MIAMI (DQNews) -- Home sales in the Miama region dipped more than usual from March but were still the highest for an April in five years, with condo resales reaching a six-year high. The overall median sale price rose slightly from March but fell short of a year ago for the 43rd consecutive month amid near-record-high levels of investor and cash buying, a real estate information service reported.

In April, 9,727 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the metro area encompassing Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties. April sales fell 5.0% from the prior month but increased 17.8% from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

On average, sales between April and March have declined 0.3% since 1997, when DataQuick's complete Miami-area statistics begin.

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April's total sales were the highest for that month since 2006 (when 13,982 homes sold) but fell 15.5% below the average April sales tally of 11,516 since 1997.

The 5,113 condos that resold last month marked a 5.9% decrease from March but a 28.5% increase from a year earlier. It was the highest number of condo resales for the month of April since 2005, when 6,332 condos resold. Condo resales made up a near-record 52.6% of total Miami-area home sales last month, compared with 48.2% a year earlier and a monthly average of 33.1% over the past decade.

New-home sales continued to suffer last month as builders struggled with the weak economy and competition from distressed sales. April's 569 new-home sales, which rose 1.6% from March and 4.4% from a year earlier, were the third-lowest on record for that month behind April 2010 and April 2009. Last month's new-home sales made up just 5.8% of all transactions - close to an all-time low and far below the new-home market's decade-long average of 19.0% of total monthly sales.

In the Miami region's luxury market, 72 houses and condos sold for $2 million or more last month, down 4.0% from 75 in March and down 8.9% from 79 a year earlier. However, during the first four months of this year there were 248 sales for $2 million or more, up 3.8% from the same four-month period last year. The figures are based on public property records, where either a price or loan amount was available.

The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Miami region in April was $125,300, up 4.4% from March but down 10.5% from a year earlier. Last month's median was the highest since last December, when it was $135,000.

Several factors helped tug April's median sale price below last year's level, including: price erosion; near-record levels of purchases by cash and investor buyers, who tend to target lower-cost properties; the unusually high concentration of condo resales; and the ultra-low concentration of new-home sales.

April's median stood 56.8% below the peak $290,000 median in June 2007.

Another price gauge analysts watch, the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses, climbed to $96 last month. That was up from $93 in March but down 7.7% from $104 per square foot a year earlier. The median paid per square foot has fallen on a year-over-year basis for 10 consecutive months. In April it was 54.5% below the $211 peak in summer 2006.

At the county level in April, the median paid per square foot for resale houses increased slightly in each county but remained lower than a year ago. Broward County logged a 5.0% drop in its median price paid per square foot compared with a year earlier. In Palm Beach County the year-over-year decline was 11.0%, while in Miami-Dade County the dip was 8.5%.

A popular form of low-down-payment financing used by first-time home buyers - government-insured FHA loans - accounted for 40.1% of all purchase loans in April. That's up a tad from 39.6% in March but down from 46.2% a year ago and 41.1% two years ago.

Absentee buyers purchased a near-record 38.8% of all homes sold in the Miami area last month, compared with 39.4% - the all-time high - the prior month and 34.3% a year earlier. April's absentee buyers paid a median $86,500, up from $81,500 the month before but down from $102,000 a year earlier. Absentee buyers are investors, second-home buyers and others who indicate at the time of sale that their property tax bill will be sent to a different address. (Absentee statistics go back to January 2000).

Cash buyers purchased a near-record 66.6% of all homes sold last month, down from 68.6% - the all-time high - the prior month and up from 60.6% a year earlier. Specifically, these were transactions where there was no indication of a purchase loan recorded at the time of sale. Some of these "cash" buyers could have used alternative financing arrangements outside of a typical, recorded purchase mortgage, and in some cases they might take out mortgages after their purchases.

On the lending front, use of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) has edged higher in recent months. In April, 9.8% of the home purchase loans in the Miami region were ARMs - the highest since September 2008, when ARMs were 11.3% of the purchase market. Last month's figure was up from 9.4% the month before, 7.3% a year ago and 4.7% two years ago. The low point for ARM use in the current real estate cycle was 4.4% in May 2009. Last month's ARM level was still far below the decade-long monthly ARM average of 31% of all purchase loans.
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