By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN
Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Tampa Bay home sales showed huge year over year gains in November while prices in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties also jumped dramatically.
The November figures are a sign that Tampa Bay’s housing market remains strong even as rising interest rates threaten to put a chill on sales nationwide.
“This has been so busy, this has been our record year in business,” Sarah Howe, an agent with Coastal Properties Group International in Pinellas, said Dec. 21.
In November, Hillsborough recorded nearly 29 percent more closed sales of single-family homes than in the same month a year earlier. That was followed by Pinellas, up 26.4 percent, Hernando up 19 percent and Pasco up 5 percent.
Pasco had the most impressive price gain, however, with the median cost of a single family home soaring nearly 24 percent to $185,000. Pinellas prices rose almost 20 percent to $219,000, with Hernando showing a 17 percent gain to $140,500 and Hillsborough climbing 7 percent to $224,900.
Tampa Bay’s rising prices, though, may be scaring away one critical group of buyers – millennials. A new study found that buyers under 35 are eying cities in the American heartland like Minneapolis and St. Louis where prices are more affordable.
Florida and California had the least popular cities for that new generation of homeowners, according to Ellie Mae, a software company that processes almost a quarter of all U.S. mortgage applications. Just 30 percent of millennials preferred the Tampa Bay area compared to 44 percent who saw Minneapolis as a potential home
“As housing prices continue to rebound, millennials are increasingly representing a higher percentage of homeowners in the middle of the country, where they can get more home for their money,” said Joe Tyrrell, an executive vice president at Ellie Mae.
Like other buyers in the Tampa Bay area, millennials also face a limited selection of homes to choose from. In November, Pasco and Hillsborough both had less than a three-month inventory while Pinellas was right at the three-month mark.
Hillsborough recorded November’s top home sale, a new 6,600-square foot custom home in Tampa’s Sunset Park area that went for $3.88 million. The six-bedroom, six-bath house has a 75-foot lap pool and partial views of Tampa Bay.
In Pinellas, the priciest transaction was $2.8 million for a 6,300-square foot bayfront home on Snell Isle’s Brightwaters Boulevard. Built in 1995, it is one of several homes on Brightwaters that have recently sold as demand for luxury property near downtown St. Petersburg remains strong.
“St. Pete is becoming more and more on the radar for out-of-town buyers,” said Howe, the listing agent. “It’s just a neat place to live and prices are still pretty reasonable compared to other parts of the country where (homes) on the water are so much higher.”
Pasco’s top price in November was $810,000 for a nearly 6,000 square foot house on a golf course in the Champions Club area of Trinity. And in Hernando, a buyer paid $615,000 for a three-bedroom, three-bath house with open views of the Gulf of Mexico.
For Florida as a whole, single-family home sales rose almost 13 percent compared to November 2015 and prices jumped 10 percent to a median of $220,000.
“A continued lack of inventory – particularly in the mid-$200,000 and under range – is creating obstacles for many buyers who are trying to enter Florida’s housing market,” Matey Veissi, president of Florida Realtors said. “Rising median prices also may be an inhibiting factor for these would-be homeowners; however, the uptick in prices could persuade sellers that now is the time to list their properties for sale, which in turn may help ease the tight supply in many areas.”