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Tampa Bay home sales not as robust in May as in previous months

Tampa Bay home sales slowed slightly in May with year-over-year gains not as dramatic as in recent months.

For the metro area, which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, the number of single family homes sold in May rose 11.4 percent from a year ago, but was less than the number changing owners in April. Most of the decline came in Pinellas.

After climbing several months, "home sales have leveled out a bit,'' a statement from the Pinellas Realtor Organization said Monday. "Partnered with the recent slight increase in interest rates and decreasing inventory, that's enough to burst anyone's bubble talk.''

Total year-over-year sales of single-family homes and condos in Pinellas rose 10 percent, though there were 74 fewer sales than in April.

Hillsborough fared better, with sales of single-family homes rising nearly 15 percent in May. Condo sales inched up a mere 2.1 percent.

Prices, though, were up throughout the Tampa Bay area. They hit a median of $175,000 for a single-family home, $5,500 higher than in April and nearly $20,000 higher than last fall.

In May, the top price paid for any bay area residence was $3.3 million for a five-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath waterfront home on Davis Islands near downtown Tampa.

The most unusual property, though, was a Key West-style home on the private Dickman Island in Ruskin that sold for $2.775 million. Briefly owned by a South Carolina company, the house sits on 3-plus acres with 42 newly planted palm trees and 300 feet of open-bay frontage.

"I did actually sell this property last year in July and they weren't using it as much as they thought,'' Coldwell Banker agent Jennifer Zales said. "So I sold it again in May for $300,000 more, which shows the nice appreciation in the Tampa Bay market for sure.''

Still on the market is another Dickman Island property that sold last year for $5.55 million. It, too, wasn't used as much as expected, and is up for sale again as two separate lots.

The main parcel, priced at $4.995 million, features a five-bedroom home with private helipad and recent rezoning for horses and stables. For $5.99 million, the other lot is included.

On the Pinellas side of the bay, three of the four most expensive properties sold in May were condominiums.

A buyer paid $2.35 million for a condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in the Residences at Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. The other two big condo deals — for $2.33 million and $2.3 million — were in cash and for units in the Ovation on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.

Pinellas' top price for a single-family home was $2.3 million for a contemporary beachfront house on Gulf Boulevard in Belleair Shore. Just six days after hitting the market, it went under contract with the first person who looked at it.

"It was priced right,'' said Tom Barrett, the Re/Max Action First selling agent. "There's a lot of homes on that street that are priced more than what they're actually worth.''

Barrett says some of today's sellers, egged on by recent gains in the housing market, are unrealistic in their expectations of what their property will bring.

"I think people are trying to get back to where we were in 2005, and they're not selling when the price is too big,'' said Barrett, a veteran agent who has seen boom and bust. "When they're priced to market, they're gone in a week.''

Like many other Tampa Bay agents, Barrett finds "huge demand at the moment'' for homes in the $180,000 to $300,000 range.

Statewide, year-over-year sales rose 7.7 percent in May while the median sale price climbed 11.1 percent.

"Florida's real estate market remains robust with strong sales continuing through the bulk of the spring," said John Tuccillo, chief economist for Florida Realtors. "The biggest current concern is the decline in inventory. In the past, inventory declines were concentrated in the under-$150,000 segment of the market. Now, we are seeing declines in all segments priced below $250,000. If builders cannot bring new product to market in these price ranges, there is a real possibility of more rapidly rising prices."

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

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