The surprising reason real estate investors are flocking to this risky Florida city


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Tampa has a plethora of nicknames. Some call it Big Guava, a riff on the Big Apple and the Florida city’s abundant guava tree. Smokers prefer Cigar City, owing to its historical status as a manufacturing hub for stogies. Then, thanks to the high frequency of electrical storms, there’s Lightning Capital of North America.

But no matter what you call it, this Florida metropolitan area of about three million on the Gulf of Mexico offers excellent prospects for real estate investors. Home values increased 28.7 percent year-over-year by October 2021, and in both September and October, Zillow reported that homes spent a median of just six days on the market.

“There are a lot of buyers, including investors and institutional buyers, and people moving here from places like Boston, New York and Chicago,” says Bryan Waters, a broker in the St. Petersburg office for Mynd, a property management and investment platform. “If they’re stuck at home, at least here they can have some room and they can go outside year-round.”


Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Research flood zones before investing


Prospective Tampa investors need to take into account the hazards of the subtropical climate, says Waters.

“Make sure the home is durable,” he says. “There are lots of older homes, built maybe as far back as the 1920s, and if you buy one, you have to make sure the foundation is good and stable.”

And a certain pest is very familiar to Tampa homeowners.

“Termites are a real issue,” he says. “You really have to do your due diligence, which means doing an inspection. If you own a home here, you’re going to have termites. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Plus, the rising seas caused by global warming dictate that homeowners need to shell out for good flood insurance.

All that aside, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater’s top-ranked white sand beaches, sports teams that confer major bragging rights and a diverse economy with a rising tech profile are drawing some 115 people a day to move to this growing metro area.

Waters described five neighborhoods that offer great possibilities for real estate investing in Tampa.


Image Credit: Gabriele Maltinti / istockphoto.

1. South Tampa

Home to MacDill Air Force Base, the mostly residential neighborhood of South Tampa is “super hot,” says Waters. “Homes are very in-demand here, very sought-after. It’s a very high-end neighborhood, and it’s very tough to find good deals.”

Many parts of South Tampa have a lot of street parking, so there are cars everywhere.

“It’s a very dense neighborhood with a lot of homes on top of each other, mostly single-family,” he adds. They’re supposedly two-lane roads but they’ll have parked cars blocking one lane all the time.”

The neighborhood has been totally redeveloped, according to Waters. “Many ‘scrapers’ have come in and torn down old buildings and rebuilt, or else older buildings have been completely renovated,” he said. “Nicely updated million-dollar homes are everywhere.”

By the numbers:

  • Median home listing price per $620,000
  • Increase year-over-year: 3.5 percent
  • Median days on market: 54, down from 63 one year prior

Image Credit: Google Maps.

2. Hyde Park

Dubbed “chic and modern” by CultureTrip, Hyde Park is nicknamed SoHo for its position south of Howard Avenue.

Among other attractions, it’s home to one of the nation’s oldest movie houses, the 1920s-era Tampa Theatre; Bayshore Boulevard, where you can spot dolphins and manatees; and the misleadingly named nightclub Hyde Park Café.

It’s also the location of Big Cat Rescue, the sanctuary owned by Carole Baskins, made so notorious by the Netflix series “Tiger King” that she’s indefinitely closed the park to visitors.

Hyde Park is very close to South Tampa, and much of what goes for that part of town is equally true for this neighborhood, says Waters.

“It’s very popular, very in-demand, with plenty of million-dollar homes,” says Waters.

The Parade of Pirates, part of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, named for legendary (and maybe mythical) pirate José Gaspar, has taken place in these neighborhoods annually since 1904.

“It’s a huge event, and it runs through both South Tampa and Hyde Park along Bay Shore Boulevard,” says Waters. “So having a home there is very cool.”

By the numbers:

  • Median home listing price per $1.7 million

  • Increase year-over-year: 2.3 percent

  • Median days on market: 61, up from 47 one year prior

Image Credit: Google Maps.

3. Channel District

The pedestrian-friendly Channel District is host to Amalie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team, which won back-to-back Stanley Cups, just one among the high-performing teams that lead locals to call their home “Champa Bay.”

Here, you’ll also find Water Street Tampa, a multi-use development that has drawn investment by none other than Bill Gates. And James Beard Award-winning chef Art Smith cooks up Southern food at Splitsville.

“This neighborhood is very close to downtown, and very close to the major waterways, so it’s right where all the cruise ships come through,” says Waters.

“Much of the housing stock is made up of condominiums. It’s a bit tricker to pinpoint prices, but everything is new, or newly updated, and it’s a very cool, very dense neighborhood.”

By the numbers:

  • Median home listing price per $500,000
  • Increase year-over-year: 12.4 percent
  • Median days on market: 84, down from 90 one year prior

Image Credit: csfotoimages / iStock.

4. Ybor City

Named for Vicente Martinez Ybor, the Spanish entrepreneur who sparked the neighborhood’s cigar manufacturing trade, Ybor City remains a major Cuban neighborhood, with a renowned cigar shop. The sector’s abundant nightlife features LGBTQ hotspots along with dance havens and college bars.

“It’s a little rough,” says Waters of the neighborhood. “It’s big for nightlife, with lots of late-night parties. There are some spots you don’t want to walk through at night, but then it’s very close to everything that’s fun to be around. And the neighborhood is changing, with a lot of demand, so things are getting a bit safer.”

The neighborhood is much more affordable than South Tampa or Hyde Park.

“There are a lot of small, pretty, older homes that you can find for $300,000 to $400,000,” says Waters, “that can sell for as much as $600,000 to $800,000 after a rehab.”

By the numbers:

  • Median home listing price per $249,000
  • Increase year-over-year: none
  • Median days on market: 47, up from 43 one year prior

Image Credit: WGCPhotography / istockphoto.

5. Seminole Heights

A cruise down Central Avenue in Seminole Heights is a slice of heaven for the architecture enthusiasts since it’s lined with Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, Florida Cracker and Florida Vernacular homes.

And admirers can get up close to at least one, by booking a table at Front Porch Bar & Grill, a casual dining spot in a Victorian with a wraparound porch. For more adventurous foodie, the hungry can head to the Refinery, hosted by three-time James Beard Award finalist Greg Baker.

And once folks finish their meals, they can get to both downtown and the beaches very quickly since the neighborhood is very close to Route 275.

“Just north of downtown St. Pete, this neighborhood has lots that are a little bigger,” says Waters, “so many of the homes have garages.”

This means there aren’t as many cars on the street as in South Tampa, so traffic is a little less snarled.

“You probably won’t find anything under $400,000 here,” says Waters. “Homes typically are going for anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million.”

By the numbers:

  • Median home listing price per $349,800
  • Decrease year-over-year: 9.7 percent
  • Median days on market: 50, flat from one year prior

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Image Credit: TampAGS / Wiki Commons.

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