NAPLES — Buyers are showing more interest in multimillion-dollar mansions in Naples.
From April to June of this year, sales for homes and condos priced at $2 million and up increased 20 percent, when compared to the same months a year ago. There were 91 sales, up from 76 a year ago in this market, according to report by the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR).
The report is based on sales made through the association’s multiple listing service, or MLS, in Collier County, excluding Marco Island.
At a news conference on Friday, Coco Waldenmayer, managing broker for Engel & Völkers in Naples, described the jump in sales of luxury homes as “phenomenal.” “People are valuing our real estate, at least where it should be valued,” she said.
Further showing the trend, pending sales – or sales contracts – in the $2 million-and-up price range increased 17 percent in the year ending June 30, 2011, compared to the same 12 months a year ago. There were 280 contracts written, up from 239.
In the second quarter, median sales prices for multimillion-dollar homes in the Naples market rose 8 percent, reflecting higher demand. The median is the price at which half the homes sell for more and half for less.
“People I think are convinced that we have hit the bottom,” said Wes Kunkle, the founder and broker of Kunkle Realty in Naples.
At Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Naples, the increased demand for luxury homes has helped generate record sales this year. The company reported more than $1 billion in sales in the first half of this year in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties. The company’s average sales price year-to-date is $1.1 million.
More wealthy buyers are deciding to “make that plunge” because they have more confidence in the economy, said Judy Green, CEO and president of Premier Sotheby’s.
“They’ve always been there. They’ve always had the money, but they held on to it – as we all have – because of certain challenges the economy has faced,” she said.
Like all buyers, the wealthy are looking to take advantage of the price drops that followed a market crash.
Premier’s new affiliation with Sotheby’s has also helped the company attract more wealthy buyers this year, including international ones, Green said.
“Since January, 31 percent of all the international sales were in the state of Florida,” she said. “Certainly, here in the Naples market, we get our fair share.”
Her company is a leader of sales in such posh neighborhoods as Port Royal, Aqualane Shores, Old Naples and Park Shore.
Most of the higher-end sales are being made to seasonal buyers, who will use them as vacation homes.
Though luxury home sales are picking up, the under $300,000 market is still the most active in the Naples area, reflecting a surge in foreclosure and short sales that followed a housing bust. At one time, these distressed sales made up 50 percent of the market. In June, they dropped to 32 percent of all sales, said Brenda Fioretti, NABOR’s president and a managing broker of Prudential Florida Realty in Naples.
As the inventory of higher-end homes shrinks, Fioretti said she expects there to be more tear downs of older homes to make way for new mansions in Naples, especially along the waterfront.
The inventory of homes and condos in the $2 million-plus market dropped to 419 in the second quarter of this year, down from 537 a year ago.
From April to June, there were a total of 2,576 home and condo sales made in the Naples area market, up slightly from 2,562 in the same quarter a year ago. Overall, the median price rose 1 percent to $197,000.
Of the total sales made in the second quarter, 1,691 were for less than $300,000, making up nearly half of all sales. There were another 383 sales in the $300,000 to $500,000 market; 273 in the $500,000 to $1 million market, and another 138 in the $1 million to $2 million market.
In June, there were a total of 751 sales made in the Naples area market, down 4 percent from 783 in the same month a year ago. Fioretti attributed the drop, in part, to the end of a federal homebuyer tax credit that expired on June 30 of last year.
John Steinwand, president of Naples Realty Services, said, “The housing trends are easy to see. The inventories are going down. The demand is steady and prices are nudging up.”
There are 7,208 homes and condos on the market, representing about a nine-month supply, according to NABOR. A year ago, there were 8,845 properties for sale.
In 2008, there was a more than three-year supply of homes and condos on the market. With inventories continuing to shrink, “We can look for new homebuilding to pick up speed,” Steinwand said.
Overall, pending sales rose 3 percent in the second quarter, compared to a year ago. That’s a good sign for the future, said Kathy Zorn, a co-owner and broker for Florida Home Realty in Collier County.
“The market seems to be correcting itself, slowly and deliberately,” she said.
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.