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Evans Report details sluggish home sales for 2009, but 4Q pickup

Posted On: 04-01-2010

'Evans Report' details sluggish home sales for 2009, but 4Q pickup

By DARRELL HOFHEINZ

Daily News Staff Writer

Posted: 9:53 p.m. Thursday, April 1, 2010

Describing the 2009 real estate market as “unsettled,” local real estate attorney Leslie Evans says his namesake firm’s annual analysis of Palm Beach’s single-family-home and condominium sales shows that what started as a sluggish sales year ended with far more deals being closed at increasingly realistic prices.

But even with its stronger fourth-quarter results, the Evans Report released Thursday showed that the median sales price of single-family homes on the island fell about 26 percent from the previous year, dropping from $3.87 million in 2008 to $2.85 million in 2009. The median price is the price at which half of the homes sold for more and half for less.

Meanwhile, the number of single-family homes sold on the island last year also saw a notable drop — from 104 in 2008 to 87 in 2009.

In addition, the total dollar amount of single-family homes sold fell from $742.6 million in 2008 to $325 million last year — although Evans noted that 2008 had been an especially robust sales year, even by Palm Beach standards, and added that record-setting sales that year skewed comparisons.

“There were three houses (sold in 2008) in the neighborhood of $70 million or more, as well as a lot of other higher-end homes,” said Evans, who has tracked Palm Beach sales for 10 years and whose firm provides legal counsel to real estate agencies and their clients.

The top sales of 2008 were Donald Trump’s $95 million sale of 515 N. County Road, followed by the sale of 1236 S. Ocean Blvd. for $81.5 million and 60 Blossom Way for $68.5 million. Three other homes sold for more than $20 million each in 2008.

In contrast, in 2009, only one home sold for more than $20 million. That was December’s $24 million sale of 1200 S. Ocean Blvd. The next highest-priced real estate transaction of 2009 occurred in July with the $17.4 million sale of 710 S. Ocean Blvd.

Especially hard hit last year were sales of single-family homes in what had previously been regarded as a hot segment of the market — those priced between $5 million and $10 million. Just 13 homes in that price range sold last year, compared to 23 the year before, the report showed.

Sales of houses priced below $5 million represented 79.2 percent of last year’s total sales, Evans said. In 2008, that percentage was much lower, at 65.4 percent.

“You had a marked increase in sales of the less-expensive houses,” Evans said Thursday. “A lot of the homes in Palm Beach are purchased by newcomers to the island — first-time buyers — and they bought less-expensive homes.”

Evans added that in a recession-conscious market, some highly paid executives who might have previously thought nothing about buying a home priced at $30 million or more, chose instead either not to buy in 2009 or purchased something less expensive.

“High-end conspicuous consumption has been tempered,” Evans said. “High-profile people have been thinking twice about purchasing anything.”

In the condominium market, about the same number of Palm Beach units changed hands — 198 in 2009 vs. 197 in 2008. But the report shows that the number of condos and cooperatives selling for more than $3 million fell from 11 in 2008 to eight in 2009.

In contrast, the number of lower-priced condos and co-ops that sold rose last year: Sales of units priced at less than $500,000 increased to 102 last year from 78 in 2008.

There were also far fewer condos and co-ops sold for between $1 million and $2 million — 28 in 2009 vs. 43 the year before.

For the first time, the Evans Report included sales figures of Palm Beach homes and condominiums in foreclosure. Seven bank-owned foreclosed units were among the 198 condos and cooperatives sold last year on the island. Two bank-owned single-family homes were included among the 55 homes sold last year.

The report showed that real estate activity picked up in Palm Beach during the second half of 2009, particularly in the fourth quarter. During the first three months of the year, for instance, only six single-family homes changed hands. But in the fourth quarter, that number had increased to 27.

The first three quarters also saw a grand total of $211.9 million in single-family-home sales. But in the fourth quarter alone, sales were up by more than half of that amount — $113 million.

Wade Shavell, co-owner of Fite Shavell & Associates real estate agency, had not seen the report Thursday but echoed other Palm Beach sources who say that home sales have picked up over the past few months.

“It was not a good 2009,” Shavell acknowledged, “but we are so busy now. We hope our season is going to be extended into the summer, and that we’ll all stay busy.”

Christian Angle, owner and broker of Christian Angle Real Estate, agreed with Shavell, adding that home sellers have developed more realistic expectations about what their properties are worth in today’s market.

“The key to successful sales is pricing properties right and then positioning them well,” Angle said.

Ava Van de Water, executive vice president and broker at the Palm Beach brokerage of Brown Harris Stevens, said that she has begun to see movement of houses in the $5 million to $10 million range over the past two months — and that’s a positive sign for the overall market.

“Buyers who were waiting for prices to fall (even more) have realized that they’re missing out,” Van de Water said.

Evans says he and his staff compile the report’s sales and price figures from a variety of sources, including public records, newspapers, multiple listing services and other sources.

Source: Darrell Hofheinz, April 1, 2010, Palm Beach Daily News

http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/business/evans-report-details-sluggish-home-sales-for-2009-505902.html

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