Tampa Bay's bedroom communities now extend all the way to Hernando County.
In Pasco County, just north of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the number of single-family home permits has jumped by 66% since 2001. Prices of new homes in the county have spiked to an average of $212,000 from about $180,000 less than two years ago.
Many young couples and retirees looking for more home-buying bang for their buck now are searching even farther north, spurring a surge in development in Hernando County, the next county up the coast. Property prices there are at least "$20,000 to $50,000 cheaper than in Pasco," says real estate agent Pat Skeel of Exit Success Realty in Hernando.
A three-bedroom home that costs $200,000 in Hernando can cost $230,000 to $280,000 in Pasco now and even more in Pinellas and Hillsborough. Single-family home permits in Hernando have climbed by 54% since 2002 to 2,719 permits in 2004. In the first two months of this year alone, a record 671 permits were issued -- a third of what was issued in all of 2003.
"The market here is literally exploding," Skeel says. "The further away you get from Tampa, the cheaper you get, but we're catching up."
Demand is so strong that prices in Hernando "have doubled in the last 12 to 24 months," says Craig Gallagher, president of New Port Richey-based Lexington Homes.
Facilitating development is the Suncoast Parkway, completed in 2001, which shortened commute times from Pasco and Hernando to Hillsborough and Pinellas. On the Suncoast, for instance, it takes about 40 to 45 minutes to drive from Hernando to Tampa International Airport.
"With the addition of the Suncoast Parkway, Hernando is now legitimately a bedroom community to Tampa," says Gallagher, who has built or is building four communities in southern Hernando -- and is already looking farther north. Lexington is building two residential communities in Citrus County, just north of Hernando.
"Growth is working its way right up the northern corridor," he says.