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Tampa Bay home prices make highest year-over-year jump since housing boom

Published Aug. 11, 2013

Tampa Bay home prices last month made their highest year-over-year jump since the housing boom, soaring 27 percent over July 2012 and reenergizing worries about a new bubble.

The typical single-family home here sold last month for $172,000, the highest median price in five years, as buyers clawed away at stretched supplies of homes for sale, a Tampa Bay Times analysis of listing data shows.

About 3,275 homes sold last month, a 20 percent year-over-year jump, even as Realtors said the number of for-sale homes remained far below a healthy market. Florida Realtors, using the same data, is expected to release its formal monthly report Aug. 21.

Resurgent prices are great news for sellers after the dirt-cheap years of the housing bust. But they're not so welcome among frustrated low-income and first-time buyers already battling bidding wars.

"I actually feel bad for them, I do," said Karen Krenn, an agent with HomeXpress Realty in Brandon, who has struggled to find a home for one young couple for six months. "Sales are good, and from a Realtor perspective that makes us happy. But we should use some caution in our optimism, too."

Seven out of the ten local homes sold last month were non-distressed, the highest rate of conventional sales in five years. As the cheap foreclosures and short sales that once dominated the market dry up, the broader market's prices will continue to climb.

Though cash buyers remain king of the market, buying up 42 percent of the homes sold last month, their share of the local sales slid for the seventh month in a row. Cash-rich investors from hedge funds to local flippers are finding fewer home deals that could leave them room to earn a profit.

The sprawling cities and rambling suburbs of Hillsborough County soared highest, with year-over-year prices jumping 33 percent, to $195,000. Pinellas home prices jumped 24 percent since July 2012; Pasco prices, 15 percent.

It's not just Tampa Bay benefiting from the steep climb in home values. Between April and June, home prices rose in 87 percent of cities nationwide, Realtors said Thursday. The typical U.S. home jumped to $203,000, the highest year-over-year gain since late 2005.

Homebuilders once slowed by the housing crisis have begun feverishly turning dirt, hoping to pull in the overflow of buyers turned away by tight supplies.

In the Wesley Chapel mega-development of Wiregrass Ranch, one of the state's biggest builders recently unveiled plans for 600 new homes spread across a maze of cul-de-sacs.

Rocketing home prices have led some to fear the deja vu of a new price bubble, but economists argue that concern is premature.

Unlike the last bubble's easy credit, mortgages are hard to come by. And median home prices here, although up $64,000 above the 2011 bottom, remain $73,000 below the 2006 peak.

Instead, Realtors say the big shift to a sellers' market could be what it takes for a far-sunken market to resurface.

"I'd like to introduce you to an old friend of mine (who has) been gone from the market for a while," Apollo Beach real estate broker Craig Beggins wrote in a newsletter this month. "Her name is EQUITY!"

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

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