Tampa Bay’s home sales solid in February despite decrease nationwide

Pinellas’ median sales price hit $330,000, and Hillsborough’s was $305,000.
A for-sale sign sits outside a home at 350 Beltrees St., on Jan. 28 in Dunedin.
A for-sale sign sits outside a home at 350 Beltrees St., on Jan. 28 in Dunedin. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published March 23, 2021|Updated March 23, 2021

Home sales in February decreased from the previous month nationwide, according to new figures released Monday, but Tampa Bay bucked that trend.

The National Association of Realtors announced that the sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops decreased by 6.6 percent from January to February, though they were still up by more than 9 percent compared to February 2020.

The association’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, attributed the decrease to the historically low inventory, but said a possible slowdown in growth could be coming as higher prices and mortgage rates decrease affordability.

“I still expect this year’s sales to be ahead of last year’s, and with more COVID-19 vaccinations being distributed and available to larger shares of the population, the nation is on the cusp of returning to a sense of normalcy,” he said in a statement. “Many Americans have been saving money, and there’s a strong possibility that once the country fully reopens, those reserves will be unleashed on the economy.”

In Tampa Bay, the sales of single-family homes increased from January to February, and were largely up year-over-year, according to new numbers from Florida Realtors. In Pinellas, sales increased by about 10 percent compared to last year, Hillsborough’s were up by about 7 percent and Hernando’s were up about 5 percent. Pasco was the only county that saw a slight, 0.4 percent year-over-year decrease.

“The market has been amazing,” said Bob Glaser, president and CEO of Smith & Associates Real Estate, a local firm. “This year will be a greater real estate market, I think, than last year.”

Both nationally and locally, inventory sank to another month of rock-bottom lows.

Nationwide, housing inventory was down 29.5 percent year-over-year, a record decline, according to the National Association of Realtors. Properties typically sold in 20 days, which was also a record low.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said that based on purchase applications data, the demand for homes is still high, and the group predicted a strong spring housing market.

“However, this is dependent on both builders ramping up production and current owners listing their homes for sale,” said the association’s chief economist, Mike Fratantoni, in a statement. “The lack of inventory on the market is preventing home sales from being much higher.”

In Tampa Bay, three of the four local counties — Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco — had an inventory of homes for sale estimated to last less than one month at the current sales pace. Hernando’s was at one month exactly. In a healthy market, that number is at least two months, Glaser said.

That means buyers are in a crunch and can be at risk of placing escalated offers at prices that won’t match the appraisals.

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“The buyers have to be in line on a property, and sometimes by doing that ... you have to buy quick without thorough research,” he said.

The drastically low inventory, coupled with high demand, continued to drive up prices in February. The median sale price rose to $313,000 nationwide, 15.8 percent higher than a year ago.

In Tampa Bay, the increases were even steeper. In Pinellas, the median sale price was an eye-popping $330,000, nearly 18 percent higher than one year ago. In Hillsborough, the median price hit $305,000 — the first time it’s crossed over the $300,000 threshold after creeping toward it for the past year. In Pasco, the median price was $275,490; in Hernando it was $214,995.

Still, Glaser said that Tampa Bay remains affordable compared to other places in the country.

“I think the interest rate has helped that affordability level,” he said. “But the interest rate could change the ability for many people to get in.”