Mobile home sales stay strong in Southwest Florida

Jul 2, 2012

The following article was published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on July 2, 2012:

Mobile Home Sales Stay Strong in Southwest Florida

By Tom Bayles

SARASOTA – Homes that can be moved are having more staying power with buyers so far in 2012.

Compared with the first five months of 2011, sales of mobile and manufactured homes have jumped 64 percent, from 90 units to 148, records show.

Experts note that many of the buyers were previously renters who have taken the plunge and purchased.

“They appear to see the value in these units and think they are a good investment at today’s prices,” said Roger M. Piro, a broker at Town and Country Real Estate and president-elect of the Sarasota Association of Realtors.

Seasonal residents and “snowbirds” typically bump up mobile home sales in winter months, but rarely do the numbers show such a steep rise.

The mobile home increase comes as homes worth $1 million and up have also enjoyed a 2012 sales boom. Analysts believe pent-up demand, combined with low interest rates and a surprising decline in inventory, caused that surge.

Piro and others noted that said some of the mobile home buyers will be winter residents only, and a few will rent their units when they are gone, said Piro, who analyzed the 41 units sold in April.

“It appears that most of these sales were on the southern end of our county and were to buyers that vacation and spend only part of the year here in Florida,” he said.

“When they come to visit, they now see that they can now own their own unit for similar costs.”

Of the total traded in Sarasota County in April, 16 were sold in North Port; eight changed hands in Englewood; five wer sold in Venice; three were purchased in Nokomis; and the remaining were spread throughout Sarasota.

And in keeping with a trend that has spread across every residential price point, all but two of the mobile home sales — both on Longboat Key — were cash transactions.

Analysts believe cash deals have become prevalent because buyers do not want to deal with banks and because many are tapping home-equity lines.

The jump in mobile home sales in Southwest Florida began in December, when 19 units traded. In November, the total had been nine.

That reduced the total inventory of mobile and manufactured homes from 24.4 months’ worth in November to 4.7 months’ worth in April.

Six months’ worth of inventory, or the length of time it would take to traditionally sell all of a particular segment of homes on the market if no new listings are added, is considered normal.

Inventory spiked to 10.6 months’ worth in May, however, as sellers appeared to take notice of the supply reduction.

Data from Trendgraphix, which is supplied by realty firm Michael Saunders & Co., shows that the spate of buying drove the median sale price of mobile homes up from $45,000 at year-end 2011 to $67,000 in March.

Median prices settled at $57,000 in May, down from a $70,000 median in May 2011.

A recent search on for mobile and manufactured homes for sale in Sarasota found 22 active listings. The lowest-priced home, a 420-square-foot residence with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in Tri Par Estates, was on the market for $32,500. It was built in 1957.

The most expensive mobile home on the market also is located in Tri Par — a few blocks away on the same street.

That three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, with 1,248 square feet, was listed for $114,900. Not only bigger than its neighbor, it is also newer, having been completed in 2003.

Manatee County mobile home sales have risen as well in the first five months of 2012, though not at the pace of Sarasota County.

There, sales rose 12.7 percent, as 133 mobile homes traded through May 31, compared with 118 units in the same period in 2011.

Manatee’s inventory total also shrank, from a November high of 17.2 months to a low in February of 7.1 months. Inventory has since bounced back to 8.4 months, as sellers jumped into the market.

The median sales price climbed to $51,000 in January, up from $40,000 at the end of last year. But it slid, slightly, to $45,000 in May — matching May 2011’s price.

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