Building Permits Crawl to Near Stop

Housing permits continue to spiral in the wrong direction for builders, real estate agents and those impacted by the construction industry.On its current pace, Cape Coral will issue fewer new single family home permits this month than it did during a record November, when only 12 were issued. Through Wednesday, only 5 permits have been issued for new single family homes. Unincorporated Lee County, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach also are not experiencing any kind of a holiday boost. Only 32 permits had been issued as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. In November, 60 were issued, compared to 357 in November 2006.December is traditionally a slow building month, said Cape Coral spokesperson Connie Barron said.

But the declines, even for a slow time, are significant when compared to past Decembers. In December 2006, 90 permits were issued in the Cape, while 403 were issued in December 2005. The record is 858 for March 2005.“We keep thinking it can’t get any lower, and every month it gets lower,” Barron said. “We just have to cross our fingers and know we have to get through this. It is just uncomfortable in the waiting room.”

From Jan. 1 to Wednesday, Cape Coral had issued 756 this year. Lee County has issued 2,395 in that same time.The continued decline continues to surprise those in the industry.“I have never seen things get this low,” said Sal La Spia, owner of European Construction of Southwest Florida.La Spia has been in business in Cape Coral for six years, he said, through the most recent boom and bust. After building reached a zenith in 2004 and 2005, La Spia said he expected it to slow eventually, but he never expected this.“Property went up faster here than anywhere else, and then it went down faster,” he said.District 3 Councilman Bill Deile said the numbers were distressing.“That’s virtually down to zero,” he said.Deile figured the bust was coming in part because so many people in recent years have moved into homes they could not afford.La Spia agreed, citing high foreclosure numbers and a large inventory of unoccupied homes on the market today.

In the past year, actions have been filed on a more than 11,700 Lee County foreclosures.Russell Weyer, a senior associate at Fishkind and Associates based out of Naples, said Cape Coral is suffering from an excess inventory, and doesn’t expect that probably to disappear overnight.“It won’t get absorbed overnight,” Weyer said. “I would say there is about three years of inventory to work through.”He said Cape Coral, along with Lehigh Acres, are suffering the most with the current housing slump in Southwest Florida.La Spia placed blame on banks and lenders giving out loans to unqualified buyers.“Banks were giving money to everybody who had a body and name, even if they didn’t have solid credit,” he said.Both Deile and La Spia also figured real estate prospectors who were making heavy profits flipping homes a few years ago contributed to the market becoming over-valued today. Weyer also said a number of builders who bought massive amounts of land tried to become developers on the fly, but soon realized they were not prepared for the market fluctuation.“You can’t change your business model overnight,” Weyer said.La Spia said problems in northern states are also hurting the local market. “In Michigan, things are much worse than they are here,” he said.
Since so many home buyers in Southwest Florida have traditionally come from northern states, a recession in Michigan or Ohio has a direct effect on home sales here, economists say.La Spia hopes things will improve in the next year.“It really depends on the economy up north,” he said. “This is not just happening in Florida. It’s everywhere.”

Weyer’s three-year prediction is more pessimistic, but he said smart investors can weather the slump.“Now is not the time to put your house on the market unless you are in for a desperate sale,” Weyer said.“If you are a builder, you’re going to have to wait this one out. In the unbridles exuberance of a few years ago, people were adding so many people and couldn’t build lots fast enough. They are trimming their staffs now. They have to pare back.“The ones who didn’t try and ramp up everything, and just tried to service what they had are the ones they are doing much better in the long run.” Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.

Existing Homes Sales Trend Up ... and Down

Fort Myers News Press -

Prices and sales of existing homes in Lee County were up markedly in October from the previous month — but still below this time last year, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Florida Association of Realtors.

The number of sales was 405, down 36 percent from 630 in October 2006 but up 24 percent from 327 in September 2007.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the National Association of Realtors said U.S. sales of existing homes fell for the eighth consecutive month in October, with median home prices falling by a record amount. Analysts blamed the worsening housing slump on the credit crunch that hit in August.

