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Florida real estate defies reports of its demise

It's better to jam wax in your ears than to listen to every hyped-up, overreported bit of conventional economic wisdom.

Brace yourself for $200-per-barrel oil. Buy gold at $1,000 per ounce. Bury your nest egg before the next Great Depression.

Here's another unsinkable truism floated this year: Don't buy a Florida house because renting is cheaper and insurance and property taxes will kill you.

Just as I won't be hoarding overpriced Krugerrands or parking a 100-mile-per-gallon plastic go-cart in the garage, I just don't subscribe to the Florida Real Estate is Finished school.

It's true that at the peak of the housing boom in 2006, Tampa Bay area home prices had raced far ahead of the average householder's ability to pay.

But after two years of market free fall, I think you're finally hearing the snap of deploying parachutes. There may be more downturns ahead, but the landing won't be a leg cracker.

Proof? For three straight months, local home sales have pretty much stabilized when measured against sales a year ago. Home prices, after falling about 25 percent, are declining more slowly. In Pinellas County they've even gone up a fraction recently.

Several national outfits vouch for a return to stability in six to 18 months. The National Low Income Housing Coalition predicted last month that a low-cost Tampa home purchase today would richly reward the buyer with equity by 2012.

Census counts remind us that the slump will be fleeting. The United States could have 135-million new people requiring 52-million more housing units by 2050. Guess which state many of these new Americans will settle in?

Okay, so some inducements to buying a home this year are as wobbly as a gelatin tripod. One such false alarm was the National Association of Realtors' making hay this summer of an uptick in searches on its Web site.

But when the conventionally wise preach the virtues of the perpetual renting you've got to wonder how much $200-per-barrel oil they've hedged on.

Florida real estate defies reports of its demise 09/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:24pm]
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