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Bay area home sales inch up as prices plummet

With bargain-priced foreclosure properties enticing wary buyers, home sales in the Tampa Bay area rose again in November.

The Florida Association of Realtors recorded 1,701 single-family home sales last month compared with 1,644 a year earlier.

That 3 percent gain in the number of sales was helped by a 21 percent drop in home prices.

The bay area's median sales price last month was $149,800, the first time local prices have broken into the 140s since April 2004.

About a third of home sales in the region qualify as distressed, meaning the properties are bank-owned or teetering toward foreclosure.

The big-foreclosures-equals-brisk-sales formula was even more pronounced in Cape Coral-Fort Myers. The annual price plunge there was 53 percent. Fort Myers' homes sold for a median price of $106,100 compared with $228,000 a year earlier. In Punta Gorda, a typical home sold for $97,700 in November.

That marks a return to 1999-2000 prices. If there's a positive side, the number of sales in Fort Myers soared 64 percent year to year.

Statewide, sales inched up 4 percent in November on the back of a 27 percent plunge in prices. Nationally, home sales fell 8.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.49-million in November. U.S. prices retreated 13 percent, the biggest year-to-year drop since 1968.

In a separate report from the Commerce Department, new-home sales fell 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 407,000 in November. It was the weakest performance for new homes since the early 1990s.

National Association of Realtors economist Lawrence Yun used the occasion to push for further federal stimulus. Absent government subsidies to boost sales and "unclog the mortgage pipeline," falling prices could curtail consumer spending and drive up foreclosures, Yun said.

"Without home price stabilization, there will not be an economic recovery," he said.

Bay area home sales inch up as prices plummet 12/23/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:41pm]
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