Florida home sales soared to new heights in March with a total of 21,610 homes sold statewide for a 29 percent increase over March 2003’s sales of 16,725 homes, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

The statewide median price rose 12 percent to $168,400; a year ago, it was $150,400. In March 1999, the statewide median sales price was $101,100, resulting in a 66.5 percent increase over the five-year-period, FAR records show. 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 $168,100 in February, up 5.7 percent from the previous February when it was $159,000. In California, the statewide median resales price was $394,300 in February; in North Carolina, the average resales price was $181,711; in Virginia, the median price was $163,858; in Illinois, it was $155,700; and in Ohio, the average resales price was $139,977.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported a 40 percent jump in home sales last month with a total of 3,466 homes sold; a year ago, a total of 2,473 homes sold. The median sales price rose 11 percent to $152,200; last year, it was $137,700.

Greg Rokeh, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association and a REO specialist with Watson Realty Corp., said low mortgage rates and central Florida’s recovering economy are fueling the area’s housing market.

“Economic activity in the Orlando area is strong, employers are adding staff, and people are starting to feel good about central Florida’s economic future, which encourages home-buying,” he said. “March was a record-breaking month for home sales in the Orlando area.”

Other large Florida MSAs reporting robust home sales last month include: Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, where 3,443 homes changed hands for a 44 percent boost; and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, where 1,496 homes sold for a 21 percent increase over March 2003 sales. The median sales price also rose in those markets: in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, 20 percent to $272,100; and in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, 6 percent to $149,500.

Also reporting a phenomenal month for resales activity was Panama City – one of the state’s smaller markets – with 272 homes changing hands, compared to 151 home sales a year ago for an 80 percent jump. The median sales price rose 13 percent in March to $146,300; a year ago, it was $129,000.

Low interest rates and the discovery of the Panama City area as a prime location for real estate investment are influencing the market’s home sales, said Roy Crecelius, president elect of the Bay County Association of Realtors and broker-manager of the Panama City Beach office for ERA Neubauer Real Estate.

Other smaller MSAs in the state reporting higher March sales compared to last year include: Fort Walton Beach where 449 homes sold for a 54 percent increase; and Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie where 679 homes changed hands for a 39 percent increase. The median sales price also rose in those markets: in Fort Walton Beach, 31 percent to $180,300; and in Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie, 15 percent to $169,100.

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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Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to dave@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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