The open house on a leafy street near South Miami featured a snack wagon with
cupcakes and chilled beverages, but the real draw was the newly listed house for
sale for $435,000.
Over a two-hour stretch on a Sunday afternoon, 44 groups of couples and families streamed through the well-kept 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house on an outsized lot.
They didn't come to eat cupcakes. Five purchase offers came sailing in _ three that day, two the next.
"I'm continually overwhelmed by the response when houses come on the market," said Lisa Dority, a RE/Max Advance Realty agent who listed the home. "If a house is priced properly, it goes quite quickly." Since last fall, she said, her listings typically have been selling within the first week.
The buying frenzy is reminiscent of the boom days of 2005 and 2006 -- except today's buyers are using cash and heavy equity, not "liar loans" boasting inflated income or assets.
Rising buyer demand is colliding with a shortage of supply, making the always-emotional experience of buying a home all the more intense. Multiple offers are competing for a scant supply of homes and condominiums for sale. Bidding wars are breaking out. Properties are fetching asking price _ and often more. Prices are up double digits year over year and rising at a brisk pace.
With the peak buying season in full swing, South Florida's housing market is on fire. Real estate agents complain about needing more to sell. Traditional homebuyers shopping for a place to live are facing stiff competition from cash-rich investors, including foreign buyers and institutions.
Given the imbalance of supply and demand, working with a sharp-eyed agent who monitors listings soon as they hit (sometimes even finding off-market prospects that fit a buyer's criteria) is critical in today's market.
While South Florida's coastal and urban cores have seen the biggest rebounds, buyer interest is coming in all shapes and sizes, with the outlying areas picking up as well.
"What we're seeing is pent-up demand," said Philip Vias, a broker associate with Prudential Florida Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Not that much has been bought in the last few years."
Mortgage rates are at historic lows, thanks to the Federal Reserve's unprecedented maneuvers to stimulate economic growth. Banks have begun to ease terms on mortgages, with down payments of 10 percent and less increasingly available, widening the options for prospective buyers to jump in. Said Vias, "Interest rates are so low, people are crazy not to buy."
And with housing prices marching higher in many areas, many buyers are feeling a sense of urgency to act now or miss out.
"We have a chance to grab something. We want to take advantage of this great market. Interest rates are low," said Leonard Bridgnauth, a 36-year-old courier, who with his wife Kimmy has been scouring the Miramar, Fla., area for a house in the $250,000 range since December, so far without luck.
"Because inventory is so low, it's creating some kind of a frenzy," said Chuck Bonfiglio, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors and broker owner of AAA Realty Group in Pembroke Pines, Fla. "People are pricing their homes over what the market is. ... Buyers know inventory is low and are willing to pay over appraisal to get the deal done."
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