TALLAHASSEE -- Sales of existing homes rose 9.8 percent in July from a year ago as the state continues a long, steady improvement, according to date released Wednesday by Florida Realtors.

Pending sales, those expected to close within 90 days, were up 42 percent.

Median prices of existing homes and condominiums also improved year to year, while the inventory of properties on the market continues to fall, a combination of statistics that industry representatives say bodes well for the state.

"Florida's real estate recovery is on solid ground," said 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene. "Since May 2011, pending sales have increased every month for both existing single-family homes and for townhome-condo properties."

The median price of existing homes sold during the month was $148,000, up 7.8 percent from a year ago.

Condominium sales were also stronger. Pending sales were up 26 percent in July while median prices increased 10.9 percent to $102,000.

While prices rose, the inventory of homes sitting on the market is shrinking. In July, the inventory of existing homes was 5.3 months, down a bit from June.. A year ago, there was a 9-month supply.

"We really need to recognize that over the past year, we have seen a market reversal, from a clear buyers' market to a neutral market to one that is verging on a sellers' market," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo, in a statement. "This is a precursor to price growth."

Nationally, home sales rose 10.4 percent in July from a year ago, but the increase is being held back somewhat by continued tight credit restrictions, which is preventing some first time home buyers from entering the market, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Nationally, sales resulting from foreclosures and short sales represented 24 percent of sales, down from 29 percent a year ago.

Prices were also up nationally, up 9.7 percent to $187,300 from July 2011.

"Fewer sales in the lower price ranges are contributing to stronger increases in the median price, but all of the home price measures now are showing positive movement and that is building confidence in the market," Yun said in a statement. "Furthermore, the higher median price naturally means more housing contribution to economic growth."

Regionally, existing-home sales in the South rose 2.3 percent from June to an annual level of 1.77 million in July and are 8.6 percent above July 2011. The median price in the region was $162,600, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.


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