Palm Beach County home prices hit post-crash high

The median price of a house sold in Palm Beach County rose to $348,000 in March.

Palm Beach County home prices hit a post-crash high in March.

The median price of a single-family house sold last month was $348,000, the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale said Monday. That’s up slightly from February’s median of $345,000, and a 7 percent increase from March 2017.

Sales were down slightly, and the number of new listings is scarcely keeping pace with demand. That combination is creating a market that’s frustrating for buyers but lucrative for sellers.

For instance, a house in the Riverwalk of the Palm Beaches development along Okeechobee Boulevard recently fetched $418,000 a new record for a four-bedroom house without a pool in that neighborhood, said Douglas Rill, owner of Century 21 America’s Choice.

While sellers are seeking ever-more ambitious prices, buyers are struggling with the combination of tight inventories and home values that are increasing more quickly than their paychecks.

"Buyers are still anxious to get on the boat before it leaves the station," Rill said. "I think they see we’re in a slow, steady crawl up, and they want to get on before things get any less affordable."

Meanwhile, mortgage rates are rising, creating what Rill calls “a double whammy” for buyers. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage rose to 4.47 percent last week, the highest level since January 2014, lending giant Freddie Mac said Thursday.

“It is very much still a seller’s market in Palm Beach County as the median sales price continues to increase and inventory tightens,” said Jeffrey Levine, a West Palm Beach broker and president-elect of the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Houses priced at $250,000 to $300,000 occupy the hottest spot in Palm Beach County housing market. Properties in that price range found a buyer in a median of just 34 days. By contrast, mansions priced at $1 million or more needed 185 days to go to contract.

Trends were similar in the condo and townhouse market. The typical Palm Beach County condo that sold in March fetched $177,000, up 9 percent from a year ago. But the number of sales fell 2 percent from a year ago.

Nationally, the median price for all types of homes sold in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

In Florida, the median price rose to $250,800, also marking a post-crash high, the Florida Realtors said. March’s price increase marks the 75th straight month of year-over-year gains in Florida’s housing market.

Home prices still remain well below record levels. During the housing bubble, the county’s median resale price peaked at $421,500 in November 2005 (a sum, that if adjusted for inflation, equates to $532,323 in today’s dollars). Within a few years, the median price had crashed to less than $200,000.

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