One of the reasons behind the housing boom through 2005 was heavy migration into the Tampa Bay area from places like the New York City suburbs, Chicago and Miami.
And one of the reasons homes aren't selling as they should this year is that the pipeline of transplants from these feeder markets is drying up.
Want proof? The drop in home sales the past year in Queens, Suffolk and Nassau counties in New York, the Chicago region and Miami are worse than the sales drop in the Tampa Bay area.
Queens' sales were off 48 percent. Suffolk's drop was 35 percent. The Chicagoland metro area was down 29 percent. So were sales in Nassau. Miami's sales plunged 56 percent.
According to the state-to-state migration numbers published by the U.S. Census for 2004-05, those areas once supplied the top number of transplants to the Tampa Bay area.
Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando and Citrus counties netted nearly 10,000 residents from these regions in 2004-05 alone.
The housing retraction up north suggests that even if people want to move to Tampa or St. Petersburg, many can't cash out of their homes in their old neighborhoods. And that's potentially a lot of cash not making it here: The median sales price in Queens is $539,000, triple that of the Tampa Bay area.
"Going back to 2001 through 2005 we had a huge (number) of homeowners cashing out and moving not just to Florida but to the Carolinas. In the last 24 months, we've seen very few," said L.P. Finn III, whose family owns Coach Real Estate Associates, one of Long Island's largest realty companies.
"Our referrals to fellow brokers in Florida are way off, about 50 percent off.''
Evidence also is accumulating on the Tampa Bay end. The Midwesterners who helped fuel sales along the west coast of Florida from Clearwater to Hernando Beach aren't buying like they used to, Realtors say. The loss of industrial jobs has left many Northern towns full of homes that won't sell.
Chicagoan Lynn Tempera bought a house in Pasco County's Oakstead neighborhood as the housing fever tightened its grip in 2005.
But when she returns on visits to her suburban Chicago haunts, she gets a glaring lesson on why fewer Midwesterners are duplicating her Florida migration.
"My daughter lives in Huntley, Ill. The same houses are still for sale every time I go up there. It's been that way for over a year,'' Tempera said.
The New Yorkers who flooded places like New Tampa and central Pasco County are less plentiful. As recently as two years ago, Rob Hilliker, an executive with Prudential Tropical Realty in Pasco, helped move to Tampa about 200 families from the New York City area. They were employees of Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., which shifted operations to New Tampa.
But Hilliker said companies are less willing and able to subsidize such moves. Many can't afford to pick up the tab for mortgages on unsold second houses up North.
"We've seen a slowdown," Hilliker said. "Companies are being more conservative.''
Aborted moves are only partly to blame for our housing slump. The oversupply of homes on the market is probably the biggest single cause. It's largely a creation of housing speculators who bought thousands too many homes from builders and bid up prices beyond affordability.
But it doesn't help Tampa to lose thousands of potential home buyers from former feeder cities. On a positive note, Finn sees tentative signs of improving home sales on Long Island. If it continues, he predicts "another influx of buyers" into Florida next winter.
Homebuyers still see better values in Florida than in New York, Finn said. "But they've said, 'Let's put that move off a couple of years.' ''