In Lee County, the median price for a single-family home sold with the help of a Realtor was $239,300, down 4 percent from $249,800 a year earlier but up 3 percent from $231,600 in September.

Still, with about 15,000 houses for sale in the county, selling a house can be tough.

“In January it’ll be a year I’ve had it up for sale,” said Rob Ross, who’s trying on his own to sell his three-bedroom, two-bath home in the Silver Lakes community in Gateway for $277,000. “One in five calls I’ve had is a potential buyer; the others are real estate agents who want to list my house or insurance people and so on.”

Prices have been falling for the past year.

“The irony is I listed it myself thinking I could pass the savings on to a potential buyer but I’ve just been chasing the market down,” Ross said.

Ross started out with an asking price in the mid $290,000s before cutting the price, and expects he’ll have to cut his price again because there are so many houses for sale in Silver Lakes.

Some areas are easier to sell than others, said Alva-based real estate broker Cindi Infiesto of The Florida Real Estate Store.

“I’m slammed today, I’ve been getting buyers all day,” she said Wednesday. “It was an unusually busy day but the last week and a half have been like that.”

But, she said, not everywhere is a good place to be for a seller.

“I don’t like taking any listings in Cape Coral — I don’t believe I can sell those,” Infiesto said. “The Cape is saturated with (speculatively built) homes and investor-related homes that are going into foreclosure. I didn’t see anything moving.”

On the other hand, she said, “Alva is not overbuilt and there’s not a lot of those spec houses here. I think my market’s a little different here.”

Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 1.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million units, according to the national association’s report.

The median price of a home sold last month in the United States declined to $207,800, a drop of 5.1 percent from a year ago, the biggest year-over-year price decline on record.

In Charlotte County, single-family homes were at $183,300 in October, down 11 percent from $206,300 in October 2006 but up 7 percent from $170,000 in September. Statewide, the price was $222,100, down 29 percent from $242,700 in October 2006 but 0.5 percent up from September’s $221,200.

The residential construction and real estate markets have been hit with waves of layoffs in Southwest Florida since the market peaked late in 2005.

Most recently, the Bonita Bay Group eliminated 14 jobs Tuesday — mainly in management — bringing the cuts to 74 since the beginning of the year.

The Bonita Bay Group eliminated 14 jobs Tuesday, bringing the cuts to 74 since the beginning of the year.

“It’s basically because of the current real estate market,” said spokeswoman Meredith Parsons.

She said the cuts won’t affect any of the company’s projects.

The Bonita-Springs based business established more than two decades ago plans, sells and manages master-planned communities.

The company terminated 30 positions in May and an additional 30 in August.
Most have been administrative and management positions.

Parsons said the Bonita Bay Group is aiming to reduce capital expenditures and streamline operations.

“When the market recovers, we’re confident we’re going to be a much stronger company,” she said.

But the company could cut more positions before that happens.

“It’s difficult to predict future market conditions,” Parsons said.

— Staff writer Christina Cepero and The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

New Homes prove popular buy in Lee County.

