Palm Beach County's home market hottest in nation

Posted by Brian Pearl on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 at 7:33pm.

Forget fast-appreciating Denver and stratospheric San Francisco. Palm Beach County has elbowed its way into the top spot on a real estate firm’s list of the nation’s hottest housing markets. According to an analysis by property marketplace Ten-X, Palm Beach County has seen torrid price appreciation, a robust job market and strong population growth. “Palm Beach County’s housing market is scorching,” Ten-X said in its report released Tuesday. “Seasonally adjusted home prices are up 16.8 percent year-over-year, the highest pace in the country.” Even after the run-up in prices, Palm Beach County values remain 14 percent below their peak, Ten-X said, “suggesting additional room to run.” However, Ten-X’s conclusion is far from unanimous. “That’s just not possible,” Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said of Ten-X’s 16.8 percent figure. Other studies undermine Ten-X’s stats. Tuesday’s Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index reports middle-of-the-pack appreciation in South Florida over the past year, and property website Trulia pegs home price appreciation at about half the level cited by Ten-X. “Palm Beach County is strong, but certainly not the strongest in the greater Miami area or in Florida,” said Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist. Palm Beach County doesn’t rank in the top 20 of Realtor.com’s “hottest markets” list. No Palm Beach County city broke the top 100 in WalletHub’s recent ranking of cities most attractive to first-time buyers. “It’s a surprise to me that Palm Beach County would be leading other areas that we know are creating significantly more jobs, and higher-paying jobs, than Palm Beach County,” said Jack McCabe, a housing consultant in Deerfield Beach. “It’s the first report I’ve seen in recent times putting Palm Beach County first in the country in housing.” Florida markets swept the top four spots in Ten-X’s ranking of 50 U.S. metro areas, with Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale ranking just behind Palm Beach County. Florida’s strong job growth was a common theme in Ten-X’s report. Indeed Florida’s 3 percent job growth from June 2015 to June 2016 was the highest among large states, the U.S. Labor Department said last week. But Palm Beach County’s job growth of just 1.9 percent trailed faster-growing labor markets like Orlando and Broward County, each of which added jobs at a pace of 4.5 percent. Ten-X also pointed to rising rents, which have sparked offers from first-time buyers and from people who lost houses in the real estate crash. Henry L. Kaplan, sales manager at Century 21 Tenace Realty in Boynton Beach, said Ten-X’s report matches the fast pace of activity he sees for entry-level homes. “The market for homes priced at $250,000 or below is absolutely on fire,” Kaplan said. “We’ve had people who have been paying more to rent than it costs to own, and they’re deciding it makes sense to buy.” As last decade’s boom and bust showed, fast-rising home values can be good or bad. Appreciation is a boon for owners but a detriment to would-be buyers — and today’s run-up can be tomorrow’s crash. “Every time we see South Florida rise to the top of these studies, it’s kind of the tip of the iceberg,” McCabe said.

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