Tampa Bay home buying slowed again last month as short sellers and investors continued their retreat, emboldening worries over a drooping housing market after a resurgent 2013.
About 2,300 single-family homes sold here last month, 5 percent lower than February 2013, multiple listing service data show. Four of the last five months posted year-over-year sales slumps for the first time since 2010.
That hasn't hurt median home prices, which rose last month to $150,000, data show. That 7 percent year-over-year jump makes February the 26th straight month that prices here have bested the previous year's.
Climbing prices have knocked down all-cash deals from deep-pocketed buyers like big investors. But they remain a large part of the market: 45 percent of home sales here last month were in cash.
A bigger speed bump has been the dramatic slowdown in short sales, which once accounted for a quarter of all home sales. Only 237 homes sold short last month, half as many as February 2013, and one of the lowest points since 2009.
John Tuccillo, the Florida Realtors' chief economist, called the short-sale drop-off a "good sign," pointing to stabilizing prices and rebuilding equity for a state whose housing market has long been underwater.
Sales of non-distressed homes, meanwhile, have continued to improve. About 1,500 conventional homes sold in Tampa Bay last month, 5 percent higher than February 2013.
Though Tampa Bay remains one of the most underwater metros in the country, rising prices have helped tens of thousands of homeowners resurface.
About 30 percent of homes here were underwater by the end of last year, compared with 44 percent in late 2012, CoreLogic data show.
But higher prices have cut into housing affordability alongside upticks in the cost of loans. Mortgage rates for an average 30-year fixed loan climbed this week to 4.3 percent, compared with 3.5 percent last March.
Across Florida, about 16,000 homes sold last month, 1.5 percent higher than February 2013. Cold weather led home sales across the country to slide 0.4 percent to the slowest rate since 2012.
The median home sold last month for $165,000 in Florida and $189,000 in the U.S.
Contact Drew Harwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8252.