Demand for single-family existing homes in Florida continues to climb with no peak in sight, as resales activity increased 21 percent in the first quarter of 2004, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

Overall, a total of 51,693 homes changed hands during January, February and March – 9,080 more than the 42,613 homes sold a year ago.

The statewide median sales price rose 13 percent to $166,100 in the first quarter; a year ago, it was $146,900. In 1999, the first-quarter statewide median sales price was $101,900, translating to a 63 percent increase over the five-year period.

Signs that the economy – both in Florida and nationwide – is gaining momentum prompted many buyers to take advantage of the still historically low interest rates in the first quarter and helped to boost resales numbers for the three-month period. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 5.6 percent in first quarter 2004; last year, it was 5.84 percent.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Orlando metropolitan statistical area (MSA) reported a 32 percent gain in home sales for the quarter with 8,237 homes sold, compared to 6,259 homes sold a year ago. The market’s median sales price increased 10 percent to $148,800; a year ago, it was $135,300.

Buyers’ appetite for homes in the Orlando area has resulted in a low supply of existing homes still on the market, said Greg Rokeh, REO property specialist with Watson Realty Corp. and president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Other larger Florida markets reporting a boost in resales activity for the quarter compared to first quarter 2003 include: Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, where 8,060 homes changed hands for a 30 percent increase; and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, where 3,573 homes sold for a 14 percent gain. The median home price also rose in those markets over the same period: in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, 19 percent to $267,000; and in Tampa-St. Petersburg- Clearwater, 8 percent to $149,300.

Among the state’s small- to medium-size markets, the Panama City MSA posted a 38 percent increase in resales for the quarter, with 616 homes changing hands compared to 447 homes sold a year ago. Over the same period, the market’s median home price rose 11 percent to $148,500; a year ago, it was $134,000.

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, agrees that buyers currently are demonstrating a ‘buy-now attitude.” He says, “The beach properties in this area are considered a bargain, especially when you compare it to the cost of waterfront property in other areas. We have a lot of buyers coming in from other parts of Florida, as well as other states.”

Other smaller markets reporting double-digit increases in existing home sales in the first quarter of 2004 include: Fort Walton Beach, where 1,024 homes sold for a 37 percent jump; Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay, where 1,817 homes changed hands for a 27 percent gain; and Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie, where 1,583 homes sold for a 26 percent increase. The median sales price also rose in those markets: in Fort Walton Beach, 21 percent to $171,000; in Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie, 19 percent to $169,800; and in Melbourne-Titusville- Palm Bay, 17 percent to $145,800.

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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