1. Business

Tampa Bay home sales, median prices increase in July

Published Aug. 23, 2012

Tampa Bay home sales and prices continued to climb last month, revealing hints of a housing recovery gaining steam statewide.

Local home sales jumped 12 percent last month over July 2011, Florida Realtors said Wednesday. Tampa Bay's median sales price grew 8 percent to $130,000.

Home sales in Florida and nationwide rose over the same time period about 10 percent, National Association of Realtors data show.

Conventional sales — not foreclosures or short sales — led the way locally with a 10 percent jump in price to $155,000 over the last year. Prices for foreclosure sales edged up 6 percent, while short-sale prices remained flat.

Median prices are still far below their $240,000 peak in June 2006. But if prices for conventional sales continue to rise, homeowners could feel more confident in returning to the market to buy and sell.

Record-low mortgage interest rates are helping to spur demand, but low housing inventories and challenges in finding lending are making it tough for some to buy.

Statewide pending sales — homes under contract but not yet closed — grew since the previous year by more than 40 percent.

That means prospective buyers are committing to homes but getting wrapped up by delays, said Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo, due to tough lending standards tightened since the crash.

"It's definitely a positive indicator for the future of the market," Tuccillo said. "But it goes back to the notion that it's difficult to get financing."

Also slowing the market is the low number of homes for sale, which has continued to drop as homeowners hesitate to sell or banks delay in listing repossessed homes.

Tampa Bay's housing inventory slid last month to a five-month supply, a 33 percent drop since July 2012. Florida's supply also sunk to about five months, a 41 percent drop.

The strapped inventory is squeezing sales across the country. Home sales nationwide, National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun predicted, could have risen to a rate of more than 5 million a year if more homes were on the market and loans were easier to secure.

The national median home price — $187,300, or 9 percent higher than a year prior — has risen five months in a row, a feat last seen in early 2006.

But that hint of recovery could also be caused by tight inventories and constrained sales of lower-priced homes, which drag down the median price.

One third of the homes bought in July nationwide were on the market less than a month. Short sales and foreclosures accounted for a quarter of July's nationwide sales, down from the previous year by 29 percent.

Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or