What makes a neighborhood great? Opinions vary, but there are a few constants – good schools, friendly neighbors, amenities and location. We talked to local real estate experts who help buyers ﬁnd their perfect home in one of the more than 100 neighborhoods in Hillsborough County. They gave us the inside scoop on the ﬁve hottest Tampa neighborhoods.
It should come as no surprise that South Tampa was the ﬁrst area each real estate agent mentioned. “When you look at the market and return on investment, South Tampa is always on top,” said RE/MAX Action First Realtor Kerry Planeta. “The rest of the Tampa market ﬂuctuates, but over the course of time you can usually count on a 3 percent increase. South Tampa is almost always a 5 percent increase.”
Michael Palermo, president of Palermo Real Estate Professionals, adds, “South Tampa is all about the old saying ‘location, location, location.’ You have easy access to everything in Tampa – the bridges, the beaches, downtown, arts, shopping, restaurants and the best school districts.”
Palermo notes that Carrollwood is another centralized location. In addition to good schools and plenty of shopping and restaurants to choose from, Carrollwood has unique neighborhood amenities like a community garden and a performing arts center.
When it was developed 28 years ago, Westchase was on the outskirts of northwest Tampa. Now, due to surrounding development, the master planned community is bustling but has managed to maintain its welcoming feel. “I love living in Westchase because even though it is a large community, it feels small and friendly,” says Stacy Heckman, a 15-year Westchase resident. “It’s kind of like the TV show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. From the crossing guard to the cashier at Publix to the waiters at the restaurant Catch 23, they’re all like friends, and that says a lot about a community.”
On the other end of Hillsborough, the South County area offers affordable waterfront living for families. “We have excellent schools that are getting better every day,” says Alex Buck, a 16-year Apollo Beach resident. “Lennard High School is one of three schools that has a Collegiate Academy [where students earn an associate’s degree free of charge through dual enrollment at Hillsborough Community College] in Hillsborough County. The area is very laid back, with lots of ﬁshing and water activities and many wonderful restaurants.”
New Tampa rounded out the Realtors’ list. “New Tampa is an excellent area with so many great neighborhoods with a ton of amenities,” says Planeta. “It has great public schools, lots of activities, dining, shopping and low crime and is still affordable.”