Friday, February 16, 2007

Orlando Prices Hold Up in US

Home prices fell in about half of the nation's metro markets and throughout much of Florida in the fourth quarter, but the Orlando market posted a slight increase from the same period a year earlier, surveys released Thursday showed.

The National Association of Realtors said the median price for a single-family home sold in 73 of 149 metropolitan areas slipped 2.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005.

The national median -- half sold for less and half for more -- dipped to $219,300 from $225,300.

But the Florida Association of Realtors found that the median sale price of an existing home in Florida slipped only 1 percent during the same time, to $242,100.

Metro Orlando -- comprising Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties -- was one of only six metro areas in the state to record a fourth-quarter increase, rising 4 percent from the same period a year earlier.

But the $264,000 median for the final three months of the year masked some of the weakening that occurred late in the year, even in Metro Orlando. And the weakness has continued. January's sales, reported recently by Orlando Regional Realtor Association members, showed the median price for existing homes and condos dipped to $249,700, as sales plummeted.

The inventory of units for sale through local Realtors also swelled to 21,266 -- or 16.18 months worth at the slower January sales pace, reflecting the weaker demand.Of 20 metro areas in Florida, the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area showed the largest fourth-quarter price decline -- falling 23 percent to $256,400.

The Gainesville area posted the best gain, up 7 percent to $211,200, though sales were exceptionally light. Only 646 homes changed hands in that market, down 22 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

Statewide, sales were off 28 percent to 37,177 homes. The numbers do not include sales of houses by owners.Wayne Archer, director of the University of Florida's Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies, said there are signs of economic strength in Florida despite the weaker residential sector.

He noted that occupancy rates are "stable or increasing in most markets" including for apartments, office buildings, retail space, distribution and industrial warehouse space.

Employment also is good, interest rates have remained a little more stable than many expected, and "the fundamentals that drive rental income and occupancy are still very strong," Archer said. Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel 2/16/07.