Existing homes sales continue to be a roller coaster in Tampa Bay.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose 6 percent, from 2,590 in April to 2,749 in May, but the median price dipped from $121,400 to $120,200. Compared with May 2010, existing sales were down 6 percent and the median price declined 11 percent.
Sales typically climb in the first half of the year. Existing sales in March skyrocketed to the highest levels in five years, raising hope that the housing market was healing from the wounds left by a faltering economy and a deluge of foreclosures. But sales in April and May don't even come close to March figures.
"It's really difficult to predict anymore," said Nick Fraser, owner of Remax All Star in Madeira Beach. "Market trends don't seem to be trends anymore."
Andrew Duncan of Keller Williams Realty in South Tampa expected the sales figures to remain steady after peaking in March. As long as the values don't drop further, he believes the market is stabilizing. The median price has risen from $110,000 in January.
"I see these as positive, but it's not like there's all sunshine and rainbows out there," he said.
Statewide, sales were nearly flat, from 17,192 in April to 17,228 in May. But the median price climbed from $131,700 to $135,500. Compared with May 2010, sales are up 3 percent as the median price dropped 5 percent, according to Florida Realtors.
Nationally, existing home sales in the country in May fell 3.8 percent to the lowest levels in six months, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median existing home price for all housing types was $166,500 in May, down 4.6 percent from May 2010.
Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, blamed the lending community for the drop in sales and said home sales were being held back by overly restrictive loan underwriting standards. He also attributed fewer closings in May to rising gasoline prices and severe weather. He expects sales to rise in the second half of 2011.
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.