Home sales fall sharply in area

Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Gainesville home sales dropped 24 percent in November as compared to the previous year, reflecting a continuing slump in the national housing market.

The median price of existing single-family homes and condominiums also fell in the Gainesville metropolitan area from November 2006 to November 2007, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. Sales of existing condominiums saw a slight decline over the period.

Statewide, home sales decreased 30 percent in the year-to-year comparison. Nearly every major metropolitan area in the state experienced plummeting home sales, including an Ocala area that saw a 50 percent drop.

Realtors say the tight housing market is good news for buyers - and even sellers who expect a realistic return on their homes.

"If it's in great shape and it's priced right, you'll sell it," said Beverly Archer, a Realtor with Matchmaker Realty of Alachua County.

Florida's declining home sales are part of a national trend that showed some signs of abating. National home sales fell 20 percent in the year-to-year comparison - though they did rise slightly from October numbers.

Home sales are expected to remain flat over the next few months, said Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. But the year could end up rebounding to levels seen in early 2007, he said.

"Right now we're looking at 2008 as being a mirror image of 2007," he said.

The Gainesville metropolitan area, which includes Alachua and Gilchrist counties, saw across-the-board declines.

In the area, 153 single-family existing homes were sold in November 2007 as compared to 201 sold in November 2006. The median price of homes sold in the area was $203,800, a 4 percent decline over the period.

Sales of existing condominiums in the area also fell slightly, with 36 condos sold in November 2007 as compared to 37 in November 2006. But the average price of condos dropped more dramatically in the period, falling 13 percent to $146,700. Statewide, sales and prices also fell. Florida's median sales price for existing single-family homes was $239,800, a 10 percent decline from the previous November.

Sales of existing condos across the state fell 29 percent. The median price of condos dropped 9 percent.

Virtually every housing market in the state experienced declining sales. Miami saw the largest decline of single-family home sales at 59 percent, followed by the Ocala area.

At least one Gainesville Realtor said she's seeing signs of an improving market.

Brooke Bass of Keller Williams Gainesville Realty said the past six weeks have been a time of increased activity.

"I've had more sales in the last month than in the last five months," she said. "Usually December is a slow time."

Molony said real estate agents are hoping for a cut in interest rates later this month. A cut could send a signal to people who are nervous about the market, he said. "There's a lot of people on the sidelines waiting for signs of stability," he said.

Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 352-338-3176 or crabben@gville sun.com.

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