Remembering 2013 the year Tampa Bay housing market came alive

TAMPA - More than 35,000 homes sold here last year, the most since 2005, a Tampa Bay Times analysis of listing data shows. And the median home sold for the highest price since 2008.

After years of fits and starts in the shadow of the housing bust and Great Recession, 2013 gave plenty of reason to believe a recovery here was under way.

Each month's median sales price last year averaged 18 percent higher than the year before, data show. Even the lowest-priced month in 2013 did better than the best month in 2011.

Rising prices here helped buoy homeowners owing more in loans than their homes were worth. More than 100,000 homes here resurfaced with equity between 2012 and 2013, CoreLogic data show, as the rate of "underwater" homes here plunged from 45 to 30 percent.

That growth helped Tampa Bay, still one of the foreclosure capitals of the country, shift toward a healthier conventional market, sales data show. About 67 percent of Realtors' sales last year were nondistressed homes, up dramatically from 2011, when foreclosures and short sales ate up half the market.

Cripplingly tight supplies of homes for sale here finally loosened as sellers jumped at rising prices. The Greater Tampa Association of Realtors' inventory has grown every month since bottoming in March and, though still a sellers' market, is closer to keeping up with demand.

Tight supplies led to bidding wars and helped hasten new real estate deals. The typical home here last year went under contract 32 days after listing, the quickest since the bubble days of 2005, when buyers signed contracts in half the time.

In December alone, more than 2,800 Tampa Bay single-family homes sold at a median price of $164,000.

The median home sold here in 2013 was more than 1,700 square feet, the largest on record, continuing a decades-long trend toward the ever-expanding American home. With lenders imposing tough standards on whom they would give mortgages, those who bought also more often had the means and aims to buy bigger.

As buyers reawakened, so too did home builders, newly confident and reinvigorated by tight inventories and looser credit. Builders pulled permits for 6,867 new single-family homes here, the most since 2007, census data show.

Developers, too, hoped to get in on the action as homeownership slid and rent rates climbed. Multifamily building permits for everything from duplexes to apartment compounds climbed to more than 4,500 units here, the most since 2005.

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