Tampa Area far outpaces Florida along with entire US

TAMPA — Single-family housing prices in the Tampa metro area climbed 20 percent in January and townhouses and condos sold for 24.8 percent more than a year ago, increases caused by a lack of inventory.

Florida remains a strong sellers’ market overall with houses selling for nearly 94 percent of their asking price, Florida Realtors reported in its monthly housing report released Tuesday.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area had one of the tightest inventories in the state in January, with only a 3.4-month supply of houses and condos on the market, said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Brad O’Connor.

Inventory below a 5.5-month housing supply is considered a sellers’ market, he said.

With spring fast approaching — typically the best time to sell a house — now is the time to get one on the market, Jordan said. “Spring is the big buying season.”

Closed sales in this region were up 9 percent on houses and 1.5 percent on townhouse/condo properties.

Statewide, the median price for houses in January stood at $199,000, up 13.7 percent over January 2015. Closed sales for Florida houses went up 2.7 percent year over year and nationally, the numbers rose just 0.4 percent. The median U.S. home sale price in January was $213,800, an 8.2 percent annual increase, the National Association of Realtors reported.

“Florida’s housing market remains on a steady path,” said 2016 Florida Realtors President Matey H. Veissi, broker and co-owner of Veissi & Associates in Miami. “While inventory levels are tight, the months’ supply of homes for sale remains stable and distressed property sales continue to fall.”

In Hillsborough County, median single-family home prices rose 21.3 percent to $194,000. Closed sales were up 5.2 percent.

The inventory supply in Hillsborough dropped 21.4 percent to a 3.2-month supply.

In Pinellas County, the median price for a house jumped even higher compared to a year ago, up 23.4 percent to $190,000 in January. Closed sales increased by 4.1 percent. Pinellas had a 3.5-month inventory supply.

“Inventory in January for the metro area was down 12.2 percent versus the state, down 6.2 percent,” O’Connor said. “That is a continuing trend. Inventory that is available is getting snapped up.

“If sales continue at their current rate in (the Tampa metro area), it would take 3.4 months to eliminate the supply of inventory.

“One way (home pricing) will get relief is with new home construction,” O’Connor said. “In Hillsborough County, building has been very strong the last few years. Having an inventory available of new homes will not only generate future existing homes but it will also decrease pressure on the market.”

U.S. real estate entered a crossroads in 2016 with job growth and low mortgage rates fueling high demand and boosting home sales to levels last seen in the waning months of the housing bubble that triggered the Great Recession, the National Association of Realtors reports.

But again, with fewer homes available, price growth is expected to eclipse wage gains and cap the potential for sales to rise further.

“Tighter inventories could deter some potential home buyers to enter the market and will likely continue to place upward pressure on prices,” said Derek Lindsey, an economist at the bank BNP Paribas. “Still, we expect a resilient labor market and very solid real income gains to continue to support a slow and steady housing recovery.”

O’Connor found an interesting trend in the January Florida Realtors report — properties selling for less than $150,000 have seen large declines. “Sales in this price range, which comprise over a third of January’s total sales, were down by nearly 17 percent compared to January 2015. Sales of homes in price tiers of $150,000 or more, on the other hand, were actually up over 14 percent year over year.”

By Yvette C. Hammett | Tribune Staff

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