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RISMEDIA, Nov. 27, 2007-In third quarter 2007, Florida’s housing sector in many markets continued to report high inventory levels of homes for sale, median prices edging down and sales activity levels that reflect the impact of mortgage disruptions and tighter lending standards.

Statewide, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 31,910 during the three-month period, a decrease of 29% compared to 44,776 homes sold during the same time a year earlier, according to the Florida Association of Realtors(R) (FAR).

The statewide existing-home median sales price was $232,100 in the third quarter; a year ago, it was $246,800 for a decrease of 6%. In 2002, the third-quarter statewide median sales price was $141,300, which reflects an increase of about 64.3% over the five-year period. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

As the impact of the credit crunch subsides, a modest recovery for existing-home sales is expected in 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors(R)'(NAR) latest market outlook. “Over the near term, home sales are likely to be fairly flat as the lingering impact of the credit crunch filters through the system through the end of the year,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “In some ways, the extended real estate boom from 2001 to 2005 created unrealistic expectations that housing is a short-term, high- yield investment. 2007 will be the fifth best year for housing on record.”

Continuing low mortgage rates remain another positive influence on the housing market. According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.55% in third quarter 2007; one year earlier, it averaged 6.65%.

Looking to Florida’s existing condominium market, sales of existing condos also decreased during the quarter, with a total of 9,622 condos sold statewide compared to 13,028 in third quarter 2007 for a 26% decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos for the three-month period was $196,300; a year ago, it was $205,000 for a 4% decrease.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Jacksonville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) reported 3,105 existing homes sold for the quarter compared to 4,173 homes sold a year earlier for a decrease of 26%. The market’s existing-home median sales price was $196,700; a year earlier, it was $204,500 for a 4% decline. A total of 392 existing condos sold in the market over the three-month period, down 12% from third quarter 2006, while the existing-condo median price decreased 8% to $163,500.

Hank Oltmanns, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and broker-owner of A Broker’s Choice Realty, says, “Buying a home remains one of the best decisions you can make as a long-term investment that also provides security and stability for your family.”

The Panama City MSA, one of the smaller markets in the state, reported that 369 homes changed hands in the third quarter, a decrease of 8% compared to 401 homes sold a year earlier. Over the same period, the market’s existing-home median home price was $202,800; a year earlier, it was $211,300 for a 4% decline. A total of 127 existing condos sold in the Panama City MSA during the third quarter, an increase of 38% from the previous year, while the existing-condo median price decreased 13% to $252,100.

“Homeownership continues to be a wise, long-term investment,” says Scott Bowman, president of the Bay County Association of Realtors and a broker-sales manager with Prudential Shimmering Sands Realty. “Financing remains available, with very favorable mortgage rates for qualified buyers with good credit. Now more than ever, people gain confidence in working with a Realtor — an experienced professional who can help them navigate the complex challenges of today’s market.”

The Florida Association of Realtors (FAR), the voice for real estate in Florida, provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 150,000 members in 67 boards/associations.