Another year comes to a close and the Anna Maria Island market continues to show stabilization and improvement. Sales for December 2009 were again over 200% (SF-12, Con-14, Dup-2 = 28) of December 2008 (SF-9, Con-3, Dup-1 = 13). Sales in the first half of 2009 started slower then 2008 (30% lower) but sales for the last 6 months of 2009 where 73% higher than the last 6 months of 2008 ending the year 224 vs 211 in 2008. The momentum continues in the right direction with pended sales continuing to be strong at 46 (SF-22, Con-16, Dup-4 & Lot-4).

Distressed properties (short sales, foreclosed & bank owned) continue to be low on the island at 39 (SF-13, Con-22, Dup-3 & Lot-1). As you can see, over half of them are condos and condos have taken the biggest hit as far as values are concerned but distressed properties continue to remain below 8% of the inventory. Inventory has dropped below 500 to 498 (SF-242, Con-181, Dup-37 & Lot-38) for the first time since 2005. That’s a very good sign for the market. The inventory continues to trend down while the sales trend continues up.

On the financing side, interest rates have remained at all time lows well under 6% and now is the time to take advantage of this phenomenon. Condos are still the hardest to finance but with good credit and 25% down on a permanent residence and 30% down for a 2nd home you can still get financing. Single family and multi-family properties can still be financed with as little as 10% down. Some advice for those of you who are seriously planning to buy something and finance it, get to a banker or mortgage broker early even before you start looking for a property. The banks have more rules and regulations to adhere to then before. It’s not that there are more rules and regulations it’s just that before they could be by-passed but now they can’t. If you talk to the bankers before you make an offer they can advise you how to prepare so that the financing process will go much smoother, and, in many cases, even mean the difference between getting the loan or not. For those of you who are over 62, have sold a permanent residence, are looking to buy a new permanent residence on the island and don’t want to put all of their equity into the new home there is a produce called Reverse Mortgage for Home Purchase. This allows you to buy a new permanent residence on the island and not have any mortgage payments as long as you live there. If anyone wants more information contact me and I’ll direct you to a banker who specializes in this product. By law a banker who sells this product can’t sell the regular residential mortgages and vice versa. The conventional wisdom in the financial community is that by summer rates are going to go up to 6.5 or even 7% so now is the time to buy while rates are low and prices are at their lowest.

Check out Frank and Al’s Great Buys his month. If you’re looking for a direct Gulf Front condo that has fantastic views of the gulf, has exquisite interior finishes and is a great buy take a look at 108 36th St. in Palm Gables. The unit next door, which is not as well done, just sold for $1,700,000 and 108 36th St is listed at $1,490,000….a great value. For those of you looking for an entry level single family home on the island we have 204 Archer Way ( 2BR/2Bath) listed at $349,000 and 2305 Avenue B ( 3BR/1,5Bath) listed at $339,000. Just to put the pricing in perspective, the lowest priced single family homes sold over the last 12 months were sold in the mid $200,000’s (there were only 5 of them out of the 119 sold) and were fixer uppers. Remember low prices + low interest rates = more property for the dollar.

For those of you who are looking for a place to live where you will be happy The Centers for Disease Control and prevention did a survey measuring happiness. The survey used data collected over 4 years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives. The top 5 happiest states are Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona. The bottom 5 states were New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan and Indiana…….surprise, surprise….think it has anything to do with the sun and weather?

To summarize, 2009 has closed strong with 224 properties sold on the island very much in the historical normal range. Inventory has reached the historical level of below 500 ending the year at 498 and continuing to inch down. Pending properties (properties under contract) are strong at 46 carrying strong sales into 2010.