Leading Question

By Lori Johnston October 31, 2010

Fortunately for Sarasota and Manatee, it won’t, not even a tiny droplet, say the experts, who have been looking at property values since the unprecedented April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

“Most everybody right now feels that the disaster is over as far as affecting real estate values,” says real estate consultant Jack McCabe, owner of McCabe Research & Consulting, based in Deerfield Beach.

That’s definitely not how local real estate agents were feeling this summer. Back then potential buyers were canceling deals or waiting to see if, when and where the oil was going to come ashore along the Gulf Coast’s pristine beaches.

Mike Timmerman, a senior associate with Fishkind & Associates in Naples, says he doesn’t have the same concerns here as he does in the Panhandle, where panic set in and people lowered their property prices because of a perceived value drop. In 15 counties stretching from the Gulf coast of Alabama to the Atlantic coast of Florida, the oil spill could cost $68 million in lost property value in the next year and up to $3 billion in the next five years, according to a report by CoreLogic, a California-based real estate data provider. The report, published in August, did not look at any impact on Sarasota or Manatee counties.

Sarasota-Bradenton existing single-family and condo sale prices did take a dip, starting in June for condos and July for single-family homes, after a steady rise all year, according to Florida Realtors. But more than the oil spill has to be factored into those numbers, such as the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that expired in April. As Timmerman says, “It may just be a continuation of the downward trend we’ve had in real estate values for business or economic reasons.”

Linda Page, a real estate agent with Prudential Palms Realty, says fewer buyers from Europe and other regions of the country vacationed on the beach this summer, “so there were missed opportunities,” but she doesn’t think any sales were lost to any other states with beaches.

McCabe says any real estate price drops in Florida are all about the inventory. In Sarasota and Manatee, he forecasts that the amount of distressed properties on the market will cause prices to continue to drop between 5 percent and 10 percent in the next year. Then prices will “bounce along the bottom” for a couple of years, with minimum appreciation that may not even keep up with the rate of inflation. In the year or so after that, he expects the region’s properties to return to an annual 3 percent to 6 percent appreciation rate.

As for the oil spill, buyers are already letting go of any hesitation to buy because of the potential for tar-filled beaches.

“I think people at this point aren’t really thinking about, ‘Well, geez, could the oil still come onshore? Let’s hold off so we can push down our purchase price,’” McCabe says.

Timmerman adds: “Once people come down here this season and they don’t see any oil … I don’t think we’re going to have much of an effect at all.”

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