Are you ready for buying a home in Florida? If you have your heart set on the Tampa Bay area, you may find it helpful to know what to expect. Buying a house in Tampa may mean stiff competition. Tampa Bay was named the hottest housing market for 2022 by Zillow thanks to a thriving job market, high demand for housing, and a large population of home buyers.
Is it a good time to buy a house in Tampa? Tampa home values are expected to rise almost 25% in 2022 compared to 14% nationwide. You won’t just be competing with traditional buyers, either; in 2021, a whopping 25% of real estate in Tampa Bay was sold to an investor. Tampa is one of the hottest markets in the country for investors who often come to the table with cash offers. Many buyers are flocking to Tampa from South Florida as well, fleeing the overcrowding and sky-high prices in Miami for a lower cost of living and homeownership within reach. Tampa is adding more jobs than new housing.
Of course, it’s easy to see why Tampa Bay is attracting so many buyers. If you aren’t scared off by the idea of a little competition and maybe a longer home search, here’s what you need to know about buying a home in Tampa, Florida so you can start enjoying the vibrant community and beach lifestyle. This is a great time to buy a house in Tampa!
Steps to Buying a Home in Tampa
Buying a house in Florida for the first time? Unsure what to expect with the Tampa Bay area real estate market and what is needed to get that home? This guide covers the process of buying a house in Florida step by step, complete with typical home prices and the best neighborhoods to consider.
Step #1. Create an Affordable Budget to Buy a House in Tampa
It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of Tampa home buying and overlook a crucial step: figuring out what you can afford to pay.
You can start your home buying budget by determining your gross monthly income and current debt payments. You can then apply the standard 28/36 rule used by lenders. This rule states that your mortgage payment should not exceed 28% of your monthly gross income and no more than 36% of your gross income should go toward total debt payments. Keep in mind the mortgage payment includes interest, principal, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and HOA fees!
You can multiply your monthly gross income by 28% to calculate the maximum you should pay for housing.
The 28/36 rule is helpful, but it should only be used as a starting point. Don’t forget to consider the hidden costs of homeownership that start to add up. Here are major costs to buy a home in Tampa you don’t want to overlook.
Tampa HOA fees are among the highest in the country as a share of housing costs. On average, Tampa homeowners in an HOA have an HOA fee that’s 48% of their total monthly housing cost! HOAs are also common in Tampa Bay. Older buildings usually have higher HOA fees. To reduce HOA fees, look for newer properties with fewer units.
Homeowner’s insurance premiums in Tampa Bay are among the highest in the country thanks to a six-month hurricane season and older homes. The average home insurance premium in Tampa is almost $2,100 per year, twice the national average.
Flood insurance is usually a good idea when buying a house in Tampa, Florida. Expect to pay around $700 per year.
Find out how old the roof and HVAC system is and if they are due to be replaced soon. This can cost $8,000 or more. You’ll want to budget about 1% of the purchase price per year toward maintenance and repairs.
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What Are Average House Prices in Tampa, Florida?
Hopefully now you have a general guideline on the maximum you can afford and you’ve left yourself room for insurance, taxes, and other costs. The next step is figuring out how much it costs to buy that house and what you can get within your budget.
The median price of houses for sale in Tampa, FL is $348,000, up 15% year-over-year. That’s slightly lower than the U.S. median sales price of $347,000 which is up 17% year-over-year and the highest median price since 1999. The average sales price for Tampa homes for sale is $415,500.
Thinking about buying a condo? The median sales price for condos in Tampa is $230,000, up 18% year-over-year.
Home prices in surrounding areas of Tampa Bay are more affordable but climbing just as fast. If you have questions about buying or selling a home in Tampa, click here to get connected to a local agent, otherwise here’s what you can expect with median prices of homes for sale in the Tampa, FL area:
- Clearwater, FL: $325,000
- St. Petersburg, FL: $335,000
- Lutz, FL: $445,000 (up 36% year-over-year!)
- Land O’Lakes, FL: $407,000
- Bradenton, FL: $375,000
- Dunedin, FL: $387,000
- Hillsborough County: $350,000
- Pinellas County: $350,000
Step #2. Qualify & Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan
With a realistic budget in mind, the next step is getting qualified and pre-approved for a mortgage. Getting a pre-approval should be done before you start house hunting because it ensures you know what you can get approved to borrow and that sellers will take your offer seriously.
Take the time to choose a lender and mortgage program that fits your circumstances. If you are a first time home buyer in Tampa, you may find an FHA loan is a good fit. However, FHA loans are costly with expensive mortgage insurance premiums. If you have good credit and a larger down payment, a conventional home loan may offer better savings and a lower mortgage payment.
There are basic requirements to buy a house in Florida and get approved for a mortgage:
- Satisfactory credit. Most lenders require a credit score of at least 620.
- Ability to repay. You typically need stable employment without a change in employers during the last year and a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or less.
- Down payment. VA loans do not require a down payment, but most mortgages require that you put down anywhere from 3.5% to 10-20%. You may qualify for first time home buyer programs in Tampa that provide down payment assistance!
- Sufficient cash reserves for closing costs and other expenses when you buy a house in Tampa.
