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Home sales on upswing

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002


HOME SALES SAIL: More than 1,700 homes traded hands in Tampa in April -- up from 1,400 a year ago, reports the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. From Jan. 1 through April 30, home sales passed 5,600, compared to 4,700 in the first third of 2001.

That's quite an upswing since the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, says Rick Miller, a real estate agent with Smith and Associates in South Tampa.

"We were pretty morose around here October, November and December," Miller says.

But the market began turning around in January, and now it has "settled into a really fast groove," Miller says, noting that he had 15 contracts pending in recent weeks, a volume he hasn't seen in the 17 years he has been selling real estate in Tampa.

"And it's all price ranges," Miller says. "It goes from over a million to the $200,000 and $300,000 range."

While other industries struggle in a challenging economy, the housing market marches on.

U.S. sales of existing single-family homes rose in April and are close to the highest level of activity ever recorded, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales rose 7 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.79-million units from a level of 5.41-million units in March.

Last month's sales activity was 9.5 percent above the 5.29-million unit pace in April 2001, and was the third highest pace on record.

Experts attribute the surge to low interest rates, strong demand, high consumer confidence and an improving economy.

HUFF AND PUFF, but no hurricane will blow this house down.

At the request of one client, Milford Custom Homes built a house in Beach Park last year with the steel-and-concrete construction usually reserved for commercial buildings.

Most residences are built with wood trusses and studs, company owner Leon Goldenberg says, but this home, on Sylvan Ramble, has concrete walls and roof trusses made of steel.

The second floor sits on 5 inches of solid concrete.

Not only is the home more likely to withstand hurricane force winds, it is also termite resistant.

From the curb, it looks like any other Mediterranean revival.

-- Write to Janet Zink in care of the St. Petersburg Times at 1000 N Ashley Drive, Suite 700, Tampa, FL 33602; or by e-mail, janet.zink@gte.net.

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