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Home General News Real Estate Industry Articles Home-sale numbers heating up in Florida
Home-sale numbers heating up in Florida PDF Print E-mail
Written by By Jerry W. Jackson, Orlando Sentinal   

Existing-home sales nationwide showed surprising strength in December, as the thaw in sales heated up in Florida.

Resales of single-family homes in the Sunshine State surged 27 percent last month compared with December 2007 -- the fourth straight year-over-year increase for monthly existing-home sales, the Florida Association of Realtors said Monday in its year-end report.

Resales of condominiums statewide rose 12 percent from a year ago.

Metropolitan Orlando's 34 percent increase in December single-family resales was the fifth-best showing statewide in percentage terms and second only to Tampa in number of sales. The 1,525 single-family homes sold in the four-county metro area last month closely trailed Tampa's 1,857 sales and far exceeded the next-best performer, Fort Myers, which more than doubled its December sales to 1,064.

Orlando's condo sales -- 166 units in December -- was second-best in percentage terms, up 54 percent, and sixth in terms of total closings when compared with Florida's 19 other metro areas.

Sixteen of Florida's 20 metropolitan areas reported improved existing-home sales in December; 11 of them also posted gains in condo sales.

The statewide median sales price for single-family dwellings was down 27 percent from a year ago, to $155,500, the report showed. Metro Orlando's price drop was roughly the same: down 26 percent, to end the year at $167,800.

Cynthia Shelton, president of the 125,000-member Florida Association of Realtors, said stabilizing the real-estate market is key because healthy home sales and property values boost economic activity and also "build wealth and stability" for individuals and families.

For all of 2008, Florida's existing-home sales were down just 4 percent from a year earlier, to 124,215, though the statewide median price was down 20 percent to $187,800. Orlando's median for the full year was $201,500, off 19 percent, while sales fell 3 percent to 16,659.

Shelton, director of investment sales for Colliers Arnold Orlando, a commercial brokerage, noted that, even though single-family home prices have fallen sharply in recent years, the statewide median for all of last year was still nearly double the median price from a decade earlier -- $104,700 in 1998.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the recent growth in existing-home sales in states such as Florida and California is the result of "large numbers of distressed properties" changing hands at discounted prices. Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties are currently estimated to constitute 30 percent to 50 percent of all resales.

Many economists still expect another year of weakness in the housing market.

Michelle Meyer, a Barclays Capital economist, said she expects home prices nationwide to fall another 15 percent this year. "We're still very far away from a normal housing market," she told The Associated Press.

Michael Smalley, area manager for Waterstone Mortgage in Winter Park, said he's seeing more interest in home buying, however, particularly among first-time buyers encouraged by the recent decline in mortgage-interest rates.

"I think a lot of people are saying, 'OK, [home] prices might not be at the bottom, but they've got to be pretty darn close,' " Smalley said. "But interest rates -- they really have no place to go but up."

Nationally, sales of existing homes rose 6.5 percent to an annual rate of 4.74 million in December, from a November pace that was revised downward to 4.45 million.