Dec. sales of existing homes see rapid rise

It was the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year gains for the area.

A home for sale is shown in Homestead, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009.

Alan Diaz/The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 10:12 p.m.

Gainesville existing home sales ended 2009 with a fourth straight month of year-over-year gains to close the gap to 5 percent off the pace for 2008, the Florida Realtors reported Monday.

December sales were up 40 percent over December 2008 - from 121 sales to 169 - compared to a 33 percent statewide increase.

For the year, the Gainesville metro area of Alachua and Gilchrist counties finished with 1,828 sales, compared to 1,925 in 2008.

The annual numbers would have been closer, but a growing number of short sales are taking longer to complete - typically three to six months - as banks balk at sales below what they are owed, said Joyce Dorval, president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors and broker for Kanapaha Realty.

Gainesville's 1,828 sales for 2009 is the lowest since 2000 and is down 54 percent from a high of 3,993 in 2005.

With the momentum of the past several months, Dorval said she anticipates a slow steady rise in sales that will take two to three years to return to normal.

Back to normal, however, does not mean back to 2005 numbers.

"I don't think we're ever going to make it the way it was when things were wild," she said.

Statewide sales were up 31 percent for the year and Gainesville's 5 percent annual decline was the lowest of 18 metro areas. With a relatively stable economy fueled by government and medical employment, local sales numbers were not inflated by the higher rate of foreclosures and short sales as in most of the state.

Tallahassee - a major government market - was the only other market with negative sales for the year, down 1 percent.

After the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers led to a surge of sales from September to November, nationwide sales fell as expected in December as the original credit expired, according to the National Association of Realtors.

First-time buyers accounted for 51 percent of sales in November, down to 43 percent in December.

Sales of all property types were down 17 percent from November to December, but were still up 15 percent over December 2008.

The credit was extended to April 30 and expanded to include existing owners eligible for up to $6,500 for buying, so is expected to create another late spring surge.

Tommy McIntosh of ERA Trend Realty said he is seeing more existing homeowners trading up, some of whom want to build new homes. That has more to do with renewed optimism than the confusing new tax credit requirements, he said.

"Over the last couple years we hadn't seen that local trade-up buyer," he said.

Dorval said she is seeing more high-end renters who pay $1,200 to $1,500 a month who are now buying homes after sitting out for a few years to see what the market would do.

The median sales price in Gainesville was down 10 percent in December, from $180,700 to $163,300, matching the 10 percent state decline from $155,300 to $140,400.

For the year, Gainesville's median price was $168,700, down 11 percent from 2008's $189,100.

The median was the lowest since $162,100 in 2004 and down 21 percent from a high of $213,200 in 2006.

The state median was down 24 percent in 2009, from $187,700 to $142,600.

The U.S. median was up 2 percent from $175,200 in December 2008 to $178,300 in December 2009, but down 12 percent for the year, from $198,600 in 2008 to $173,200 last year.

Gainesville's existing condominium sales were by far the worst in the state in 2009, down 44 percent from 578 to 326 sales for the only negative showing in a state that saw sales rise 47 percent over 2008.

The year ended on a positive, however, with a 50 percent increase in December, from 14 to 21, while statewide sales were up 91 percent over December 2008.

Gainesville's median condo price for the year was down 16 percent, from $142,400 to $119,100.

The state median was down 34 percent from $164,200 to $108,000.

For December, Gainesville's median price was down 30 percent, from $140,000 to $97,500, while the state median was down 18 percent, from $130,300 to $107,000.

Contact Anthony Clark at 374-5094 or

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