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2020 home sales hit highest level since 2006, Tampa Bay no exception

Pinellas’ median sales price reached $318,500 in December, according to new numbers released Friday.
A home for sale in Pinellas Point on Friday.
A home for sale in Pinellas Point on Friday. [ BILL VARIAN | Times ]
Published Jan. 22

Following the trend of the second half of 2020, December saw increased home sales year-over-year in both Tampa Bay and nationwide, as the housing market continued to charge forward amid an otherwise struggling economy.

Nationally, sales in 2020 reached their highest level since 2006, according to new figures released Friday by the National Association of Realtors. In December alone, sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops were up 22.2 percent compared to the same month in 2019.

The association’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, celebrated the news, adding that even more buyers entering the market in 2021 are expected to keep the momentum going.

“Although mortgage rates are projected to increase, they will continue to hover near record lows at around 3 percent,” Yun said in a statement. “Moreover, expect economic conditions to improve with additional stimulus forthcoming and vaccine distribution already underway.”

December also marked an all-time low of unsold inventory since the association began tracking the supply of single-family homes in 1982. It was estimated at 1.9 months, which is the amount of time it would take to sell all properties for sale at the current pace of sales, assuming no new properties are listed.

The astoundingly low supply also continued to push prices up, and the national median price for single-family homes hit $314,300.

Tampa Bay’s story was largely the same as the nation’s, though some of these trends were even more exaggerated in an area where supply is partially constrained by coastline.

Compared to December 2019, Pinellas’ sales of single-family homes last month were up 6.7 percent, Hillsborough’s were up 12.1 percent, Pasco’s increased by 15.7 percent and Hernando’s were up by 16 percent, according to new numbers released by Florida Realtors.

The inventory of homes for sale in Tampa Bay was even tighter than the national average, and all four counties had similar numbers hovering just above one month. Hernando’s was highest in the region at 1.3 months and Pasco’s was lowest at 1.0.

Ann Rogers, a St. Petersburg broker associate at Foresite Residential Real Estate, said the comparison of last year’s pace of sales to pre-recession 2006 didn’t surprise her, though it does cause her unease.

“It feels like 2007, 2008 all over again only for completely different reasons,” she said.

Rogers said she did more than double the amount of business in 2020 than each of the prior three years. She sees a lot of buyers choosing to move because of the rock-bottom interest rates, and has continued to sell houses for well beyond their asking prices.

“Personally, I couldn’t keep up,” she said. “It was really amazing.”

Accordingly, prices continued their quick climb in December. The median sales price of a single-family home in Pinellas was $318,500, after just crossing the $300,000 threshold in June.

In Hillsborough, the median sales price was $298,860; in Pasco, it was $271,633; in Hernando, it was $224,100. Overall, 2020 saw median sales prices go up by more than 10 percent in all four counties, and nearly 15 percent in Hernando.

The National Association of Realtors noted that construction of new homes has picked up in response to the massive demand. But every month that prices ratchet up, experts raise concerns about affordability slipping away for some buyers.

“More acute affordability challenges will emerge if inventory stays this tight and home-price growth continues to accelerate,” said Joel Kan, the associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting for the Mortgage Bankers Association, in a statement. “This in turn would be especially challenging for first-time home-buyers, who make up a third of all home sales.”