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Located on Tampa Bay, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the city of Tampa offers the best of both worlds: a beachy, outdoor lifestyle along with metropolitan amenities like a vibrant arts scene, world-class dining and three major pro sports franchises.
With all the city has to offer, it’s no wonder home prices continue to rise even as real estate markets in many other parts of the country experience declines. The median price of a home in The Big Guava, as Tampa is known by locals, was $417,500 as of April 2023, according to Redfin. That’s moderately higher than the nationwide median price of $388,800. Read on for everything you need to know about buying a home in Tampa.
Deciding where to live in Tampa
Deciding where to live in Tampa can be a little daunting at first blush. There’s a variety of neighborhoods to choose from, some known for their historic architecture and others for their resort-style living. There are urban options, if nightlife and entertainment are what you’re after, and suburbs for those raising a family or seeking a quieter, more laid-back lifestyle.
If your home-search scope is broader, you might also consider St. Petersburg and Clearwater, which, along with the city of Tampa, make up the region known as Tampa Bay.
No matter where you choose to focus your home search, be sure to research the local cost of living, which includes such daily expenses as transportation, utilities and food. If you’re moving from another part of the state or country, Bankrate’s cost of living calculator can help you better understand the difference between the costs associated with your current location and life in Tampa.
How to buy a house in Tampa
If you’re ready to make the move to Tampa, here’s what you need to know to prepare.
Save for a down payment
With home prices in Tampa relatively high, you’ll need to have plenty of money saved for a down payment. The typical 20 percent on a median-priced $417,500 home amounts to $83,500. That’s a steep mountain to climb.
But not all homebuyers will need to come up with that much cash upfront. Depending on the mortgage type you choose, you may need a down payment of just 3 percent — for a median-priced home, that’s a much more affordable $12,525. Some mortgage options require no down payment at all, if you qualify. Just remember that the higher your down payment, the less you have to borrow, so low down payments will typically equate to higher monthly payments for the life of the loan.
Get preapproved for a mortgage
Before you start your home search, it’s a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage first. This typically requires providing the lender with a variety of financial information, including paystubs, tax returns and bank statements.
Taking this step can help you more accurately define your shopping budget by telling you how much a lender is likely to approve you for. It can also be helpful in a competitive market like Tampa, because preapproval lets home sellers know you are a serious buyer.
Find the right lender
Getting preapproved by a particular lender doesn’t mean you’re obligated to use them when you’re ready to purchase a home. You can certainly go with the same company if you choose, but it’s important to shop around and find a mortgage lender who offers competitive rates and terms that meet your unique financial needs. Ideally you’ll want to find the best combination of a low interest rate and minimal fees.
Find the best local real estate agent in Tampa
Having an expert by your side can make the entire homebuying process easier and less stressful. A real estate agent who knows the local area can help you find a neighborhood that works for your lifestyle and a home that meets your budget. Agents can also be essential when it comes time to make an offer and negotiate the best price and terms possible.
If you’re searching for an agent, try asking friends and family for referrals. If someone you know and trust had a good experience with them, chances are good that you will too. Do some online research as well, and interview several candidates before making a decision or signing a contract.
Start house hunting and make an offer
As you begin house hunting, get a firm handle on what your must-haves are and what you are willing to do without, if necessary. Think about what kind of home you’re looking for, how big you’d like it to be, what sort of outdoor space you prefer and whether you want a move-in ready property or a fixer-upper. Be honest with your agent about what you’re seeking, so they can assist you more effectively.
Once you’ve found a Tampa home that meets your criteria, your agent will help you craft a competitive offer. Homes were remaining on the market here for around 22 days in April, per Redfin, so there’s no need to feel overly rushed. Another thing working in your favor as a buyer? More than a quarter of homes that were sold in April had a price drop before the deal was closed.
Get a home inspection and appraisal
Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to get the property inspected and appraised.
A home inspection will allow you to purchase with confidence, turning up any problems or issues that may not be immediately obvious. What’s more, if the inspection reveals the need for major work, you can request that the seller cover the repair costs — and if you included an inspection contingency in the purchase contract, you might even be able to walk away from the purchase.
The appraisal is a step almost always required by mortgage lenders: Understandably, lenders do not want to lend you more money for a mortgage than the home is actually worth. Ideally, the home will appraise for more than you are borrowing for the mortgage. If it comes up short, you will have to renegotiate the price or bridge the appraisal gap some other way.
Requirements to buy a house in Tampa
Can I afford a house in Tampa?
Home prices in Tampa are rising — Redfin data shows that the current median of $417,500 is a 4.4 percent increase over the same time last year. In addition to purchase price, it’s important to consider mortgage interest rates when deciding whether you can afford a home in Tampa. Rates are steep at the moment, here and everywhere, which can severely hamper your purchasing power.
A home is one of the most significant purchases most people ever make, so crunch the numbers on your finances to understand exactly how much house you can afford. A good rule of thumb to follow is the 28/36 rule: This means no more than 28 percent of your gross income should be spent on housing expenses, and no more than 36 percent on total debt.
First-time homebuyers in Tampa
If you’re a first-time home buyer, be sure to investigate programs designed to make it easier for you to access homeownership. There are many different types of down payment assistance programs available in Florida. These types of programs are offered at the state, county and city level and can help with down payment expenses as well as closing costs, so it’s smart to see what you might be eligible for.
When you sit down at the closing table, you’ve made it to the final step of the homebuying process. During this step, you’ll sign a mountain of paperwork — and also hand over a lot of money. Florida closing costs run about 2.3 percent of a home’s purchase price, according to ClosingCorp. On a median-priced $417,500 home, that comes to $9,602. After signing on the dotted line and paying your closing tab, you’ll receive the keys and can begin settling into your new Tampa home.
Yes. Tampa home values are on the rise, and the city continues to attract new buyers, which is important should you consider selling at some point in the future. The city’s population is growing, making a home purchase here a solid investment, and it ranked as the third hottest large metro area in Bankrate’s recent Housing Heat Index.
The median price of a home in Tampa as of April 2023 was $417,500, according to data from Redfin. That represents a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase, and it’s more than $28,000 higher than the nationwide median price.