How hot is Tampa Bay's luxury condo market? Consider this:
In the past five months, prices for individual condos have hit some of the highest levels in years.
In October, a couple paid $1.45 million for their 28th-floor apartment in the downtown Tampa's Towers of Channelside — one of four Tampa sales last year of that amount or more.
In December, a gulf-front condo in the Mandalay Beach Club sold for $3.127 million, the second-highest price in Clearwater Beach in 10 years.
And last week, buyers closed on a $2.8 million penthouse in Parkshore Plaza, making it the most expensive condo purchase in downtown St. Petersburg since 2011.
Sales have been steady even in another downtown tower, Signature Place, despite construction problems and a sometimes belligerent and inebriated condo owner accused of intimidating his neighbors. Signature's striking penthouse — known as Glasshouse for its floor-to-ceiling windows — just sold for almost $600,000 more than any other unit in the 6-year-old building.
"Our condo sales are just going crazy,'' Realtor Kathryn Krayer Zimring said Monday of downtown St. Petersburg, the bay area's most torrid condo market.
Zimring has sold several units in the Florencia and in 400 Beach Drive, including one in November that went for its full $1.7 million asking price before it even hit the multiple listing service.
"Right now the inventory is low for condos,'' she said, "so you really have to get the jump.''
The shortage of existing downtown condos for sale is fueling interest in condo towers that haven't even been built.
Bliss, a 30-unit high rise just off Beach Drive, and the Salvador, near the Dali Museum, have pre-sold many of their units. One St. Petersburg, which will rise 41 stories next to a new Hyatt hotel, has chalked up 82 deposits on sales approaching $75 million in just a few weeks.
As of Monday, 120 condos in the Tampa Bay area were for sale for at least $2 million — 93 in Hillsborough County and 27 in the tighter Pinellas County market. The top asking price: $6.95 million for the 16th floor penthouse of the Sandpearl on Clearwater Beach.
Such prices are by no means reflective of the bay area's overall condo market. Last year, the median sales price for a condo in the Tampa-St. Petersburg- Clearwater area was just $110,000.
Hundreds of condo complexes statewide were built during the boom years of the early 2000s, only to see prices plunge with the crash in 2007. Among the bay area's best known — and most troubled — was Signature Place, a 36-story tower with a dramatic six-story waterfall.
The 244-unit tower began sales just as the market collapsed. The developer steeply discounted many units and put others up for auction, depressing prices below those in other downtown high-rises.
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Last year, Signature Place, a block off Beach Drive at 175 First St. S, had two more unwelcome bouts of publicity — a lawsuit by the condo association alleging construction and design flaws, and recurrent police activity involving one owner.
Realtor Rob Johnson said he lost a sale in October when the prospective buyers, a retired couple, backed out after learning of the suit. But that unit has since sold along with at least four others including Glasshouse. Ambitiously priced at $3.2 million, the three-level penthouse closed at $1.835 million last week compared to the previous high of $1.257 million for a Signature Place sale.
Johnson, who has sold 17 condos there over the years, is bullish on the tower despite its problems.
"I like the building and the fact there are smaller units. A lot of people like Beach Drive but most of those start at 2,200 square feet (and at $1 million or more) whereas at Signature you have a new building that's a little more reasonably priced.''
Dr. Nathan Hameroff, who in 2009 paid a discounted price of $528,500 for a Signature Place condo he rents out, feels generally good about his investment although he has continuing concerns about the owner of an adjoining condo, retired teacher Brian Daly.
In the past few years, St. Petersburg police have answered dozens of 911 calls from or about Daly, who neighbors say has drunkenly harassed them, wandered naked in the halls and has had frequent fights with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, a convicted cocaine user. One tenant recently complained to the condo board that he had to put his visiting daughter and granddaughter up in a nearby hotel because he was afraid of what Daly might do.
Daly, who could not be reached for comment, is awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge of abusing the 911 emergency system. Police arrested him Jan. 3 after he called 911 ten times that day.
"If I can get Brian Daly out of my hair, I can live with the rest,'' said Hameroff, who said he lost one tenant because of Daly and had to cut the rent for another. "There are some construction problems but the building is going to be there and everyone seems to want to live downtown.''
Editors's note: Prices originally quoted in this story were for sales since July 2014. Although the prices were among the highest paid for bay area condos in the past 10 years, some units have sold for more, including $4.6 million for a Clearwater Beach condo in 2008 and $4.65 million for a condo in downtown St. Petersburg's Ovation in 2011.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.