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Tampa Bay's home sales and prices rise again

The housing market in Tampa Bay and across the country continues to rebound, as awakening buyers and scant supplies drive up sales and prices, new data show.

More than 3,400 homes sold here last month, a 20 percent jump over May 2012 and the busiest month since the boom times of 2005, My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service data show.

And the typical home's sale price rose to $163,000, the highest since 2008, data show. That's more than 50 percent higher than Tampa Bay's price bottom of $107,500 in early 2011.

The typical home sale came under contract in 29 days and sold within 82 days, a sign that brutally tight supplies of homes for sale are speeding along deals.

In Hillsborough County, the number of homes for sale dropped from 10,300 in May 2012 to 6,700 last month, Greater Tampa Association of Realtors data show.

Without new homes on the market, the county would sell out in less than three months. That's less than half what Realtors call a healthy six-month supply.

As opposed to the barrel-scraping days of the bust, most of the local home sales don't come from distress. About 69 percent of last month's sales were of conventional homes, the highest share since 2008, when the rise of foreclosures and short sales began.

Nearly 900 Tampa Bay condos sold last month, an 18 percent jump over May 2012, listing data show. Median sales prices climbed 8 percent to about $78,000.

Though still a huge source of local sales, cash deals from investors and wealthy buyers sagged last month to 46 percent of the market, down from 49 percent in April.

Investors have for months gobbled up homes to flip, rent or resell, but they are increasingly being joined by pent-up buyers afraid of missing out on a good deal.

As loan interest rates have risen from historic lows, with an average 30-year fixed mortgage now topping 4 percent, many hesitant buyers have rushed to grab loans at lower rates.

Across the country, existing home sales last month rose 13 percent since May 2012 to their highest point since the tax stimulus in late 2009, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday morning.

The typical American home sold for $208,000, up 15 percent since May 2012.

Housing's sudden upheaval after years of doom and gloom has inspired fears that the market is blowing a new bubble. Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Associations of Realtors, called home price growth "too fast," saying only new home building could help to simmer price gains.

But local median home prices remain more than $80,000 below their 2006 peak, listing data show. And economists say that as price gains lure more sellers to the market and builders unveil new homes, any overheating of price jumps will cool.

"Buyers in it for the short term could get burned if they assume home values will continue rising as they have unabated," Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries wrote Wednesday. "Home value appreciation will slow down. … Enjoy it while it lasts."

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

Tampa Bay's home sales and prices rise again 06/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:03pm]
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