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Tampa Bay home prices shoot up 11 percent, kicking off another strong year

This home on Davis Islands sold for nearly $6.3 million in late January, making it 2017's  first bay area  sale over $6 million.
[Smith & Associates]
This home on Davis Islands sold for nearly $6.3 million in late January, making it 2017's first bay area sale over $6 million. [Smith & Associates]
Published Feb. 22, 2017

Another year; another super start.

Prices for single-family homes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 11.4 percent in January from a year ago, far higher than the statewide average and the highest of any major Florida metro area.

The number of sales that closed last month also rose significantly — up 10 percent — in a sign that the robust market that began in early 2016 will continue.

"Florida's housing market continues to show positive momentum," said Maria Wells, president of Florida Realtors, which released the figures Wednesday. "While existing inventory remains tight, Realtors across the state are reporting interest from both buyers and sellers — and with interest rates expected to rise over the next few months, now is certainly a good time to take action.''

Previous coverage: Tampa Bay home prices in 2016 saw biggest gain in six years but will 2017 be as strong?

The median price for a Tampa Bay house in January hit $194,990, nearly $20,000 more than the median a year ago. Pasco showed the biggest gain, up an astounding 24.2 percent to $177,000 as more and more buyers opt for homes in booming south-county areas like Wesley Chapel.

Next was Hernando, up almost 12 percent to a median of $138,700, followed by Pinellas, up almost 11 percent to a median of $215,000 and Hillsborough, up 7.7 percent to a median of $210,000.

Hillsborough had January's priciest sale, an 8,000-square foot bayfront home on Davis Islands that went for $6.275 million. The seller was the former daughter-in-law of late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner,

In Pinellas, a couple from Britain paid $3.125 million for a 1920s Italianate estate with bay views in St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhood.

"It has tremendous architectural detail,'' said listing and selling agent Alona Dishy of Premier Sotheby's International Realty. "With these unique houses in certain price ranges, once it's gone, it's gone. There's nothing else like it.''

Prices in and around downtown St. Petersburg have continued to escalate to the point Realtor Bonnie Strickland recently posted a YouTube video in which she posed a question to three members of her Strickland Property Group: Is the St. Petersburg market in a bubble? Last year, Strickland had $100 million in sales, much of it on Snell Isle where buyers have paid seven-figure sums to knock down houses and build bigger new ones.

"I don't think we're in a bubble. It's nothing like 2005 and 2006 simply because the appraisal and loan process is so much more stringent than it's ever been,'' Strickland broker associate Jim DiMartino says on the video. "Just try to refinance your home and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.''

Another Strickland member, Niel Allen, says the level of speculation is not as high as it was during the last boom.

As a result, that "gives us much more sustainable levels of growth year over year as far as price increases,'' he said.

Pasco's top sale in January was just under $755,000 for a newly built home in Wesley Chapel's Estancia community. And in Hernando, a home on 7.5 acres with two barns went for $430,000.

In the Tampa Bay area, closed sales for condos and townhomes in January were unusually strong, up nearly 19 percent compared to the same month a year ago. The median price rose 8 percent to $135,000.

Statewide, single-family home prices rose 5.2 percent to a median of $220,000. Smaller metro areas like Ocala, Sebring and Pensacola were among the leaders in price gains though their median prices remained far below the state average.

Nationally buyers purchased existing homes in January at the fastest pace since 2007. Home sales rose 3.3 percent between December and January, with the median price jumping 7.1 percent from a year earlier to $228,900.

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