Tampa Bay home sales stumble due to cash and short-sale slowdown

The November drop is almost completely due to a decline in "short sales" as values recover.
Published December 19 2013
Updated December 20 2013

Tampa Bay home sales slid 10 percent last month compared to a year ago, as short sellers and cash buyers continued to exit the market, new multiple listing service data show.

About 2,500 existing single-family homes sold locally in November, down from about 2,800 the year before, the largest year-over-year drop in three years. The median home sold for $157,000, 8 percent higher than in November 2012.

About 300 "short sales" were completed last month for less than the homeowner owes, half as many as in November 2012, accounting for much of the plunge in total sales.

Home price gains have allowed homeowners to regain equity and avoid short sales. About 30 percent of Tampa Bay homes are now "underwater," compared with 45 percent last year, CoreLogic data show.

Recovering prices have also squeezed out investors, with cash deals dropping last month to 40 percent of total sales, the lowest point since early 2012.

The number of conventional home sales in Tampa Bay was actually higher last month than a year before. Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo said that signaled "a continued return to what we would consider a more traditional market."

About 16,620 homes sold across Florida last month, and 4.9 million sold across the country, both of which were about 1 percent fewer than in November 2012. Florida's condo and townhome sales dropped 7 percent over the same time.

The typical winter sales slowdown has been joined this year by other aggravating factors. Though still low, 30-year mortgage rates have risen a full percentage point over the year to 4.5 percent.

Low inventories of good homes for sale — because sellers are asking too much, or are waiting for prices to keep climbing — are stalling potential buyers. And Realtors in Pinellas said "we can't deny" the effect of substantial flood insurance increases on slowing potential home sales.

Drew Harwell can be reached at (727) 893-8252 or [email protected]