Florida’s existing home sales remain slow in February 2008
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Florida’s existing home sales remain slow in February 2008

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ORLANDO, Fla. – March 24, 2008 – Turmoil in the mortgage market continued to impact Florida’s housing sector in February. Statewide, sales of existing single-family homes totaled 8,310 last month while 11,132 homes sold in February 2007 for a decrease of 25 percent in the year-to-year comparison, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).

According to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the volume of existing-home sales is expected to hold steady through late spring, with a gradual recovery during the second half of the year as the mortgage situation improves in high-cost areas. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says, “The higher loan limits for both FHA and conventional loans will increase consumer choice and provide greater access to lower interest rate mortgages in high-cost regions. Therefore, a notable rise in home sales can be anticipated in the second half of the year.”

Florida’s median sales price for existing single-family homes last month was $198,900; a year ago, it was $237,000 for a 16 percent decrease. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. In February 2003, the statewide median sales price for single-family homes was $140,500, an increase of about 41.6 percent over the five-year-period, according to FAR records.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in January 2008 was $198,700, down 5.1 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $430,370 in January; in Massachusetts, it was $321,000; in Maryland, it was $286,520; and in New York, it was $240,000.

Sales of existing condominiums in Florida also decreased last month, with a total of 2,765 condos sold statewide compared to 3,375 in February 2007 for an 18 percent decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos last month was $175,600, down 20 percent from February 2007’s condo median price of $218,900. NAR reported the national median existing condo price was $220,400 in January 2008.

Last month, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.92 percent, down from the average rate of 6.29 percent in February 2007, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s larger markets, the West Palm Beach-Boca Raton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported 401 existing homes sold last month compared to 560 homes sold a year ago for a 28 percent decrease. The market’s median sales price for homes was $344,600; it was $374,300 in February 2007 for a 8 percent decrease. A total of 438 existing condos changed hands in the MSA last month, down 5 percent from the 462 condos sold the previous year. The existing condo median sales price in February was $159,300; a year ago, it was $209,600 for a 24 percent decrease.

Says John J. Mike, chairman of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches and a sales associate with Prudential Florida WCI Realty, “Our members are reporting that activity levels have picked up in recent weeks. The softening of prices has certainly been appealing to buyers who were on the fence about entering the housing market. In addition, people are beginning to discover the reality of Amendment 1, particularly where portability of their property tax savings are concerned.”

Among the state’s smaller markets, the Punta Gorda MSA reported a total of 201 homes sold in February compared to 216 homes a year ago for a 7 percent decrease. The existing home median sales price was $151,300; a year ago, it was $201,100 for a 25 percent decrease. A total of 24 existing condos sold in the MSA last month compared to 30 condos the previous February for a 20 percent decrease. The market’s existing condo median price was $110,000; a year ago, it was $136,700 for a decrease of 20 percent.

Bill Dryburgh, president of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors and a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential LLC,  says the area’s waterfront and unspoiled scenic beauty continue to attract new residents. “The recent action taken by the Federal Reserve will help stabilize the mortgage market, which in turn will help the housing market,” he says. “I believe we’re also starting to see some movement in sales activity due to the passage of Amendment 1 and its portability provision.”

© 2008 FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS

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