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Florida home sales surging

Floridians may be holding back on spending at the mall, but they still are bidding up prices in the real estate market.

Last month sales of existing homes rose 8 percent over the previous November, the latest report from the Florida Association of Realtors showed Wednesday. The median sale price _ half the homes sold for more and half for less _ also was up 8 percent, to $117,900.

Nationally there have been many signs that the economy is slowing, from disappointing retail sales to flagging consumer confidence. But in Florida at least, the resale housing market remained strong in November. National numbers are to be released today.

In the Tampa Bay area, the number of home sales rose a little less than 1 percent, but the median price jumped 8 percent, to $104,900.

Real estate agents say the numbers reflect that in many areas demand has outstripped supply.

"In Pinellas County the market has just gone crazy," said Sandy Hartmann of Keller Williams Gulf Coast Realty in Seminole. "The lack of buildable land is a huge part of it and, of course, there is no more waterfront. But it's more than just that. There are just fewer sellers than there are buyers."

Low mortgage interest rates also have helped keep the housing market strong: Many lenders currently offer mortgages at rates just below 7 percent.

The hottest housing market in the state last month was Naples. The median resale price there jumped from $198,000 to $250,000 in a year. In addition, the number of houses sold climbed 26 percent, to 272.

Some real estate agents think Collier County's growth-management efforts have helped create a sense of urgency.

"There's a fear that if you wait, you might miss out, which is encouraging people to buy even if the cost is higher than they expected," said John Steinwand of Naples Realty Services, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tallahassee also reported price increases in the double digits. Statewide, the median sale price has risen 31 percent over the past five years, the association said.

The Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie area reported the biggest increase in the number of houses sold, from 148 to 214, but also a 6 percent decline in the median sale price.

Other areas with strong growth in the number of houses sold included Fort Walton Beach, Orlando, Panama City, West Palm Beach-Boca Raton and Jacksonville.

Resales remain solid in the state

Sales of existing single-family houses remained strong last month in most Florida markets.

Sales Sales Median Median

in in Pct. price, price, Pct.

Area Nov.'99 Nov.'00 change Nov.99 Nov. '00 change

Tampa Bay 2,225 2,214 +0.05% $96,900 $104,900 +8.33%

Fort Lauderdale 1,039 1,061 -2.07% $134,700 $150,900 +12.03%

Jacksonville 871 780 +11.67% $93,000 $103,400 +11.18%

Miami 863 789 +9.38% $133,800 $143,100 +6.95%

Orlando 1,835 1,544 +18.85% $100,800 $111,100 +10.22%

Sarasota 405 404 +0.02% $132,900 $138,900 +4.51%

W.Palm-

BocaRaton 1,354 1,189 +13.88% $131,900 $137,900 +4.55%

Statewide 12,125 11,226 +8.01% $108,700 $117,900 +8.46%

Source: Florida Association of Realtors

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