After climbing to record highs earlier this year, sales of previously owned homes fell more than expected in June to the lowest level in nine months.
The annual rate of resales dropped 11.7 percent, from 5.74-million in May to 5.07-million in June, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The pace of sales last month was the slowest since existing homes sold at a 5.01-million rate in September and the largest percentage decrease since April 1995.
Across Florida, sales were flat, with 14,407 existing homes sold last month compared with 14,379 in June 2001. In the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market, 1,445 homes sold, a 2 percent decrease from a year earlier.
Realtors blamed low inventories at a time when low interest rates on mortgages are keeping demand high.
In June, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 6.65 percent, compared with the 7.16 percent rate recorded in June 2001.
"If there's not a lot of homes for sales, buyers who really want to buy end up making multiple offers and it becomes more of a seller's market," said Marla Martin, communications manager for the Florida Association of Realtors.
Buyers may be flooding the real estate market because they see it as a better investment than the stock market, she said.
Additionally, Realtors are pointing to increasing prices as reasons for the flat results.
In Florida, the median sales price of existing single-family homes rose to $142,400, a 7 percent increase over the $132,500 statewide median sales price reported for June 2001. In Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, the median price was $143,700, a 6 percent increase.
_ J. Nealy-Brown can be reached at nealysptimes.com or at (727) 893-8846.