St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

More of same: Home sales fall

Existing home sales in state drop sharply, but prices remain strong - at least for now.

Published April 26, 2006

Here's more evidence that the hot Florida real estate market has lost its sizzle: Sales of existing homes fell 22 percent in March, the fifth straight down month, the Florida Association of Realtors said Tuesday. While prices are 17 percent higher than they were a year ago, they have leveled off in recent months.

Nationally, the inventory of unsold homes hit a record 3.2-million units in March, while sales were flat.

"We were in a market where someone sold something for $400,000, the next person put it on the market for $450,000 and the next person listed it for $475,000," said Realtor Carolyn Kling of Tierra Verde Realty Inc. "That kind of rapid acceleration in price is not happening any longer, but people who are properly pricing properties are selling them."

She called the slowdown a return to stability after an incredible year.

However, rising numbers of unsold homes likely will hurt consumer confidence, which already is feeling the impact of higher gasoline prices, said Chris McCarty, director of survey research at the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The bureau reported Tuesday that its Florida consumer confidence index dipped two points in April, even as the national index rose two points to its highest level in almost four years.

McCarty said he expects most of the state to see a return to single-digit appreciation in home prices, but some parts might see a decline in prices for high-end homes. He said homeowners who hoped to tap their home equity will feel the impact.

Statewide, 18,881 homes sold in March, down from 24,091 in March 2005. The median sale price of $248,200 was 17 percent higher than in 2005 and double the median price of $121,600 in March 2001. However, it is little changed so far this year.

In the Tampa Bay area, sales fell 26 percent, while the median sales price of $222,800 was up 24 percent over last year, but flat so far this year. The Miami market was the state's strongest in March, with sales up 21 percent.

"It's like a stock market correction," said Virginia Lomagno, who manages St. Petersburg offices for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. "I think what we've lost are the speculators."

In Pinellas County, listings have tripled in the last year. The imbalance between sales and listings is particularly striking in the condo market.

"The huge surge of apartment conversions has increased that inventory so drastically that we are seeing some softening of prices," said Clearwater Realtor Phil Rogers of Realty Executives Suncoast.

"In this transition we're going to see a little more time on the market and properties certainly not going up at the appreciation rates we've seen in the past," Rogers said. "It's basic supply and demand."

Sales of existing condominiums fell 10 percent in the Tampa Bay area and 23 percent statewide. The median price was $172,300 in the Tampa Bay area and $214,200 statewide.

David Lereah, the Realtors' chief economist, said he was still looking for a gradual slowdown in housing that would result in a drop of around 6 percent in home sales this year and a slowing in price gains to around 6 percent, compared with the double-digit gains in prices in recent years.

This year's rise in mortgage rates is dampening sales of both existing and new homes and forcing builders to cut back on construction of new homes. Housing has been one of the standout performers in the current four-year-long economic expansion.

Information from Associated Press was used in this report. Helen Huntley can be reached at or 727 893-8230.

[Last modified April 26, 2006, 01:21:08]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters