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Positive Signs: Florida Home Sales Up, Prices Down

Sales of existing homes rose again in April as the market continued to post year-to-year increases thanks in no small measure to lower prices and lower credit costs for those who qualify for loans.

For the month, existing home sales rose 18 percent from April 2008, the seventh consecutive month of year-to-year increases, according to statistics compiled by the Florida Association of Realtors. Sales of condominiums also rose for the month, climbing 21 percent from April 2008. State officials hope the up tick continues.

“We’re starting to see some indicators that give evidence to the fact that the economy might, in fact, be improving.” Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday. “Consumer confidence is getting better. Real estate sales in Florida are up and unemployment is down. We’re starting to see some positive trends.”

The median price of a Florida home sold in April was $138,000, down 31 percent from a year ago when half the homes sold for more than $199,500. Condo prices were also lower, with existing prices falling 40 percent from $178,900 to $106,000.

Realtors cautioned that the sales price figure is being dragged down by the sale of foreclosed and distressed properties. Non-distressed properties have held more of their value.

Nationally, sales of existing homes, townhomes and condominiums decreased 3.5 percent in April from a year ago, with 4.7 million units changing hands compared to 4.9 million last year. Median prices continue to fall, with economists saying that first-time buyers continue to provide much of the momentum as they take advantage of lower mortgage rates and distressed prices. .

“Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pick up in the mid-price ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

In Florida, home sales increased year-to-year in 14 of 19 metropolitan areas while 11 metro areas also showed gains in condo sales.

Home sales in Miami nearly doubled while increasing 81 percent in Fort Myers/Cape Coral. Both markets also experienced dramatic price drops, with prices falling 39 percent to $177,000 in Miami and 57 percent to $85,500 in Fort Myers. Sales in Tallahassee were off 28 percent while median price fell 4 percent to $182,000.

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