The median value rose to $74,500 in Highland Oaks, although less when a dozen new homes are removed from the picture.
By JON WILSON
Published February 15, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Highland Oaks has schools and churches, well-kept homes, tree canopies shading brick streets and a few blocks nudging Lake Maggiore's northern shore.
Some eyesores remain from the neighborhood's early days, but it looks to be generally on the rise. County figures reinforce the image.
From 1998 through last year, Highland Oaks' median sales price rose about 61 percent - or from $46,000 to $74,500, records show.
While that's generally good news for owners, the raw figure doesn't tell the whole story. In a sense, Highland Oaks offers a chance to look beyond the numbers to what actually is happening on the ground.
For example, new construction - homes built after 2000 - gave median prices an upward jolt. About a dozen new houses went up in Highland Oaks during 2001-2003. When their sales are not included, median prices drop each year by several thousand dollars.
During 2002, three 960-square-foot houses were built on 27th Street S lots. Each sold for $78,000. Another on 29th Street S, this one just over 1,000 square feet, went for $80,000. Three more on Walton Street S, roughly the same size as the others, sold in the $78,000 to $88,000 range.
Meanwhile, four older houses fetched prices of more than $78,000, the most expensive being a 1925 1,512-square-foot, two-story dwelling on 22nd Avenue S.
On the other end of the scale, a 1926 frame house on Auburn Street S brought $15,000 in 2002 (though it resold the next year for $40,000). And a 1949 frame house on 30th Street S went for $27,000. (Its market value now is estimated at $52,200, according to county records.)
So Highland Oaks homeowners, and those in other neighborhoods, generally can view it as a positive when median prices move up. But the figures, because there are variables and extremes, don't necessarily mean owners can expect specific properties to equal or approach the median.
Not all sales even make the list used to compile median prices. For example, in 2001 the Pinellas County school district bought 29 pieces of improved property to acquire land to build a new school. The district paid premium prices, according to officials.
The purchases aren't reflected in the property appraiser's median price compilation because they do not represent a negotiated, market-driven transaction.
"We're interested in trying to determine what a property would be worth in the open market in a situation not imposed on either (the buyer or seller)," said Pam Dubov, chief deputy property appraiser.
Highland Oaks has experienced a steady, if uneven increase in both median price and numbers of sales during the past five years. Realtors say there has been a consistent interest from buyers and potential buyers.
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Even so, 2000 saw a dropoff in median price from $50,250 to $47,900. No new houses were sold that year, records show.
Highland Oaks is situated between 22nd and 31st streets S, and 18th and 26th avenues. It was developed primarily during the late 1940s and the 1950s, although some structures date to 1920 or even a few years earlier. It contains a variety of building styles - wood, stucco, concrete block and brick, for example.
"Handyman specials" remain, properties that clearly need some help.
Others already have been improved.
"Those are the ones that have been shooting through the roof because they've been so low before," said Realtor Lou Brown, whose office is in Highland Oaks. "Those properties that were the most depressed have seen the most appreciation."
Brown predicted the median price will increase again this year, partly because people continue to move into the neighborhood and investors still seek houses to fix and flip - in other words, buy, repair and quickly sell at a profit.
Investors are selling to first-time home buyers, Brown said, but not necessarily the young families in their 20s. Older buyers who have become more financially secure are making their first home purchases, he said.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood composition is gradually changing, too.
"Many of the areas that have been predominantly African-American, now you're seeing other races coming in," Brown said. "A decade ago, the neighborhood was 98 percent (black).
"I'm thinking now (the African-American) percentage is as low as 90 or 92 percent."