Prospective home buyers who were sitting on the fence may be feeling more of a shove than a gentle nudge as mortgage rates start to climb. But, according to Realtors in Hillsborough County, the persistent low-inventory problem is making it challenging for first-time as well as move-up buyers.
Domingo Quintero III, a real estate agent with Keller Williams South, said that he has noticed more home buyers stepping up their efforts to find a home in South Tampa so they can lock in at a better rate.
"Over the last couple of years the public has been tremendously fortunate in having low interest rates," he said. "The fact is we are now over 4 percent and not at three-and-a-quarter. There is a perception the rates are going to continue to rise and a fear of not knowing how far they will rise. It doesn't necessarily create a panic, but a sense of urgency."
Quintero said the inventory in South Tampa is the same as the peak in 2006, but the prices are a lot lower. He said there is high demand but shortage of homes in the $450,000 to $500,000 range, specifically in South Tampa where land for development is scarce.
"Builders have recognized the demand and have been fighting over lots," he said. "The prices on new construction homes have climbed steadily with the land. It's the cost of the land that drives up the prices."
Judy Styles with Styles & Styles Co. Realtors in Brandon said she works with buyers and sellers throughout the county. She said inventory is still down in Carrollwood, New Tampa, Brandon and the South Shore area, although there is more home construction available in South Shore.
"When they stopped building during the recession and the housing correction, all that land was sitting there waiting for builders to come back," Styles said. "They are coming back. It's going to get better and better."
Styles said home buyers have to compete with investors for the limited inventory.
"It's a good thing too because it's bringing prices up," she said. "There's good and bad. They are fixing up the homes so you don't have that blight in neighborhoods."
Styles said as soon as one of her listings goes on the market it is snapped up by an investor or a traditional homebuyer, many of whom worry rates may not stay as low.
"Rates are creeping up," she said. "There is now movement on the buyer's part to get the ball rolling and purchase."
Styles said the nice thing about Hillsborough County is that it offers attractive subdivisions at different price points.
"There are people who live downtown but can't afford South Tampa so they come out to Valrico, Brandon and South Shore because it's a nice area," she said.
Quintero said even though it's clearly a seller's market, sellers are not seeing the "hyperappreciation" of 2006. And while sellers may be thrilled their property value is going up, they may still need to contend with tougher lending practices.
"Sellers have to keep their aspirations in check," he said. "It doesn't mean your place is worth 20 percent more than it was a year ago."