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Tampa Bay among nation's leaders in all-cash homes sales

Published May 1, 2015

Cash continues to be king in Tampa Bay.

In the first three months of 2015, the bay area ranked fourth nationally in all-cash purchases of single-family homes and condos, RealtyTrac reported Friday.

Slightly over 43 percent of sales were in cash, a strong indication that investors remain active in the market, although their numbers are diminishing as prices rise.

Meanwhile, the bay area — which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties — came in fourth nationally in sales of bank-owned homes, with foreclosures making up 13.2 percent of all sales for the quarter.

Nationwide, cash purchases fell to their lowest point in four years as price increases start to drive away big institutional investors like banks and pension funds. Florida, though, remains flush with cash — the top five metro areas for all-cash purchases were in the Sunshine State with Miami ranking No. 1.

Over half of its first quarter sales were in cash.

"Miami real estate is a magnet for world money," Mike Pappas, CEO of the Keys Co., which covers the South Florida market, said in the RealtyTrac report. "We continue to see strong investment from our South and Central American neighbors and also strong Canadian interest."

In the bay area, "in terms of cash, we're seeing a lot of second-home (buyers) and empty-nesters,'' says Irwin Wilensky of St. Petersburg's SunRaye Realty. "Quite a few of the buyers we've dealt with over the last few months are retirement age — though they're not necessarily retiring — and are buying second homes here with the intent of becoming permanent residents. I'd say we're seeing more second-home buyers than investors.''

What Wilensky calls "wanna-be investors'' are getting pushed out of the market not just by rising prices but by a new FHA program that has low down payments and enables home buyers to wrap renovation costs into the first mortgage.

"They're Property Brothers clients,'' Wilensky jokes, referring to the popular HGTV series in which run-down houses are transformed into dream homes.

In the first quarter of this year, Florida metro areas also led the nation in sales of foreclosed homes and condos, topped by Palm Bay and Orlando, followed by Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin