Make us your home page

Florida home sales surge in March

Florida's existing home sales surged in March, recording the single biggest month since late 2005.

Sales of condos and homes jumped 36 percent from February to March, surpassing the national rise of 3.7 percent, according to figures from the Florida Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. Statewide, existing sales are up 15.8 percent from March 2010.

The news comes on the heels of the Times reporting Wednesday that Tampa Bay's existing sales in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties jumped nearly 32 percent, from 3,258 in February to 4,296 in March.

The statewide jump raises hope that Florida's housing market is distancing itself from the battered economy and foreclosure crisis in recent years.

"It's a good thing to see that transactions are going up," said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. "It's an indicator of a stronger economy."

Seventeen Florida regions reported higher sales last month, and it's the fourth consecutive month that statewide sales have exceeded the same month in the prior year.

Although median sale prices of homes and condos are still down from March 2010 in Tampa Bay and the state, the prices increased from February.

Snaith cautioned that sales and median prices need to rise for several months, if not quarters, and new jobs need to be added before the housing market can fully recover.

Nationally, the 3.7 percent sales increase shows that the housing market is rebounding, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

"Existing home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we're clearly on a recovery path," he said.

Cash and investors are dominating the real estate market in the United States.

Cash accounted for a record share of 35 percent of sales in March, up from 33 percent in February. Investors logged 22 percent of sales in March, up 3 percent from February, the group said.

The cash rates are even higher in several bay area counties. So far in 2011, 59 percent of sales in Pasco were made with cash. Pinellas logged 66 percent.

The market, Yun said, needs a boost from lenders.

"Sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago," he said, "before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle."

In Florida, single-family sales jumped 35 percent from February to March, with a median sales price of $126,300.

Last month's sales also comfortably exceeded March 2010 sales, surging by 12 percent. The biggest increase occurred in Miami, where sales rose 59 percent from 649 in March 2010 to 1,031 last month.

Condo sales exploded across the state, too. Sales rose 39 percent from 6,984 in February to 9,703 in March, and 24 percent from March 2010.

March is traditionally the start of the spring buying season, but real estate agents said severe weather and an influx of cheap homes are driving Northerners back to Florida.

The worst of the real estate downfall may have passed, experts said.

The increases are welcome news for real estate agents who have battled slumping sales and a market saturated with distressed homes.

After the housing market imploded, homes typically sat on the market for months, if not years, and sold at deteriorating prices. That's no longer the case for properly priced homes, Realtors said.

Craig Beggins, owner of Century 21 Beggins Enterprises in Apollo Beach, stressed that the market is not normal and hopes the inventory declines more in the coming months.

''The distressed properties are still a problem," he said, "but I have tons of optimism."

Many agents' workloads started increasing in January, said Rae Catanese of Tropical Prudential Realty in South Tampa.

But one of her biggest fears, she said, is that lenders will continue to turn borrowers away. She and her two business partners have been swamped with buyers from the North, Midwest and abroad looking for bargains.

She added: "Right now, we are crazy busy."

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at

Existing home and condo sales

LocationMarch 2011Feb.

Percent changeMarch 2010Percent change
Tampa Bay4,4643,322+34.4%3,773+18.3%

Florida home sales surge in March 04/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 9:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.