Still low mortgage rates and the steadily improving economy boosted Florida’s housing market to a strong start in 2004 with a 12 percent increase in single-family existing home sales in January, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

Statewide, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 12,520 last month compared to 11,161 homes sold a year ago. The statewide median sales price rose 15 percent to $168,100; a year ago, it was $146,500.

In January 1999, the statewide median sales price for single-family homes was $102,100, which demonstrates a 64.6 percent gain over the five-year- period, according to FAR records.

Florida’s median sales price compares favorably to the national median sales price for existing single-family homes, which was $173,200 in December 2003, up 6.7 percent from the previous December. In California, the statewide median resales price was $404,520 in December; in North Carolina, the average resales price was $185,034; in Illinois, the median price was $171,800; in Virginia, it was $158,613; and in Ohio, the average resales price was $150,514.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Miami Metropolitan Statistical Area reported double-digit gains in home sales and in the median sales price last month. A total of 834 homes changed hands in January compared to 760 homes a year ago for a 10 percent increase. The median sales price rose 24 percent to $246,200; a year ago, it was $197,900.

Influencing the Miami housing market is the current tight supply of homes for sale and a corresponding high demand among buyers, says Jay Chernoff, chairman-elect of the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and The Beaches and district sales manager with The Keyes Co. Inc.

Other large metro areas also reporting increased sales last month compared to the previous year: Orlando, where 2,194 homes sold for a 23 percent boost; and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, where 1,003 homes changed hands for a 13 percent gain. The median sales price of the homes sold in those markets also rose compared to a year ago: in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, 20 percent to $265,200; and in Orlando, 9 percent to $144,000.

Among the state’s smaller markets, Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay reported strong sales in January, with a total of 474 homes sold compared to 358 homes a year ago for a 32 percent jump. The median sales price rose 12 percent to $143,400; a year ago, it was $127,800.

Other small- to medium-sized metro areas in the state reporting gains in their resales activity last month compared to January 2003 include: Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie, where 473 homes sold for a 33 percent increase; and Ocala, where 334 homes changed hands for a 21 percent boost. Those same markets also had higher median sales prices last month compared to a year ago: in Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie, 21 percent to $171,200; and in Ocala, 18 percent to $94,800.

The Florida Association of Realtors represents 100,000 members across 70 boards/associations.

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