People are moving into new homes in Southwest Florida faster than builders are putting them up, according to a report released Wednesday by housing statistics company Metrostudy.It's a good sign for the housing market because the supply of new homes is being eaten up by customers.But a coming wave of foreclosures, the huge inventory of existing homes and rising unemployment could interfere with that rosy scenario, the report says. There are about 15,000 existing single-family homes for sale in Lee County.
"We're not out of the woods yet," said Brad Hunter, who directs Metrostudy's market research in Southwest Florida. "We still have some foreclosures that will be added to the market next year. It's a mixed bag but we're making some progress."In the third quarter of 2007, there were 907 move-ins to new homes compared with 357 starts. Collier County had 505 move-ins with 389 starts.
"The encouraging news is that combined quarterly new home starts in Collier and Lee counties are down 66 percent compared to last year," Hunter said. "Although the inventory of finished vacant units remains high, the number of homes under construction has dwindled, and move-ins have been outpacing starts almost two to one for the last three quarters."But the report also notes in the year ending in September, unemployment rose to 5.3 percent from 3.8 percent in Collier and to 5.2 percent in Lee from 3.1 percent.
That, along with foreclosures and high inventory of existing homes, "will dampen demand somewhat," Hunter said.Officials with two developments that have done well in the past year said key to their success is providing value and a good package of amenities.
"We've opened our big town hall amenity center, which is a phenomenal facility, and that's given us a pretty good amount of energy for the people who are visiting," said Jim Doyle, vice president of Jacksonville-based LandMar Group LLC, which is building the River Hall community in east Lee County. River Hall has had 162 housing starts and 209 move-ins in the past year: both rank third in the county in Metrostudy's report.Tambra Wolfe, project manager for the GL Homes gated community Botanica Lakes in south Fort Myers, said the project's location along the recently opened stretch of Treeline Boulevard is helping, "and also the fact that our neighborhood's a little different with the amenities we have than you'd find in the immediate area." Botanica is fourth on Metrostudy's list with 154 starts and 154 move-ins.The clubhouse under construction is a draw, Wolfe said, and "people can see that we're selling houses. We're seeing an increased traffic right now."
Doyle said: "We're cautiously optimistic" about the market. "People are still interested in Florida, still want to buy. They just want some good news before making that decision to buy."
Courtesy of Fort Myers News Press.

Home Prices Going Down

Fort Myers News Press
The median price of an existing single-family home sold in Lee County tumbled 7.7 percent in September to $231,600, compared to $250,800 a month earlier, according to statistics released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.Meanwhile, the number of sales fell 17.9 percent to 327 from 520 in August.Compared to a year ago, September’s numbers were also bleak: the price was down 11 percent, from $261,400, and sales were down 53 percent compared to 693 in September 2006.
Collier’s figures were not available because the Naples Area Board of Realtors does not provide that information for the monthly report.In Charlotte, the median sales price was $170,000, down 20 percent from $213,200 in September 2006. The number of sales also fell, 16 percent, from 226 to 189.
Meanwhile, in a separate report also released today, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes fell more than forecast in September, signaling no letup in the real estate slump.The median price fell 4.2 percent to $211,700, compared with September 2006. Total sales include condominiums. Purchases of single-family homes fell 8.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.38 million, the fewest since January 1998, today’s report showed.The collapse in subprime lending will limit access to credit and reduce sales even more in coming months, economists said.
The drop in demand suggests home prices will keep falling, raising the risk consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, will slow.“Housing has weakened more over the past few months, and chances are this is not the bottom,” said James O’Sullivan, senior economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Conn. “This certainly helps make the case” for the Federal Reserve to keep lowering interest rates, he said.

