(Source: Kimberly Miller The Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

(MCT) — Palm Beach County’s median sales price for an existing single-family home lifted to $197,000 in March, a 6 percent increase from February driven in part by depleted inventory and voracious investors.

A sales report the Florida Realtors released Thursday showed the number of homes sold in Palm Beach County and the state was up 24 percent and 29 percent, respectively, in March compared with February.

And while Palm Beach County’s sales dipped 7 percent last month from March 2011, prices remained 4 percent higher in the year-over-year measure.

“In the last year my buyers have had to increase their offers by 10 percent,” said Sharon Restrepo, vice president of the West Palm Beach-based Florida Real Estate Investors Association, which deals almost exclusively with investors. “Cash is coming from everywhere and everyone is finally emptying their mattresses of money.”

Statewide, the median sales price for a single family home was $139,000 in March, up 10 percent from last year and 4 percent over February.

The Florida Realtors report, which is produced by the Minneapolis-based 10K Research, differs slightly from what the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches posts because of how the data are collected by regional Multiple Listing Service groups.

According to Palm Beach Realtors, the median sales price for a single-family home not in foreclosure or sold as a short sale was $216,000 in March, up 3 percent from last year. More detailed Palm Beach County information can be found at www.rapb.com.

Florida’s upbeat home sales news matched national numbers, which showed a 5 percent increase in March compared with last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in March was 4.48 million, while the median existing sales price for a single-family home nationally was $163,000, up 1.9 percent from the same time last year.

Still, Wells Fargo advisers called a 2.6 percent drop nationally in purchases last month from February “disappointing.”

“That said we still contend the recent declines are not indicative of the trend,” the advisers said in an analysis of sales numbers.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, blamed dwindling supply for less robust March sales.

“We were expecting a seasonal increase in home listings, but a lack of inventory has suddenly become an issue in several markets with not enough homes for sale in relation to buyer interest,” Yun said. “Home sales could be held back because of supply factors and not by demand.”

Palm Beach County Home Sales Rise, Supply Falls

Palm Beach County’s inventory of single-family homes shrank to 6.2 months in March from 13.5 months last year. Inventory statewide was at just 5.9 months, down from 10.4 months in March 2011.

More notable is the sharp drop in distressed homes – short sales and foreclosures – on the market. Just 1,090 distressed single-family homes were for sale in March, a 69 percent decrease from March last year. Distressed condominium inventory was down 78 percent.

“The banks are sitting on the inventory and trickling it out to create the demand and value, and it’s working,” said Restrepo, who is still wary of how the shadow inventory of homes in the process of foreclosure will affect the market.

Yun, who spoke Tuesday during the International Economic Forum of the Americas at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, said he is less concerned about shadow inventory and believes Florida real estate is experiencing a stable rebound.

“The Florida market, particularly South Florida, is recovering very rapidly from oversupply to a shortage of inventory,” Yun said on Tuesday. “Florida’s market is almost back to normal.”