Sales Jump In Ailing Markets

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It all depends on where you are right now in real estate, and whether you recognize the signs of the cycle bottoming out in some of the once-most distressed local markets.

Though the latest monthly sales numbers for existing homes were down slightly nationwide — 3.1 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis — sales in some of the hardest-hit local markets are really taking off, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors.

Florida, once the east coast epicenter of boom and bust, is roaring back with big sales gains.

Overall sales of single family homes in Florida jumped by 15 percent for the latest month — up 5 percent for condos — compared with year-earlier levels.

In Palm Beach County, sales were up by 37 percent. In Ft. Myers by 44 percent, Miami 23 percent, and 35 percent in Charlotte County.

Some scattered, smaller markets saw sales explode by as much as 70 percent, according to a report in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

In some of California’s most challenging markets, sales are also way up — and apparently heading higher. In Orange County — south of Los Angeles and close to ground-zero of the housing bust on the west coast — sales rose by 66.6 percent last month compared with the year before. And they were up by 62 percent year over year the month before.

This is the fourth straight month of significant sales increases for Orange County — a sure sign that something important is underway there.

And let’s be frank about what’s really going on.

It’s the same dynamic as in Florida: Prices have dropped sharply, bank foreclosures and short sales are dominating activity — and now houses are far more affordable than they were three and four year before.

In Orange County median prices were down by 27 percent year over year last month. In Florida, prices are also depressed — 24 percent lower than the year before. In Miami, the median is off by 30 percent.

Meanwhile the essential ingredient to turning low prices into rising sales — affordable mortgage money — continues to be a bright spot. Interest rates for 30 year fixed loans are hovering just above 6 percent, and are in the upper five percent range for 15 year loans.

As we’ve said before here at Realty Times, the stock market may be doing wild and crazy things on any given day.

But month after month, there are tangible indications that the housing cycle is beginning to come around.

You just have to be open to seeing them.

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