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Home Sales Up, Prices Dip Slightly

Existing home sales in Florida rose 18 percent in May compared to a year ago as median price continued to lag, Florida Realtors reported Tuesday.

Enthusiasm over the continued strong sales was tempered somewhat as Realtors continued to eye developments in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 80 percent of Florida’s population lives close to the coast, making the real estate industry nervous about property values and the ability to sell homes in communities that could soon be facing disaster.

Low interest rates and attractive price points, however, continue to lure buyers back into the market in most metropolitan areas across the state.

"Favorable conditions like this spark buyers' interest," said Wendell Davis, Florida Realtors’ president. "However, like the rest of the world, Floridians are deeply concerned about the long-term ramifications of the April 20th explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig.”

For the month, 16,745 single-family existing homes sold statewide compared to 14,172 homes sold in May 2009. Meanwhile, the median price edged up $300 to $140,400 from April but remained 2 percent lower than the $143,800 posted in May 2009.

Seventeen of Florida’s 19 metropolitan areas reported higher existing home sales in May with a majority of the state's metropolitan markets having reported increased sales for 23 consecutive months.

Nationally, home sales in May jumped 19.2 percent from May 2009, but slipped 2.2 percent from April, according to National Association of Realtors figures also released Tuesday. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement that he expects sales to remain robust as buyers take advantage of federal tax breaks that they may not be able to receive if they close after the June 30 deadline.

"The housing market has to get back on its own feet and now appears to be in a good position to return to sustainable levels even without government stimulus, provided the economy continues to add jobs,” Yun said.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in April 2010 was $173,400, up 4.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. In California, the statewide median resale price was $306,230 in April; in Massachusetts, it was $295,000; in Maryland, it was $244,943; and in New York, it was $197,000.

Among Florida’s largest markets, Orlando sales jumped by a third while sales in Miami were up 22 percent and Tampa sales increased by 20 percent. In Southwest Florida, the epicenter of the state housing bust, sales inched up 3 percent in May.

Tallahassee sales jumped 36 percent from a year ago, with the median price inching up by 1 percent to $169,200.

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