Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Families Priced Out?

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Families Priced Out?

Article excerpt

Panelists discuss local real estate market changes and consequences

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Southwest Florida real estate leaders agreed during a panel discussion Friday that the region's battered housing market is showing signs of another boom.

"We were in a dead period for a while, but now we have a market on steroids," said Michael Saunders, founder and chief executive of the real estate brokerage firm that bears her name.

But the panel, which in addition to Saunders included a top home builder, a community developer and a real estate economist, stopped short of saying market conditions are mimicking those that led to a residential real estate bubble in the mid-2000s.

But the panelists acknowledged that tight supply constraints and pent-up demand has lifted some Sarasota and Manatee home values to levels many buyers cannot afford.

"It's a real problem trying to find housing for those who want to work and raise a family here," said Saunders, whose brokerage is the largest in Southwest Florida.

The rush comes as many builders are grappling with labor shortages, inventory is low and quality single-family homes are garnering multiple offers from buyers.

While booming sales and rising prices are good news for homeowners still underwater on their mortgages, the dynamics have also created an imbalance of too many investors and too few owner- occupants.

Taken together, those conditions could result in another bubble, the panelists said.

"We borrowed from the future and we borrowed a lot from the future," Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo told more than 250 at a breakfast meeting at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club. "We're just starting to pay that back."

In addition to Tuccillo and Saunders, the panel was composed of prominent area homebuilder Pat Neal and Rex Jensen, head of the company that is the master developer of Lakewood Ranch.

The event, which was organized by the Manatee-Sarasota Homebuilders Association, was moderated by Herald-Tribune real estate editor Harold Bubil. …

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