The local real estate market nearly screeched to a halt in late 2005, said Alvin Arner, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Stuart, Fla., and has since been climbing back toward normal conditions. There was a temporary standstill in 2004, too, after the double blow of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in the area. The "snowbirds" -- property owners and vacationers who travel to Florida from colder-climate areas -- have been slow to return. Speculators have mostly skidded out of the market, new construction projects have slowed down, and prices have retreated about 15-20 percent, said Arner. He expects 2007 to be a better year, though, and 2008 to be better still. Coastal regions tend to experience sharper pains and gains from real estate gloom and boom than thos...
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