Tampa Bay home prices soared nearly 20 percent in August, outpacing all other metro areas in Florida.
The big year-over-year price gain was great news for sellers, pushing the bay area's median price for single-family homes to $209,900 with even higher amounts in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. But the increase in prices was propelled by a continued — and worrisome — shortage of homes for sale both in the bay area and nationwide.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, says the tight supply is driving up prices and creating an affordability crisis because incomes are not rising at the same rate.
"The most recent housing crisis was the result of a collapse in demand, which led to depressed home prices and rising foreclosures,'' Yun writes in the October issue of REALTOR magazine. "The next housing 'crisis' will be due to a collapse in supply.''
While year-over-year closed sales in August rose 7.7 percent, all four bay area counties had fewer available homes than they did a year earlier. That helped pump the median price of single family homes up 22.4 percent to $222,000 in Pinellas; up 16.5 percent to $183,620 in Pasco; 15.3 percent to $130,250 in Hernando; and up 12.5 percent to $225,000 in Hillsborough.
The recovery from the housing bust appears all but complete.
"The market is going pretty steady,'' said Sean O'Cuinneagain, a ReMax agent in Tampa. "I think it's back to the normal Florida (activity) where people are moving up, they're moving down, they're getting divorced, they want a holiday home. It's just back to normal.''
August sales had one unusual feature — for the first time in recent memory, the most expensive homes sold in all four bay area counties were on open water. That's common in Pinellas and Hillsborough, not so much in Pasco and Hernando.
For the relatively bargain price of $505,000, the new owners of a 2,728-square- foot stilt house in Hernando Beach can enjoy an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico. Waterfront homes in Hernando are drawing more attention, said agent Jim Tatem of Coastal Properties Group.
"People enjoy the tranquility of this area, there's a lack of congestion compared to Clearwater Beach,'' he said of what has been dubbed the Nature Coast. "Of course pricing does come into play compared to Pinellas or farther south.''
In Pasco, a 4,650-square foot home on the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Harbors South Beach went for $1.1 million. That was the highest waterfront residential sale in the area in 29 months, listing agent Paul Virgadamo said.
Hillsborough had August's priciest transaction — a 5,480-square-foot Mediterranean estate on Davis Islands that sold for $5.4 million.
"That's on open bay on Davis — you can't make enough of it,'' said O'Cuinneagain, the listing agent. "We had a dozen serious buyers.''
In Pinellas, the top price was $3.7 million for a three-year-old house on St. Petersburg's Snell Isle.gt;
Condo and townhome sales in the Tamp Bay area increased in August though not as dramatically as for single-family homes. Closed sales were up 10 percent, while the median price rose 6.8 percent to $133,000.
Of the four bay area counties, Hernando has consistently shown the highest or among the biggest percentage increases in median prices over the past several months. Hernando's market is so busy that Tatem, who had stepped out of the real estate business for a time, went back to work this year with his wife, Peggy, also an agent.
Among bay area buyers looking for more affordable homes, even Hernando's reputation as sinkhole central isn't scaring away them away.
"Some Realtors down in Hillsborough and Pinellas may use that against us,'' Jim Tatem said, "but if you work with 25 or 30 clients you may have one that's concerned about sinkholes. It really doesn't come up that much. My feeling about a repaired sinkhole is that it has an engineer's report and may have 10 tons of concrete underneath it.''
For Florida as whole, the median year-over-year price of single family homes rose 12.6 percent in August to $225,000, while closed sales rose $12.6 percent.
"A continued lack of inventory — particularly in the mid-$200,000 and under range — is creating obstacles for many buyers who are trying to enter Florida's housing market," said Matey H. Veissi, president of Florida Realtors. "However, the uptick in prices could persuade sellers that now is the time to list their properties for sale, which in turn may help ease the tight supply in many areas."
Nationally, sales of existing homes dropped .9 percent in August while the median price increased 5.3 percent.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] Follow @susanskate