Florida’s Existing Home, Condo Sales Rise in 1Q 2009

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Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 25 percent in first quarter 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest housing statistics from the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR). A total of 31,412 existing homes sold statewide in 1Q 2009; during the same period the year before, a total of 25,071 existing homes sold. It marks the third consecutive quarter that Florida has reported higher existing home sales; sales levels in the third and fourth quarters of 2008 were higher than the corresponding three-month period of the previous year, according to FAR.

Sales of existing condominiums statewide in the first quarter rose 19 percent compared to the same time the previous year. This marks the second three-month period for increased statewide sales in both the existing home and condo markets compared to year-ago levels.

Statewide sales activity in 1Q 2009 also increased over 4Q 2008’s sales figure in both the existing home and existing condo markets, FAR records show. For 1Q 2009, statewide sales of existing homes rose 4.14 percent over the 4Q 2008 figure; existing condo sales statewide in 1Q 2009 increased 21.1 percent over the 4Q 2008 level.

“Many first-time homebuyers are entering the market now to take advantage of current low mortgage rates, plentiful housing inventory and affordable homeownership opportunities,” says Cynthia Shelton, 2009 FAR president and CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member). “Typical homebuyers are realizing that now is the time to buy; they can find the Florida home of their dreams at a cost they can afford. Homeownership has always offered a wide range of benefits, including building financial security and increasing a sense of community, but the advantages offered in today’s market are unique.”

One such advantage is a dream come true for first-time homebuyers in Florida, she adds, thanks to a new program that the 2009 Florida Legislature approved through the adoption of the state’s general budget recently. Lawmakers passed a provision setting aside $30.1 million for the Florida Homebuyer Opportunity Program, which will help with down payment assistance. Beginning July 1, those who qualify for the federal $8,000 first-time homebuyers tax credit will be able to apply for downpayment assistance before they close on the purchase of their home, and then repay the amount borrowed when they get their tax refund.

“The beauty of this program is that the state will be paid back and, conceivably, more potential homebuyers could take advantage before the Dec. 1, 2009 expiration of the $8,000 federal first time homebuyer tax credit,” Shelton adds. “While details of the program are still being worked out, we are all very excited about the incredible opportunity this offers for thousands of Florida families.”

Fifteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased sales of existing homes in the first quarter compared to the same three-month-period a year earlier, while 12 MSAs showed gains in condo sales.

The statewide existing-home median sales price was $141,000 in the first quarter; a year earlier, it was $202,300 for a decrease of 30 percent. According to industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors(R) (NAR), there remains a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures.

In the year-to-year quarterly comparison for condo sales, 10,143 units sold statewide for the quarter compared to 8,554 in 1Q 2008 for a 19 percent increase. The statewide existing-condo median sales price was $110,100 for the three-month period; in 1Q 2008, it was $177,000 for a decrease of 38 percent.

Continuing low mortgage rates remain another favorable influence on the housing sector. According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.06 percent in 1Q 2009; one year earlier, it averaged 5.88 percent.

The Florida Association of Realtors, the voice for real estate in Florida, provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 115,000 members in 67 boards/associations.

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