Tampa area home prices rise for 6 straight months
By SHANNON BEHNKEN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: July 13, 2011
TAMPA --Local home prices have gone up 22 percent since January, hitting $122,000. It's the longest, consecutive gain since home prices started falling in June 2006.
For homeowners depressed by five years of bad housing reports, it's finally a bit of good news.
"We look at a 7-county area, and we're seeing healthy increases in median home prices throughout the Tampa Bay area," said Peter Murphy, a Tampa real estate consultant with Home Encounter.
Increasing? That's in stark contrast to monthly economic data that show area home prices declining or, at best, holding steady. But Murphy says some experts are so occupied comparing sales to last year that they ignore more recent trends.
Median home prices of existing, single family homes in the Bay area jumped 6.1 percent from May to June, according to Murphy who analyzed Multiple Listing Service Data imputed by real estate agents. Murphy looked at data for Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Hernando, Manatee, Sarasota counties.
So what about all that economic data showing home prices falling?
"[Economists are] just not looking at the same set of data and the same base line that we're looking at right now," Murphy said.
That's because economists tend to gauge the real estate market's health on year-over-year changes. Since June 2006, prices in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area have been lower than the previous year.
Consider the latest news from Florida Realtors. The median sales price for existing homes the Tampa metro area in May was $120,200, down 11 percent from $135,600 during the same month the previous year.
Since the housing market peaked in 2006, prices have fallen 46 percent. Compare that to 31 percent during the Great Depression.
After all that bad news, Murphy said the six-month data is a glimmer of hope.
"If this were just a short period of price increases, I'd say … maybe it's something that's not sustainable, but 6 months is a trend," Murphy said.
Chris Lafakis, an economist with Moody's.com, said the local six-month increase is a good sign, but doesn't think it's a trend.
"The problem with looking at data that way is that it doesn't take into account the mix of homes sold, such as the number of foreclosures," Lafakis said. "It could overstate the true health of the housing market."
Murphy agreed that it's still too early to say prices have recovered. One of the reasons prices have increased lately, he said, is because lenders have held off on flooding the market with cheaper foreclosure homes. But he said no one knows how long this lull will last.
Homes in neighborhoods saturated with foreclosures are still seeing price drops.
Still, Murphy said, the six-month price increase is welcome relief to homeowners who are tired of bad housing news.
Brenda Wade, a real estate agent in Brandon, said she's seeing stabilization in her sales, mainly for non-distressed, middle-market homes located in hard-hit areas. Some sellers are getting full price offers within the same day, something that hasn't happened since the housing boom.
"I really think if the foreclosures would just trickle out, we'd be trending upward," Wade said.