WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Greater Pinellas Point has been a buyer's, and seller's, market. Residents and Realtors say perks include more bang for the buck and a harmonic vibe.
ST. PETERSBURG - In terms of sales numbers, Greater Pinellas Point is one of the most active neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, falling just behind Disston Heights and Central Oak Park. But despite its size and activity, it is often overlooked.
Pinellas Point residents are used to it, just as they are accustomed to out-of-town guests missing the last highway exit to their end-of-the-peninsula community and unwittingly barreling toward the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
For those who live in the neighborhood, though, proximity to I-275 means an easy commute north to downtown St. Petersburg, or south - across the scenic Skyway - to Manatee County.
Realtors say it's one of several selling points of the Greater Pinellas Point neighborhood, and that among them buyers get more house for the money than in more fashionable parts of town, along with its waterfront vistas, prestigious Pink Streets section and desirable schools.
They are reasons, those who sell houses say, why the area on the southernmost tip of Pinellas County, running from 54th Avenue S to Tampa Bay and Fourth Street S to 34th Street, has seen so many home sales in recent years. There were 1,225 sales in the area of 3,371 homes in the past five years, according to the property appraiser's office.
"It's a good neighborhood in a number of ways," Lou Brown of Lou Brown Realty explained.
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The cost of living here
Home sweet home no easy find
Neighborhood ripe for change a good gamble
Priced out of their markets
Appreciation with a caveat
In Seminole, real cows to cash cows
Roots aplenty in Driftwood
The elusive starter home
What $100K feels like
Brisk sales at land's end
Must be something in the saltwater
Modest gains in Childs Park
Now that's rich
Older, smaller homes have plenty of takers
This home hasn't changed very much - but the price sure has
Through the roof
Retiring baby boomers fuel waterfront boom
Work, wait and equity can just happen
Priced out of their markets
Old Florida features grace new houses
Suburbs going condo
These new houses celebrate old styles
New homes offer old style
Buying into Pasco's bargains
Going up: land values
Hernando's hidden secret
Wise buyers 'lucky,' content with beachfront home
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So, what does a median price house look like? It depends on the neighborhood. To view representative homes from south Pinellas County, see our photo gallery.
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"It is diverse. The values are rising. It's close to the beach, close to the water and has good schools."
Neighborhoods such as Pinellas Point, Disston Heights and Lakewood have "nice-sized homes that are priced competitively for people who can't afford to live in the Old Northeast and Crescent Lake," Eileen Bedinghaus of Lambrecht & Associates Inc. said.
As well, Pinellas Point is an area that generally does not require flood insurance and where $150,000 can buy a three-bedroom, two-bath house, said the Realtor, who is building a home in nearby Lakewood Estates.
County records show that the median price of a home in Pinellas Point in the first seven months of 2003 was $134,950. While many homes fall into the middle-class range, there are others whose prices reflect higher income brackets, particularly on the waterfront. Former baseball player Dwight Gooden and his nephew Gary Sheffield, who recently signed with the New York Yankees, built their dream homes in Greater Pinellas Point. Last April, developer Grady Pridgen bought Gooden's house, at 6700 30th St. S, for $1-million. In 2002, Sheffield sold his 11,000-square-foot waterfront home on 3 acres, at 850 Pinellas Point Drive, for $2.8-million to interactive TV guru Kevin Harrington.
Bernadette "Bernie" Young and her husband, Joe, bought their house on three-quarters of an acre with 47 trees in 1990. They paid $145,000 for the house with a wraparound porch after stumbling on it after getting lost in the neighborhood, said Mrs. Young, president of the Center for Creative Teambuilding and former chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Our house has doubled (in price) since we bought it. People who have their homes for sale, they don't last very long," she said, referring to the high volume of sales in the neighborhood.
None of this is news to Brent Fisher, past president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.
"As a mortgage lender, I am very much aware of what is selling all over the Tampa Bay region. I had said when my wife and I moved to Pinellas Point it was the best-kept secret in the region and by far the best money value in the region," said Fisher, one-time president of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association.
"I think one of the driving forces for the large turnover is that people are recognizing that they get far more bang for their buck in the Pinellas Point area than they get anywhere else. We've got builders that are building new homes in our area. They found land that people didn't realize was there."
Poul Hornsleth, president of R.W. Caldwell Realty in Gulfport, said his company recently sold 11 lots to builder Ken Williams, who is constructing homes starting at $300,000. Hornsleth added that Pinellas Point and other areas close to the city's downtown have benefited from its revitalization.
Brown, who grew up in St. Petersburg, said one of the advantages of Pinellas Point is that it's not an old neighborhood.
"You have to realize that there really weren't any houses there until the '50s," he said.
Many subdivisions built in the 1970s benefited from "good" deed restrictions that mandated the square footage of homes, two-car garages and even the type of roof, Brown said.
Over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of black residents has increased in Pinellas Point. Realtors see no link between the changing racial makeup of the area and the high number of real estate sales over the past 51/2 years.
"It's a very positive neighborhood," said Brown, who is black.
"I would like to say that Pinellas Point has passed the diversity litmus test. I consider it an area where blacks buy from whites and it's also an area that whites will buy from blacks. White people are still buying in. People are still interested," he said.
That would not be happening if there were white flight, Brown said.
Hornsleth, who is white, agreed.
"The prices have consistingly been going up. There is no anxiety in the market," Hornsleth said.
"It's been a destination for people of color who are upscale. I have seen little evidence of people fleeing. People who have chosen to get out left there years ago. There's no evidence of depressed pricing and people are not blinking about paying the appreciated prices. Although the prices still track lower than upscale neighborhoods of similar upscale housing, they are still appreciating at a very fast clip."
Mrs. Young, who is white, as is her husband, said that when her family moved from Chicago in 1988, they told Realtors that they wanted to live in an integrated neighborhood.
"I don't care what color you are. It's your values, it's the sense of neighborhood. Pinellas Point is not the cheapest place in the area. Whoever is moving into it, that means they're doing well and my hat's off to them," she said.
"Our cul-de-sac is a microcosm of St. Pete. You'll see us all congregated, talking to each other. It's just a neat area. We don't have fences in between our houses in our neighborhood."