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Tampa Bay leads the state in home sales as prices jump 13.6 percent

Tampa Bay led the state in sales of single family homes in September as prices continued their steady gains.

In the four-county bay area, 4,096 houses sold last month — up 7 percent over September 2015 and about a fifth of all homes sold in Florida. Prices rose 13.6 percent, more than two percentage points above the state average.

"It's been a healthy year, the best year in a long time,'' said broker Alex Jansen of Coastal Properties Group International, based in Clearwater Beach.

Related: How long can the good times roll for Tampa Bay's housing market for the bubble pops?

The greatest demand continued to be for houses under $300,000, eagerly sought by first-time homebuyers. "They're having stiff competition, so when it's out there (at that price) they're going to jump on it,'' Jansen said.

Pasco County showed the biggest year-over-year price gain in September, up a whopping 22.6 percent to a median of $187,000. Pinellas was next, up 16.6 percent to $221,475, followed by Hernando, up 12 percent to $140,000 and Hillsborough, up 9 percent to $220,000.

September sales included the highest price paid for a Pasco home in six years. A 8,700-square-foot estate overlooking the Fox Hollow Golf Course in Trinity's Pristine Champions Club sold for $2.5 million in an all-cash deal.

"Typically with that sale price, people are buying waterfront,'' said Dali Hernandez, the Keller Williams listing agent. "In this particular case, the buyer golfs in that community so he wanted to live there. (He) had been eyeing the house for some time.''

Previous coverage: The Tampa Bay area is a great place for investors to buy and rent out homes, study finds

Two bay area homes each sold for $4.5 million cash in September's priciest transactions. The CEO of Heritage Insurance Holding, Bruce Thomas Lucas, bought a 6,900-square-foot house in Tampa's Culbreath Isles so he could tear it down and build an even larger place, his agent said.

The other top seller in September: A five-bedroom, five-bath contemporary waterfront home in St. Petersburg's Snell Isle area.

Statewide, year-over-year sales of single-family homes dropped slightly in September while prices rose 11.3 percent, to a median of $222,500. That reflects the continuing tight inventory of available homes

'Florida's economy continues to grow, resulting in improving jobs and incomes for workers across the state," Matey Veissi, president of Florida Realtor, said in a statement. "In turn, that is generating interest from many would-be buyers who are ready to enter the housing market. However, the latest data shows that a continued lack of inventory — especially in the mid-$200,000 and under range — is affecting those potential homebuyers, leaving them with limited choices and higher prices as a result."

The pinched supply of affordable homes will pose challenges for Florida's residential real estate market next year.

In 2017, realtor.com says, first-time buyers are expected to make up a majority of buyers and most of those are expected to be millennials. Many are of the age where they are getting married or moving in with a partner and are tired of their current living space.

But "with so many first-time buyers in the market, competition will be even fiercer next year for affordable starter homes in the suburbs,'' said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com, the National Association of Realtors online site.

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

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