Florida metro areas report March home sales gains

Maintaining a multimonth winning streak, 15 of 20 Florida metro areas reported gains in single-family home sales over the past year. The Tampa Bay area was no exception.

Local sales rose 16 percent from March 2008 to March 2009, from 1,974 a year ago to 2,292 this year.

The median sales price in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties declined 24 percent, falling from $178,300 to $135,800 year over year.

Realtors attributed the sales rise to entry-level buyers scarfing up bargains. Sales of distressed properties — those in or heading toward foreclosure — accounted for one-third to one-half of transactions.

Worried about perceptions of never-ending home price slides, the National Association of Realtors on Thursday labeled foreclosure sales "distortions" of the market. Realtors estimated that bank-owned homes sell for two-thirds the price of conventional sales.

"Given the downward distortion in price comparisons due to distressed sales, it's important for owners to keep in mind that this doesn't equate to a similar loss of value for traditional homes in good condition," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors.

The sales rise in Tampa paled in comparison with that in Cape Coral-Fort Myers. Transactions there nearly tripled in one year, from 501 in March 2008 to 1,464 in March 2009. That foreclosure-laden market has seen one of the steepest price declines in the United States.

Statewide, home sales rose 30 percent last month. Realtors counted 13,085 sales in March vs. 10,080 in March 2008.

National sales fall month-to-month

Nationally, sales of previously occupied homes sank by an unexpectedly large amount from February to March, dashing hopes of a spring housing recovery. The National Association of Realtors said that home sales fell 3 percent to an annual rate of 4.57 million last month. The median sales price for an existing home in March plunged to $175,200, from $200,100 a year earlier. Times wires

Florida metro areas report March home sales gains 04/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 7:45am]

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