Tampa Bay home sales and prices climbed in September

Sales are up nearly 11 percent in the bay area, while statewide growth is even higher.
Single-family home sales were up nearly 11 percent over the same period last year. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Single-family home sales were up nearly 11 percent over the same period last year.DIRK SHADD | Times
Published October 21 2014
Updated October 22 2014

Planning to sell a house? Now might be the time.

Sales of single-family homes in the Tampa Bay area in September jumped nearly 11 percent over the same period last year. The median sales price rose 3.2 percent to $159,900.

"I see the month of October being the same, and … I don't see any slowdown," Terry Burkot, a Tampa Realtor, said Tuesday. "It's a sellers' market."

The news was even better statewide, with sales soaring 13.5 percent and the median sales price reaching $180,000, up 5.9 percent from the previous year.

One caveat, though: "Rising prices can make it more challenging for first-time buyers to enter the market or even for move-up buyers to find their next home, especially when lending standards remain too restrictive," warned Sherri Meadows, president of Florida Realtors.

Statewide, September marked the 34th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in median sales prices for single-family homes, as well as condos and townhouses.

More than a third of the single-family home sales in Tampa Bay were in cash, reflecting continued activity by investors hunting for properties to rent out or flip. But don't read too much into that, one Realtor says.

"Right now, most investors would tell you that they're priced out of the market," said Irwin Wilensky of St. Petersburg-based SunRaye Realty. "I would contend that most cash sales are second-home buyers or trade-down buyers" such as empty-nesters who are downsizing.

Wilensky's firm specializes in bank-owned properties, which accounted for 874 of bay area single-family home sales in September, or almost 50 percent more than at the same time last year. In Pinellas County, the median sale price of foreclosures jumped by nearly 9 percent to $95,180.

That increase is likely due to larger homes coming on the market, Wilensky said.

"The type of properties being foreclosed now are more middle- and upper-middle-income properties, as opposed to lower-end starters. A lot of times those people work the system better, but you've started to see some of them run out of options and the banks got (the houses) back."

Short sales of single-family homes are down 57.3 percent.

Brandi Gabbard, chairwoman of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, attributes that to the end of a federal "forgiveness" program that spared borrowers from being taxed on the difference between what they owed and the lesser amount they sold for.

"I think that really impacted a lot of people and changed their scenario as far as whether or not a short sale was advantageous," said Gabbard, a broker with Smith & Associates.

Other findings from sales figures released Tuesday:

• Nationally, sales of existing homes, townhomes and condos fell 1.7 percent, though the median price — $209,700 — was 5.6 percent higher.

• Hernando was the only Tampa Bay county with a year-over-year drop in single-family home sales — down 2.9 percent. The median price, however, rose 8.4 percent to $113,000.

• Tampa Bay homes that sold last month had been on the market for a median 53 days, 17.8 percent longer than a year ago.

• Sales of single-family homes priced at $1 million or more declined in September by 17.2 percent. The biggest gain was for homes in the $400,000 to $600,000 range, with sales up 36.4 percent, followed by homes in the $150,000 to $200,000 range, up 16.2 percent.

Inventory remains tight, with just under a five-month supply of single-family homes. But Gabbard notes that the number of new listings in Pinellas last month was up 3.1 percent.

"That's definitely helping as far as buyers having more to choose from," she said.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampbay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.