Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 44 percent in fourth quarter 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest housing statistics from Florida Realtors®. A total of 43,926 existing homes sold statewide in 4Q 2009; during the same period the year before, a total of 30,610 existing homes sold. It marks the sixth consecutive quarter that Florida has seen higher existing year-to-year home sales, according to the state association.

Statewide sales of existing condominiums in the fourth quarter rose 93 percent compared to the same time the previous year. This marks the fifth consecutive quarter for increased statewide sales in both the existing home and condo markets compared to year-ago levels.

To gain insight into current trends in Florida’s real estate industry, the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies conducts a quarterly survey of industry executives, market research economists, real estate scholars and other experts. The survey noted uncertainty over the tight credit market, foreclosures and the jobs outlook.

On the positive side, private investors – both foreign and domestic – are starting to “kick the tires” in many markets, said Timothy Becker, the center’s director. In addition, investor expectation for returns is starting to fall to more realistic levels, helping to close the spread between bidding and asking prices, he said.

“These developments bode well for the transaction market when quality properties start coming to the marketplace,” Becker added.

Eighteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased sales of existing homes in the fourth quarter compared to the same three-month-period a year earlier, while all of the MSAs showed gains in condo sales.

The statewide existing-home median sales price was $140,000 in the fourth quarter; a year earlier, it was $160,600 for a decrease of 13 percent. According to industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

In the year-to-year quarterly comparison for condo sales, 16,255 units sold statewide for the quarter compared to 8,410 in 4Q 2008 for a 93 percent increase. The statewide existing-condo median sales price was $105,500 for the three-month period; in 4Q 2008, it was $136,600 for a decrease of 23 percent.

Low mortgage rates remain another favorable influence on the housing sector. According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.92 percent in 4Q 2009; one year earlier, it averaged 5.86 percent.

© 2010 Florida Realtors® Reprinted with permission.

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