Chart: South Florida median home prices and home sales

South Florida's housing market continued to cool down in December, with prices still rising, but at a slower pace than earlier in the year.

Broward County's median price for existing homes was $268,950, 17 percent higher than a year ago, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said Thursday. It was the first time since November 2012 that the median didn't increase on an annual basis by more than 20 percent.

In Palm Beach County, the median price in December was $265,000, up 15 percent from December 2012, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. Earlier in 2013, the county's median price had been rising at close to 30 percent year over year.

Industry experts say the moderation in prices is necessary to prevent the market from overheating again.


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"When pricing goes too far, too fast, ultimately it hurts everybody," said David Dabby, a South Florida housing analyst.

Meanwhile, Broward County home sales rose 5 percent in December, to 1,300 from 1,238 in December 2012. Palm Beach County had 1,325 transactions, a 12 percent jump.

“While December doesn’t bring in numbers like spring and early summer, it is very promising to see the number of closed sales above the 1,300 mark," Barb Kozlow, president of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, said in a statement. "It is by far the best we have seen in any December in the past five years.”

Some investors are pulling out of the market because higher prices have cut into their profit margins, real estate agents say.

“The meat on the bone is just not thick enough to make it work,” South Florida agent Carlos A. Melendez said.

Meanwhile, as price growth softens, traditional buyers are enjoying more favorable market conditions.

“Before, you had about 10 minutes to make a decision, and if you didn’t there were three offers right behind you,” said Howard Elfman, an agent in Palm Beach and Broward counties. “Now buyers have more opportunity to shop different houses.”