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Tampa Bay housing market more than holding its own

TAMPA - It's no surprise Tampa Bay home prices are steadily rebounding. They are well above their 2012 lows but remain lower than the highs reached during the 2006 real estate bubble.

But how is this metro area's housing uptick doing when compared to other major cities across the country?

The answer is: pretty darn good. The latest S&P/Case-Shiller index look at 20 major metro areas, announced Tuesday, shows that amid a national slowdown in home price appreciation, Tampa Bay registered a healthy 0.8 percent gain. That's the strongest monthly increase in November among home prices in 20 top metro areas.

Gains in home prices among some metro areas is not a given, despite the recovering economy. Of the 20 metro areas, eight reported monthly price declines in November, led by a 1.1 percent drop in Chicago.

Measured over 12 months, Tampa Bay still delivered a solid 6.8 percent annual gain in home prices. Only five metro areas, led by high-priced San Francisco's heady 8.9 percent, topped Tampa Bay's year-to-year increase, according to Case-Shiller.

What's helping drive Tampa Bay's housing revival? A lengthy recipe of economic ingredients.

Start with a falling unemployment rate and some of the strongest consumer confidence measures since the recession. Sprinkle in the growing swell of baby boomers heading here from up North. Add in the still relatively cheap home prices in the Tampa Bay area, which add to their appeal among retirees and first-time home buyers.

Even plummeting gas prices — now averaging $1.95 a gallon in the bay area — help make more home buyer money available for housing.

And finally, mortgage rates are still rock bottom. Rates have fallen for four straight weeks, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage at just 3.63 percent.

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