Fla. Existing Home Sales Up 5% Last Year

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida


Existing home sales in 2010 were up 5 percent in Florida from the year before, a welcome sign that bodes well for homebuyers and sellers in 2011, Florida Realtors said Thursday.

Existing home sales rose 4 percent in December from a year ago with 12 of 19 metropolitan areas showing gains, the statewide association said. Condominium sales were even stronger, with sales rising 12 percent in year-to-year figures.

"It's encouraging to close out the year for Florida's housing market with increased sales activity," said 2011 Florida Realtors President Patricia Fitzgerald. "The homebuyer tax credits helped to fuel home and condo sales during the first half of 2010, while favorable affordability conditions and historically low mortgage rates continued to bring buyers into the market in the waning months of the year.”

Median home prices remained soft in December, falling to $133,000 from $139,800 a year earlier, a drop of 5 percent. Condo prices experienced a 17 percent reduction in median price to $88,100 in December. Median price means that half of homes sold above that price and half below.

For the year, existing home sales totaled 170,848 homes compared to 162,873 homes sold in 2009. Statewide existing home sales in 2010 also were 37.5 percent higher than 2008.

Nationally, existing home sales were 2.9 percent lower in December from a year ago, but were up more than 12 percent from November, a monthly increase that national observers say portends well for 2011.

“The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, in a statement. “The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”

Of Florida’s 19 metropolitan areas, 14 reported higher existing home sales for the year.

Sales in Orlando jumped 12 percent for the year, while sales in St. Petersburg/Tampa and Pensacola were up 3 percent. Sales in Tallahassee were flat year to year.

"Looking to the future, 2011 is going to be a year of opportunity for buyers and sellers," Fitzgerald said. "Industry analysts report seeing steady economic improvements, including more jobs and stronger consumer confidence, which will have a positive, stabilizing impact on the housing market."

While existing home sales showed improvement, new construction did not. Nationally, housing starts in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000, an 8.2 percent drop from December 2009. December housing starts in the South were off 17.2 percent from a year earlier to a seasonable adjusted annual rate of 217,000 units.

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