1. Business

Study: Tampa Bay is nation's second best area for first-time homebuyers

A new study gives high marks to Orlando and Tampa for first-time homebuyers in the market. [Associated Press file photo]
A new study gives high marks to Orlando and Tampa for first-time homebuyers in the market. [Associated Press file photo]
Published May 12, 2017

For first- time homebuyers, you can't beat the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas.

Despite steadily rising prices, both are relatively affordable compared to the West Coast and Northeast at a time when nearly half of all buyers are first-timers, a new Zillow report says.

As millennials — those in the 18-34 age group — "reach the typical home buying age, they are coming into a tough housing market with low inventory and lots of competition," said Svenja Gudell, Zillow's chief economist. "More challenging metro areas aren't out of reach for new buyers, but they should be prepared to face a more competitive buying environment."

Orlando tops Zillow's list of best markets for first- time buyers, with the Tampa Bay area ranking second. Metro areas were evaluated on the basis of five factors, including inventory of available homes, share of homes with price cuts and costs of renting versus buying.

According to Florida Realtors, the median price of single family homes sold in Tampa Bay in March hit $214,200 — a 14.5 percent increase compared to a year earlier . But that was still lower than in Orlando and other large Florida metro areas.

And in more good news for first-time buyers, many bay area sellers are cutting their prices. Of the roughly 7,000 houses currently on the market in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, 821 have had price drops in the last week.

Previous Coverage: Tampa Bay home sellers make big profits but nothing like 2006

"We are so enthusiastic about the upswing, we've been allowing sellers to over- price with the understanding that in very short order they're going to have to come back down if they don't get offers right away," Ann Rogers, a Pinellas broker, said Friday.

More than two-thirds of renters nationally say that saving enough for a down payment is the biggest barrier to buying a home, the Zillow report noted. In Florida, though, many first-time buyers are eligible for down payment assistance programs, including one through The Florida Hardest Hit Fund that pays up to $15,000 in down payment and closing costs for residents of Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

Zillow found that Tampa Bay offers another advantage for first-time buyers: one of the shortest "break-even horizons" at which the cost of buying becomes less than renting. In the bay area, buyers hit the break-even point after 22 months compared to 29 months in Austin, 32 months in Miami and nearly 60 months in San Francisco.

After Orlando and Tampa, the best markets for first-timers were Indianapolis, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas and Cleveland. The worst were San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

So expensive are homes in San Francisco — the median value is $843,2000 — that even a 5 percent down payment costs more out of pocket than a 20 percent down payment in the best markets, Zillow says.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at or 727-893-8642. Follow @susanskate.


  1. Rendering of Encompass Health Corporation's planned 37,000-square-foot facility in Land O' Lakes [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on local businesses
  2. Jeremy Sutliff drags a freshly cut hop plant over to the harvesting machine at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Researchers are trying to make a variety of hops suitable to Florida’s climate.
  3. The Sears in Brooksville, as shown in this captured image from Google Maps, will close next year. [Google]
    The store’s parent company had already announced the area’s last Kmart in Pinellas also is closing.
  4. Tampa is among the most friendly pet-friendly cities for renters. Pictured is downtown Tampa. [Times file photo] [Tampa Tribune]
    According to’s recent analysis, nearly 60 percent of rentals on its site in Tampa are pet friendly.
  5. Meridian Concourse Center in Clearwater. [Avison Young]
    The Meridian Concourse Center consists of three buildings.
  6. Tech Data CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with his predecessor, Bob Dutkowsky, during a send-off celebration for Dutkowsky on June 7, 2018 at the company's 
 headquarters in Largo. At the time, Tech Data had already received the first in what would become a series of purchase offers from New York-based private equity giant Apollo Global Management. Along the way, Dutkowsky would play a key role in negotiations with Apollo. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times (2018)
    Apollo Global Management has been trying to buy Tech Data for a year and a half. Along the way, four other companies were interested, too. Two made offers.
  7. At the request of a state lawmaker, Citizens Property Insurance Co.’s board is again bringing in an outside evaluator to help the insurer decide if and how to cull its policyholder base. Pictured is  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) (left) and Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens. [Courtesy of Sen. Jeff Brandes and Citizens Property Insurance Co.]
    At the request of St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, the insurer will look for ways to shrink.
  8. In addition to offering groceries through Prime Now, Amazon has just launched Amazon Fresh in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    The online retailer branches out beyond the Whole Foods’ organic products it already offers.
  9. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  10. This holiday season could be a record for travel. According to AAA, the Auto Club Group. Pictured is traffic on the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater in October. [Times file photo] [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    According to AAA, the Auto Club Group, more Americans are traveling this year than previous years.