ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/––Just like the weather, Florida's housing market showed no signs of cooling off in October. Statewide, a total of 13,696 existing single-family homes sold last month compared to 11,720 homes a year ago––a gain of 17 percent, according to the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR).

The statewide median sales price also registered a double-digit increase last month––rising 13 percent from the $124,400 reported a year ago to the current high of $140,900. In October 1997, the statewide median sales price was $96,400, translating to an increase of about 46.2 percent over the five- year period.

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.11 percent last month, dropping from the average 6.62 percent rate recorded a year ago. FAR's sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written; therefore, some markets' sales figures from last year may reflect the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Among the state's larger cities, the Miami metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the highest percentage increase for number of homes sold during October, reporting a 26 percent boost over last year's activity. A total of 1,180 homes changed hands in Miami last month compared to 940 a year ago. The area's median sales price rose 16 percent in October, reaching $182,900 compared to $157,900 last year.

Deborah Valledor, chairwoman of the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches and a partner/owner of The Team Advantage Realtors in Coral Gables, says the latest trend for the area comes from buyers seeking homes in the "urban core."

"People had moved out to the suburbs in the western part of the county, drawn by the ability to buy more house for the money and the newness of construction," she says. "But now, they're tired of the long commute, and they're willing to give up square footage for quality of life issues."

Other larger Florida MSAs reporting increased sales for October compared to a year ago include: Orlando, where 2,389 homes sold for a 19 percent increase; and Jacksonville, where 1,208 homes changed hands for a 16 percent gain. The median sales price in those markets also rose last month compared to last year: in Orlando, increasing 11 percent to $131,700; and in Jacksonville, rising 7 percent to $128,100.

Among the state's smaller MSAs, Naples reported the biggest percentage increase in home sales last month, with 340 homes changing hands compared to 199 a year ago for a 71 percent jump. The market's median sales price rose 22 percent in October, reaching $256,100 compared to $209,800 last year.

Al DiNicola, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors and Association of Real Estate Professionals, says area homebuyers are taking advantage of historically low interest rates while they can, and the focus is on existing homes.

"The price of real estate for new home sites has risen dramatically and impact fees for new homes have skyrocketed," he says. "All of that is fueling a shift of interest to existing homes, especially for buyers who want to move closer to the beach."

Other smaller MSAs reporting increases in the number of homes sold last month compared to last year were: Gainesville, where 205 homes sold for a 50 percent increase; Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay, where 613 homes changed hands for a 33 percent gain; and Fort Walton Beach, where 289 homes sold for a 31 percent increase.

The median sales price in those markets also rose in October compared to a year ago: in Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay, reaching $114,900 for a 14 percent gain; in Fort Walton Beach, reaching $144,800 for an 11 percent increase; and in Gainesville, reaching $124,400 for a 3 percent increase.

A chart showing statistics for Florida and its 20 MSAs follows. The chart compares the volume of existing, single-family home sales and median sales prices in October 2002 to October 2001, based on Realtor transactions.

The Florida Association of Realtors, the voice for real estate in Florida, provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 85,000 members in 70 boards/associations. EC