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Realtor Patti Bridges says, "Emphasis is on families in this friendly community. Schools get lots of support here. There are areas especially for horse lovers. And there is housing for every pocketbook. Beaches are only a short hop over the bridge. The real estate market here is high and still rising. Prices have jumped as much as 20 percent within the space of a month in some areas. Incredible as that may seem, more increases are expected."

She notes, "However there are changes afoot that seem to indicate prices will go up more slowly now. In part the increases are being driven by people from Europe and places like California or even Washington, D.C., where the cost of homes is staggering. Prices here are even comparatively low compared to other coastal areas of Florida. It is still a very good time to buy. Young buyers need to make the investment before prices get beyond their reach. People nearing retirement and thinking of down sizing may be wise to buy at today's prices even before they plan to move as a hedge against high prices later. They can rent or use the property as a vacation home until they get ready to use it fulltime. For people thinking of selling, it is critical to stay up with the fast moving price increases. Bargain hunters are mass mailing postcards and letters to homeowners, offering to buy and help you save a real estate commission. They hope you don't know how much prices have gone up and will sell far below current value."

"Who says the economy is anemic? Not builders. Not Tony Polito, the guy who tracks regional housing data for Metrostudy, a Houston housing research firm offered a robust outlook for the Tampa Bay area economy and home builders. Does this area face a future housing bubble? Unlikely, even though the Tampa Bay area's median home prices rose 17.8 percent in the past year. Says Polito: "The housing supply in Florida is as tight as it has ever been." The Tampa Bay area has only a lean 0.7-month supply of finished vacant units," says Realtor Jack Barry.

He continues, "Florida home building managed to grow in a third quarter marked by multiple hurricanes and negative advertising in the presidential campaign that hurt consumer confidence. While the nation's unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, Florida's is 4.5 percent and the Tampa Bay area's is less than 4 percent. If you have money to invest, consider waterfront property in Florida. Predicts Polito: "It will remain a good investment for the next 15 to 20 years." The Tampa Bay area will remain in the nation's top 10 housing markets, and one of the top 10 growth markets."

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