When it comes to measuring investor fervor for residential purchases, analysis of a new real estate report suggests it’s a matter of perspective.

Cash sales, a key indicator of investor interest, are the lowest they’ve been in years, a new report from the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches shows. These sales help distinguish cash-flush speculators from homebuyers who typically require mortgages.

But in July, the cash deals were down 11.5 percent from a year earlier and behind February’s numbers when the county recorded its steepest year-over-year decline with a 12 percent lag.

July’s cash deals accounted for less than 42 percent of all sales compared to January when more than half of all buyers paid cash.

“The most interesting part of these closed sales was the percentage of cash sales, [which] were at their lowest levels since September 2010,” the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches said in its monthly residential market report for July.

Even in Miami-Dade County, where nearly 90 percent of foreign buyers pay cash, the number of cash deals still slowed.

Less than 58 percent of all closed deals were cash transactions in the second quarter compared to nearly 63 percent a year earlier, according to the latest data from the Miami Association of Realtors.

But market watchers say there’s a different way to interrupt the falloff.

“It’s a sign the investment climate is getting better. Banks are willing, so it’s an opportunity for more players,” said Israel Alfonso, a partner at Akerman’s real estate practice in Miami. “It’s a positive sign.”

Leveling Off

Just as commercial clients have seen an uptick in financing from traditional lenders and private equity firms like Blackstone Group LP, analysts say South Florida homebuyers are benefiting from a less cash-centric era.

“After the crash, participants in the market were people who had equity. Now, the current climate gives regular people the opportunity to participate,” said Barb Kozlow, the Keyes Co.’s regional manager and president of the Realtor Association of the Palm Beaches. “This means banks are giving out more loans, which points to signs of a much stronger economy. There are lenders who are now doing loans for people freshly out of bankruptcy or short sales. They weren’t able to do that before.”

“The rollercoaster ride of the past decade is leveling off through a normal market with real buyers who need mortgages,” Kozlow observed. “The bargain-hunting cash buyers’ appetite is not as strong because prices have come back.”

But their slowdown might already be sending ripples through the market, with data showing higher inventory and longer sales times.

In July, Palm Beach County’s real estate inventory jumped 27 percent. Last year’s inventory was the lowest since 2008.

But a big-picture view is rosier. Even with the dip, South Florida outpaces the rest of the nation for cash deals. About two-thirds of all home sales in the region were cash sales during the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac LLC, a national real estate research firm.

“This is good for the market,” Kozlow said. “You’ve got real sellers and buyers who are out there getting loans. It’s great for the industry if you have cash buyers and more people who are able to get safe and clean mortgages that are good for them.”