Home sales dip slightly, but market still strong


Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 at 11:32 p.m.
Sales of existing homes dropped for the second consecutive month in the United States in November, and the Alachua County market posted its first year-over-year decline in nine months.
Economists, Realtors and others in the real estate industry had predicted that the red-hot housing market would eventually take a step back, and numbers released this week bear that out. Nationally, existing homes were sold at an annual rate of 6.06 million units in November, down 4.6 percent from October but still the fifth-highest pace on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Annual rates reflect how many homes will be sold if a particular monthly level remains steady for the rest of the year. David Lereah, the association's chief economist, said the market is still maintaining a record pace, even with small drops in sales during October and November.
"The last five months have been the strongest on record for existing home sales," Lereah said. "The market is being driven by low interest rates, a growing job market and a rising number of households. We will continue to see strong sales going forward, with 2004 likely to be the second-best year on record."
In Alachua County, 185 existing homes were sold in November, down just 1 percent from 187 homes sold during that month in 2002, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. After reporting double-digit percentage increases for most of the year, activity in Gainesville's market dropped for the first time since February, when sales were 17 percent below that month in 2002.
Statewide, Florida managed a gain in existing home sales in November. The Realtors' group reported that 10,322 homes were sold during the month, up 4 percent from 9,917 homes in November 2002.
The Sarasota-Bradenton market proved to be a popular choice for homebuyers during the month, as the region recorded a 46 percent increase in sales. The Ocala region recorded 382 sales in November, up 4 percent from 366 homes during that month last year.
"Buying a home, whether it's for the first time or the purchase of a bigger, more expensive home, is considered a smart investment," said Tom Dixon, chairman of the Florida Association of Realtors.
On national, state and local levels, median prices of existing homes continued to climb in November. Median prices indicate that half the homes in a market were sold above that price, and half were sold below that price.
The national median price in November was $170,900, up nearly 6 percent from November 2002 when the median price was $161,400. In Florida, the median price was $172,500, a 13 percent climb from $153,300 in November 2002.
And in Alachua County, the median price for existing homes was $145,500 in November, up 10 percent from $131,900 in November 2002.
Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or coombsj@gvillesun.com.

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