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Tampa Bay homes sales soared in June

Luxury home in Tampa's Beach Park area that sold in June for $4 million, the highest price paid for any residence in the Tampa Bay area in June. (Courtesy Smith & Associates Real Estate)
Luxury home in Tampa's Beach Park area that sold in June for $4 million, the highest price paid for any residence in the Tampa Bay area in June. (Courtesy Smith & Associates Real Estate)
Published Jul. 23, 2015

Tampa Bay home sales skyrocketed in June, making it the strongest month in the past year.

Year-over-year sales of single-family homes — which make up the bulk of the residential real estate market — soared 31.7 percent in Pasco County, 29.5 percent in Pinellas and 27.4 percent in Hillsborough.

Prices in all three counties also rose, though less dramatically, while the median number of days homes sat on the market shrank — evidence that buyers are snapping up realistically priced homes.

"Overall, it's been a very solid market for pending sales month after month, and June was a strong closing month," Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker in Tampa, said Wednesday.

But, he added, "it's still a value-driven market. If you overprice a property, it's just not going to sell today. Because of the Internet, buyers have a lot more information available to them, and they have a very strong understanding of what the value should be."

Pat Lins, a Coldwell Banker agent in northeast St. Petersburg, knows that well.

In June, she sold a 1,755-square-foot waterfront home before it even hit the market. Needing an update, it turned out to be perfectly priced at $390,000 for a young couple whose own home had sold so quickly that they needed to find a place pronto.

"It was a marriage made in heaven," Lins said.

But Lins has watched other waterfront homes in the Patrician Point/Waterway Estates area sit and sit because they were initially priced too high.

"Everybody in our neighborhood got a little crazy," she said. "The majority of those listed have constantly been decreasing in price. Once they get down to the right price, they sell."

The most expensive home sold in June was Villa Terracina, a 1920s Jazz Age estate on Old Tampa Bay in Tampa's Beach Park area. Originally listed at $4.4 million, the 7,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, 61/2-half bath home finally went for $4 million.

Mary Kelly, the Smith & Associates listing agent, calls the current market "absolutely wonderful" as long as homes are priced right. Also important, she said, are the looks and condition of the property, especially a big-ticket one.

"The luxury buyer today wants to be able to move into the house and not do a lot of work," she said, "so the money sellers spend preparing it for market is well worth it. You only have one chance to make an impression."

Despite fears earlier this year of another real estate bubble, Kelly is sanguine.

"We are not the crazy market I've seen in other parts of the country," she said.

Year-over-year average prices for single-family homes rose in June at what experts consider a healthy but not alarming clip — up 9.8 percent in Pinellas to $251,552; up 11 percent in Hills­borough to $259,000; and up 6.8 percent in Pasco to $175,359. (Figures were not available for Hernando County.)

Sale prices for foreclosed homes also increased in the three counties, indicating that bargains in so-called "distressed" properties are getting harder to find.

In Pinellas, June's most expensive sale was $3.95 million for Villa Serenissima, an 8,000-square-foot estate on the Intracoastal Waterway in Treasure Island. Pasco's top price was $1.18 million for a 5,657-square-foot home in the booming Wesley Chapel area.

Several of the bay area's priciest properties were all-cash deals, including $2 million for a 23rd-floor condo at 400 Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.

In general, condo/townhome sales in Pinellas — traditionally the bay area's most active condo market — slipped a bit in June. The average sale price dropped almost 3 percent, to $184,760, while the total number of sales was the lowest in four months.

Nationally, sales of existing (as opposed to newly built) homes rose 3.2 percent in June, with sales now at the highest pace since February 2007. Throughout Florida, year-over-year single-family home sales shot up 19.6 percent, while median prices increased for the 43rd consecutive month.

"With the continued growth in both sales and prices in Florida, it raises the question of whether the market is starting to overheat," said John Tuccillo, Florida Realtors' chief economist.

Among the reasons it might not be overheating? "The Federal Reserve will soon be raising interest rates, which will have a dampening effect on demand," Tuccillo said.

June used to mark the start of a slower summer selling season in Florida, though that has changed, as shown by the month's strong showing overall.

"Families like to move in the summer, so closings in June and July are typically related to family moves," said Richardson of Coldwell Banker. "When kids go back to school, it's slow for maybe a month or two, then you have an early season of people planning to spend the winter. October and November become a nice little buildup toward the end of the year."

The winter months — when snowbirds descend en masse — are prime time, of course.

"So we actually have a tripleheader of seasons now," Richardson said.

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

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