All real estate, like all politics, is local. It's tough to extrapolate the health of your housing market from those in Seattle, Cleveland or Denver. General economic slump notwithstanding, home values in the Rocky Mountains and Rocky Point just don't jibe.
But pouring over a chart of about 200 neighborhoods in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, it's fascinating to see how one community holds its worth while another loses value like a drunken Elvis impersonator in a Las Vegas craps game.
The statistics come courtesy of housing tracking firm Zillow.com, which reported an overall home value dip of 18.5 percent in the Tampa Bay area last year. But many superficially similar areas had radically different years.
Sulphur doesn't always stink: The Spring Hill section of Hernando County ended the year with an overall home value of $115,120. Sulphur Springs, a Tampa neighborhood off Interstate 275, came in at $117,133. But what a difference a year makes. Spring Hill's values have plunged 25.2 percent. Sulphur Springs' fell only 9.4 percent.
Though Sulphur has a down-at-its-heels reputation, it didn't have a big housing construction spurt in 2005 like its suburban counterpart.
The island swamps the beach: Beach Park, a well-to-do waterside enclave south of Kennedy and West Shore boulevards in Tampa, lost 21.9 percent of its value in 2008. Island Estates, a water-kissed sandbar near Clearwater Beach, had a soft landing last year, shedding only 9.1 percent.
What happened? Island Estates took much of its punishment in 2007, when home speculators were pummeled by foreclosures. Last year it got a bit of a respite as its home value eased down to $278,000.
Gandy can't take a holiday: Wild home value differences reign in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, too. Holiday, in Pasco County east of U.S. 19, reported values of $93,000. That was only 12 percent below what it was a year earlier.
A demographically similar section of northeast St. Petersburg near the Gandy Bridge suffered a 25 percent drop, to $103,000. Holiday has mostly single-family homes built in the 1960s and 1970s. Gandy is loaded with condos and multifamily housing, which have suffered worse from waning housing demand.