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5 Months Price Increases for So FL

Five months of price increases for South Florida real estate

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By Kimberly Miller

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

West Palm Beach —

For five consecutive months beginning in November, home prices, if not overall economic hope, rose in South Florida.

The 3.2 percent price increase in April from the same time last year as measured on the nation’s leading housing index, was called a “convincing upturn” by economist David Blitzer, and a sign that the so-called “sand states” are revving for an extended rebound.

Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Diego all saw monthly surges on the Standard & Poor’s /Case-Shiller price index, which was released Tuesday. South Florida, which includes Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, also saw a small bump in April from March as home prices ticked up 0.4 percent.

“Pretty much all of the sunbelt cities that were the hardest hit are showing substantial improvement,” said Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the S&P Indices committee. “The ones that took the biggest falls are drawing the most attention as they improve.”

Nationwide, the 20 largest metropolitan areas saw an average 1.3 percent increase in April from March after seven consecutive months of falling prices. Detroit was the only area that saw a monthly decrease with prices dropping 3.6 percent in April from March.

“It has been a long time since we enjoyed such broad-based gains,” said Blitzer, who cautioned that it won’t be “perfectly smooth sailing from here.”

The Case-Shiller index measures sales in the nation’s 20 largest markets compared with January 2000, when the index was set at 100. For each region reviewed, the index provides a three-month moving average price. It does not include condominium sales.

Home sales typically gain momentum in the spring and Blitzer said he expected to see higher prices from the March report.

On an annual measure, however, the 20 largest metro regions saw a nearly 2 percent drop from April 2011, with Atlanta falling a whopping 17 percent.

And while South Florida has been on a slow climb on the price index, consumer confidence statewide fell four points in June from May, according to the University of Florida. It also fell in April from the previous month, but rallied some in May.

“Let’s not put blinders on. We’re still 50 percent below the price peak,” said Jack McCabe of McCabe Research & Consulting in Deerfield Beach. “Five months of a positive line is definitely noteworthy, but at the same time there is a lot of additional data to cloud that.”

South Florida’s home prices peaked on the index in December 2006. At the time, the statewide median sales price reported by the Florida Realtors for a single-family home at $241,100. Palm Beach County’s median price was $368,200.

Last month, the statewide median sales price was $147,000. Palm Beach County’s was $206,000.

McCabe said home prices will waiver as foreclosures work their way through the court system and short sale bargains increase.

In the June economic overview by the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, it was noted that 21 percent of the state’s mortgages are either late on payments or in foreclosure _ the highest in the nation.

“The bottom is not a straight line, it’s jagged,” said McCabe. “We’re still seeing ups and downs.”

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