Tampa Bay home prices backslid 10.3 percent in January, raising concerns the housing market won't escape further depreciation in 2010.
The typical Tampa Bay single-family home sold for $125,600 in January, Florida Realtors said. The median home sales price was $140,000 in December.
Year over year, prices increased a tad from the $122,400 reported in January 2009. But some Realtors wondered if foreclosure homes would resume their downward tug on home prices that seemed to stabilize last year.
"The houses that are selling are very inexpensive and many are bank-owned," said Craig Beggins, owner of Century 21 Beggins Enterprises in Apollo Beach. "We sold a house last month for $17,000. That brings down your average."
Pinellas County real estate might provide another clue. For most of the past year, buyers and sellers whittled down home listings, helping restore a balance between supply and demand that got out of whack starting in 2006. But in January, the number of homes for sale shot up by 800, according to the Pinellas Realtor Organization.
Lenders content last year with a foreclosure log jam in the courts have begun releasing those homes onto the market, some Realtors said. On average, bank-owned homes sell for less than two-thirds the price of conventionally sold homes.
Buyers have responded to the discounts. Tampa Bay home sales rose 19 percent year over year, from 1,342 in January 2009 to 1,603 this January. South Tampa Realtor Sue Paskert said buyers swarmed when she priced a desirable house for $449,000 in the Beach Park neighborhood. The half-million-dollar barrier is one she tries to avoid. Sales above that remain scarce.
"You get them priced right, in a good location, and the houses go," Paskert said.
When it came to national homes sales, housing analysts expressed disappointment at a 7.2 decline from December to January. They had expected a monthly increase. Annualized, U.S. sales stood at a seasonally adjusted 5.05 million.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, said closing delays curbed sales.
"Most of the completed deals in January were based on contracts in November and December. People who got into the market after the home buyer tax credit was extended in November have only recently started to offer contracts, so it will take a couple months to close those sales," Yun said.
"Still, the latest monthly sales decline is not encouraging, and raises concern about the strength of a recovery."
Tampa Bay home sales also declined from December to January, but a New Year's drop-off is typical around here. Business picks up with the return of snowbirds.
"We're banging away right now," Beggins said. "I think I've brokered 160 sales this month. I'm usually at 120."