A total of 45,768 existing single-family homes were sold in Florida in the fourth quarter of 2003, a 12 percent increase compared with the final-quarter figure of 40,901 homes in 2002, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

The association attributed the results to a strong housing market along with rising consumer spending, exports and business purchases that boosted the economy in Florida and nationwide during the three-month period.

The median sales price in Florida rose 11 percent to $167,700. A year ago the median sales prices was $150,500.

Interest rates below 6 percent for most of the quarter prompted renters to buy their first homes and other homeowners to purchase larger residences, the association said in a statement. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.92 percent for quarter, according to Freddie Mac.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area reported a double-digit increase in both the number of homes sold and the median sales price for the fourth quarter of 2003. A total of 2,957 homes changed hands compared with 2,127 homes sold during the final quarter of 2002. The median sales price rose 22 percent to $204,100. It was $167,600 in fourth quarter 2002.

The West Palm Beach-Boca Raton area reported 3,897 homes sold in the fourth quarter, an 11 percent quarter-over-quarter gain. The market’s median sales price was $253,000 for the quarter, a 19 percent gain over the final quarter of 2002.

The Florida Realtor association has 100,000 members.

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