New and existing home sales increased 43.3% from February to March in Florida’s Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to the San Diego-based real estate information provider MDA DataQuick. Sales totaled 8,658 in March, up more than 43% from March 2009 as HousingWire previously reported. It’s the highest level of total escrow closings for March since 2007. The number is 27.1% short of the March average since 1997 – when the firm began tracking Miami-area information. The increase in sales from February and January -- when the total dropped 16.5% -- is normal for the season, according to DataQuick, but the 43.3% jump is well above the 30.8% average increase. “March sales appear to have gotten an extra boost from buyers scrambling to take advantage of the soon-to expire federal tax credit, on top of relatively low prices and mortgage rates,” according to the DataQuick report. The deadline to sign contracts for the first-time homebuyer tax credit expired April 30. While some REO agents in Florida reported a busy week leading up to the deadline, other analytics firms are not as optimistic about its effect on home sales. But according to DataQuick, the latest numbers from the Miami area marked the 13th consecutive month sales increased from the previous year. Resales and single-family detached houses and condos rose from a year ago for the 16th consecutive month. While new home sales were the second lowest for a March since 1997, it was the first yearly increase since last November. The median price in the Miami-are increased 0.5% to $142,000 but remained 11.3% below the $160,000 mark in March 2009. It was the smallest yearly decline for the median sale price since May 2008. Write to Jon Prior.