(ORLANDO, FL) -- According to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors, Florida's existing home sales rose in February, which means that sales activity has increased in the year-to-year comparison for the past year and a half (18 months).
Existing home sales increased 21 percent last month with a total of 11,890 homes sold statewide compared to 9,867 homes sold in February 2009, according to Florida Realtors. Statewide existing home sales last month increased 13.6 percent over statewide sales activity in January.
Florida Realtors also reported a 59 percent increase in statewide sales of existing condos in February compared to the previous year's sales figure; statewide existing condo sales last month rose 9.8 percent over the total units sold in January.
"Homebuyers should take advantage of favorable conditions in the current housing market," said 2010 Florida Realtors President Wendell Davis, a broker with Watson Realty Corp. in Jacksonville. "Mortgage rates remain near historic lows at just under 5 percent, but they won't stay at that level forever. Plus, only six weeks are left before the extended and expanded homebuyer tax credit expires. First-time buyers and current homeowners who want to buy their next home in time to use the tax credit must have a purchase contract signed before the April 30 deadline - then they'll have until June 30 to close the transaction."
Seventeen of Florida's metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing home sales in January, while all but one MSA had higher condo sales. A majority of the state's MSAs have reported increased sales for 20 consecutive months.
Florida's median sales price for existing homes last month was $131,300; a year ago, it was $141,800 for a 7 percent decrease. Analysts with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) note that 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 the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.
The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in January 2010 was $163,600, down 0.4 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In Massachusetts, the statewide median resales price was $300,000 in January; in California, it was $287,440; in New York, it was $242,750; and in Maryland, it was $234,894.
NAR's latest outlook predicts a surge in late spring home sales. "Activity should be picking up strongly in late spring as buyers take advantage of the tax credit, which is critical to absorb distressed properties reaching the market and to continually chip away at inventory levels," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "If there is sufficient job creation, housing can become self-sustaining with stable to modestly rising home prices."
In Florida's year-to-year comparison for condos, 5,085 units sold statewide last month compared to 3,190 units in February 2009 for an increase of 59 percent. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $92,200; in February 2009 it was $109,100 for a 15 percent decrease. The national median existing condo price was $172,400 in January, according to NAR.
Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.99 percent last month, even lower than the average rate of 5.13 percent in February 2009, according to Freddie Mac. Florida Realtors' sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.
Among the state's smaller markets, the Punta Gorda MSA reported a total of 239 homes sold in February compared to 216 homes a year earlier for an 11 percent increase. The market's existing home median sales price last month was $96,600, slightly higher than the year-ago median price of $96,400. A total of 43 condos sold in the MSA in February compared to 33 units sold the same month a year earlier for an increase of 30 percent. The existing condo median price last month was $95,000; a year earlier, it was $88,300 for a gain of 8 percent.