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.’”




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