim in Palm Beach County. It had 966 houses for sale at or below the median price two months ago, down 79% from 4,561 house listing in July 2019. And 171 condos were on the market in that price range in July, an 87% drop from 1,355 condos in July 2019.

These figures make plainly and painfully clear the challenging South Florida housing market for budget-conscious buyers. It’s a situation that’s worsened in the pandemic when wealthy buyers flooded into the region, buying homes with cash, and real estate developers most often opting to build homes well above the median-price point.

Real estate analysts expect it’ll take years for the supply of cheaper homes to increase to a plentiful level. A complicating factor is that more sellers of existing homes in the three counties have stayed put as mortgage rates kept climbing the past couple of years before reaching a 20-year peak this summer.

“On the low end, the loss of inventory is because people cannot afford to move, because of the spike in median pricing since pre-Covid and the surge in interest rates,” Bozovic said.

Still, South Florida continues to see steady demand for its depleted housing market. Miami-Dade, for example, only has a 3.2-month supply of houses and 5.1 months’ worth of condos available. Both are below the six to nine months of inventory needed for a balanced housing market.

New-home construction is underway across the region, which should bring more affordable homes on the market for sale in the coming months. However, it won’t be enough for buyers to expect home prices to fall, said Mark Thibodeau, a real estate professor at Florida International University’s Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate.

“To see the supply to meet demand it is going to take years,” Thibodeau said. “At the end of the day, Miami is constrained by geography. We have as much land as we have. As long as people want to live here, as long as there’s economic growth, we will likely see appreciation in property value and that just means the median [home sales price] will continue to go up. Then it becomes about whether incomes are rising at a fast enough pace to keep up with housing costs.”

For now, many real estate experts recommend buyers who have the financial means to settle for what’s on the market and purchase a house or condo, because there will be even more competition to buy in South Florida when interest rates fall later this year or in 2024.

“Don’t wait,” Bozovic said. “Interest rates will go back down, but not to the lows that we had.”

© 2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.