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Steep drop in Florida home market
House sales and prices in the Sunshine State have ceased their steep upward run.
By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- House hunters in Florida, where some of the hottest markets have been found in recent years, have taken a vacation from buying.

June sales volume was down nearly 30 percent statewide - 18,089 homes were sold in the month, according to figures released this week by the Florida Association of Realtors. Condo sales volume fared even worse, down 35 percent to 5,421.

Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday, sales volume dropped 8.2 percent.

Prices in Florida have flattened as well. Year-over-year prices rose just 3 percent last month, to a median of $257,800. That was after years of consistent annual gains in the double digits - home prices have nearly doubled during the past five years.

Condo prices actually fell in June, to $212,500 from $215,700.

Some of Florida's erstwhile hottest markets experienced steep sales volume declines.

Naples, where the median single family house sells for $451,500, had a 48 percent drop in unit sales. Prices were down 8 percent.

The Sarasota metro area had a 40 percent fall in sales volume and a 3 percent drop in prices. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton sales volume dropped 39 percent, and prices were flat.

Major condo markets hit hard with sales volume declines included Tampa, down 47 percent, and Miami and Fort Lauderdale, both down 31 percent. Some smaller markets really took it on the chin - Punta Gorda logged just three condo sales, a 97 percent drop.

With mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed at about 6.8 percent, according to Freddie Mac, the monthly costs of buying a home have increased significantly in the past year. Rates were at about 5.58 percent last year. On a $200,000 30-year mortgage, that's a difference of about $158 a month.

Property insurance costs in Florida also skyrocketed on the heels of the disastrous hurricane season in 2005. Nearly 98 percent of Florida's population lives in coastal areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and insurance rates have risen to reflect their vulnerability to storm damage.

And soaring energy costs have made it much more expensive to air-condition that home and to operate a car, leaving fewer dollars to pay for real estate.

The shift to a buyer's market in Florida reflects a national trend, and it's one that many experts indicate could last for a few years.

  • Is the slowdown in real estate affecting you? Are rising rates beginning to take their toll through higher monthly payments? We want to hear your story for an upcoming feature. E-mail us at yourhome@cnn.com.
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