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News: Florida - prices rise while sales slow

With mortgage rates still ticking upwards, Florida's housing sector in May continued to adjust to changing market conditions, according to the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR).

FAR reports a greater inventory of homes available for sale in many areas.  Statewide, the existing-home median price rose 11 percent to $256,400 last month; a year ago, it was $232,000. A total of 18,680 existing single-family homes sold statewide in May, a decrease of 24 percent from the 24,523 homes sold during the previous May, according to FAR.

In 2001, the statewide median sales price was $125,200, which shows an increase of about 104.7 percent over the five-year-period, according to FAR records. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

National market slowing but healthy

Nationally, the median sales price for existing single-family homes was $222,700 in April, up 4.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In California, the statewide median resales price was $562,380 in March; in Massachusetts, it was $354,000; in Maryland, it was $305,720; and in New York, it was $263,000.

Home sales across the nation are settling into a slower pace, which is good for the long-term health of the sector, according to NAR housing industry analysts. Still, NAR expects 2006 to be the third strongest sales year on record. Analysts note that the adjusting housing market will continue to provide a strong underlying base to the economy, while slower appreciation will help to preserve long-term affordability.

Condo market cooling

Looking to Florida's existing condominium market, sales of existing condos also decreased in May, with a total of 5,725 condos sold statewide compared to 8,337 in May 2005 for a 31 percent decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos remained relatively flat last month at $222,000; a year ago, it was $222,100. The national median existing condo price in April 2006 also was $222,000.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 6.60 percent last month, up from 5.72 percent in May 2005. FAR's sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

From Jacksonville to the Panhandle...

Among the state's larger markets, the Jacksonville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) reported 1,732 existing homes changed hands last month compared to 1,671 homes sold in May 2005 for a 4 percent gain. The market's median existing home price rose 15 percent to $208,700; a year ago, it was $181,700. A total of 230 existing condos sold in Jacksonville in May for a 35 percent increase over the 170 condos sold the previous year. The market's median existing condo price rose 3 percent to $170,900; a year ago, it was $166,700.

"The range of housing options and prices available in the Jacksonville area is one of the attractions here," says Kay Seitzinger, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. "The economy continues to be very strong, there are new businesses coming to the area and our jobs outlook is solid now and for the future. The market is adjusting and rising inventory levels offer buyers more opportunities."

Of the state's smaller markets, the Pensacola MSA reported a 1 percent increase in existing home sales in May, with 589 homes sold compared to 582 homes sold a year earlier. The area's median existing home sales price rose 8 percent to $170,600; a year ago, it was $158,600. Sixty-seven existing condos sold in Pensacola last month compared to 70 condos sold in May 2005 for a drop of 4 percent. The market's median existing condo price rose 31 percent to $196,700; a year ago, it was $150,000.

"The forecast for the Panhandle remains good for housing sales," says Auby Smith, president of the Pensacola Association of Realtors and broker for Real Estate Counselors in Pensacola. "We're expecting an increase in military expenditures, which is good for the area's economy. Buyers have a variety of housing choices at reasonable prices, especially when you consider some of the costs of waterfront property in other areas."

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