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RISMEDIA, May 30, 2007-Florida’s existing home sales remained soft in April though the inventory of homes continued to ease in many markets across the state, according to the Florida Association of Realtors(R) (FAR). Statewide, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 12,016 last month compared to 16,283 homes sold in April 2006 for a 26
percent decrease.

Florida’s median sales price for existing single-family homes in April was $237,800; a year ago, it was $245,900 for a 3% decrease. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. In April 2002, the statewide median sales price for single-family homes was $133,700, for an increase of 77.9% over the five-year-period, according to FAR records.

In March 2007, the national median sales price for existing single-family homes was $215,300, down 0.9% from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors(R) (NAR). In California, the statewide median resales price was $580,090 in March; in Massachusetts, it was $344,000; in Maryland, it was $302,750; and in New York, it was $248,000.

Housing industry analysts anticipate that a decline in subprime mortgage loans, coupled with stricter lending standards, could impact housing activity in the coming months. According to NAR Senior Economist Lawrence Yun, one benefit for the market is the disappearance of speculative behavior, which contributed to abnormal price growth.

“Home buyers today are purchasing for the long-term, generally with a realistic expectation of modest gains over time,” Yun said in NAR’s latest market outlook. “It’s good that we’re getting beyond the tendency of some buyers to view housing as a temporary asset to accumulate short-term wealth, which is not to be expected in a normal market.” NAR predicts that existing home sales will increase gradually in the second half of 2007, with prices recovering a bit later.

Sales of existing condominiums in Florida also decreased last month, with a total of 4,321 condos sold statewide compared to 5,344 in April 2006 for a 19% decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos last month was $215,500, up 3% from April 2006’s condo median price of $210,000. NAR reported the national median existing condo price was $228,200 in March 2007.

Last month, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.18%, according to Freddie Mac, a significant drop from the average rate of 6.51% in April 2006. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported 796 existing homes sold last month compared to 685 homes sold a year ago for a 16% increase. The market’s median sales price for homes was $294,800; it was $302,100 in April 2006 for a 2% decrease. A total of 333 existing condos changed hands in the MSA last month, up 11% from the 299 condos sold the previous year. The existing condo median sales price in April was $241,300; a year ago, it was $259,000 for a 7% decrease.

People in the Sarasota area are getting the message that now is a great time to buy a home, says Joe Hembree, president of the Sarasota Association of Realtors and broker-owner of Hembree & Associates Inc. He points to the association’s promotional campaign “Time2Buy” as a positive medium for spreading the word to consumers. “Low interest rates, a great inventory of homes available and stabilizing prices are positive influences on our market,” he says. “The Sarasota area offers so many benefits for residents:
Beautiful beaches, a friendly community and great social atmosphere, world-class arts and entertainment. It’s a wonderful place to live and play.”

Among the state’s smaller markets, the Gainesville MSA reported a total of 225 homes sold in April compared to 258 homes a year ago for a 13% decrease. The existing home median sales price was $214,200; a year ago, it was $204,200 for a 5% increase. A total of 74 existing condos sold in the MSA last month compared to 90 condos the previous April for a decrease of 18%. The market’s existing condo median price was $160,000; a year ago, it was $154,000 for a 4% increase.

Sherry Patrick, president of the Gainesville Alachua County Association of Realtors and broker-associate with Coldwell Banker MM Parrish, says that the area’s stable economy provides a solid foundation for the housing market.

“Having the University of Florida is a big plus for our economy,” she says. “The Gainesville area has a strong labor force and employment outlook, as well as a college-town atmosphere, educational opportunities and cultural activities to attract residents.”

Two charts showing statistics for Florida and its 20 MSAs are attached. One chart compares the volume of existing, single-family home sales and median sales prices; the other compares the volume of existing, condominium sales and median sales price in April 2007 to April 2006 based on Realtor transactions.

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