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Florida Home Sales Up 23 Percent in Second Quarter

Fueled by lower prices and the sale of distressed properties, existing home sales in Florida jumped 23 percent during the second quarter compared to last year, state Realtors reported Wednesday.

Median home prices fell 29 percent for the quarter ending June 30, falling from $203,200 to $143,600. Realtors have cautioned that median price figures are artificially low because of foreclosure sales.

Condominium sales also rose for the quarter, with the number of units changing hands up 29 percent. Median prices fell 38 percent from $179,800 to $111,100.

Nationally, existing-home sales fell 2.9 percent for the quarter compared to last year but remain about 3.8 percent ahead for the year. Loosening credit and a buyers’ market have combined to boost sales for the first half of the year, economists say.

Freddie Mac reported the interest rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.03 percent for the quarter ending June 30 compared to 6.09 percent a year ago.

“With low interest rates, lower home prices and a first-time buyer tax credit, we’ve been seeing healthy increases in home sales, which are a hopeful sign for the economy,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.”

In Florida, the Fort Myers/Cape Coral again led the rebound as sales nearly doubled for the quarter. Median prices fell by more than half. The region again led the state in home sales fuelled in large part by overbuilding prior to the real estate crash in 2006. Home prices in the region fell from $196,400 to $87,300.

Miami posted the second highest increase, with sales jumping 73 percent. Median prices in the region fell by a third to $195,000. Sales were slightly lower in Tallahassee, with closings falling 17 percent. Median prices dipped to $175,900, a drop of 10 percent.

Overall, 16 of 19 metropolitan areas saw sales increases for the quarter, including Orlando (36 percent), Tampa/St. Petersburg (24 percent), Jacksonville (7 percent) and Pensacola (6 percent.)

Florida Realtors urged potential buyers to take advantage of federal stimulus programs that could provide up to $8,000 in tax credits for first time homebuyers. They called on financial institutions to continue easing credit to accommodate would-be buyers.

“Three-fourths of those responding to the 2009 National Housing Pulse Survey said they think now is a good time to purchase a home, a number that has increased steadily the past two years,” said FAR President Cynthia Shelton. “Providing solid financing options for homebuyers is key to returning stability to the housing market, and buyers also need programs that help with down payment and closing costs.”

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