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Home sales decline in PBC, Treasure Coast

Palm Beach Post - 4/24/2007 12:00:00 AM
by Linda Rawls

 

The Treasure Coast posted the biggest drop in single-family sales last month - 41 percent year over year - as the housing boom continue to deflate.

Homebuyers closed on 338 single-family homes in Martin and St. Lucie counties last month, compared with 573 a year ago, the Florida Association of Realtors.

Palm Beach County single-family home sales posted a smaller decline, in large part because the market was not as overheated as the Treasure Coast during the recent five-year boom. A total of 725 single-family homes sold in March, compared with 929 in March 2006, a 22 percent drop.

Prices also continued their precipitous drop in both markets - and in some categories the drop was bigger than the U.S. sales decline in March.

The median price of a single-family home in the Treasure Coast fell 7 percent, to $239,700 from $$258,000 in March 2006, FAR said.

In Palm Beach County, the median price of a single-family home fell 5 percent, to $375,100 from $393,700 a year ago, FAR said.

Statewide, single-family home sales dropped 28 percent, to 13,469 from 18,751 in March 2006, FAR said. The median price statewide fell 4 percent, to $236,000 from $244,600 in the same month a year ago.

The condominium market, once one of the hottest in the nation, also posted declines in March.

In Palm Beach County, condo sales fell 8 percent, to 650 from 706 a year ago, FAR said.

In the Treasure Coast, condo sales were unchanged from March of last year at 87 closings. The median price of an existing condo in the Treasure Coast showed one of the few gains in March, rising to a median of $202,300 from $186,300, a 9 percent increase.

Statewide, existing condo sales fell 32 percent, to 4,236 from 6,193 in March 2006, FAR said.

The price of an existing condo statewide rose 2 percent, to a median of $208,800 from $203,900 a year ago, FAR said.

The National Association of Realtors reported that March existing single-family home sales posted the biggest year-over-year decline since January 1989, falling 13.5 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.3 million. That compares with the 6.04 million pace in March of 2006.

U.S. condo sales also fell, dropping 7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 800,000, compared to a rate of 857,000 in March 2006, NAR said.

All four Census regions posted declining sales last month, NAR said.

Prices remained relatively stable nationwide thanks to a slight gain in the cost of existing condos, which continued to sell for more than single-family homes.

Higher condo prices are due in large part to the crazy speculation in the condo market that drove prices up during the five-year housing boom that came to a screeching halt last year.

Now those speculative buyers are trying to get their money back, at the least, a task made more difficult because of huge inventories.

There is an 8.5-month supply of condos nationwide, down from the 9.2-month supply in February, but up from the 7-month supply of condos for sale in March 2006.

For single-family homes, there's a 7.2-month supply, up from last month's 6.5-month supply and up sharply from a year ago, when there was a 5.4-month supply of single-family homes for sale.

Existing single-family homes that did sell last month closed at a median price of $215,300, down from a median price of $217,200 in March 2006, NAR said.

The median price of an existing condominium in March rose 3 percent to $228,200, up from $221,200 in March 2006, NAR said.

"Homes are selling," said analyst Celia Chen of Economy.com, "but only when they are priced attractively. Sellers who are not willing to reduce their prices are taking their homes off the market."

Prices and sales are expected to continue to cool off as the foreclosure crisis and the subprime crisis, tightened credit standards and the huge inventory of unsold homes combine to put the brakes on a housing market that reached record heights during the five-year boom.