Tiny Crystal Beach used to be sleepy, beachy. Now an influx of newcomers is changing its feel.
CRYSTAL BEACH - Most every day, David Smalley walks his rowing shell the five blocks from his Broadus Street home to Crystal Beach Park before taking the boat out into St. Joseph's Sound.
Smalley, 63, loves the water. For a while, he, and his wife, Linda Hall-Smalley, 58, even lived on a 36-foot trawler.
So when the two retired teachers from Connecticut decided to buy a home here in 2002, settling close to the water was a must.
"It was very important," said Hall-Smalley.
They aren't the first newcomers to Pinellas to make that decision, and real estate agents say they won't be the last.
Retirees like the Smalleys have historically flocked to Pinellas County, helping create high demand for waterfront property - whether it's the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay or Lake Tarpon. And as baby boomers begin to retire en masse over the next decade, their ranks are only expected to grow.
In July 2002, the Smalleys decided on a converted beach home scheduled for demolition. Renovated, the home cost them $175,000. The man who sold it to them, Norm Cullen, owner of Bayou Marketing Group Inc., bought the house for a "few thousand bucks," he said.
of living (here):
Research home prices
|Use the interactive maps located on the pages linked below show the rates at which prices have risen in neighborhoods throughout the 5-county Tampa Bay area:
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
|Real houses, real prices
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.
To research detailed information about individual properties, click below to each county's website.
Citrus database search
Hernando database search
Pinellas database search
Hillsborough database search
But the money didn't matter to the Smalleys.
They moved to Crystal Beach for the view.
"It's perfect," Hall-Smalley said. "It's a real neighborhood. It's an old, established neighborhood. There's just something about that."
Though the Smalleys have lived in Crystal Beach only since 2001, they have seen the homes get bigger, newer and pricier. They wish the people looking to build multimillion-dollar mansions along the waterfront would stay away.
But they don't even have to see the numbers to know that's not likely to happen.
The demand created by an influx of baby boomer retirees will continue to translate into higher home prices, Largo-based Realtor Brian Staveley said.
"Where do they want to live?" Staveley said. "They're not moving to Idaho or Nebraska. They're moving to Florida and California. And that's what they're going to continue to do."