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Florida’s existing home market in Dec. 2006: Sales down, median price softens

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Sales of existing homes and condos in Florida were down in December; at the same time, many markets reported that the inventory of homes available for sale continued to stabilize while still low-mortgage rates sparked buyer interest.

A total of 12,415 existing single-family homes sold statewide last month, a decrease of 28 percent from the 17,215 homes sold during the previous December, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR). The statewide existing-home median price was $241,100 last month; a year ago, it was $245,600 for a decrease of 2 percent, according to FAR.

In December 2001, the statewide median sales price was $130,700, representing an increase of about 84.4 percent over the five-year period, according to FAR records. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

Nationally, the median sales price for existing single-family homes was $217,200 in November, down 3.6 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In California, the statewide median resales price was $555,290 in November; in Massachusetts, it was $340,000; in Maryland, it was $307,654; and in New York, it was $250,000.

NAR’s latest market outlook predicts that 2006 will close out as the third strongest sales year on record nationally. Heading into 2007, NAR Chief Economist David Lereah anticipates a steady improvement in sales, which will support price appreciation “moving forward.” Mortgage rates continue to hover near cyclical lows, he notes, which keeps financing costs low for buyers; at the same time, stable inventories of homes for sale represent more choices for buyers.

Looking to Florida's existing condominium market, sales also declined in December with a total of 3,788 condos sold statewide compared to 5,428 in December 2005 for a 30 percent decrease, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos last month was $200,600; a year ago, it was $205,500 for a 2 percent decrease. The national median existing condo price in November 2006 was $224,600, according to NAR.

According to Freddie Mac, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.14 percent last month, down from 6.27 percent in December 2005. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s larger markets, theFort Lauderdale metropolitan statistical area (MSA) reported 618 existing homes sold last month, compared to 666 homes sold a year ago for a 7 percent decrease. The market’s median existing home price remained stable at $367,600; a year ago, it was $369,000. A total of 622 existing condos changed hands in Fort Lauderdale in December for a 27 percent decrease over the 856 condos sold the previous year. The market's median existing condo price was $199,700; a year ago, it was $197,700 for a 1 percent increase.

“It’s a great time to buy a home – inventory had been so sparse that there were few options, but buyers have more choices now, and interest rates remain low and very favorable,” says Jim Balistreri, FAR district 11 vice president and broker-owner of Balistreri Realty Inc., with offices across South Florida. “Fort Lauderdale is a world destination: We’re the yachting capital of the world and a top tourist seaport vacation destination, and our commerce and businesses remain vibrant and strong.”

Of the state’s smaller markets, the Pensacola MSA reported a total of 402 existing homes sold in December compared to 493 homes sold a year earlier for an 18 percent decrease. The area’s median existing home sales price was $166,200 last month; a year ago, it was $170,700 for a 3 percent decrease. Fifty-three existing condos sold in the MSA last month for a 29 percent increase compared to the 41 condos sold a year ago. The market's median existing condo price was $305,000; a year ago, it was $225,000 for an increase of 36 percent.

“This year, 2006, tied as the third best year on record for home sales in the Pensacola market,” says Doug Gooch, president of the Pensacola Association of Realtors and office manager for Palm Realty of Pensacola. “And we’re expecting 2007 to be better than ever, with opportunities for buyers and sellers. Our area has a lot to offer, including a variety of recreational and cultural amenities, a range of housing options and some of the most beautiful beaches around.”


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