Tampa Bay's June home sales get strong rebound from pandemic slump

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After steep year-over-year declines in home sales in April and May, Tampa Bay's housing market showed signs of a strong rebound in June from pandemic-induced sluggishness, according to new figures released by Florida Realtors.

There were more single-family home sales in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties this June than there were in the same month last year — the first time that annual sales comparison has been in the black since March.

May saw the steepest declines of the pandemic, with sales down 46% in Pinellas compared to May 2019, and of 32% in Pasco and 28% in Hillsborough.

But in June, Pinellas' sales were up by 10% and Pasco's by about 8%, while Hillsborough saw nearly the same number of sales as last year with a 0.6% increase.

Several local Realtors said Pinellas' steeper drop was caused by a lack of purchases from snowbirds and tourists, who snatch up properties during their early summer visits. Joseph Troy, a broker associate with Charles Rutenberg Realty in Pinellas and an instructor at the Bob Hogue School of Real Estate, said the boom in June could be caused by the fact that this is a typical season for parents with children.

"The families still want to buy later in the spring and move this time of year so they're ready for the school year," he said.

The National Association of Realtors also reported strong numbers in June, touting nearly 21% more sales of single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops than in May. However, on the national level, sales were down about 11% compared to June 2019.

Lawrence Yun, the national association's chief economist, said in a statement that the recovery represents pent-up demand from buyers.

"This revitalization looks to be sustainable for many months ahead as long as mortgage rates remain low and job gains continue," he said.

Tampa Bay's bounce-back was fueled mostly by the sale of homes priced at $250,000 or more, the Florida Realtors data show. Luxury Realtors have said the demand is very high for expensive properties.

Perhaps there is no greater example of that than of the recent sale of a bayfront seven-bedroom, seven-bath home on Davis Islands — which once belonged to New York Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner — that closed for $9.1 million last week. That's significantly more than its previous sale price at nearly $6.3 million in 2017, and for this sale, it was never formally listed on the market. It was the highest sale price in the Tampa Bay area so far this year, records show.

The sale shows the luxury market "is alive and well," said Anne Mullins, one of the Realtors with Smith & Associates who represented the seller, and noted that there were at least two buyers who had committed to step in if the sale fell through.

"There are a lot of people out there with clients willing to spend that much," she added. "A lot of people want (to live near) water."

The sale of lower-priced homes, especially in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, lagged compared to last year.

Lower-priced homes were also the category that saw the earliest major declines in April, when the economic ripples of the pandemic first began rattling Tampa Bay's market.

Another concern is the drastically small number of homes on the market, which is at its lowest rate at lease since 2010, according to Multiple Listing Service data pulled by Troy. That small amount of inventory is also a driver of demand, as those looking to buy have greater competition over what is for sale.

Troy said that shortage can discourage future sellers from putting their homes on the market when there are so few choices for them to move to next.

"It's kind of self-fulfilling prophesy in a way," he said.

Rachel Tenpenny Sartain, managing broker at Keller Williams Realty St. Petersburg, said the driver behind that shortage is a lack of construction over the past 12 years combined with more homebuyers entering the market as millennials look to make their first house purchases.

"Three, four, five years from now, we're not going to have enough homes for the number of people we have," she said. "When a home hits the market there are seven to 10 offers made. It's like it's being auctioned."

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