Existing home sales plummet 27 percent in Gainesville

Published: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.

Officials announed Monday that the state saw a 4 percent decline in existing home sales during 2008. The picture was much worse in the Gainesville market, where the sales numbers plunged 27 percent.

The figures, released by the Florida Association of Realtors, show Gainesville had 1,925 existing home sales in 2008, down from 2,644 in 2007.

The median price decreased 10 percent to $189,1000.

Also released Monday were the sales figures for December 2008. During the month, Gainesville had a 32 percent dip in sales -- 121, down from 179 -- with only a 4 percent decline in median price to $180,700.

Craig McCall, president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors, said although the numbers are down he is expecting to see more buyers enter the market as interest rates remain low and demand for housing increases to help deplete existing inventory. McCall expects to see more activity in the local market, fueled by the University of Florida and the local medical community, from buyers who may not have been able to sell homes in other areas to make purchases here.

"It's a great time to buy. A lot of buyers are sitting on the fence, not sure of when funds from the federal bailout are going to hit main street," he said. "We are seeing more buyers visiting open houses, more leads coming from the internet and as UF and Santa Fe make their announcements of acceptance that should help increase the buyer pool."

McCall said things are not going to bounce back to peak levels like in 2005 or 2006, but the long-term outlook looks positive, "but it will take some time, a few months before a positive swing on sales. He is encouraged by President Obama attention to the housing market and the effort to provide relief.

The area's condo market, which experienced a 71 percent nosedive in sales in 2008, had a 4 percent increase in median price and McCall expects to see a up turn in the sector as well.

McCall, who attended a meeting of the Florida Association of Realtors over the weekend in Orlando, said the group's lead economist also predicts sales to pick up.

Aaron Bosshardt, president of Bosshardt Realty, said while the area's real estate market is a bit insulated with UF and other state and county offices, "we need to be aware of cuts that may come with government because a lot of economy is based on it and we have to be ready to overcome the obstacle."

The company just took over sales at Tower 24, a mixed use development on southwest 75th Street, and has seen increasing traffic to open house events in recent weeks.

He expects it may be March, April, May or even June before the local tone of the local market is set.

"I don't see a big bounce back because there has been a shift in consumer behavior. It's a big change from where we came from and consumer confidence is not there," McCall said.

A survey of economic experts released last week by the University of Florida reports confidence in the state's real estate market has plummeted. In the report, Wayne Archer, executive director of UF's Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies, said regardless of the segment, with few expectations, the survey finds belief in the market has sagged to lows seldom seen in the state.

"The big news is that the recession and the latest shocks in the financial markets and automobile industry have finally taken their toll," Archer said. "People not only foresee tough times in the short-term, but they're also revising downward their longer-term future outlook."

Contact Harriet Daniels at harriet.daniels@gvillesun.com or 352-338-3166.

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