SEBRING - The big bust in real estate that followed the big boom in 2003 to 2005 is beginning to subside, real estate agents say.
And the decline in property values also is slowing, the Highlands County Property Appraiser's Office.
Ed Sager, who is commercial coordinator for the office, said that it appears when property values are finalized in October, the numbers will have fallen between 1 and 2 percent.
That may not sound good, but it's an improvement from last year when the decline was 3.3 percent, he said.
Sager also said that home sales increased from 2011 to 2012, with 795 sold in 2011 and 872 in 2012. That doesn't include foreclosure sales or sales from one family member to another.
The increase and the resulting level of sales doesn't compare with the boom years, but "is in a trend more like we used to see before the boom," he said.
Sager said that once the foreclosures are dealt with then the decline in property values should reverse itself.
Chip Boring, who is with RE/MAX, said he's also seeing improvements in the market with inventories of unsold properties declining and "some slight appreciations of values," he said.
Boring said there's also indications some building may start occurring.
"We're keeping busy," he said. "I'm very optimistic (about the market), but cautious."
Linda Harrell, who is with Coldwell Banker Highlands Properties said it's becoming "a great time to sell and an even better time to buy."
In many cases, properties are selling in less than 30 days, Harrell said. "If you price it right, it will sell."
Harrell said she sees a trend of retirees from the north and the west looking at this area. For example, she said, she had two cash sales of real estate involving buyers from California.
Similarly, Nick Peneau, who is with All About Realty of Lake Placid said he sees improvements in real estate sales, particularly those involving average priced homes.
"The bread and butter houses are moving faster," he added.
He said he's sold houses recently in as little as 1 1/2 weeks, although some remain on the market for months.
A couple of years, ago several months was the minimum time it took to sell a house, Peneau said.