If you bought or sold a house in Tampa Bay last year, you were a player in one of Florida’s hottest real estate markets.
Even though prices eased a bit from their torrid pace in 2016, the median cost of a single family home shot up 11 percent. That’s more than in Orlando, Jacksonville and a big swath of South Florida from Miami to West Palm Beach. And it’s more than for the state as a whole.
"Tampa Bay is a really strong market in terms of price appreciation," said Cheryl Young, senior economist for the online real estate site Trulia. She predicts prices will climb another 7 percent this year if newcomers continue to pour into the area, job growth remains strong and unemployment stays below the national average.
For Tampa Bay overall in 2017, the median price of a house hit $220,000, the highest in at least a decade. But a breakdown of sales by ZIP Code shows that several of the most active ZIPs had median prices that were considerably lower. That indicates affordability continued to be a key factor for many buyers.
In Pinellas County, the two ZIPs with the most sales were west of booming downtown St. Petersburg — 33710, which includes Jungle Terrace, and 33713, encompassing Historic Kenwood. Each had 724 sales.
"The biggest thing is that you can still get a good house for probably not so crazy pricing," agent Derrick Silvers said. "You’re not in the beaches and not downtown but you’re right in between."
But prices are climbing. Both ZIPs outpaced the bay area overall in price gains last year — up 17.3 percent in 33713 and 13.6 percent in 33710.
St. Petersburg also had the Pinellas ZIP (33711) with the lowest median sales price — just $134,250 in an area between 34th Street S and Gulfport. But it showed the biggest price jump, up nearly 40 percent.
"A lot in that area were rentals for the past 10 years but landlords saw prices get back up to a very good level so it’s time to kick tenants out and fix it up and sell," said agent Bruce Harris.
In Pasco, the most active ZIP was 34668 in Port Richey where 1,103 houses — many of them older and run-down — sold for a median of just $105,000. No mystery why buyers flocked to that area.
"It’s so cheap," said agent Will Phillips.
In Hillsborough County, buyers looking for newer, bigger but still affordable homes headed north and south.
In ZIP 33647, which includes the New Tampa areas of Tampa Palms and Hunters Green, 1,046 sales closed at a median price of $310,000. That was 5 percent higher than a year earlier but at least $250,000 less than what buyers would have paid in South Tampa and Davis Islands.
"New Tampa has long been a highly desirable suburban area near local businesses such as MetLife, Syniverse… and USAA as well as top-rated schools," agent Nancy Cross said in an email. "It’s a diverse area and in close proximity to I-75 and I-275 for easy access to downtown, the airport or I-4."
Typical New Tampa buyers, she added, are those relocating from other states, young couples getting their first house and buyers moving up in price from their current home. New construction also has been a draw with prices starting around $350,000.
Second in sales volume was ZIP 33579 in Riverview in southern Hillsborough. There, 965 houses sold for a median of $247,000, with the proximity to the interstates being part of the appeal for commuters.
Of the four bay area counties, Hernando saw the biggest price jump last year, up nearly 15 percent. Much of the activity was in Spring Hill, where ZIPs 33406 to 33409 accounted for 72 percent of all sales.
"In Spring Hill, you’re priced a lot better than in Tampa but with the Veterans Expressway it’s very simple to jump on that road and be in Tampa in 45 minutes,’’ said Barry Stafford, executive vice president of the Hernando County Association of Realtors. "It’s kind of an attractive bedroom community, and we also get a lot of snowbirds who come down here for the winter and decided to buy something.’’
Unlike the other three counties, Hernando had seen very little new construction until recently. The limited supply of houses for sale, both existing and new, was a big contributor to last year’s price surge. But builders once again are snapping up vacant lots.
"They got hit pretty hard in the last downtown and they’re pretty cautious,’’ Stafford said. "Now everybody is telling them to hurry up.’’