The vigor that Orlando area home sales have been experiencing tapered off in September, as the month experienced its lowest year-over-year increase in almost a year and raised questions about just how strong one of the area's linchpins is.
September sales rose 3 percent, following a string of double-digit gains that included a 26 percent rise in August, a 40 percent gain in July and a 27 percent bump in June.
Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida, said the comparative weakness did not occur because more new homes came on the market. "It wasn't on the seller side," Snaith said.
Instead, the economy is softening and the Orlando area is not immune, he said.
Snaith cited as indications reports that came out the day before the Orlando Regional Realtor Association released its monthly report. The national retail sales report showed softness and the Producer Price Index showed its biggest decline in eight months. The reports and others that have been coming in "show the economy is in a soft patch," Snaith said.
Add to that fall being a traditionally weaker period for home sales and September's minor advance makes sense, Snaith said.
The last time the Orlando area saw a non-double digit gain was in November, when 7.1 percent growth was recorded.
Orlando Regional Realtor Association President Sharon Voss was more upbeat in her assessment of September's figures.
"Orlando home sales have experienced a tremendous rush this year, with closings topping 3,000 each month between April and August," Voss said. "The 10 percent decline in sales between August (3,195) and September (2,857) can be attributed, in part, to demand simply being satisfied and of course to the traditional slowdown that occurs after the summer."
Regardless of the drop in the number of sales, Orlando remains a seller's market with 4.04 months of supply and declining inventory, Voss said.
While sales are showing some softness, prices keep pulling forward.
The area's median price increased nearly 9 percent in September. The rise marks 50 consecutive months of median price increases; as of September the Orlando median price was 57.58 percent higher than it was in July 2011.
The overall median price (all sales types and all home types combined) for September was $182,000, an 8.9 percent jump compared with the $167,063 median price in September 2014.
Too little inventory remained an issue, with the amount of homes available for purchase in September 6.4 percent below September 2014, and now resting at 11,533. The dearth of availability could make it difficult for the Orlando area to attract talented workers as it moves away from largely being a tourism and hospitality center.
The sales of condos in the Orlando area were down 5.9 percent in September, with 320 sales recorded in September 2015 compared to 340 in September 2014.
"The lag in condo sales growth can be attributed, in part, to the relative low prices of single-family homes," Voss said. "When you add in condo association fees, it can add up to a single-family mortgage and that is appealing to many buyers."
Breaking September home sales down by county shows Orange was up 2.2 percent; Osceola fell by 4.6 percent; Seminole was up 4.2 percent; and Lake experienced an 11 percent rise.