The coming year looks to be a big one for Smith & Associates because the bulk of its business comes from high-end, luxury condos — a class that has boomed recently and shows no signs of slowing down.
Company: Bob Glaser, in his 44th year with Smith & Associates, one of the leading residential real estate firms in the Tampa Bay region, has seen many up and downs in the market during his long career. But going into 2021, he’s as bullish as he’s ever been about the firm’s prospects for growth. The pandemic changed the way homebuyers look for properties — leading firms like Smith & Associates to quickly adapt to showing homes via FaceTime and Google Hangouts, for example — but sales didn’t slow, and prices rose because inventory, already low in 2019, dropped even further. “Some folks decided that they didn’t want to sell during the pandemic,” Glaser says. “They wanted to be safe in their own home.” On the other hand, because people were spending so much time at home, or wanting to move away from crowded northern cities, demand skyrocketed. “So many people were trying to get into the market or upgrade what they had; that’s been a stimulus to value.”
Opportunities: That’s not to say that people aren’t leaving the area. Glaser says the relatively spread-out Tampa Bay region is too crowded for some homeowners — he cited the Florida Keys and western states like Colorado as population relocation destinations for homesellers. “That has, thankfully, opened up the market so there’s some more inventory,” he says. The coming year looks to be a big one for Smith & Associates because the bulk of its business comes from high-end, luxury condos — a class that has boomed recently and shows no signs of slowing down, with several major projects, like Virage Bayshore and the Residences at the Tampa Edition, already opened and more on the way. “We will end up ahead of last year,” he says, looking ahead to 2021’s revenue, “which is remarkable considering that we are already at $1.6 billion [in sales] at this point in December.”
Threats: As Tampa and St. Petersburg’s skylines fill in with condo towers, Smith & Associates will have to look farther afield for listings, Glaser says. “You can only get so many units from a market, so you either have to be digging up your own units up or taking somebody else's,” he says. “So the only way we can do that is to grow our footprint in the zip codes where we have a strong market share.” Glaser cites Westchase, Wesley Chapel and the west side of northern Pinellas County as areas where Smith & Associates would like to be stronger. “There’s great housing stock there.”
The other major challenge is infrastructure, or lack thereof, Glaser says. Tampa Bay’s continued struggles with transportation could slow the pipeline of companies moving to and starting up in the region, which would, in turn, impede job growth. Conversely, rising employment and wages gives the public confidence in the market and faith home values will increase, thereby justifying their investment. “You’ve got to have job growth,” Glaser says.