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Record low number of South Florida houses sold in '07

Sun-Sentinel - 1/24/2008 12:00:00 AM
by Paul Owers

The median price of an existing single-family home sold in Palm Beach County last year dropped 4 percent to $369,400 from $384,700 in 2006, the Florida Association of Realtors said Thursday. Yearly sales dropped 19 percent, to 6,971 from 8,640.

It was by far the fewest number of homes to change hands in a single year since the Realtors group started releasing statistics in 1994.

Broward County also had a record low number of sales last year. There were 6,127 sales, down 27 percent from 8,373 in 2006. Broward's annual median price dipped 1 percent, to $363,100 from $367,800 a year ago. The yearly price decline was a first for Broward, according to the Realtors group.

The local numbers mirrored a national trend.

The median price for an existing single-family home declined 1.8 percent to $217,000 in 2007, the first yearly price drop since 1968, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales of single-family homes plunged by the largest amount in 25 years.

After five years of fast sales and record price increases, South Florida's housing market soured in 2006. Some analysts had expected it to improve by late 2007, but instead the slump deepened as foreclosure filings and the inventory of homes for sale spiked. What's more, last summer's credit crunch forced lenders to tighten standards, which reduced the pool of qualified buyers. Now experts don't expect a housing rebound until late this year or 2009.

"It was the perfect storm of challenges for the industry," said Jeff Kaufman, SunTrust Bank's senior vice president for lending in South Florida.

In December, Palm Beach County's median price of $337,900 fell 8 percent from $368,200 in December 2006. Sales last month tumbled 23 percent, to 467 from 607 in December a year ago.

The median price for an existing home in Broward last month was $329,800, down 10 percent from $367,600 in December 2006. Broward sales last month plummeted 33 percent, to 415 from 618 last December.

South Florida's condominium markets also struggled in December and throughout 2007.

Palm Beach County condo sales in 2007 dropped 8 percent, to 5,674 from 6,139 a year ago. The median price of $198,000 was off 10 percent from $220,400 in 2006.

Broward sales fell 27 percent, to 6,533 from 8,996 last year. The median declined 10 percent, to $187,600 from $208,600 a year ago.