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January: Florida Home Sales Rise, But Prices Fall

Sales of existing homes in Florida rose 28 percent in January, marking the 17th straight month of year-to-year gains, Florida Realtors reported Friday.

Sixteen of Florida's 19 metropolitan statistical areas reported increased existing home sales in January compared to a year ago, while all metro areas posted higher condominium sales, the statewide industry group reported. A majority of the state's metro areas have reported increased sales for 19 consecutive months. Condominium sales jumped 81 percent.

"Markets across the state are seeing increased sales, yet conditions remain very favorable with still-low mortgage rates, a range of housing inventory and attractive prices,” Wendell Davis, Florida Realtors president, said in a statement.

Nationally, sales were up 11.5 percent from January 2009, but slipped 7.2 percent from December.

In the South, existing-home sales dropped 7.4 percent from December but are 12 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $140,200, down 2 percent from January 2009.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the monthly dip raised concerns over the strength of the recovery. That said, Yun added that the extension of federal incentives for first-time buyers should translate into increased sales in the months ahead.

“People who got into the market after the home buyer tax credit was extended in November have only recently started to offer contracts, so it will take a couple months to close those sales,” Yun said in a statement.

Contributing to the year-to-year gains in Florida, median prices of homes sold in January fell to $130,900 a 19-percent decrease from January 2009. Condominium sale prices were down 14 percent to $97,300.

Home sales across the state varied widely by location, with sales in Ocala jumping 58 percent while sales in Tallahassee were off 16 percent. Prices too fluctuated, with the median price falling 31 percent in Tampa/St. Petersburg (to $125,600), but rising 12 percent in Tallahassee (to $180,000.).

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