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Home prices may be leveling

Buyers are paying attention as sellers are dangling real estate deals

Southwest Florida's sagging housing market showed signs of stabilization in November, with Sarasota-Bradenton agents selling twice as many existing single-family homes as Miami and with prices perking up from fall lows.

"Our area was inflated for so long," said Garrick Newman, a Re/Max agent in Bradenton. "But over the last six months, people really came down hard with prices."

The state and nation are suffering lower sales rates and lower realized prices. But the Sarasota-Bradenton market fell out of bed faster than most after the boom that ended in 2005 and seems to be finding a solid footing sooner.

During November, Sarasota-Bradenton Realtors closed on 556 houses -- down 16 percent from the 664 of a year ago -- but a far less painful situation than in South Florida. In Miami, Realtors closed on only 263 houses in November, a 59 percent drop from a year earlier. In neighboring Fort Lauderdale, Realtors sold just 401 houses, down 29 percent.

The median price in Sarasota-Bradenton in November was $267,700, down 4 percent from a year earlier, but an improvement from $244,300 in September and $263,900 in October, suggesting that the market might have found a bottom after a decline that has lasted just over two years.

Statewide, real estate agents closed on 8,106 homes, a 30 percent decline from a year earlier. The median slid to $215,800, a 10 percent drop from a year ago.

Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes and condos rose slightly from October to November, but have plunged 20 percent during the past 12 months.

Home prices nationwide continued to slide: the November median was $210,200, down 3.3 percent from a year ago and the fifth biggest annual decline on record. The median is the point where half sell for more and half sell f