Cape Coral's 29 permits in September a new low

Fort Myers News Press
The number of permits issued for single-family homes in Cape Coral sank to 29 in September — by far the lowest in memory, according to statistics released Monday.
Unincorporated Lee County, which also handles permitting for the town of Fort Myers Beach and the city of Bonita Springs, issued 76 permits, up from 63 in August. In September 2006, 458 permits were issued.
There were 45 permits issued by the Cape in July, and city spokeswoman Connie Barron said at the time that a search of records back through 1995 didn’t turn up any month that slow.
Numbers that low likely would have been in the early 1990s when the city had only a quarter of its current population of about 170,000, she said.In August the city issued 47 permits and in September 2006, 175 were issued. The highest number on record was in August 2005 when 742 were issued at the height of the real estate boom that started to collapse only a few months later.
Jamie Pirrello, president of Fort Myers-based Vision Homes USA, said times are tough generally for the housing industry in Southwest Florida, but he doesn’t think too much should be read into the Cape numbers.“I don’t think one month’s representative,” he said. “I think the Cape will bounce back, but the numbers in general will stay low” because of a huge inventory of unsold houses — about 15,000 countywide, more than four times what it was before the market started deteriorating.
Deep cuts in the Cape’s permitting operation have been made since the slowdown began. July 16, the city council voted to lay off 18 building inspectors, more than a third of the inspection staff.The city had been letting positions in that area stay vacant for months, however, as the housing market started to cool, Barron said Monday.
Still, the numbers didn’t paint a completely bleak picture of the Cape’s construction industry in September, said Patti Schnell, executive director of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association.“The numbers that are really creating some buzz are the commercial remodel numbers,” she said. “A lot of these commercial buildings are being built — the buildings are being completed and now the tenants are ready to go in.”There was $2.2 million in commercial remodeling permits in September, more than keeping pace with the $21.8 million issued in the past year. “We see a lot of the general contractors moving into commercial work, but the subcontractors continuing to be successful are doing both commercial work and residential remodeling that maybe they weren’t doing before,” Schnell said.
In Lee County, about 33 percent of the single-family home permits were for construction in Lehigh Acres. That’s far off the two-thirds share Lehigh had commanded throughout much of the housing boom.Multifamily permits dropped from 150 in August to 24 in September. There were 222 in September 2006.Figures were not available Monday for the city of Fort Myers.
Pirrello said he doesn’t see any signs that a recovery in the residential markets is coming soon. “I don’t think you’ll start to see those permit numbers move up this quarter and when they do start to move up, it’ll be slowly

Prices are the Lowest You'll Get

Bruce Hershey,Vice President of Engle Homes, has announced that the end is near for low home prices. "Once our existing inventory is gone, it's gone." Soon your not going to be able to come into a sales center and negotiate. (We have negotiated low prices for our buyers in various developments with a multitude of builders)

Hershey explained that "escalating construction costs would bar offering the same price structure for Engle's new construction homes."

"The replacement costs for one our homes, today, is far greater than what they're selling for." he said. "So, if you don't take advantage of it now, you'll never have the opportunity to get that low price again."

August Homes Sales up from July

Fort Myers News Press
Lee County statistics released Tuesday show prices and sales levels in August were higher than sales the previous month but lower than they were a year ago. Another good sign was the inventory of homes for sale was at about the same level as the previous month. (This level had been growing in previous months.)
Prices and sales for existing homes in Lee County dropped in August compared to a year ago, according to a report issued today by the Florida Association of Realtors.The median price of a single-family home sold with the assistance of a Realtor dropped 5 percent to $250,800 from $264,100 in August 2006. Sales were down 25 percent to 520 from 691 in August 2006.Compared to July, the median price was up 2 percent from $246,100. The number of sales was also up 22 percent from July’s 426.

Housing index shows gloomy outlook

Associated Press

An index that tracks developers' expectations of future home sales fell this month to equal it's record low, signaling the housing market's weakness could persist into early 2008.

The National Association of Realtors predicted last week that new home sales will fall 24 percent to 801,000 this year and forecast that construction of new homes will drop 24 percent to 1.37 million this year.

Nationally Realtors see More Sales Declines

Just a comment on the local real estate market first. We are beginning to see investors (not speculators) come back into the market place. We have recently experienced multiple offers on short sale real estate.

The National Association of Realtors lowered it's forecast for 2007 existing home sales for the seventh straight month, predicting a drop of 8.6 percent from last year. The forecast calls for existing home sales of 5.9 million in 2007, down from 6.5 million last year.
This years sales would be the lowest since 2002. There has also been a big cutback in the construction of new homes which should be viewed as a healthy trend that will reduce home inventory.

Building permits at lowest level since 1981

Lee County issued 63 permits for single family homes in August, the lowest since November 1981 when just 45 permits were issued. That's down from 588 permits in August 2006 and about half the 135 permits issued in July.

Foreclosures on Rise

Mortgage foreclosures in Lee County continued to rise in August. There were 1,232 foreclosures filed compared to 1,045 in July.
Foreclosures are "still an upward trend," said mortgage broker Jeff Tumbarello of Network Funding Solutions who tracks the local foreclosure market. "It's hard to know what to think of it until it hits the top."

