TAMPA - When the Christianson family put their home near Ybor City on the market a year ago, they knew it would be a challenge to sell it. After several months, no one was interested.
"We didn't have one person call to even look at it," said Tabatha Christianson, as her four-year-old daughter tumbled around their hardwood flooring. "We had no showings the first four months," she said.
But summer arrived in the Tampa Bay area, and suddenly the real estate market changed. The Christiansons went from having no lookers to having consistent interest.
"Just within the last few months, the amount of showings has quadrupled," said Kipp Christianson. "We've had traffic coming through to look at the house."
According to the latest statistics from the S&P/Case-Shiller index, home prices nationwide are up (see http://wfts.tv/SQugWY ). In greater Tampa Bay, they have jumped 20-percent from January to July, according Peter Murphy, a realtor with Home Encounter Real Estate.
"The short sale product is as good as its ever been," Murphy said. "A lot of banks have chosen to move their inventory and not go the foreclosure route, and instead started approving short sales at a much higher pace," he said.
That means buyers can more easily get through the often difficult process of purchasing a home in distress. Foreclosure sales are regarded as among the most difficult transactions, and in many cases, the homes themselves are in the worst condition.
But large investment firms have recently been on a spending spree in the Bay area, snapping up bargains with the intent of renting out the homes. That trend has lowered the selection for home buyers, so competition for the remaining inventory has been fierce.
"You're going to have to realize that in order to win that house of your dreams in a competitive bid, you're going to have to go in there with very attractive terms," Murphy said. "You're going to have to offer full price or above full price."
That's not good news for first-time home buyers, who may not have the financial means to competitively bid for houses, and may not have a large down payment, either.
The consolation may be that home sales tend to slow down during the fall and winter, and prices may stagnate, and even decline, heading into the new year.
Still, for sellers, the opportunity to have a chance at getting the price they want is encouraging.
"Fingers crossed," Kipp Christianson said. "We're hoping to get someone to put a nice offer in."
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