- Tampa Bay Times
- 13 Sep 2020
- BY NICK STUBBS Times Total Media Correspondent
It was always a just a matter of time before the State Road 54 corridor at the Suncoast Parkway crossing in west Pasco County would begin to boom. And boy did it.
Like almost any major road juncture, the stage was set in 2001, when the Suncoast Parkway opened, connecting Pasco to its southern neighbor Hillsborough County, providing an all-important north-south route for commuters between the two counties. Then the east-west S.R. 54 was expanded to six lanes, and suddenly people living and working in crowded Hillsborough and Pinellas counties had new options.
Pasco was not as congested; it had parks and preserves, good schools, low property taxes and home values that dollar for dollar beat anything comparable in Hillsborough and Pinellas. All that with easy commutes on the Parkway, and the rush began.
Things stalled during the housing crash of 2008, but it didn’t take long for the trend of moving to Pasco to resume.
Today, housing and commercial growth along S.R. 54 within 2 miles east and west of the Parkway is “just crazy,” said Scott Gray, an agent with Florida Executive Realty. He sells a lot of homes in the redhot region and sees no signs of interest slowing. In fact, sales have been so brisk, the available inventory of homes there is alarmingly low.
“Inventory is almost at an all-time low if not already,” he said. “There’s only about of month-and-a-half ’s supply.”
The issue is that COVID-19 isn’t discouraging buyers one bit, Gray notes, but it has sent some sellers to the benches to wait out the virus before they have people touring their homes, helping throw the current supply-demand equation out of balance. Just how out of balance? Gray listed a home along the S.R. 54 corridor an hour before he began a phone interview for this story. During the approximately 30-minute call, he scheduled three showings.
“It’s amazing how much interest there is,” Gray said. “We’re getting multiple offers; there are bidding wars going on.”
The reason is simple. The S.R. 54 corridor around the Expressway just keeps getting better, as retailers and restaurants flock there, single-family homes, townhomes and apartments go up at a break-neck pace. Still, prices remain comparatively low for buyers from parts of Tampa Bay and those coming from pricey northern markets, Gray explained.
He and his wife lived in Carrollwood in northwest Hillsborough until about three years ago. It was great, he said, as they had all the shopping, dining and entertainment options they could want. It also was a quick commute for his wife, who works in Pinellas. But as they began to feel a bit hemmed in and wanting a new home, they looked north and ended up building in Asturia, one of the premier newer communities just west of the Parkway. A bonus was that even though they were farther from Pinellas, the Parkway allowed Gray’s wife to cut 5 minutes off her commute. The only thing they missed was the big chain stores, small specialty shops, cafes and restaurants of Carrollwood.
“But it’s grown so much since we’ve been here,” said Gray. “There is so much more here now—just about everything is here, so you don’t have to go south for anything.”
And more are coming. Anyone monitoring the Pasco County government’s Project Pipeline tracking website will see scores of planned projects in the area surrounding Gray’s new home. Ground recently was broken for a new Hooters restaurant. A Smith’s grocery is coming, as is a Gene Simmons Rock and Brews Restaurant, along with smaller eateries like Fuzzy’s (taco) at 54. The dots on the project map also show many expansions to existing communities, including a boom of residential building in the new Preserve. Phase II of Asturia is underway. Builders continue to expand housing in the communities of Bexley, which has its own highly-rated elementary school, The Reserve at Long Lake Ranch, Starkey Ranch and others. Several office and professional centers are in the works, as are new service businesses and medical offices.
When it comes to homes, builders can’t keep up with the demand, said Gray. Single-family homes are red hot and buyers are lining up for them. This swath of West Pasco also has a lot of townhomes, and more are going up. A good many of them are in the Preserve, which sits along the west side of the Suncoast Parkway just north of S.R. 54.
Gray said that no matter the home type, and despite the hot market, the buys along the corridor are bargains compared to what’s available in Hillsborough and Pinellas. He estimates buyers save $50,000 to as much as $100,000 over comparable homes in the “heart of Hillsborough.” Pasco has a similar edge over many parts of Pinellas, he added. A bonus is that Pasco residents pay a good deal less in property taxes.
Adam Jonas, an agent with First Integrity Real Estate, says the popularity among buyers in this part of Pasco has spawned a dynamic, “very competitive” market.
“We’re getting multiple offers and closing within a week,” he said. “We’re getting five or six offers on everything and a lot of them are over the listing price.”
That pushes some first-time buyers out of the market, Jonas laments, but he’s hoping more sellers holding back due to COVID-19 will relent and put their homes on the market. But there’s another reason they hesitate.
“It’s a double-sided coin,” said Jonas, adding that once sellers become buyers for a replacement, they are at the mercy of low supply and climbing pricing themselves.
Jonas said all types are moving to the booming S.R. 54 corridor, but most seem to be working families with children. They’re finding affordability but also the outdoor recreation, schools and proximity to retailers in shopping centers like Northpointe Village, The Village at Mitchell Ranch and neighboring Mitchell Plaza, Trinity Village Center, Trinity Lakes Crossing, The Shoppes at Trinity Lakes, Ballantrae Village and Sunset Centre and others. For groceries there’s a Publix, Walmart, a GreenWise, Sprouts, Aldi, and Winn-Dixie.
“There’s all the shopping and restaurants, and more are coming,” said Jonas, adding a big plus for those moving to the area is they never have to travel far for things they need. Recreation, hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities abound within a 5-squaremile area of the communities. The massive county-owned J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park spans the Parkway north of S.R. 54. No less than two dozen smaller parks and preserves, some of them dedicated to the communities within which they reside and others for the public at large, are in the area. Many include ball fields. The Suncoast Trail runs for miles north and south along the Expressway and is popular among bicyclists, joggers and walkers.
Prepared buyers win, Jonas and Gray agree. Buyers should have their ducks in a row and offers should include a lender’s pre-qualification letter. For properties priced “right,” it may take an offer a bit above asking price to get the nod.
A good budget for a single-family resale home in the area is around $300,000$400,000. A few new-home models fall into that range, as well. Current listings in Asturia are few, and range from $350,000 to just north of $500,000.
A large townhome, like a 3/3 with 1,582 square feet of living area in Asturia is listed now at $235,990. Jonas has a listing in the Concord Station community for 4/3/2 single-family home with 2,027 square feet for $275,000. It may be difficult to find single family homes at a much better price in the current market, he believes.
For those looking for something more upscale, a few executive homes are available. There’s a 5/5 with 4,319 square feet of living space near the Anclote River listed at $849,000. At the top of the market is a 4/5/6 country estate home with 4,655 square feet of living space on nearly 5 acres. It sits on skisized Lake Hiawatha and is priced at $2.2 million.