Sarasota, Fla.
Sarasota, Fla.
Median home price: $181,000

In Sarasota, residents can fish for pompano in the morning, get in 18 holes of golf in the afternoon and attend Rigoletto in the evening. That wide array of outdoor and cultural offerings, plus a local economy that is slowly improving, is helping to boost this once-ailing housing market.

Sales volume in the metro area rose 17% during the three months ended December 31, compared with 12 months earlier, according to And home prices were up 2%.

Much of that price gain, however, is due to a drop in the percentage of bank-owned homes that were sold during that time, said Tuccillo. Distressed properties, especially vacant, repossessed homes, sell for far less than non-distressed properties.

Things should be looking even brighter for the area as the jobs picture continues to improve and more people move into the area to take advantage of the city's cultural offerings, said Tuccillo.

"There's excellent quality of life beyond the usual advantages of climate and location," he said.

And home buyers shouldn't lose out either. Fiserv predicts home price improvement of 2.5% a year over the next five years.

By Les Christie @CNNMoney - Last updated February 01 2012: 10:55 AM ET
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