(ORLANDO, FL) -- Florida's existing home sales rose in May - the ninth month in a row that sales activity increased in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR). Statewide sales showed gains over the previous month's sales level in both the existing home and existing condominium markets. Also, for the first time in many months, the statewide median sales price in May for existing homes and for existing condos rose over the previous month's figure.
Existing home sales rose 16 percent last month with a total of 13,921 homes sold statewide compared to 12,044 homes sold in May 2008, according to FAR. Statewide existing home sales in May increased 6.2 percent over April's statewide activity. Florida Realtors also reported a 21 percent rise in statewide sales of existing condos in May; existing condo sales last month rose 3.8 percent over the total units sold in April.
"The improving sales of existing single family homes and condos is a trend we have been seeing for several months in Florida - what is new in this month's data release is that we are seeing evidence of prices beginning to firm," says Dr. Sean Snaith, director for the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. "While one month of data does not a trend make, it is the first green shoot we have seen in some time as far as prices are concerned; until prices stop declining, we cannot state with confidence that the housing market has stabilized. Sales have risen to levels we have not seen since 2006, though the economy still faces headwinds. As credit markets begin to thaw this will help speed along this process of recovery in the housing market."
Thirteen of Florida's metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing-home sales in May and 13 MSAs also showed gains in condo sales. A majority of the state's MSAs have reported increased sales for 11 consecutive months.
Florida's median sales price for existing homes last month was $144,400; a year ago, it was $203,800 for a 29 percent decrease. However, the statewide existing home median price in May was higher than the statewide median price reported in each of the previous four months. According to housing industry analysts with the National Association of RealtorsÂ® (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to lower the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.
The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in April 2009 was $169,800, down 14.9 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $256,700 in April; in Massachusetts, it was $275,000; in Maryland, it was $255,587; and in New York, it was $185,000.
According to NAR's latest housing industry outlook, buyers are responding to favorable market conditions. "Now the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit is beginning to impact the market," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Since first-time buyers must finalize their purchase by Nov. 30 to get the credit, we expect greater activity in the months ahead and that should spark more sales by repeat buyers." Many homebuyers are taking advantage of the bargain prices offered on foreclosed listings in states like Florida, California and Nevada, Yun noted, which should "set the stage for healthy market conditions going forward."
In Florida's year-to-year comparison for condos, 4,839 units sold statewide compared to 3,998 units in May 2008 for a 21 percent increase. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $113,400; in May 2008 it was $181,700 for a 38 percent decrease. May's statewide existing condo median price was the same as January's statewide median, and was higher than the median reported in February, March or April. The national median existing condo price was $173,900 in April 2009, according to NAR.
Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.86 percent last month, down significantly from the average rate of 6.04 percent in May 2008, according to Freddie Mac. FAR's sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.