New figures indicate strengthening housing market  

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TAMPA Anyone looking to buy a house near downtown Tampa or downtown St. Petersburg knows all too well that sale prices have soared in recent years. Some of the biggest increases recently, however, have been in places far removed, a Tampa Bay Times analysis shows. 

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WORLD PROPERTY JOURNAL:  According to the latest housing data by Florida Realtors for September 2019, Florida's housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices and increased pending inventory compared to a year ago. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 23,510 last month, up 11.5% from September 2018.

"Mortgage rates that remain historically low and strong economic trends continue to help fuel Florida's housing market," said 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain. "In another positive sign, pending inventory for existing single-family homes was up 1.7% year-over-year, while pending inventory for existing condo-townhouse properties was up 0.9%.

"Staying on top of trends in local housing markets can be challenging for buyers and sellers - turning to a local Realtor for expert guidance can ease stress and help with peace of mind."

Pending inventory is the number of listed properties that were under contract at the end of the month or data collection period.

Statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties in September rose year-over-year for 93 consecutive months. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $265,000, up 5.3% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department. Last month's statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $193,000, up 5.8% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in August 2019 was $280,700, up 4.7% from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $257,600. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in August was $617,410; in Massachusetts, it was $430,000; in Maryland, it was $310,000; and in New York, it was $296,900.

Looking at Florida's condo-townhouse market in September, statewide closed sales totaled 9,007, up 6.1% compared to a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

"With inventory levels continuing to dwindle, low mortgage interest rates remain the major reason we are continuing to see strong sales and price growth throughout much of the state," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "And with both sales and prices continuing to rise, it should come as no surprise that the dollar volume of sales throughout the state also increased significantly this September compared to September of last year. Statewide, closed sales of single-family homes totaled to about $8 billion, a year-over-year increase of 17%. Dollar volume for sales of townhouses and condos, meanwhile, rose by 7.5% to about $2.4 billion."

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.61% in September 2019, a significant drop from the 4.63% averaged during the same month a year earlier.


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TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - A new cruise line soon set sail from Tampa. MSC Cruises announced Thursday its ships will depart from Port Tampa Bay next fall.

MSC Cruises plans to start sailing to the Caribbean, Mexico and the Bahamas year-round, and it won't be the only new cruise line coming in the next couple of years.

"The ships definitely have a very European flavor to the service, to the food. So, it will be a really unique and great addition," said Wade Elliott, the vice president of marketing and business development with Port Tampa Bay.

The port already works with MSC to ship cargo, and now it will join Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian as the place to start and end a vacation. Locals in Tampa Bay said they like options.

"From Tampa, it's easy to get to the Caribbean, but I've been blessed to be all over the U.S. and all around of the world," said Diana Pollard of Tampa.

Plus in 2021, Port Tampa Bay will add Celebrity Cruises.

"Just everything that's happening in our market now, it's really become a dynamic destination onto itself," said Elliott.


The port plans to make some upgrades to handle the new passengers for security and capacity, adding to the action behind the scenes.

"The pilots, and the tugs that bring the ship in. The stevedore and the longshoremen who handle the passengers' baggage with a smile on their face, the sheriff's department that orchestrates the traffic coming in and out of the terminal," said Elliott about the process to navigate a cruise ship in and out of port.

From the airport to the deck, travelers tell me they are excited.

"More vacations for me! I will definitely be using everything out of Tampa," said Pollard.

MSC Cruises says it will offer 4- or 5-day and even week-long cruises out of Tampa. Port leaders said they expect the cruise line to bring in more European and Canadian visitors to the area.



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CLEARWATER — Looking for cheap flights? Domestic airfares at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport average $126.14, the eighth least expensive among U.S. 416 airports during the first quarter of 2019. 

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TAMPA TIMES Pinellas County showed its strongest growth in home sales in more than two years in May as prices rose in all four Tampa Bay counties.  

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WASHINGTON:  U.S. consumers had a blue Christmas in 2018: Mortgage rates were the highest in seven years, the stock market was sliding, and prospective homebuyers worried that they couldn't pay for the houses they wanted.


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