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Home prices tumble again

The median price in the bay area for an existing home is poised to dip below $200,000.

By CHRISTINA REXRODE, Times Staff Writer
Published October 25, 2007


For the first time in 2 1/2 years, the price of a Tampa Bay home is poised to fall below $200,000.

According to data released Wednesday by the Florida Association of Realtors, the median sales price of an existing home here was $200,700 in September. That's a 10 percent decline from last year's $222,100 sales price, and a 6 percent decline from just the previous month, when the median price was $214,100.

As sales continue to plummet - in the Tampa Bay area, they're off 40 percent over the year - sellers are finally waking up to the fact that they'll have to lower their prices if they hope to get rid of their property.

That's a point they didn't grasp last year. Throughout 2006, the area's median housing price stayed in the $220,000s and $230,000s range, even though sales were falling by 30 or 40 percent back then, too.

The price slashing should provide psychological relief for entry-level workers and other wanna-be home buyers, who could have snapped up a home in the $130,000s if they'd been buying five years ago. The median housing price here hasn't dipped below the $200,000 mark - or come close to it - since May of 2005.

The September data for the Tampa Bay area is in line with figures for all of Florida, where sales fell 38 percent and the median housing price fell 9 percent to $221,200.

Across the nation, the housing industry is in its worst slump in 16 years, and turmoil in the mortgage markets is only creating more problems.

U.S. sales of existing homes were down 20 percent over the year, according to data released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

The nation's median housing price fell 4.9 percent over the year, to $210,200, marking the 13th time in the past 14 months that the year-over-year sales price has decreased. (Prices in the Northeast and Midwest, however, were still on the rise.)

Among Florida metro areas, Naples remained the most expensive area in the state; the median housing price there was $450,000, though that's a 16 percent decline from the year before. Pensacola had the cheapest housing; its median housing price was $159,800, which represents a 5 percent decline over the year.

Michael Bullock, the president of Michael's Carpet & Vinyl in Lakeland, says the housing slump has forced him to shift his focus from residential to commercial clients.

A year ago, about three-quarters of his jobs were in new or remodeled homes. Now, about three-quarters of his jobs are in office buildings. He knows of two nearby carpet stores that were recently shuttered because they did only residential jobs.

"I'm not hearing anything" from home builders, said Bullock, 53.

"Commercial is where the money's at right now."

By the numbers

$200,700 Median sales price of existing homes in the Tampa Bay area in September 2007.

$222,100 Median sales price of existing homes in the Tampa Bay area in September 2006.

-9.6 Percent change

1,691 Sales of existing homes in the Tampa Bay area in September 2007.

2,803 Sales of existing homes in the Tampa Bay area in September 2006.

-39.7 Percent change

Source: Florida Association of Realtors

[Last modified October 24, 2007, 23:09:05]

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