Florida predicted to become No. 1 market

SARASOTA - Housing analysts predict Florida's real estate market will be the one to watch in 2014 -- again.

The Home Buying Institute predicts the Sunshine State will surpass housing markets in California, Las Vegas and Phoenix to retake the national spotlight next year, edging out other recovering markets, according to a new report.

Demand to purchase real estate is rising statewide, from a combination of retiree growth, job gains and other economic improvements.

For those reasons, the institute says Florida will be the top market to watch in 2014. 

"Just like the last decade, Florida is the market to watch," said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant.

"During the last boom-bust cycle, what happened in Florida first spread through the rest of the country. It was the tip of the iceberg and will be again."

Realtors in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties have sold 18,487 single-family homes and condominiums through the end of September, an 18 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

That robust demand helped push median home prices by 18 percent over 2012, as well, to $199,000 last month, while the inventory of listings for sale sank to just a 4.4-month supply.

The Home Buying Institute, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based group run by Brandon and Melissa Cornett that seeks to educate buyers about purchasing residential real estate, expects prices to continue building in most U.S. cities, especially those in Florida.

The organization also believes real estate investors will continue their slow exodus from the market next year -- helping potential buyers find homes they fancy.

The institute's forecast also predicts mortgage interest rates will top 5 percent next year.

That could spell minor trouble for some housing markets around the country, but the impacts will likely be less significant in Florida, where an overwhelming number of homebuyers are now using cash for their purchases, according to the report.

Overall, the institute sees Florida in 2014 experiencing a housing market that continues to favor sellers over buyers, and that the economic trends in the state could influence the nation as a whole.

"Florida is once again going to be a very good indicator," McCabe said.

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