Home sale prices in Pasco County are finally on the rise, but the recovery is coming one house at a time.
Prices of single-family homes countywide are up 11 percent, with a median sales price of $120,000, according to the latest Multiple Listing Service data. Predictably, though, prices in some areas are higher than others.
"Just because an area is up overall doesn't mean your house is up," cautioned Walter Price Jr., a private appraiser in Land O'Lakes.
Figures show the leader of the pack in sales price growth is New Port Richey, with a 19 percent increase compared with this time last year. However, the median sales price is $83,000, a far cry from Odessa, which boasts the highest median sales price of $184,000 and an increase of 18 percent over last year. That area also includes Trinity, which has a large number of high-end homes built during the boom.
Land O'Lakes had the next highest median sales price at $161,000 but only an increase of 8.75 percent, followed by Wesley Chapel with a median price of $150,000, but a steeper increase at 10 percent. In Dade City, median price is $125,000, an increase of 11.61 percent over last year.
Hudson home prices increased a hefty 17.83 percent but the median price was $92,500. The slowest growth came in Port Richey, which was up 2 percent with a median price of $49,000. Zephyrhills also reported a lower increase with 3.75 percent, but homes fetched a median price of $83,000.
Holiday, which soon will be the focus of county redevelopment efforts, had the lowest median sales price at $45,000, but that represented a 7 percent rise. Realtors blamed the lower prices on the higher number of short sales in that area.
"Lots of Realtors are telling me things are getting better," said Mike Wells, Pasco County's property appraiser. "A Realtor in Land O'Lakes can get four and five offers on housing above market.
"We have pockets of stuff cooking and pockets drawing everything down."
New home prices are running significantly higher, with a median price of $230,000, a rise of 14 percent over the same time last year. And billboards are going up advertising new communities along the State Road 54 corridor.
Wells has not yet released property values for 2013, despite getting calls from anxious government officials trying to put together upcoming budgets. Last year, he predicted values were stabilizing, and then final figures showed a decrease of 6 percent over 2011. This year, he said, he wants to be more cautious.
"We want to make sure we get it right," he said. "I'm not sandbagging anyone."
Greg Armstrong, a west Pasco Realtor, said things are improving here, though Pasco's prices are lower than Hillsborough and Pinellas. Then again, they always have been. The key in Pasco, with its large swath of land and economic diversity, is location. Values of waterfront homes in west Pasco and lakeside homes in central Pasco are rising, while homes in older west Pasco neighborhoods built in the 1970s such as Embassy Hills are not. One factor behind a drag on some sales in west Pasco is insurance rates, Armstrong said, which have risen enough "to choke a horse."
"What has happened is that most of the cheap stuff is gone," Armstrong said, referring to more modest homes gobbled up by investors. "We have higher end waterfront that didn't go for three years and all of sudden if you get one on the market it goes overnight."
Anything along the State Road 54-56 corridor is also in demand.
"We're seeing commuters come back," he said, noting that the recession and $4 per gallon gasoline prices at the same time kept people closer to the cities, where they either rented or bunked with relatives.
Now those family members want some breathing room and are nudging their relatives out the door and into their own places again.
"Multi-generations couldn't take living together anymore," Armstrong said.
In east Pasco, buyers have recently had to compete with investors who have been snapping up homes in the $125,000 to $199,000 range.
"Investors are making quick close cash offers on newly listed homes in this price range within hours of the listing being published online," said Allison Newlon, a broker in the San Antonio area. "Sometimes the investor will make the offer without ever stepping foot into the property."
Like Armstrong, Newlon has also seen an uptick in luxury homes being put up for sale. Next week, she's listing a 5,200-square-foot brick home on 2.5 acres in Dade City.
"There are few homes of this size and character in east Pasco," she said. "I'm sure we will get interest right away."
Despite the brighter outlook, Armstrong said, the Pasco market is down about 40 percent from its peak in 2005, compared with the rest of the Tampa Bay area, which is off peak about 30 percent.
"We just took a bigger hit," he said.