More homes are selling in the Tampa Bay area, but prices remain stubbornly low, new housing figures released Wednesday show.
What that means is people are willing to buy, but only at steep discounts, said one market watcher.
"What we're seeing is people want more cheap stuff," said Peter Murphy, chief executive of Home Encounter, a Tampa real estate consultancy and brokerage.
New figures from Florida Realtors show that 2,560 existing single-family homes sold in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in August. That was up 15 percent from August 2010, when 2,223 homes sold locally.
So, the Bay area is keeping pace with Florida overall, which also had a 15-percent increase in existing single-family home sales. Sales of existing condominiums also rose 14 percent in August over the same month last year.
But the prices that local homes are fetching paint a mixed picture: prices have risen in recent months, but they're still down when compared to a year ago.
For example, the median sale price of a home in the Tampa Bay area was $130,000 in August. That's up nicely from January, when the median sale price locally was $110,000, Florida Realtors figures show.
However, it's still 8 percent lower than the median sale price a year ago of $140,600.
Murphy, the Home Encounter executive, suggested prices are up in recent months because banks have slowed down on selling their foreclosed properties. But that could change when the banks start unloading those homes again, dragging down home prices.
Foreclosed properties in the Tampa Bay area sell for 44 percent of the price of non-distressed properties, he said. Short sale properties – homes sold for less than the amount owed on them – sell for 64 percent of the price of non-distressed homes, Murphy said.
At least for some pockets of the region, business is humming along. Janelle Vann, the broker/owner of Town Chase Properties, said her Zip code in the Westchase area has 148 properties listed for sale. That's only slightly more than the 144 homes that have contracts on them and are awaiting sale, she said.
During the worst of the market, the Westchase area had nearly 500 properties for sale, she said.
"To me, that is just phenomenal," Vann said. "There's just not that much inventory."