Bayshore luxury condos: Part of Tampa real estate boom

If Florida’s favorite pirate, Jose Gaspar, sailed into today’s Tampa Bay, he wouldn’t recognize his old haunt. 

An elegant boulevard next to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, lined with gleaming high-rise condominium buildings has replaced the fishing shacks and tabernas where he and his men held sway. To successfully pillage and plunder along that coastline now will require a passkey and a ride on an elevator. 

The Tampa of Gaspar’s day is currently first in Zillow’s listing of hottest housing markets for 2022, a ranking that has been boosted by the luxury condo market that has boomed over the past five years, especially in South Tampa. Names like Atrium on the Bayshore, Bayshore Royal, Aquatica, 345 Bayshore, Hyde Park House Bayshore and the Sanctuary at Alexandra Place have shot up into the skyline, offering the appeal of water views, upscale amenities and proximity to charming neighborhoods filled with restaurants and shops. 

David Moyer, director of Sales, Developer Services, for real estate firm, Smith and Associates, says as the market recovered from the 2008 housing crash, the condo boom was driven by pent-up demand. That view seems to be proven by the pace of sales for luxury Bayshore properties. 

The Virage, which Smith and Associates represented, was an early indicator. Breaking ground in the fall of 2017 on the site of the former landmark Colonnade restaurant, 70 percent of the Virage condos had reservation deposits within the first year. Moyer says those sales numbers proved buyers had tremendous confidence in the Tampa Bay real estate market. 

That confidence may well emanate from deep roots. Moyer says their typical buyer comes from the neighborhood. 

“They love it in South Tampa and want to stay here without having to cut the lawn and maintain the swimming pool.” he continues. “It takes two to three years to complete a project, out of town buyers tend to not want to wait that long.”

Moyer points out that one of the luxury Bayshore condo properties Smith and Associates represent, Altura Bayshore, is currently one of the only properties with inventory. The result is a busy sales center. 

Asked if we’re in a bubble similar to the run-up to 2008, Moyer says he doesn’t think that’s the right term, especially for this hot Tampa market. He believes it’s about inventory – the old problem of supply and demand. The COVID pandemic is playing a major role in the success of recent sales. 

“People have come to the realization that nothing is promised,” Moyer says. “They want to fulfill that bucket list, they want to travel, see the grandkids. It’s easier to do that when you know you’re leaving behind a 24/7 security and maintenance team - all you have to do is pack and turn the key in the door.”

Those thoughts about convenience and amenities motivating the luxury condo buyer are shared by Toni Everett, a well-recognized name in Tampa real estate and development having sold the most pre-sale condo buildings on Bayshore over a period of thirty years. She is owner/broker of The Toni Everett Company, the Realtors of record for Bayshore’s newest luxury condo property and its first marquee name, The Ritz-Carlton Residences, TampaA rendering of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Tampa.

“People recognize the brand and know its reputation for service and amenities,” Everett says. “As a result, the tower condos and villas of phase one sold out in seven months, with prices ranging from $1.6 million to $11.6 million.” 

Ritz Carlton Residences phase two will launch in mid-June, 2022. Currently, there are more than fifty people on the waiting list. There seems to be little concern about higher interest rates and a downturn in the real estate market. Everett says most of the Ritz Carlton condos and villas have been purchased with cash and will be owner-occupied. 

“Our unit’s average size is 3,000 square feet,” she says. “That’s generally not a size one would buy for investment.” 

Everett says such success comes from a diverse group of buyers ranging from young empty nesters to people returning home to be near family to an influx of talent relocating to the area. Everett credits the Jeff Vinik/Bill Gates Cascade Investment partnership for bringing attention to Tampa as an exciting place to live and do business. 

Cameron Ahari, 32, a financial advisor with Raymond James, and former global sports marketing manager with Nike, fits that description. Ahari, who grew up in the area, his parents live in Belleair, says that the COVID pandemic made him reevaluate his priorities. During a visit home, he explored South Tampa, walked through Hyde Park Village, and went for a run along Bayshore. 

“It was so calm, so beautiful, that I made a gut decision to relocate here from the West Coast,” Ahari says. “I definitely wanted a water view. The Altura Bayshore condominiums were just being offered so it was perfect timing.”

Despite the Zillow “hottest market” ranking, Ahari feels Tampa has not yet really been discovered. 

“I feel lucky to get in when I did,” he says. “I think this will be a good investment over the next five years.”

Excitement over the surging Tampa condo market may face a reality check when the tax bills arrive later this year. 

“Our charge constitutionally is to fairly assess the value of a property based on the market,” Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez says. “The extreme increase in property values this year translates to an increase in the tax.” 

Henriquez emphasizes that his office does not set the tax millage rate. That is done by the various taxing authorities throughout Hillsborough County. Those taxing authorities have the ability to make adjustments to the tax. They can roll the tax back to the previous year, although how likely that is is unknown at this time.

Chris Weiss, the director of Tax Roll Processes in the appraiser’s office, says Henriquez is providing information to each of Hillsborough County’s taxing authorities to bring awareness to the increases in value. 

Property owners who have filed for or have already been granted a homestead exemption will be limited to a three percent increase. A breakout for South Tampa condominiums was not available but Weiss was able to verify that of the 40,000 condos in Hillsborough County, less than half are homesteaded. He attributes this to one of several factors: the new owners have not yet filed, the condo is not a permanent residence, it is a second home, or it is an investment property. 

Henriquez says he believes the migration to Tampa and the booming condo market is driven by the fact that people can now work remotely. 

“People can work anywhere so why not work here,” he says. 

Jose likely felt the same way…

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Read more articles by Pamela Varkony.

Pamela Varkony’s non-fiction topics range from politics to economic development to women's empowerment. A feature writer and former columnist for Tribune Publishing, Pamela's work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times. Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women's Press Association with an "Excellence in Journalism" award, Pamela often uses her writing to advocate for women's rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on fact-finding missions. Pamela was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. Born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Pamela often weaves the lessons learned on those backcountry roads throughout her stories.