MIAMI (DQNews) -- Home sales in the Miama region dipped more than usual from March but were still the highest for an April in five years, with condo resales reaching a six-year high. The overall median sale price rose slightly from March but fell short of a year ago for the 43rd consecutive month amid near-record-high levels of investor and cash buying, a real estate information service reported.In April, 9,727 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the metro area encompassing Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties. April sales fell 5.0% from the prior month but increased 17.8% from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records. On average, sales between April and March have declined 0.3% since 1997, when DataQuick's complete Miami-area statistics begin. >>If you are looking to buy a home, TheStreet's sister site BankingMyWay can help you find the lowest mortgage rates in your area. April's total sales were the highest for that month since 2006 (when 13,982 homes sold) but fell 15.5% below the average April sales tally of 11,516 since 1997. The 5,113 condos that resold last month marked a 5.9% decrease from March but a 28.5% increase from a year earlier. It was the highest number of condo resales for the month of April since 2005, when 6,332 condos resold. Condo resales made up a near-record 52.6% of total Miami-area home sales last month, compared with 48.2% a year earlier and a monthly average of 33.1% over the past decade. New-home sales continued to suffer last month as builders struggled with the weak economy and competition from distressed sales. April's 569 new-home sales, which rose 1.6% from March and 4.4% from a year earlier, were the third-lowest on record for that month behind April 2010 and April 2009. Last month's new-home sales made up just 5.8% of all transactions - close to an all-time low and far below the new-home market's decade-long average of 19.0% of total monthly sales. In the Miami region's luxury market, 72 houses and condos sold for $2 million or more last month, down 4.0% from 75 in March and down 8.9% from 79 a year earlier. However, during the first four months of this year there were 248 sales for $2 million or more, up 3.8% from the same four-month period last year. The figures are based on public property records, where either a price or loan amount was available.
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Miami region in April was $125,300, up 4.4% from March but down 10.5% from a year earlier. Last month's median was the highest since last December, when it was $135,000. Several factors helped tug April's median sale price below last year's level, including: price erosion; near-record levels of purchases by cash and investor buyers, who tend to target lower-cost properties; the unusually high concentration of condo resales; and the ultra-low concentration of new-home sales. April's median stood 56.8% below the peak $290,000 median in June 2007. Another price gauge analysts watch, the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses, climbed to $96 last month. That was up from $93 in March but down 7.7% from $104 per square foot a year earlier. The median paid per square foot has fallen on a year-over-year basis for 10 consecutive months. In April it was 54.5% below the $211 peak in summer 2006. At the county level in April, the median paid per square foot for resale houses increased slightly in each county but remained lower than a year ago. Broward County logged a 5.0% drop in its median price paid per square foot compared with a year earlier. In Palm Beach County the year-over-year decline was 11.0%, while in Miami-Dade County the dip was 8.5%. A popular form of low-down-payment financing used by first-time home buyers - government-insured FHA loans - accounted for 40.1% of all purchase loans in April. That's up a tad from 39.6% in March but down from 46.2% a year ago and 41.1% two years ago. Absentee buyers purchased a near-record 38.8% of all homes sold in the Miami area last month, compared with 39.4% - the all-time high - the prior month and 34.3% a year earlier. April's absentee buyers paid a median $86,500, up from $81,500 the month before but down from $102,000 a year earlier. Absentee buyers are investors, second-home buyers and others who indicate at the time of sale that their property tax bill will be sent to a different address. (Absentee statistics go back to January 2000).
Cash buyers purchased a near-record 66.6% of all homes sold last month, down from 68.6% - the all-time high - the prior month and up from 60.6% a year earlier. Specifically, these were transactions where there was no indication of a purchase loan recorded at the time of sale. Some of these "cash" buyers could have used alternative financing arrangements outside of a typical, recorded purchase mortgage, and in some cases they might take out mortgages after their purchases. On the lending front, use of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) has edged higher in recent months. In April, 9.8% of the home purchase loans in the Miami region were ARMs - the highest since September 2008, when ARMs were 11.3% of the purchase market. Last month's figure was up from 9.4% the month before, 7.3% a year ago and 4.7% two years ago. The low point for ARM use in the current real estate cycle was 4.4% in May 2009. Last month's ARM level was still far below the decade-long monthly ARM average of 31% of all purchase loans.