ORLANDO, Fla., March 23, 2006- Rising inventory levels and still-low mortgage rates continued to affect Florida’s housing market, which is adjusting to a better balance between buyers and sellers following a five-year run of record-pace sales. Statewide, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 13,539 in February compared to 16,916 homes a year ago, for a 20 percent decrease, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).

Realtors from across the state report that the supply of homes available for sale in their markets is improving, offering buyers more housing opportunities. The statewide median price for single-family existing homes last month was $244,200, up 24 percent from the February 2005 statewide median of $197,700.

In February 2001, the statewide median sales price was $118,200, which shows an increase of about 106 percent over the five-year period, according to FAR records. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

In California, the statewide median resales price in January 2006 was $551,300; in New York, it was $319,000; in Maryland, it was $290,776; and in North Carolina, the average resales price was $206,788. Nationally, the median sales price for existing single-family homes in January was $210,500, up 13.1 percent from January 2005.

Sales of existing condominiums in Florida also decreased last month, with a total of 4,342 condos sold statewide compared to 5,643 in February 2005 for a 23 percent decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos rose 11 percent to $218,700 last month; a year ago, it was $197,000. The national median existing condo price was $216,900 in January 2006.

Along with the University of Florida Real Estate Research Center, the Florida Association of Realtors began compiling data on closed condo sales for comparison purposes in 2005; the condo data series began in January 2006.

Favorable mortgage rates continued to spark buyers’ interest in markets across the state. Last month, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.25 percent, up from the 5.63 percent average rate in February 2005. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported a total of 1,200 single-family existing homes sold in the area in February compared to 1,218 homes a year ago for a 1 percent decrease. The median sales price rose 14 percent to $196,200; a year ago, it was $171,800.

Kay Seitzinger, president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and assistant manager with Watson Realty Corp. in Ponte Vedra, says a convenient location, employment opportunities and appealing lifestyle attract people to the Jacksonville area.

"The continued strong market we are having here in northeast Florida is considerably influenced by our area’s stable economy," she says. "With our diverse business base and positive job outlook, people continue to relocate to the greater Jacksonville area. Add to that our great quality of life — with so many arts and leisure activities, who wouldn’t want to live here?"

As for smaller markets in Florida, the Tallahassee MSA, reported strong resales activity last month with a total of 330 single-family homes changing hands compared to 298 homes a year ago for an increase of 11 percent. The area’s median sales price rose 15 percent to $185,800; a year ago, it was $161,300.

Kenny Ayers, president of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors and new-home specialist with Heritage Homes Realty of Tallahassee representing Turner Heritage Homes, notes that the area’s changing seasons and friendly community appeal to many homebuyers.

"As the state capital, we have a lot of job opportunities with the government and state offices, plus three big universities and colleges," he says. "The Tallahassee area is convenient to the coast and offers a nice mix of art and cultural activities along with a laid-back, friendly lifestyle.

A chart showing statistics for Florida and its 20 MSAs is available by clicking here. The chart compares the volume of existing, single-family home sales and median sales prices in Febraury 2006 compared to February 2005, based on Realtor transactions.