A total of 16,127 single-family existing homes changed hands in Florida last month for an 18 percent increase over the 13,642 homes sold a year ago, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

The statewide median sales price rose 13 percent to $162,300 last month; a year ago, it was $143,400. In 1999, the statewide median sales price was $100,200, which shows an increase of 62 percent over the five-year period, according to FAR records. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Florida’s median sales price compares favorably to the national median sales price for existing single-family homes, which was $168,700 in January, up 5.4 percent from the previous January. In California, the statewide median resales price was $405,720 in January; in New York, it was $239,900; in North Carolina, the average resales price was $181,477; in Illinois, the median price was $166,200; and in Ohio, the average price for an existing home last month was $137,297.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported increased resales activity and a boost in the median sales price in February. A total of 2,561 homes sold in the area last month, compared to 1,993 homes a year ago for a 28 percent gain. The median sales price rose 9 percent to $147,100; a year ago, it was $135,100.

Alan Riley, chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Association of Realtors and broker-owner of RE/MAX Affiliates in Seminole, said low mortgage rates are attracting buyers who are drawn to the Tampa Bay area’s quality of life.

“We have a nice mix of bedroom communities in the Tampa Bay area, which means there is a wide range of inventory for people to choose from when it comes to finding the home that’s right for them,” he says. “All the economic indicators here remain very positive, which is good for business and for home sales.”

Other large MSAs reporting higher home sales last month compared to a year ago include: Orlando, where 2,577 homes changed hands for a 29 percent jump; and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, where 1,074 homes sold for a 7 percent increase. The median sales price also rose in those markets over the same time period: in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, 16 percent to $261,000; and in Orlando, 9 percent to $148,100.

As for smaller markets in Florida, February was a good month for Gainesville, with a total of 203 homes sold, compared to 155 homes a year ago, for a 31 percent boost. The area’s median sales price rose 13 percent to $148,100; a year ago, it was $131,500.

Bonnie Mott, president-elect of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors and broker-owner of Prudential Preferred Properties of Gainesville, agrees that historically low mortgage rates are fueling the area’s strong housing market.

“It’s a combination of factors: the interest rates are still low and have dropped from what they were at the first of the year,” she says. “We also are experiencing a lot of new development in the Gainesville area, and the prices of new homes are increasing, which is encouraging people to look at existing homes.”

Other smaller markets reporting increases in last month’s resales activity include: Fort Walton Beach, where 300 homes changed hands for a 33 percent increase; and Naples, where 373 homes sold for a 28 percent gain.

The median sales price in those markets also rose: in Naples, 42 percent to $389,000 (the highest in the state); and in Fort Walton Beach, 16 percent to $157,700.

The Florida Association of Realtors provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 100,000 members in 70 boards/associations.

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