Hot spots to find affordable housing around Tampa Bay

If you're searching for a home in the Tampa Bay area, you might be hard-pressed to find a "For Sale" sign that stays up very long. Finding houses that meet your budget and location preferences can be tricky.

"It is still a sellers’ market here in Tampa," said realtor Melanie Atkinson of Smith & Associates. "It's been exceptionally difficult to find homes that are below $300,000. Especially in areas that are closer to the city centers or closer to the beaches which is where a lot of people want to be."

While she said it's not impossible to find homes below $300,000 in desirable locations, buyers need to be prepared to go above the asking price. 

Atkinson said at the $300,000 price point, buyers may need to go as high as $20,000 over the asking price. That's why she says it's important to work with a lender before buying to know how high of an offer you can afford to pay back.

"For a family that's maybe making a combined $75,000 a year, your debt to income ratio assuming, you don't have a lot of debt other than cars, maybe it would be about $2,000 a month for housing," said Atkinson.

Still, cash offers are winning out in the housing bids. 

"Not necessarily having a bundle of cash to pay full cash for it but having access to cash in case you have to pay over appraised value. It really makes the sellers feel good if you have a lot of cash on hand if they want to accept your offer over other people's offer," said Atkinson.

And here's another reason why sellers may have a leg up in this market. 

"Because once you own one house, hopefully, you can turn around and sell that and then buy the next house that's how people are getting houses now," Atkinson explained.

She said it helps to stay flexible and get creative. Atkinson suggests looking at everything from condos to townhouses. She also says to look at areas you may not have previously considered. 

And there are some hot spots for affordability.

"So for people that are looking in Hillsborough County, a lot of where we find the pockets of homes that are $300,000 and below would be in the southeastern part; Riverview, Gibsonton, Ruskin, that area, Seminole Heights, also up near the University area and Temple Terrace. In Pinellas County, most of the homes that are $300,000 and under are located in the central part of the county. The waterfront and the closer you are to the water, the more expensive the land gets. So you find a lot of houses that are in that price range in Pinellas Park, in central St. Pete, Largo, those areas."

She says Pasco County is also a great area for anybody that's looking for affordable housing, with new construction sprawling communities to the north.

"So areas like Zephyrhills and San Antonio and north Wesley Chapel really providing some good options for people that are looking for affordable new construction housing," said Atkinson.

While it may not be easy, staying tenacious in your house hunt will pay off. 

"Owning real estate in the Tampa Bay area will be really important as time goes on," she added.