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RISMEDIA, April 27, 2009-Florida’s existing home sales increased in March, making it the seventh month in a row that sales activity demonstrated gains in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR). March’s statewide sales also increased over the previous month’s sales level in both the existing home and existing condo markets.

Existing home sales rose 30% last month with a total of 13,085 homes sold statewide compared to 10,080 homes sold in March 2008, according to FAR. Statewide existing home sales in March were 32.7% higher than February’s statewide sales.

Florida Realtors also reported a 25% rise in statewide sales of existing condominiums in March, continuing a trend in recent months for higher statewide sales of both the existing home and existing condo markets compared to year-ago levels. Statewide existing condo sales last month increased 37.2% over the total units sold in February.

Fifteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing-home sales in March and 13 MSAs also showed gains in condo sales. It marks the ninth consecutive month that a majority of markets have reported increased sales.

Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $141,300; a year ago, it was $201,700 for a 30% decrease. Industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) report there is a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2009 was $164,600, down 15% from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $247,590 in February; in Massachusetts, it was $252,500; in Maryland, it was $253,200; and in New York, it was $210,000.

NAR’s latest housing industry outlook reported that entry-level buyers are seeking bargains, which resulted in sales of distressed properties accounting for 40% to 45% of February’s transactions. “Given the downward distortion in price comparisons due to distressed sales, it’s important for owners to keep in mind that this doesn’t equate to a similar loss of value for traditional homes in good condition,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 4,388 units sold statewide compared to 3,503 units in March 2008 for a 25% increase. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $108,700; in March 2008 it was $172,300 for a 37% decrease. In the latest data available at press time, NAR reported the national median existing condo price was $172,200 in February 2009.

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5% last month, down significantly from the average rate of 5.97% in March 2008, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s large to medium-size markets, the Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay MSA reported a total of 539 homes sold in March compared to 445 homes a year ago for a 21% increase. The existing home median sales price was $123,700; a year ago, it was $159,000 for a 22% decrease. In the year-to-year comparison for the existing condo market, a total of 113 units sold in the MSA last month, up 24% compared to 91 condos sold the previous March. The market’s existing condo median price was $123,100; a year ago, it was $164,300 for a 25% decrease.

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