"Home prices went up in major markets in the US in May for the second consecutive month."  That is the lead sentence in press releases and it deals with the national real estate picture.  The Tampa Bay real estate market looks a little different.  The mean price of Tampa Bay real estate in May was down 6.6% compared to April. 

The national home prices slid 4.5% in May from the previous May.  However, in the Tampa Bay real estate market, the mean home prices went down 1.6%  when comparing May 2011 to May 2010.  The real shocker is that the median price in May 2011 was down 15.7% from May of 2010.  Taking a look at the reason for the huge difference between the mean and the median, more than 60% of Tampa Bay real estate transactions in 2011 have been cash.  The median price of homes sold indicates that there are a lot of lower priced houses selling to cash buyers, mostly cash rich investors.  At the same time, the Tampa Bay real estate statistics tell us that there are a few higher priced properties selling in the upscale market, which had been moribund for the past year.

There are indicators in a few micro-markets in the Tampa Bay area that small areas have already hit bottom and are in a recovery mode.  Unfortunately, this type of recovery may be good for a neighborhood, it just hasn't spread to the entire area - yet.

No matter how one chooses to look at the real estate market, prices are continuing to deteriorate.  According to one analyst, Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at the University of California-Los Angeles, "This reflects a market that continues to be in search of a bottom."  Not good news for sellers.  However, it can be good news for buyers and investors.  When the inventory is reduced to lower levels, the law of supply and demand should kick in to finally begin to move housing prices up in the Tampa Bay real estate market as well as nationally.

In short, as long as unemployment continues to drag down the local and/or the national economies, and people don't have income to buy homes, the real estate market will be the bellwether for the economy and its recovery.