Florida Existing Home Sales Improve in March Compared to February 2008

22 04 2008

Florida Realtors® statewide reported slight gains in existing home and condominium sales from February to March 2008, according to the latest housing statistics released by the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR). A total of 9,330 existing single-family homes changed hands in March, a 12.3 percent increase over the previous month when 8,310 homes sold. Existing condo sales statewide rose almost 16 percent, with 3,207 units sold in March compared with 2,765 condos in February.

The median price for both housing types increased slightly as well during the one-month period. The median price of an existing single-family home reached $205,100 in March, compared with $198,900 the previous month. The median price of an existing condo rose to $176,300 in March from $175,600 in February.

In the latest National Association of Realtors® (NAR) housing outlook, Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says, “Existing home sales could start to show a sustained increase within a few months, unless there are some additional economic problems or excessive inflationary pressure. We’re looking for essentially stable sales in the near term, before higher mortgage loan limits translate into more sales in high-cost markets.

In the year-to-year comparison, a total of 9,330 existing homes sold statewide last month while 12,356 homes sold in March 2007 for a decrease of 24 percent, according to FAR. Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $205,100; a year ago, it was $242,800 for a 16 percent decrease. But, looking back to March 2003, the statewide median sales price for single-family homes has increased about 35.2 percent, according to FAR records – at that time, the statewide existing-home median price was $151,700. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

In a year-to-year comparison for condos, 3,207 units sold statewide compared to 4,163 in March 2007 for a 23 percent decline. The statewide existing-condo median sales price last month was $176,300; in March 2007 it was $220,700 for a 20 percent decrease. NAR reported the national median existing condo price was $211,700 in February 2008.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2008 was $193,900, down 8.7 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $409,240 in February; in Massachusetts, it was $310,000; in Maryland, it was $284,822; and in New York, it was $230,000.

Last month, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.97 percent, down from the average rate of 6.16 percent in March 2007, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Several of Florida’s smaller metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showed slight gains in existing home sales for the month. Realtors around the state reported more buyer interest as demonstrated by increased phone calls, showings and other positive movement in their local housing markets.

Among the state’s smaller markets, the Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie MSA reported a total of 387 homes sold in March compared to 338 homes a year ago for a 14 percent increase. The existing home median sales price was $169,700; a year ago, it was $239,700 for a 29 percent decrease. A total of 69 existing condos sold in the MSA last month compared to 87 condos the previous March for a 21 percent decrease. The market’s existing condo median price was $182,500; a year ago, it was $202,300 for a decrease of 10 percent.

Dave Derrenbacker, president of the Realtor Association of Martin County and a broker with Water Pointe Realty Group, agrees that buyers are recognizing the long-term value of homeownership. “There are some encouraging signs,” he says. “It looks like home prices are starting to stabilize and buyer activity is picking up. In many cases, Realtors are able to show that homes in our area are back to a valuation of pre-real estate boom figures. I tell people, ‘If you missed your chance the first time around, then now is a great time to buy.’”


NAR: Existing-Home Sales Slip in March

22 04 2008

Existing-home sales edged down in March, remaining within a narrow range of sales activity that has persisted since last September, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – were down 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million units in March from a level of 5.03 million in February, and remain 19.3 percent below the 6.11 million-unit pace in March 2007. A rise in condo sales in March offset a drop in single-family sales. Regionally, sales rose in the Northeast and West but fell in the Midwest and South.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the market is performing unevenly. “Though mortgage rates are at historically low levels, some borrowers are facing restrictive lending practices in declining markets,” he says. “At the same time, many buyers continue to bide their time with a large number of homes to choose from, while other potential buyers remain on the sidelines.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $200,700 in March, down 7.7 percent from a year ago when the median was $217,400. Because the slowdown in sales from a year ago is greater in high-cost areas, there is a downward pull to the national median with relatively higher sales activity in low-cost markets.

A mix of market conditions continues around the country, but areas showing healthy price gains include Des Moines, Iowa; Austin, Texas; and Durham, N.C.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 5.97 percent in March from 5.92 percent in February; the rate was 6.16 percent in March 2007.

“It appears there is some over-reaction on the part of some lenders now in requiring higher downpayment percentages than may be necessary,” says NAR President Richard F. Gaylord. “On the other hand, buyers in many parts of the country are able to take advantage of more lenient policies for FHA loans. However, because lenders don’t have enough underwriting experience with FHA loans in high-cost areas, there are localized bottlenecks in loan processing. Consumers should consult with a Realtor in their area to learn about the kind of financing that may be available to meet their needs.”

Yun offered a caution: “With elevated inflation, the Federal Reserve should be extra careful about further rate cuts. Mortgage interest rates, which do not move directly with Fed funds rates, may rise measurably and hurt the housing recovery if inflation gets out of hand. Monetary stimulus is plentiful – what is needed more at this point is a home buyer tax credit to get buyers off the sidelines and prevent the market from overshooting on the downside.”

Total housing inventory rose 1.0 percent at the end of March to 4.06 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.9-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 9.6-month supply in February.

Single-family home sales fell 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.35 million in March from 4.47 million in February, and are 18.4 percent below the 5.33 million-unit pace in March 2007. The median existing single-family home price was $198,200 in March, down 8.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units in March from 560,000 in February, but are 25.5 percent below the 779,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $219,400 in March, which is 2.8 percent lower than March 2007.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.2 percent to an annual pace of 910,000 in March, but are 18.8 percent below March 2007. The median price in the Northeast was $284,300, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.2 percent in March to a level of 940,000 but are 22.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $285,100, which is 14.7 percent lower than March 2007.

In the South, existing-home sales fell 3.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.92 million in March and are 20.0 percent below March 2007. The median price in the South was $167,200, down 7.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest dropped 6.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.16 million in March, and are 15.9 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $152,600, down 5.3 percent from March 2007.


%d bloggers like this: