With the peak selling season in full swing, Tampa home sales didn't disappoint in March — prices in all four bay area counties jumped again by double digits compared to the same time a year earlier.
And once again, Tampa Bay outpaced every other major metro area in Florida and most of the smaller ones as well.
"We certainly have a great, healthy market right now,'' Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker, said Friday. "I don't see any adverse influences to cause it to slow down."
The boom — mirrored by strong national home sales and prices — comes as inventory remains tight. Tampa Bay had four percent fewer available homes in March than it did a year earlier, according to figures released Friday by Florida Realtors.
The scant supply helped drive up prices in Hernando County by nearly 20 percent in March, to a median of $143,900. That was followed by Pinellas, up 15 percent to $230,000; Pasco, up 13.6 percent to $189,900; and Hillsborough, up 11 percent to $230,000.
The demand for homes in prime areas was reflected in speedy sales.
In Tampa's 33606 ZIP Code area, which includes Davis Islands and Hyde Park, 17 the 29 homes sold in March were under contract within a month.
In St. Petersburg's 33704 ZIP, which includes Snell Isle, the Old Northeast and Crescent Lake, nearly half of the 54 homes sold in March went under contract within a month.
The desire to be close to downtown St. Petersburg has sent prices soaring in one of Tampa Bay's larger condo complexes, the 55- and older Winston Park community in the northeast part of town. In March, a two-bedroom, two bath unit with porch sold for $169,500 — the most paid in Winston Park in 10 years.
Listing agent Heather Breckenridge said there were seven full-price offers for the condo, one of nearly 1,000 in a complex where prices plunged after the 2007 crash.
"At one time, they were the same price as in 1970 when it was built. That's how low it got," she said.
Even with continued price jumps, Tampa Bay homes remain a relative bargain.
"I do believe that affordability has been one of our strong suits because we've had good pricing as well as low interest rates," Richardson said. "Comparing our market to the market in Florida and the country, we are still have great values even with increases in price."
For the overall Tampa Bay area, the median price of a single-family home in March stood at $214,200 compared to the statewide median of $231,900. The Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville areas all topped the bay area median.
Pinellas County recorded March's top sale, $4.809 million for a five-bedroom, six bath gulf-front home in Belleair Shore. Listing agent Julie Folden said the new owners — who bought under the intriguing name of Seneca the Younger LLC — had been living nearby on the Intracoastal Waterway but wanted to be directly on the gulf.
"There's very little inventory of beachfront," Folden said. "Belleair Shore is a very special area, only about 60 homes, and it almost seems like a semi-private community because there's no commercial. There are just not many neighborhoods along the west coast of Florida like that."
In Hillsborough, the top price paid for a house in March was $2.735 million for an estate in South Tampa overlooking the 18th fairway of the Palma Ceia golf course. Built in 1939, the home sold for $464,000 less than its asking price.
Just the opposite happened with a bank-owned foreclosure in Land O'Lakes that was Pasco's priciest home in March. The six-bedroom, six-bath home on more than eight acres on King Lake went for $1.125 million — $180,000 above the list price.
Hernando County scored its top sale in four years when a five-bedroom home in Southern Hills Plantation went for $1.15 million in March. The home, overlooking what Golfweek magazine called one of the country's top 100 residential courses, was purchased by a doctor to be closer to relatives in Hernando, listing agent Deanna Johnson said.
Overall, Hernando's market is doing well because, "No. 1, I think it's has very strong sense of community, and No. 2, you can get more for your money," Johnson said.
All four bay area counties saw an increase in the number of single-family-home sales that closed in March, with "a lot buyer activity in every price point," Richardson said.
Hillsborough notched the biggest gain in closed sales: -up 13.5 percent.
Tampa Bay condos and townhomes also did well, with the number of sales closed in March jumping nearly 18 percent. Prices rose 13.5 percent to a median $142,500.
Nationally, sales of existing houses, condos and townhomes rose 5.9 percent, hitting their highest pace in 10 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median price for all types of existing housing rose 6.8 percent to $221,400.
March's price increase marks the 61st consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
Despite some talk of another bubble, tighter lending standards have stopped the rampant speculation that sent prices soaring to unsustainable levels before the 2008 crash, bankers and Realtors say.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate