Tampa Bay home prices shot up nearly 11 percent in March, the third consecutive month to show healthy gains.
The volume of single-family home sales also rose — up 4.2 percent over the same month a year ago — although the slower pace reflects a continued shortage of moderately priced homes.
"It's really a good market right now, and if I can stress one thing that's been a common theme it's that demand exceeds supply in lower price points,'' Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker, said Wednesday.
Pinellas County showed the biggest gain with the median price for single family homes hitting $200,000 in March. That was a 14.3 percent jump from the same month a year ago.
Pasco was next, up 11.3 percent to $167,000, followed by Hillsborough, up 10.2 percent to $206,000 and Hernando, up 7.1 percent to $120,000.
Prices for condos and townhomes in the four-county area rose nearly 9 percent, to a median of $125,000.
As evidence of the huge demand for single-family homes, the median time from listing to contract in Pinellas was just 31 days in March.
"We are seeing a shorter window for marketing the properties because there's a lot of pent-up demand from buyers all the way up to $500,000,'' Richardson said.
Year-over-year prices of single-family homes in the bay area jumped nearly 20 percent in January and 16 percent in February.
Pinellas had the two top-priced sales in March: a four-acre Belleair estate that went for $6.7 million and a mansion overlooking Clearwater Harbor in the historic Harbor Oaks neighborhood that sold for $5.3 million.
That brought to four the number of Tampa Bay home sales that have topped $5 million this year. There was none last year.
In Hillsborough, a bayfront Davis Islands home on a super-sized lot brought $2.8 million, making it that county's top sale in March.
In Pasco, the most paid for an existing home was $510,000 for a neo-classical-style mansion in Dade City. However, three home sites in the new Estancia community in red-hot Wesley Chapel each sold for more than $800,000, with one buyer paying $958,2000 cash for a planned five-bedroom home.
Hernando recorded its most expensive sale in the past six months as a 5,000-square-foot home on 10 hilly acres in the Brooksville area went for $700,000 in a cash deal.
"I've seen a real increase in showings so I know people are coming out to (Hernando),'' listing agent Marki Hawes said Wednesday. Unlike Wesley Chapel, which many buyers flock to as an upscale but lower-priced alternative to Hillsborough and Pinellas, Hernando seems to attract a more rural-minded customer.
"Out there, people want to be out in the country, they want to be out of the traffic congestion,'' Hawes said.
According to RealtyTrac, U.S. home sellers in March saw the highest home price gains since December 2007 at the start of the Great Recession. On average, homes nationwide sold for $30,500 more than what they were purchased for, a 17 percent gain.
The Tampa Bay area was just slightly below average, with sellers of homes and condos getting $21,500 more than they paid for a 16.3 percent gain.
"Home sellers in many markets are now seeing average price gains close to or above what home sellers experienced during the last housing boom,'' said Darren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's senior vice president. "That should encourage more homeowners to take advantage of the prime seller's marker and list their homes for sale this year.''
Statewide, single-family home sales dropped slightly in March though prices rose 10.3 percent compared with the same month last year.
"Many Florida homeowners have been able to rebuild home equity due to strong price growth, but that can also pose a challenge for first-time buyers and move-up buyers,'' said Matey Veissi, president of Florida Realtors. "However, new listings rose in March, which is good news for potential buyers."
April is the start of the busy spring-summer selling season in Tampa Bay and many other parts of Florida.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.