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News Article Details
Date: 01/29/2011
Title: Orlando home resales: Closings up, prices down

Existing-home prices dropped more sharply in Metro Orlando than almost anywhere else in Florida last year, according to a report released Thursday by Florida Realtors.

A year ago, some local market watchers were predicting that resale prices had hit bottom, but they fell another 9 percent during 2010, dropping from a median of $144,000 to $131,400 in the four-county metro area (Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake). Prices in Volusia and Polk counties dropped by the same percentag.

Statewide, only Ocala's prices fell further, slumping 13 percent from the end of 2009.

"Prices fell more here likely because we had more inventory," said Karen Arlick, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty's office in Hunters Creek.

Unlike some other large metropolitan areas that were already close to being built out, Orlando experienced explosive growth during the housing bubble, Arlick said. When the market slumped, the larger inventory contributed to a pool of foreclosure properties that continue to weigh down prices. She noted that both prices and demand now appear to be edging up.

Across the state, prices dropped 4 percent during 2010, falling from a median of $142,500 to $136,500 by year's end.

At least Orlando's slumping prices stoked the market: The metro area had 26,808 sales last year, up 12 percent from the year before. Ocala was the only metro area to exceed that sales pace, with a 21 percent growth spurt in existing-home sales.

Florida home sales overall rose 5 percent during the year, with 170,848 homes sold compared with 162,873 sold in 2009. And last year's total was 37.5 percent higher than the state's 2008 total, records show.

"It's encouraging to close out the year for Florida's housing market with increased sales activity," said Patricia Fitzgerald, this year's Florida Realtors president. "The home-buyer tax credits helped to fuel home and condo sales during the first half of 2010, while favorable affordability conditions and historically low mortgage rates continued to bring buyers into the market in the waning months of the year."

The biggest spike in activity for Florida real estate last year was in condominium sales, which increased 29 percent statewide. In Metro Orlando, condo sales jumped 54 percent, with 8,563 units changing hands.

The latest industry outlook from National Association of Realtors forecasts a gradual recovery in 2011.

"Continuing gains in home sales are encouraging, and the positive impact of steady job creation will more than trump some negative impact from a modest rise in mortgage interest rates, which remain historically favorable, " NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said Thursday.

Source: Orlando Sentinel
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