Florida's Existing Home, Condo Sales Rise in 4Q 2008

Residential News » Residential Real Estate Edition | By Michael Gerrity | February 12, 2009 2:49 PM ET

(News Source: Florida Association of Realtors)

(ORLANDO, FL) -- Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 13 percent in fourth quarter 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest housing statistics from the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR). A total of 30,163 existing homes sold statewide in 4Q 2008; during the same period the year before, a total of 26,635 existing homes sold statewide. It marks the second consecutive quarter that Florida has reported higher existing home sales; sales activity rose 5 percent in 3Q 2008 compared to the same period the previous year, according to FAR.

Florida Realtors also reported a 3 percent gain in statewide sales of existing condominiums in the fourth quarter compared to the same time the previous year. This marks the first three-month period that has noted increased statewide sales in both the existing home and condo markets compared to year-ago levels.

Twelve 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 eight MSAs showed gains in condo sales. A growing number of local markets have reported increased sales activity over the past few months, according to FAR.

The statewide existing-home median sales price was $161,200 in the fourth quarter; a year earlier, it was $216,600 for a decrease of 26 percent. According to industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there remains a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

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. According to the fourth quarter 2008 survey, respondents' increasing concerns about the economy have dampened the investment outlook for various types of properties.

However, one positive sign is the recent dramatic increase in refinancing with the availability of 5 percent mortgage rates in mid-December, according to Dr. Wayne Archer, center director. If additional programs are put into place that create 4.5 percent Federal Housing Administration mortgages for people who have difficulty making payments, he said, it will do even more to stabilize the housing industry.

In the year-to-year quarterly comparison for condo sales, 8,374 units sold statewide for the quarter compared to 8,098 in 4Q 2007 for a 3 percent increase. The statewide existing-condo median sales price was $136,400 for the three-month period; in 4Q 2007, it was $190,400 for a decrease of 28 percent.

Continuing 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 5.86 percent in 4Q 2008; one year earlier, it averaged 6.23 percent.

The outlook for housing and the economy remains clouded despite improved affordability conditions, according to NAR's latest industry forecast. "For a sustainable housing market recovery and, thus a sustainable economic recovery, we need a significant housing stimulus and mortgage availability for qualified borrowers," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

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