Make us your home page

Cheap homes keep sales on upswing

December marked the fourth month in a row in which home sales improved in the Tampa Bay area.

The long-awaited rebirth of the housing market? More like buyers feasting on a glut of foreclosure homes.

Cheaply priced properties, many of them bank-owned, constitute a disproportionate number of local sales. From December 2007 to December 2008, closings rose 16 percent, from 1,597 to 1,857, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. Median sales prices headed in the opposite direction. Year over year they plunged 27 percent, from $199,800 to $145,700.

The December sales picture across Florida was similar: Sales up 27 percent, prices down 27 percent. Buyer activity increased last month in 16 of 20 Florida housing markets. Gainesville, Tallahassee, Pensacola and Punta Gorda were the exceptions.

Tampa real estate broker Jim Knetsch of RE/MAX ACR Elite Group said foreclosures make up close to half of sales in some areas. Most of the purchasers are bargain-hunting investors with ready cash.

He expects a further wave of foreclosures to hit the market as banks find agents to list homes they've already repossessed. Until more homesteaders appear to suck up the surplus, Knetsch expects home prices to remain strained.

"It's just a race to the bottom right now," Knetsch said. "Where the bottom is, I don't know."

Florida Realtors also wrapped up their sales report for the whole of 2008. In the Tampa Bay area, 23,615 homes sold last year at a median price of $169,580. In 2007, 24,310 homes sold at a median price of $208,900.

Local home prices have crashed 39 percent since topping out at $239,600 in June 2006. It's not just foreclosures driving the decline. Buyers also are purchasing smaller homes. That skews statistics to make it look as if individual homes have lost more value than they really have.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, is asking the government to inject more into a housing stimulus, including a nonrefundable tax credit, to buff up what he fears could be a lackluster spring buying season.

Mortgage rates for borrowers with good credit hover just over 5 percent. That's rock bottom by historical standards. But lenders generally are demanding higher down payments. As unemployment crosses 8 percent in Florida, fewer buyers have that sort of cash on hand.

"The market is still far from normal balanced conditions," he said. "Buyers will continue to have an edge over sellers for the foreseeable future

Lower prices mean higher sales

Here's the annual change in several Florida housing markets as of December:

Region Sales Price
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater + 16 percent - 27 percent
Sarasota-Bradenton + 3 percent - 35 percent
Orlando + 34 percent - 26 percent
Fort Myers-Cape Coral + 146 percent - 50 percent

Cheap homes keep sales on upswing 01/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]