- Funds for the down payment and closing costs are sourced (the lender can see where they came from such as a paycheck) or seasoned (the money has been in your account for 90+ days).
- Gift letter if you plan to use gift money from a relative.
Explore Tampa First Time Home Buyer Programs
Buying a house in Florida for the first time? If you are a first time buyer who has not owned a home in the last three years, a first time home buyer program in Tampa can make homeownership more affordable. If you are interested in one of these programs, it’s best to start here then choose an approved lender.
- City of Tampa Mortgage Assistance Program. Get a down payment assistance loan of up to $15,000 if you meet income guidelines and you are buying a home in Tampa within the city limits.
- Dare to Own the Dream (DARE) from the City of Tampa provides up to $40,000 in down payment assistance as a silent or deferred second mortgage with a 0% interest rate and $0 monthly payments.
- East Tampa CRA Down Payment Assistance provides up to $50,000 in assistance to current East Tampa renters who want to buy a home in the East Tampa CRA.
- The Home Sweet Home Hillsborough Program provides a second mortgage of up to $10,000 that can be used toward closing costs and your down payment when you buy a house in Tampa or surrounding areas of the county.
- The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program from the Housing Finance Authority of Hillsborough County provides a tax credit of 50% of your annual paid mortgage interest every year. Save up to $2,000 per year for the life of your loan!
Step #3. Hire a Buyer’s Agent to Represent You
A good buyer’s agent helps you find the right neighborhood, shows you homes, negotiates on your behalf, and offers sound insight and guidance – and their commission is paid by the seller!
It’s a good idea to interview several agents to find someone with experience in your price range and the areas you’re looking to buy. You should feel comfortable in their ability to represent you and have time to respond to communications.
Step #4. Start House Hunting in Tampa!
Once you’ve signed a contract with a buyer’s agent, you’re ready for the most exciting of the steps to buying a house in Florida: the house hunting process!
You will work with your agent to select the best neighborhoods and Tampa suburbs to fit your needs. Go into your house hunt as prepared as possible by staying realistic and having a clear list of your needs and wants. Given the competitive Tampa real estate market, your first or second offer may not be accepted, but perseverance pays off.
The best place to buy a house in Tampa will depend on your budget, current and future lifestyle, and priorities. Here are guides for Tampa home buyers looking for the best place to buy a house.
Want to explore some of the best Tampa neighborhoods? Here are some of our top picks for where to buy a house in Tampa.
- West Meadows, a large master-planned community in northeast Tampa
- Tampa Palms, an upscale neighborhood in New Tampa
- South Tampa, a gorgeous and historic area of Tampa popular with young professionals and families
- Palma Ceia, a South Tampa neighborhood famous for its brick-lined streets and just minutes from downtown
- Davis Island, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Tampa
You might be looking for something specific or already narrowing down your options. These guides may help!
- Safest neighborhoods in Tampa
- Best school districts in Tampa
- Best Tampa neighborhoods for families
- Top 55+ communities in Tampa
- Best Tampa suburbs for young professionals, families, retirees, and more
- Tampa vs St. Petersburg – which Tampa Bay city should you choose?
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Step #5. Submit an Offer on a Home
When you find a home that checks all the boxes, it’s time to make an offer! This can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you know there’s competition for the home.
Your agent will help you review comparable home sales and offer advice on making the strongest possible offer. They may also recommend strategies for competing with cash offers when you buy a home in Tampa. This may include:
- Coming in with your best price
- Reducing contingencies
- Making an as-is offer contingent on the home inspection so the seller doesn’t need to worry about repairs or delays
- Offering a rent-back clause
As you consider what to offer, it may help to know some Tampa real estate statistics. Tampa Bay, FL homes for sale have been spending just 11 median days on the market and 40% sell over list price. In 2021, 32% of sold Tampa houses were all-cash deals with cash closings up 52% from the previous year.
After your offer is submitted, it’s time to wait with bated breath. The seller can accept your offer as-is, reject it, or make a counter-offer. Some negotiation is common. The seller may request a higher sales price, fewer contingencies, reduced seller assistance, or they may decline to perform repairs or give credit you requested in your offer.
Once both parties are in agreement and the purchase agreement is signed, you are officially under contract!
Step #6. Close on Your New Tampa Home!
Many things must happen after your offer is accepted before you get to closing. You will have a specific amount of time to perform due diligence based on the contingencies in the agreement such as getting an appraisal, completing the home inspection, and more. You will need to deposit your earnest money and go through underwriting with your lender to secure your mortgage.
During this escrow period, many things will also happen behind the scenes like the title search. Once all contingencies are met and financing is set, a closing date will be set. You will have the chance to do a final walkthrough of the home before signing the paperwork and getting the keys to your new home!
Before closing, it’s a good idea to plan for your impending move. You may need to downsize, get rid of belongings you don’t want to move (or furniture that won’t fit), and plan for temporary storage and other logistics. If you’re getting started with buying a house in Tampa, give us a call at 2 College Brothers for a free, affordable quote. We’ll help you plan the move into your new home and lock in your moving date once closing is scheduled.