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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Low rates drive buyer interest in new homes

By VALERIE WHITNEY
NEWS-JOURNAL BUSINESS WRITER

DAYTONA BEACH — Existing single-family home sales were up in the Halifax area as well as other areas of the Volusia-Flagler market as Realtors nationally enjoyed their best sales year ever.

Sandy Stutz, president of the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors, attributed the increase to low interest rates and the cost of housing in the area. The rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.88 percent in December, a drop from the 6.05 percent rate last year.

Sales of previously owned homes around the nation set a record high in 2003 as decades-low mortgage rates proved too good for many buyers to pass up. Existing-home sales totaled 6.1 million last year, shattering the previous record of 5.57 million set in 2002, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. Last year´s sales represented a 9.6 percent increase from 2002´s level.

Monday´s report provided vivid evidence of the red-hot strength of the housing market, which played a main role in keeping the economy going throughout last year.

In December, existing-home sales jumped by 6.9 percent from the month before, ending the year on a high note.

Realtors in Stutz´s local group sold 596 homes in December, 121 more than in December 2002, she said. The average sales price in December was $166,895 for the area, which stretches from Ormond Beach to Port Orange.

Realtors in Flagler County were also busy at the end of the year. A total of 154 existing single-family homes were sold in December, up from 126 in 2002 during the same period, said Rick Giumenta, president of the Flagler County Association of Realtors.

The average sales price was $205,316, compared with $168,328 for the same period a year ago, Giumenta said.

Hot housing sales are no surprise, he said.

"We´re the fastest growing county in the state."

Existing home-sales also edged up last month in Southeast Volusia. Buyers closed on 164 properties, up from 145 for the same period in 2002. Sales figures for West Volusia were unavailable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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