Be cautious of those slippery stats
By Natalie Gutwein
No matter where you get your news these days, you’re probably being inundated with doomsday scenarios regarding the real estate market. Whether you go to social media, listen to a podcast or newscast, or ask your neighbor (unless they are a real estate agent) you’re likely left feeling the end is near.
According to a USA Today Gallup poll in April of 2023, people surveyed to determine how the American public feels about the market stated that “only 21% of adults say it’s a good time to buy a house.” This is only the second time since 1978 that number has dropped below 50%. But let’s face it, sensationalized videos and articles are more likely to get clicks and clicks translate to money.
In fact, our little hometown of Sarasota was featured on the website thestreet.com in an article by Veronika Bondarenko entitled “These five cities have a lot of homes on the market (this should worry you)!” The article states “the number of for-sale homes in Sarasota rose 128.1% since May 2022.”
Wow! That caught my eye and I’m sure it did yours as well. I follow stats and the market in Sarasota like it’s my job (because it is!) and I couldn’t imagine how that could be true. So, I looked into it. Turns out, the statistic is correct. But does it tell the real story? Not even remotely. Just as I thought, it’s a skewed number to grab attention and get clicks.
I ran statistics from the database we Realtors use: StellarMLS.com. I looked at listings, with Sarasota listed as the city, for May of 2022 and compared those numbers with May of 2023. That number wasn’t close to the 128.1% number. After a bit more digging, I figured it out. The number quoted in the article includes all of Sarasota and Manatee counties. On top of that, it also includes every single form of real estate, which includes not only single-family homes but condos, all new construction, the hundreds of lots that have been listed in North Port lately, and even mobile homes.
Don’t be fooled by statistics, they can be easily manipulated!
The reality is quite different for what we consider Sarasota. If you look at homes with Sarasota listed as the address (which includes Siesta Key), the numbers are much less drastic and paint an entirely different picture. Yes, the number of listings in Sarasota did increase from May 2022 to May 2023, but that’s actually a good thing.
In the two years prior to the pandemic, Sarasota averaged 4,236 listings a month in 2018 and 4,238 in 2019. In fact, from 2013 to May of 2020, Sarasota averaged about 3,900 active listings each month. So, even though the number of listings has gone up significantly year over year from May of 2022 we are still significantly below what had previously been a rather predicable, pre-pandemic inventory level, as the chart below indicates.
Date; Number of Active Listings
May 2018; 4,396
May 2019; 4,380
May 2020; 3,883
May 2021; 1,653
May 2022; 1,894
May 2023; 2,723
So, what really is going on with the market? It’s a tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Depending on who you listen to, you’re getting two diametrically opposing opinions. Some say there’s a drastic recession on the horizon, others say it’s a resilient economy and consumer. Some are stating that foreclosures are going to be like 2009, yet there are virtually no foreclosures in our area. There are reports of a collapse of the banking industry, yet in fact only three banks have closed representing only 2.4% of assets.
All I do know for certain is that market predictions are not science, they are conjecture. The market has slowed down a little bit here on Siesta Key, but it’s also July (at the time of writing). Traditionally, the summer months have always been a slower sales season, so it’s entirely possible that we are returning to our pre- pandemic existence. The other thing I know for certain is we are still selling sunshine and we are still the place where dreams are made.
Also, I would like to thank my broker, Craig Ceretta, at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty for sharing his notes and research.
Stay sunny, Siesta.
(Natalie Gutwein, a Siesta Key resident, is a licensed Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty’s Judie Berger Team and is also a member of the board of directors of the Siesta Key Association civic group.)