SOUTH TAMPA - Interbay Boulevard might not look like anything special to casual passers-by, but the area's housing boom soon will be hard to miss.
Large new homes are popping up in the modest neighborhoods north and south of the relatively busy road, replacing smaller houses. "For Sale" signs are posted on almost every street.
The area is experiencing a housing boom, said Warren Weathers, the Hillsborough County's chief deputy property appraiser.
Thirty-two new houses have been built within 550 feet of Interbay Boulevard within the past year, county records show. That doesn't include houses that aren't completed yet.
"The demand is there, of course," Weathers said.
Lance Lansrud, an agent with Florida Executive Realty who works in the neighborhood, said it is "one of the last good areas" for new development in South Tampa.
Sizable lots are scarce in South Tampa, he said, and affordable large parcels are even more rare. But the Interbay area - specifically, the portion east of Dale Mabry Highway and west of Bayshore Boulevard - has plenty of them. And the neighborhood's oak tree canopy gives it that old Tampa feel.
"Things are hopping right along," Lansrud said.
Sharon McSwain, president and owner of Domain Homes, the most prominent home-builder in the Interbay area, said her company sold $6.5 million in volume in 2011 and $16 million in 2012. The company is on track to sell $22 million this year, she said.
"I think the primary thing that people are gravitating to is the location and lifestyle the location is affording them," she said.
New buyers can live in South Tampa affordably, and without the rules and restraints of master-planned communities in other Tampa suburbs.
Houses in the area typically are in the $200,000 or $300,000 range, and a lot of McSwain's clients are buying either their first or second homes, she said.
"They're looking for gridded streets, not gates and subdivisions," McSwain said. "They like that they don't have to drive and they can do most things right around there, including work."
McSwain said the area will keep growing as the housing market continues to improve, which was one of the reasons she chose South Tampa to start building two years ago.
"I felt that South Tampa had stabilized, and while it was still certainly depressed, it had a lot to offer," she said.
When Domain first moved into the area, she said, about 85 percent of its customers worked at MacDill Air Force Base in some capacity. Now that group makes up about half of the business.
"That's probably one of the most positive trends I've seen," McSwain said.
The neighborhood is changing and it will take time for it to become well-established, real estate experts said. Schools in the area - Madison Middle School and Robinson High School - slowly are improving.
This area is the next best thing for families who can't afford to live in the Plant High School zone, McSwain said.
"The schools are obviously one of your large driving factors," she said. "The encouraging thing is that that [the area] is growing so rapidly, and that's what is ultimately going to change the schools."
Despite the rapid growth and new construction in the Interbay corridor, experts say it will be a while before the area is out of room and eager potential buyers.
Lansrud said he sold a $600,000, 2,600-square-foot house last week and construction hasn't even begun.
"That has a long way to go," Lansrud said.