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The Orlando Sentinel

Homeowners cash in big

Study says housing prices will increase 72% by 2010

Housing values are skyrocketing in the Orlando area.

And thereís more

Appreciation to come, a study says.

By Mary Shanklin

OF THE SENTINEL STAFF

About 21/2 years ago, Mark Howerton and his wife bought a 1920s house in downtown Orlando for $117,500. They thought they had paid too much.

Then, last month, they sold the house themselves - in less than a week

-. for their asking price of $145,000, a profit of $27,500. Well, make that $27,300: They replaced the back door and painted a few rooms before they put it up for sale.

"It was the best investment Iíve ever made," said Howerton, who moved to Tallahassee so his wife could take a new job.

Long strangled by the supply of new houses in the suburbs, housing prices in metropolitan Orlando have crept along near the inflation rate for years. But with a shortage of houses on the market and a surplus of buyers, sellers are starting to realize some of the most dramatic profits in years.

If fact, houses in Orlando are expected to be among the fastest- appreciating in the country during the next decade, according to a report released last month by DRIM/McGraw Hill. By 2010, house prices will increase 72 percent in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties, the study stated. So, if predictions are true, median house prices will increase

from $106,256 in 1999 to $182,782 in 2010.

OK, maybe itís not quite the same kind of profit Howerton and his wife made on their sale. But itís two or three times better than the 2 and 3 percent appreciation that has been typical for the Orlando area.

The study predicted that Orlando would be one of the top five fastest- appreciating cities in the United States during the next 10 years. Other hot cities include Las Vegas, 89.7 percent; Wausau, Wis, 81.9 percent; and Naples, 75 percent.

The reasons for Orlandoís predicted price boom are the job market, population growth and affordable prices, said DRI economist David Iaia. Orlando was second only to Memphis, Tenn, for having the most affordable prices in the country, according to a separate survey released last week by Chicago Title Corp.

Despite the findings by DRI/ McGraw Hill, not everyone agrees that Orlando-area homeowners will ride the wave of fast appreciation.

I am extremely skeptical about that report," Orlando economist Hank Fishkind said. He thinks prices will continue to rise slowly because Central Florida has such a big supply of new housing.

A few areas, however, will continue to do well, Fishkind said. He cited older neighborhoods that are well away from new subdivisions, such as Winter Park, Maitland, downtown Mount Dora and downtown Orlando.

Orange County Property Appraiser Rich Crotty said that predicting

property values is like forecasting the stock market. But, he added, the predictions could be true.

"When you compare Orlando housing to whatís going on around the country and the level of growth weíre expected to have here, I donít disagree," he said.

Sara Siegel, president of the Greater Orlando Association of Realtors, was doubtful that Orlando housing stock will escalate in value.

"We all know that this market is not going to last forever", said Siegel, a sales associate with Arvida Realty Services in Orlando.

For more than a year, the Orlando area has had less than half the number of houses listed for sale as it had four years ago, about 4,000 down from 10,000. Yet with so many buyers in the market, the number of sales has almost doubled.

The hottest area have top schools and close proximity to workplace, Siegel said. She said one of her clients looked for a year to find a suitable house in a certain school district.

The Greater Orlando Association of

Realtors does not track neighborhood appreciation. But on Thursday the

association prepared a report that shows where houses sell the fastest

and fetch top prices.

Houses in Wekiva and Riverside in c Seminole County and Sand Lake Hills . in Orange all sold in about 40 days -

about half the average time it takes for a house to sell in metropolitan Orlando. And the neighborhoods where houses sold closest to their asking price are the Orange County

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