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Tampa Bay home sales post yearly price gains for 20th month in a row

Tampa Bay home prices last month stayed on their long-running streak, posting year-over-year gains for the 20th month in a row, new listing data show.

Realtors sold 3,200 single-family homes at a median price of $165,000. That's $5,000 lower than July, the peak price since the housing boom, but 23 percent higher than last August.

Some experts expected prices would cool after July, when Tampa Bay posted the biggest year-over-year price jump since the housing crash and some of the biggest price gains in the state.

Rising mortgage rates, which climbed to their highest point in two years, have bit into demand. So, too, have rising prices. And the month when kids trot back to class is traditionally slower than the spring-to-summer sales blitz.

Even as the rebounding housing market shows some restraint, prices have stayed high due to tight supplies of homes for sale. Fewer options have led to bidding wars and speedy sales: The typical home last month went under contract in 29 days.

Prices have also stayed high because more homes are selling the conventional way, without a foreclosure or short sale. Nondistressed homes accounted for 71 percent of local sales last month, the highest share in five years.

The price gains have helped restore equity to tens of thousands of Tampa Bay homeowners who owed more on loans than their homes were worth. The ratio of "underwater" homes here has fallen from 41 percent to 33 percent since the beginning of this year, new CoreLogic data show.

Those same price gains have also served to push out some buyers with larger monthly mortgage payments. Based on incomes, home prices and interest rates, the National Association of Realtors says it's about as hard to afford a house now as it was in 2008.

Recovering prices have also bumped out a different buyer: investors who once dominated the market by gobbling up homes at bottom-barrel prices. The percentage of cash sales slid in August for the eighth month in a row to only 40 percent of sales, down from 54 percent in January.

With rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage climbing to 4.57 this month, some Realtors worry that a continued climb could scare off new buyers. Others say loan rates, which are still near historic lows, would have to soar much higher before they could scuttle the market's climb.

But recent and dramatic hikes to flood insurance rates could pose an even more pressing threat to the market, adding big new charges to potential buyers' monthly bills and sinking some neighborhoods' deals.

"Some people are apprehensive of jumping in right now," Coastal Lifestyles Realty agent Caroline Southwell said, "until they know where that issue's going to fall."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay home sales post yearly price gains for 20th month in a row 09/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:33pm]
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