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Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 31, 201012:00 PM EST

Miami, Tampa home prices at rock bottom?

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by David Royse

The News Service of Florida

Housing prices in Miami and Tampa hit their lowest levels in October since home prices started their downward cascade in 2006, a major housing market gauge reported providing more bad economic news in a state where recovery is sputtering behind the rest of the nation.

Miami, at least, may soon see a bump back up, if sales activity portends price increases. Likely in part because of the cut-rate prices, sales of existing homes in Miami were nearly 50 percent higher in November than in the same month a year ago, according to a separate report from Florida Realtors earlier this month.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, a national barometer of the housing market’s health that tracks 20 major metro areas, reported that prices of single family homes dropped 1.3 percent in those markets from September to October, but that the drop in the two Florida cities, and four others around the country, put home prices at a new low for this recessionary period.

In addition to Miami and Tampa, the other four cities where prices in October reached their lowest levels since the housing market collapse started were Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Year-to-year housing price gains were seen in only a few areas, mostly in California.

“There is no good news in October’s report,” said David M. Blitzer, chair of Standard & Poor’s Index Committee, in a release accompanying the report.

“The trends we have seen over the past few months have not changed. The tax incentives are over and the national economy remained lackluster in October, the month covered by these data. Existing home sales and housing starts have been reported for both October and November, and neither is giving any sense of optimism,” he said.

Statewide, median home prices for existing homes were 5 percent lower in November than a year earlier according to the Realtors report.

But it didn’t generally seem to be translating to a pickup in sales, which were also down by 15 percent statewide, from November 2009.

Miami was one of the few exceptions where sales jumped up last month. That year-ago month was an anomaly, though, because sales were brisk in November 2009 due to an ending first-time homebuyer credit offered under the federal stimulus package.

Statewide, the median home price last month was $132,700. The November median price for a home in the Miami metro area was $171,500, according to the Realtors report. In the Tampa area, the median price was $125,000 last month.

In the Jacksonville area, Florida Realtors reported that single-family existing home sales fell 17 percent in the Jacksonville area from November 2009 to last month, while the median sales price dropped 5 percent. Realtors sold 1,101 area homes in November 2009 and 912 this November. The median sales price dropped from $151,600 to $144,700.

The Realtors also said that existing condominium sales in Northeast Florida rose 26 percent over the year, while the median sales price declined 8 percent. In November 2009, Realtors sold 132 existing condos compared to 166 this year, while the median sales price last year was $90,000 and this year dropped to $83,100.

The Case-Shiller index is a far more complex measurement of changes in value of homes over time, involving calculations of price changes between two sales of the same home.

The Case-Shiller index showed Miami home prices down 3.4 percent in October from a year earlier and 1.1 percent lower than in September. Tampa prices were 3.6 percent lower than a year ago and down 0.9 percent from September.

S&P’s Blitzer pointed out that the supply of unsold homes nationwide remains about 50 percent above where it was in the fall of 2009, which is keeping prices low.

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