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Real estate sags in Hillsborough

As snapshots go, this ain't pretty.

But neither is it surprising: Hillsborough County had too many homes for sale and too few buyers this spring.

Consequently, median home prices sagged 4.3 percent countywide from April through June, compared to the same months in 2007, according to Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office statistics. The median is the midpoint of the range, with half the sales above and half below.

The number of homes sold dropped by a third — from 3,081 to 2,087 — compared to the second quarter of last year.

Officials and real estate agents see the numbers as further evidence of the market's collapse but caution against drawing many conclusions from only three months of data.

Lutz, for example, posted one of the county's steepest declines in median price — down 21.2 percent from spring 2007 to this spring.

But what that means is open to debate for an area like Lutz, which has a variety of older neighborhoods, newer subdivisions and idiosyncratic rural properties.

"You're throwing in some apples and oranges, so it's hard to say what's happening," said Tim Wilmath, the property appraiser's director of valuation.

Still, two factors could have depressed prices in Lutz, said Georg von Greiff of Keller Williams Realty. Some sales that closed in the spring of 2007 were negotiated in late 2006, when prices were still soaring. Compared to those 2006 prices, what homes sell for this year is a big dropoff.

Then there are the foreclosures and short sales of homes bought by people who speculated on rising prices and took out mortgages they couldn't afford.

"The newer the community … the more pronounced the decline in price," said von Greiff, who, unlike several other real estate agents interviewed for this article, expects prices to go down for another eight to nine months.

Brisk sales in New Tampa

Another area that stood out was New Tampa, but not because of price. The median price there dropped more than 14 percent. But New Tampa saw nearly twice as many sales during the second quarter of this year as any other part of the county.

That could be a function of the "sheer amount of homes and options that you have available in New Tampa," von Greiff said.

Other agents said New Tampa benefits from the coming Shops at Wiregrass mall and the employment opportunities of the Highwoods Preserve office park.

One even said the construction of a flyover at Interstate 75 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard seems to be giving prospective commuters a reason to look at the area.

The Riverview and South Tampa scene

Elsewhere, especially places where builders created a large inventory of homes, drawing many inexperienced buyers and speculators, saw more dramatic declines than others.

In Riverview south of the Alafia River, median home prices dropped more than 18 percent.

"The market is under $200,000," said Michael A. Gabriel, who sells homes for Charles Rutenberg Realty. "They can get single family for $150,000 to $180,000, and you can get new for that."

Like some other areas, South Tampa was a mixed bag, as prices rose south of Gandy Boulevard and fell elsewhere on the peninsula.

East of Dale Mabry Highway and north of Gandy, a 21.7 percent drop in median price may have been influenced, in part, by the scarcity of buyers for new McMansions.

"Those things shot up like a rocket, and they came down just as fast," Wilmath said.

Katrina Hernandez of Future Home Realty has seen some high-end new homes in South Tampa linger on the market for six months or more, but says it's hard to make generalizations.

"The neighborhoods, they're so varied street to street," she said. "Everybody groups South Tampa into one area, but it's really several different neighborhoods."

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

Real estate sags in Hillsborough 09/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 4:31am]
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