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Waterfront properties don't have to cost a small fortune

In Town 'N Country, water-loving homebuyers are finding great deals. But real estate agents say they're going fast.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2002


TAMPA -- "Affordable waterfront property" may sound like a contradiction of terms, but there is a way to live the Florida fantasy and still have money left to buy name-brand groceries.

You just have to know where to look, and you probably should do it soon, before all the bargains are gone.

Three years ago, when Julio and Barbara Moesa were hoping to buy a waterfront home, they began their search in South Tampa. It quickly became apparent that they couldn't afford anything in the area.

So they went to the Town 'N Country neighborhood of Bay Crest and settled on a modest three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house built in the 1960s that had a pool and a dock on a deep water canal with access to the open bay.

They paid $155,000 for the home. Today, Barbara Moesa said, it has a market value of $289,000.

Richard Safford, a real estate agent for ERA Gulfcoast who has lived in Bay Crest since 1996, had a similar experience. He bought his 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, pool home with a 10,000-pound covered boat lift for $168,000. He said he could now sell the home for nearly twice that.

Even now, the homes in Bay Crest remain some of the most affordable waterfront property in Tampa.

In South Tampa, it's hard to find a waterfront home for less than $700,000, said Rick Harper, a real estate agent who was been selling homes in Town 'N Country for seven years and selling real estate in Tampa for 18 years.

"Most people don't have the option of buying a house for $700,000 to $1.5-million," he said.

Still, he noted, many families would if they could.

"If you want salt water in Tampa, this is it," he said of Bay Crest. "This is your only option."

About 10 waterfront homes are currently for sale in Bay Crest.

They include a 1,680-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home listed for $209,000 and a 1,578-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom pool home for $264,000.

Even the surrounding neighborhoods of Bay Side and Bay Port, built in the 1980s, and Dana Shores, built in the 1960s, list few homes selling for less than $400,000.

"If somebody wants waterfront, Bay Crest is truly just an awesome place," said Tracy Horrell, a real estate agent with Real Works who sells homes primarily in Town 'N Country. "Where else can you go for that kind of money?"

Plus, the neighborhood has improved greatly in recent years.

"Families started coming in with small children and remodeling and it's a wonderful family neighborhood," she said. "You drive through there and for the most part it's very well taken care of. They have a neighborhood association that is not mandatory but does a lot for their community."

Tampa Shores, located farther west in Town 'N Country, is even more affordable than Bay Crest, but there are fewer homes available, and the neighborhood, built in the early 1960s, hasn't turned around as much.

"It's a neighborhood that hasn't taken off yet, but it will," Horrell said of Tampa Shores. She puts its metamorphosis about where Bay Crest was five years ago.

Bay Crest's affordability appealed to Peter Marsenison and his wife, who spent more than a year looking for the perfect waterfront home.

"I wanted to be on the water," Marsenison said. "And (my wife) did too but she wanted a little bit of yard, and the big issues were nice neighborhood and budget. And that neighborhood fit all the criteria that we wanted."

The couple, who have two young sons, purchased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom waterfront home with 1,800 square feet in Bay Crest for $265,000.

They plan to make improvements to the home and possibly put in a pool. And, of course, they need to buy a boat.

"First," Marsenison said, "we had to get the house."

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