Area home prices plunge 19.6% from last year

Tampa Bay area housing prices tumbled 19.6 percent from March 2007 to March 2008, marking a retreat to prices last seen in February 2005, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday.

The metro area's home price drop was the seventh steepest among 20 cities listed on the index. Nineteen of 20 cities reported price declines; Charlotte, N.C., was the sole exception. The average national decline was 14.4 percent, the steepest drop in the index's 20-year history.

"There are very few silver linings that one can see in the data," says David Blitzer of Standard & Poor's.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater came off better than Miami and a slew of Sun Belt cities out West. Las Vegas suffered the biggest price decline at 25.9 percent. Miami's prices were off 24.6 percent, and Phoenix's were next in line with a drop of 23 percent.

The Case-Shiller index nearly duplicated the findings of the Florida Association of Realtors. Realtors reported an 18 percent Tampa home price decline year over year in March. Case-Shiller strives for accuracy by measuring repeat sales of individual homes.

For Florida Realtors and economists, falling homes prices are harmful and helpful at the same time. While devastating to many homeowners who bought at the peak of the market in 2005-06, price concessions have helped stimulate sales this spring.

Home purchases have recently spiked in places like Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Fort Pierce. Not coincidentally, prices have fallen the fastest in those communities. Few predict a return to a stable housing market this year, thanks to a glut of homes for sale.

"I think we'll see prices falling into 2009," University of Florida economist David Denslow said.

Darker days through the Sun Belt

The sharpest declines in home prices the past year were in former housing hot spots in the Sun Belt.

Las Vegas: -25.9 percent

Miami: -24.6 percent

Phoenix: -23 percent

Los Angeles: -21.7 percent

San Diego: -20.5 percent

San Francisco: -20.2 percent

Tampa: -19.6 percent



SOURCE: S&P Case-Shiller home price index

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Area home prices plunge 19.6% from last year 05/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 4:40pm]

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