The median price of a single-family home in the Tampa Bay area has risen or remained flat every month since January, the longest stretch without a monthly decline since 2006.
In those six months, the median selling price of single-family homes — including conventional, foreclosure and short sales — rose 18 percent from $107,500 in January to $127,000 in June in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, according to Multiple Listing Service data.
Further analysis shows the median price of just conventional home sales rose 8.5 percent — $156,000 to $169,400 — from May to June in the five counties, the highest price since hitting $169,900 in October.
Peter Murphy, president of Tampa's Home Encounter, a full-service real estate firm, said the monthly increases are a relief for homeowners who had endured bad news for five years.
"It's the first real glimmer of housing market recovery that we've seen in Tampa Bay in quite some time," he said.
Murphy, however, stopped short of calling it a full-blown recovery. The number of sales continue to ricochet like a pinball. The 2,573 sales in June — up 2.6 percent from May — remain low for this traditionally busy buying season.
If sales were in the 3,500 range, Murphy said, a recovery could be on the horizon.
"That would be the truest indicator of recovery in the housing market," Murphy said, "and since we don't have that, I'd have to say that we're not in recovery just yet."
Leslie Griffin, managing broker at Prudential Tropical Realty in South Tampa, pointed out that median prices are still falling slightly in pockets of the region with more expensive houses.
"I think it is starting to bottom out," she said. "The lower end is stabilizing more and then it will trickle upward."
Foreclosure sales are no longer driving the market like earlier this year. They peaked at 1,096 sales in March but plummeted to 689 in June, a 37 percent drop. The median price of a foreclosure remained flat at about $75,000.
The drop in foreclosure sales is attributable to lenders putting fewer bank-owned homes on the market and foreclosure cases stalled in courts over fraudulent paperwork issues. With fewer bank-owned houses selling, experts predict that prices of conventional sales should rise.
Lenders aren't foreclosing on as many homeowners, either. Initial foreclosure filings fell 22 percent in May in the bay area, the sixth drop in seven months. New foreclosure numbers will be released Thursday.
Although the price bumps are good, University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith said, a prolonged period of increases is needed before declaring a full recovery.
"This thing is still oscillating fairly wildly," Snaith said. "There's no guarantee that this would be a smooth ride. I'm still hesitant to say the worst is over."
Experts still fear that homes in foreclosure and those in the shadow inventory — mortgages 90 days late and nearing foreclosure or homes already seized by a lender but not listed for sale — could flood the market later this year.
Scott Samuels of Re/Max Metro in St. Petersburg, who deals with bank-owned properties, doesn't know if a glut of bank-owned homes will flood the market. He has seen the supply of bank-owned homes dwindle in recent months.
"There is no big inventory for people wanting to buy foreclosures," he said. "The banks say they are not holding back properties."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.