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Home sales in the Tampa Bay area continue to sizzle as prices climb

Though down from the torrid pace earlier in the year, Tampa Bay's real estate market showed healthy gains in September with single-family home sales up 14.5 percent and prices up 10 percent.

The strongest showings were in Hernando County, where sales shot up 37.5 percent compared with a year ago, and Pinellas, where they jumped 15 percent.

Excluding shorts sales and foreclosures, the Pinellas figures looked especially impressive. Sales of non-distressed homes soared 31.5 percent while condos and townhomes rose 23.8 percent.

"The market is still very strong,'' said Tyler Jones, a Re/Max agent in St. Petersburg. "Things are moving in a week or two weeks if they are at market value or barely or slightly under-priced. Lots of buyers, lots of cash in the market.''

Cash, indeed, is still flowing, especially into high-end properties. Of the 11 Tampa Bay homes that sold for $2 million or more in September, nine were all-cash deals, including the two priciest at $4.9 million each.

One of those that went for top dollar is a 5,300-square-foot penthouse at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. Reduced from nearly $6 million, the four-bedroom condo has panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico, St. Joseph Sound, Caladesi Island and Clearwater Harbor.

On Tampa's Davis Islands, a land trust spent $4.9 million on a gated Mediterranean-style estate. Selling points included a rooftop terrace, 15-car garage, six-hole putting green and grottolike pool with swim-up bar overlooking Hillsborough Bay.

That the buyer paid cash "just shows how affordable our water(front) is,'' said Jeff Shelton, the Coldwell Banker agent who sold the 9,000-square-foot home. "It shows the incredible opportunities that exist within the Tampa Bay market if you compare our water to other cities in Florida such as Miami, Naples or Sarasota.''

In Pasco, the top price in September was $937,910 for a new 5,700-square-foot home in Estancia at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. Located just north of the Shops at Wiregrass and near an outlet mall about to open, the master planned community is in one of Tampa Bay's hottest real estate markets.

In Hernando County, an 11-acre estate near Brooksville went for $599,900 cash in September, making it that county's priciest sale. Amenities include a "secret' safe room, a pool with waterfalls and a custom rock bridge.

Homes in Pasco and Hernando remain relative bargains as demand — and prices — soar for residences near downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Jones of Re/Max said he was meeting this week with a client "all the way up in Holiday'' in southern Pasco.

"He's looking for a three-bed, two-bath home for $140,000 and those are few and far between in St. Pete,'' Jones said. "You get more for your money as you go north, but the trade-off is you get outside the desirable waterfront downtown park system with all the arts and culture St. Pete offers. You get what you pay for.''

Jones has another client, from Colorado, who is looking as far south as Captiva Island in Lee County. "But he really feels he's going to this area because of what it has to offer,'' Jones said.

The supply of available homes remained tight throughout the Tampa Bay area with all four counties having less than a four-month inventory in September. That shortage helped sellers get close to what they wanted for their homes — on average, both Pinellas and Hillsborough sellers received around 95 percent of their asking prices.

Other September results:

• The median sale price for single-family homes rose in the four Tampa Bay counties, with Pinellas up the most, 15.2 percent to $190,000, followed by Hernando (up 12.8 percent to $127,500), Hillsborough (up 12.2 percent to $202,000) and Pasco (up 3.6 percent to $152,250).

• The median number of days that homes stayed on the market dropped in all four counties. Homes moved the quickest in Hillsborough, where they sat for a median of just 46 days, and the slowest in Hernando, with a median of 60 days.

• Statewide, sales of single-family homes rose 13.4 percent and the median price jumped 11.1 percent in September.

"Sellers should take advantage of the strong market conditions with rising median prices,'' said Florida Realtors president Andrew Barbar, "while would-be buyers can benefit from interest rates that currently remain at historically low levels and greater access to mortgage financing.''

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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