After a March that still showed some signs of normalcy, April was less kind to Tampa Bay’s real estate market as the coronavirus pandemic continued to plummet consumer confidence and disrupt the economy in new and dramatic ways.
Compared to April 2019, every week of last month saw significantly fewer single-family home sales in all of Tampa Bay’s counties — a time usually among the busiest of the year to buy and sell homes.
For the last week of April, which saw some of the steepest declines, all of the local counties saw at least 41 percent fewer single-family home sales, according to analysis by the Tampa Bay Partnership, a pro-business group that focuses on economic issues throughout the region. The partnership used data released by the Pinellas Realtor Organization.
The worst drop was in Manatee county, an area particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which saw 49 percent fewer single-family home sales in the last week of April compared to 2019. Pinellas’ drop for the same week was nearly 46 percent, while Hillsborough saw almost 42 percent fewer sales.
Earlier in the month, too, sales were still down at least 20 or 30 percent in most Tampa Bay counties.
“In March we were beginning to downshift to slow down and in April we started to pump the brakes,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership.
But, he added, these figures are not evidence that Tampa Bay has “slammed on the brakes anticipating some sort of crash.”
What’s fueling that sense of cautious optimism is that, at least for now, sale prices in the region have held fairly steady. That means that while both buyers and sellers may be holding off because of health risks or economic uncertainty, there isn’t a panic-induced rush to offload property at a lower price point.
“That in itself indicates a level of confidence right now in the economy and that people are feeling like we’re dealing with something temporary," Homans said. "They’re hitting the pause button and intend to resume as the economy recovers.”
The question of course, becomes, whether the steady prices will hold.
A Zillow analysis forecasts a 2 to 3 percent drop in home prices through the end of 2020 nationwide. But those involved in real estate in Tampa Bay have held out hope that this area’s attractiveness to people moving from out-of-state can cushion the blow of such effects elsewhere.
Christopher Lai, a Realtor with People’s Choice Realty who’s worked in Tampa for the past 15 years, said buyers are still out there, they may just be waiting to see what homes will be listed as inventory shrinks, while sellers hold off on listing houses until they aren’t nervous about having strangers in their home.
“Patience is the key for both buyers and sellers," he said.
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