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Purge in 2010 to surge in 2011?

Tampa Bay's real estate crisis is one of excess supply.

The source of the glut is twofold — too much new construction and a staggering backlog of foreclosure homes — but the fix is obvious.

Sell, sell, sell. Fast, fast, fast.

For those of us leery and weary as the housing crisis enters its fourth year, good news arrived this week. Developers, builders and mortgage bankers seem to have settled on a strategy of Purge in 2010 to Surge in 2011.

The impending auction of 35 units at St. Petersburg's Signature Place condo tower was the opening salvo.

Developer Joel Cantor has sold close to 100 of the tower's 242 condos. He's done that since June. Not a bad record considering "Florida condo developer" has become synonymous with "smelly dead shark."

But Fifth Third Bank is eager to clear its books of the Cantor loan, preferably this year. If that means a cut-rate auction, so be it. Prices are two thirds under what Cantor once asked.

The same slate-cleaning exercise is happening in Tampa. The bank-owned Towers of Channelside, twin 28-story buildings with 257 condos near the Port of Tampa.

A syndicate led by Wells Fargo Bank, which repossessed the condo towers last year, has hired one of the top names in condo development to market the property: the realty arm of St. Petersburg's JMC Communities.

JMC has stern marching orders: Sell about 100 units this year. For JMC vice president Steve McAuliffe, the key is to price the condos right. They're going for 40 to 45 percent below housing boom prices.

The same price chopping is happening in debt-laden suburban subdivisions, where banks are on the hook for unsold new home lots. Builders like M/I Homes, D.R. Horton and Minto Communities plan to snap up developed home sites in neighborhoods they haven't built in before.

It might not seem like a big deal, yet it wasn't long ago that Tampa Bay builders were regurgitating lots, not eating them up.

What's all this mean for Regular Joe Real Estate? If you're buying a home this year, good deals should be as plentiful as acorns in an oak grove.

If you own a house already, further depreciation is a strong possibility, though the worst of the decline is certainly behind us.

You might have noticed I've addressed only one cause of Tampa Bay's housing glut — too much new construction — and ignored the foreclosure follies.

Alas, the foreclosure news is less good. This week we learned that Tampa Bay lenders are filing new foreclosure cases at the same pace as a year ago.

The government's been fairly helpless to stem the flow. Federal housing subsidies appear to be pushing against a tide of rising unemployment.

By reducing income and producing insecurity, unemployment whacks housing demand.

Housing demand? That's another story.

Purge in 2010 to surge in 2011? 02/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 8:52pm]

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