March home prices broke records. Tampa Bay was no exception

The national median sales price hit a historic high of $329,100.
A home for sale, 541 Locklie Street, on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Dunedin.
A home for sale, 541 Locklie Street, on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Dunedin. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published April 22, 2021|Updated April 22, 2021

As the hyper-low-inventory housing market continues to put a squeeze on supply, the rise in house prices in March broke records.

The median price this March for all housing types hit $329,100 nationwide, a historic high, which also broke the record for its increase of 17.2 percent above March 2020 prices, according to numbers released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors.

March marked the 109th straight month in which the median price was higher than the year before.

For months, economists and Realtors have expressed a mixture of enthusiasm and concern at the housing market, which has been a steady economic engine during the pandemic-caused recession, but is rapidly becoming less affordable as prices skyrocket.

Still, Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist, expressed optimism Thursday.

“Consumers are facing much higher home prices, rising mortgage rates and falling affordability, however, buyers are still actively in the market,” Yun said in a statement.

In Tampa Bay, prices rose even faster, according to numbers from Florida Realtors.

Pinellas’ median sales price for single-family homes hit $340,000, which was 18.5 percent higher than a year ago. In Hillsborough, the median was $315,000, 19.3 percent higher year-over-year. Pasco’s median was $285,000, an 18.8-percent annual increase, and Hernando’s was $229,900, 17.9 percent higher than a year ago.

Lance Williams, a Tampa Realtor, said it feels like prices are growing at a potentially unsustainable pace.

“Every day, you pull up listings and you just kind of sit there and can’t believe what people are selling things for and how fast they go and how hard it is to find anything,” he said. “At some point you do wonder, ‘When do things soften?’”

March home sales overall were strong in Tampa Bay, though they slipped a bit nationally.

All four counties saw more sales closed in March than in February, and all saw year-over-year gains. Hernando’s annual increase in sales was the highest, at a whopping 26.4 percent. Pasco’s increased by 17.2 percent, Hillsborough’s by 11.6 percent and Pinellas’ by 9.7 percent.

Sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops dipped 3.7 percent from February to March nationwide, though they were still up 12.3 percent year-over-year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The inventory of houses for sale remained at extreme lows.

In all four Tampa Bay counties, the estimated months’ supply of inventory, which represents how long it would take to deplete the number of listed houses at the current sales pace, were below one month.

According to Florida Realtors, “the benchmark for a balanced market (favoring neither buyer nor seller) is 5.5 months of inventory.”

“We’ve had six listings in two months that sold the day they went on the market,” Williams said. “In original Carrollwood, as of yesterday, there was not one listing available. ... Buyers are willing to go the extra mile; they just don’t have any place to go right now.”

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Yun, the economist, said the national March sales would have been higher if there had been more houses to sell. He forecasted problems if more houses aren’t listed.

“Without an increase in supply, the society wealth division will widen, with homeowners enjoying sizable equity gains while renters will struggle to become homeowners,” he said.