Home sales on a blue streak



By JOE LIGHT, The Times-Union

Sales activity in the third quarter of 2006 looked, well, blue. Many ZIP codes showed an even more precipitous drop in sales than they did in the second quarter, and looking forward to data from the fourth quarter of last year, which just ended, median sales prices may also come down in some ZIPs.

The maps show the number of home sales and median prices between July and September 2006 and compare it to the third quarter of 2005, based on data collected by DataQuick Information Systems, which sells information to the real estate industry.

The map is a history of the market in the third quarter of last year, not its current state. If total sales, which include condominiums and new construction, follow the single-family resale statistics released by the Florida Association of Realtors, the median sales price map for the fourth quarter of 2006 should start showing some blue of its own.

According to the most recent association data, the median single-family home price in the Jacksonville metro area dropped about 8 percent between October and November of 2006 to $182,000.

It's down about 15 percent from a June peak of $213,500. The data from June and November didn't include information from the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Board of Realtors.

Information that includes new home sales and condominiums might show a slightly different picture, as home builders sometimes offer incentives, such as favorable mortgages, rather than reduce prices.

As always, sales volume can be swayed by new communities being opened for sale in ZIP codes that previously hadn't seen much new development.

For example Yulee, in 32097, saw significant new development between 2005 and 2006.

Similarly, bigger homes built in a ZIP code can skew median prices. To try to rule out size as a variable, we also looked at median price per square foot and compared it to the second quarter of 2006.

Factors such as higher quality in new homes can still pervert the data, and, of course, real estate prices vary not only neighborhood by neighborhood but even street by street.