Area homes sales climbing

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 28, 2005 at 11:48 p.m.
Existing single-family homes continue to be a hot commodity in the Gainesville area, which recorded nearly twice as many sales in January 2005 compared to a year ago. And the sales price was only slightly more - 4 percent - than what homes cost in January 2004.
Statewide, favorable mortgage rates, a growing economy and an improving job market boosted Florida's housing market to a 10 percent increase in sales of single-family existing homes in January 2005 compared to January 2004, according to the Florida Realtors Association.
According to FAR, agent sales of existing single-family homes in January 2004 in Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area numbered 145, while 289 sold in January 2005, a 99 percent increase. However, a drop in condominium and townhome sales showed up on Gainesville Multiple Listing - 40 in January 2004 and 28 a year later.
December 2004 saw 283 existing single-family homes and 44 condominiums change hands in the Gainesville MSA.
Statewide, home resales totaled 15,567 in January 2005 compared to 14,204 a year ago, a 10 percent increase.
Gene Ritch, president of Coldwell Banker MM Parrish Realtors and a 34-year veteran of the Gainesville real estate scene, said, "It scares me when they look at numbers of a 30- or 31-day period against another 30- and 31-day period. Look at 90 days, and it will tell you something. Just looking at one month, it depends on when weekends fell, when closings occurred. It doesn't show the true market."
But he did concur, "Activity in January was definitely greater than a year ago, and it continues through February."
He added, "We have convinced folks there is no such thing as a 'housing bubble' here, like you hear so much about in the rest of the country. People are worried they are going to pay too much for property that will not be worth as much a year from now. Because of supply and demand, prices in Gainesville are only going to go up."
"We will have 16 million people coming through Florida this year. Many of them are going to want to come to a lifestyle such as offered by Gainesville and Alachua County. It's unbelievable how many are trying to come here," Ritch said.
The age of buyers also affects purchases and prices.
"A disproportionate number of young retirees - 50 and older - are moving to university communities. It's happening all over the South. They buy homes, go back to school, take advantage of sports and arts programs, use the medical facilities," he added.
Ritch said it seems real estate agents "can hardly supply the product fast enough," and that there continues to be an abundance of new homes to help supply the increased demand as well.
Bonnie Mott, president of the Gainesville/Alachua County Board of Realtors, said home sales are increasing because "the interest rates are still low. People thought they might go up, but they have not climbed significantly.
"And consumer confidence is still good as far as the housing industry is concerned. Housing is a great investment, it has been for three or four years particularly."
According to FAR, Realtors from across the state reported that high buyer demand contributed to a tight inventory of homes available for sale in most markets and impacted median sales price. A median sales price means half the homes sold for more than the figure, half for less.
The statewide median sales price in January rose 24 percent to $204,900; a year ago, it was $164,900. In January 2000, the statewide median sales price for single-family homes was $109,200, resulting in an increase of 87.6 percent during the five-year-period, according to FAR records.
The median price of resale single-family homes in Gainesville was $135,000 in January 2004 and $140,400 in January 2005. Five years ago, the median sales price for single-family homes here was $111,600, a 25.8 percent increase during the period leading up to January 2005.
Gainesville MLS records show January 2005 saw an average selling price for homes and condominiums of $170,618. No local monthly median prices are calculated. The 28 condominium/townhomes sold for an average $132,883, all but three below $200,000. Of the 289 single-family homes, 77 sold for more than $200,000.
The Ocala area saw a 13 percent increase in sales between January 2004 (334 sales) and January 2005 (378) but their median prices went from $94,800 to $119,600, a 26 percent increase since this time last year. Tallahassee saw 43 percent more homes sold this January, with only a 10 percent increase between the two months. Median prices in January 2005 were $158,800, which represents a whopping 124.3 percent increase over the median price of $70,800 five years ago.
According to FAR figures, the most dramatic increase between the two January statistics was experienced in the Punta Gorda area, where sales actually dropped 18 percent, but the median prices rose from $144,800 in January 2004 to $196,000 last month, a 35 percent increase.
According to FAR statistics, the highest-price sales in January were in the Naples area. While only 384 single-family homes (excluding condos or townhomes) sold last month, the median price was $497,900, a 27 percent increase over last January. In January 1995, the median prices of homes in that Southwest Florida community was $137,000. This amounts to a 263.7 percent rise in home prices during 10 years.
In December 2004, the national median sales price was $188,900, up 8.1 percent from the previous year when the median price was $174,800.
In January 2005, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.71 percent - exactly the same average a year ago. Data obtained Monday indicated the average Florida rate dropped to 5.21 percent in February 2005.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or

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