Tampa Bay's home values rose month-to-month for the first time in four years as an upswing in the Clearwater market overcame continued declines elsewhere, according to an analysis being released today by housing tracker Zillow.com.
The rise between May and June, however, was minuscule — just 0.2 percent — as there's little evidence of any dramatic bounceback for a housing market that's been ravaged since values peaked in the spring of 2006.
The average home value in the Tampa Bay metro area was $118,700, down 8.2 percent from a year ago and down 0.1 percent from the first quarter, Zillow estimated. Nationwide, it set home values in June at $182,500, down 3.2 percent year over year and down 0.6 percent from the first quarter.
It was the second straight quarter in which there was both a slower decline in values and a drop in negative equity, which refers to the percentage of mortgage-holders who are "underwater" because homeowners owe more than the value of their home. Negative equity nationwide fell from 23.3 percent in the first quarter to 21.5 percent in the second quarter.
In the bay area, the percentage of mortgage-holders underwater fell to 45.3 percent compared with 53.1 percent in the first quarter, in part due to a huge number of foreclosures and homes sold at a loss. Sellers took a loss for about 40 percent of homes sold in June.
Despite the improvement in equity, the bay area remains one of the most troubled metros in the country. It has the third-highest percentage of mortgage-holders underwater among the 25 largest metro areas, trailing only Phoenix (66.8 percent) and Riverside, Calif. (49 percent). Miami-Fort Lauderdale is on Tampa Bay's heels, with a negative equity rate of 44 percent.
On the flip side were markets like Pittsburgh, where only 5.6 percent of homeowners with mortgages are underwater.
That's one more indication, Zillow said, of a huge disparity in housing recovery across the country.
"As the national housing market limps toward stabilization, individual markets are a mixed bag," Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said. "The double tax credits for some California home buyers have certainly stimulated housing demand there and are partly responsible for the rapid — and likely unsustainable — rates of appreciation in many markets across the state.
"Markets in other parts of the country, like Miami, Detroit and Phoenix, are not yet showing signs of reaching a bottom in home values. High supply continues to be a challenge in states like Florida and Arizona."
Overall, Tampa Bay home values have fallen 45.1 percent since their peak in May 2006, and are now back to the level they were at in December 2002.
A breakout by Zillow indicates not all local markets are equal:
• In Tampa, the average home value in June was $110,900, down 17.2 percent from a year ago, down 4.2 percent from the last quarter and down 1.3 percent from May.
• In St. Petersburg, the average home value was $112,100, down 9.3 percent from a year ago, down 3.2 percent from the last quarter and down 1 percent from May.
• In Clearwater, the average home value in June was $130,100. That's up 1.6 percent from the last quarter and up almost 1 percent from May, the third consecutive monthly increase. Compared with a year ago, it's down only 3.4 percent.
John Rurkowski, president of the Charles Rutenberg Realty Clearwater office, isn't surprised that Clearwater's housing market is faring better than other nearby communities.
"I'm looking myself and for what I want at the minimum in the Clearwater area, you can't get a decent property for under $200,000," he said. "People know that the closer you want to get to the beaches and the water, there's more value there. And people are sticking to their numbers."
Although housing showed some recovery strength earlier this year, the latest national and local reports were more sobering. Blame, at least in part, the end of federal home buyer tax credits. Realtors say some prospective buyers who may have bought this summer moved up their timetable to take advantage of the credits.
Zillow predicts home values nationwide could reach a bottom in the latter half of 2010, "but we continue to be cautious about the impact of declining home sales."
Jeff Harrington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8242. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffmharrington.