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Tampa Bay housing sales, prices leap in July

TAMPA — Housing prices soared 27 percent in the Tampa Bay area last month, with the region chalking up some of the strongest price increases in the state.

Realtors warn that some of those huge price increases could be from a technicality, rather than an actual 27 percent spike in home values. The mix of homes available on the market has shifted upward in recent months, so that more high-priced houses are selling while lower-priced homes are harder to find.

That’s causing the median sale price to rise higher than it would otherwise.

However, there’s no doubt that a tight supply of houses overall is causing some of the steepest price increases in years.

David Teacher, a local residential appraiser, said he recently pegged a local home’s value at $400,000, but with the tight supply of homes, “That $400,000 home, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went for $425,000.”

The Florida Realtors trade group on Wednesday released monthly home sales figures for the Bay area and 19 other metropolitan areas in the state. It briefly released statewide figures for Florida overall, but had to rescind those on Wednesday over concerns about their accuracy. The Realtors group said there were no such accuracy concerns with the Bay area figures.

According to Wednesday’s report, the median sale price for a single-family home in the Tampa area rose to $165,000 in July, which is up 26.9 percent when compared with the same month last year. The Realtors group didn’t actually list the median sale price of a Tampa-area home for last year, but a 26.9 percent increase implies a year-ago price of about $120,600.

Meantime, the number of closed sales of single-family homes rose to 3,534 units in July, up 22.5 percent over the past year. The Realtors group defines the Bay area as Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Michael Lauer, a north Pinellas County Realtor, said more people are listing their homes for sale because they can fetch more money. But, they’re also worried that mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point in the last few months. So, home sellers on the one hand are excited about how much money they can sell their existing homes for, but worried about how much new home they can afford, Lauer said.

So far, local Realtors and mortgage brokers say they don’t think the higher interest rates are keeping people from buying new homes, but the mortgage refinancing business has fallen off a cliff. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are around 4.4 percent.

The tight supply of homes and a rush of investor activity have sent home prices soaring, with Realtors reporting getting multiple bids for homes. However, that could be easing a bit, Florida Realtors chief economist John Tuccillo said. The inventory of homes available to purchase has stayed relatively flat at five months of inventory for the past three months, suggesting the state’s shortage of homes may have reached bottom.

Nationwide, too, the supply of unsold homes rose 5.6 percent in July to 2.28 million, although that’s still 5 percent below last year’s figure.

How much of the Bay area’s 27 percent surge in prices can be attributed to the hot real estate market, as opposed to a shift in the types of housing available, is hard to pinpoint. Higher-priced homes account for a greater share of Tampa’s housing sales and may be fueling some of the price increases.

July figures for the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors were not available Wednesday. But figures from June show that 127 homes sold for less than $50,000 that month, where 178 homes sold for less than $50,000 in June 2012.

Meantime, 191 homes sold for $300,000 to $400,000 in June, compared with 124 homes in that price range a year earlier.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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