Prices of Existing Homes Falls in July

Prices and sales of single family homes in Lee County were off compared to June: down 7 percent from $264,600 and sales were off 24%.

Slump can't slow Lee County Growth

The News-Press

The real estate bubble may have burst, but people still are moving to Lee County at a pace that would make some areas of the country envious.

Preliminary calculations show the county's permanent population grew by 30,133 - an average of 82 people a day- in the 12 months ending April 1.

That's a 5.15% increase for a population of 615,741 according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Record Number Forfeit Homes

Foreclosures in Lee County topped 1,000 in July as investors continued to let go of houses and land they bought in speculation in the real estate industry boom that ended two years ago.

"It's really the pre construction and speculative second home buyers going south," said mortgage broker Jeff Tumbarello of Network Funding Solution who tracks the local foreclosure market.

Since the height of the real estate boom in December 2005, the median price of an existing home sold with the help of a Realtor has fallen 21% from $322,300 to $253,900 in June 2007.
The number of homes for sale is till about 15,000 and the number of home sales dropped 39%
Fort Myers News Press

Housing Permits Sink in Lee, Cape Coral

Fort Myers News Press
Housing permits in Cape Coral fell to their lowest level in more than a decade in July, according to a city report released Wednesday.
Meanwhile, activity in unincorporated Lee County slowed dreastically following a surge in June caused by a deadline to avoid the tripling of road impact fees.
In Cape Coral, only 45 permits were pulled for single family homes last month down from 69 in June and a far cry from the 858 recorded in March 2006 at the height of Southwest Florida's real estate boom.
Cape Coral spokeswoman Connie Barron said a search of records back through 1995 didn't turn up any month as slow as July.
About 47 percent of the single family home permits in the county were for construction in Lehigh Acres, far off the two-thirds that Lehigh has accounted for during recent months.

Home Prices Drop

Fort Myers News Press
The median sales price - half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less - was $253,900, down 5 percent from $268,000 a year ago in Lee County.
Things aren't that bad.. In June 2005 the median price of a single family home was $281,000 up from $191,000 in June 2004. So last month's median price is still about 33 percent higher than just three years ago.
Condominium sales were up slightly in the month, with 194 transactions, up from 183 a year ago. The median prices fell about 5 percent, however, from $269,100, in June 2006 to $254,800 last month.
Nationally, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes dropped by 3.8% in June , the slowest sales pace in 4 1/2 years. However, the median price of a new home edged up slightly by 0.1 percent increase from the sales price a year ago. That was the first year over year price increase in 11 months.

Home Prices expected to bounce back

Associated Press
Prices of existing and new homes are expected to bounce back next year (2008) after a dreary 2007, a real estate trade group said Wednesday.
The National association of Realtors lowered it's estimate of home sales for 2007 predicting existing home sales will decline 5.6 percent this year to 6.1 million while sales of new homes will plummet 17.7 percent.
Existing home prices are expected to gain 1.8 percent in 2008.
"Markets that sharply reduce new construction in 2007 will generally experience respectable price increases in 2008" Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' senior economist, said in a release. " Buyers now have an overwhelming advantage given the wide selection of homes available in many markets".
In SW Florida we have seen many new construction sites halted or slowed down greatly. This will help prices recover next year in our market.

Foreclosures still climbing

Fort Myers News Press
Lee County foreclosures kept rising last month, with Cape Coral leading the way. June's foreclosures totaled 968, up from May's 867, according to the Lee County Clerk of Court.
It was a contination of a long run up in foreclosures as the real estate market has cooled - the rate in April 2006, before the number took off, was only 131.
Many of the properties going into foreclosures were single family homes owned by investors.

Median Priced Home Down 2% From Year Ago

Fort Myers News Press-
In Lee County the median sales price — half more and half less — was $281,500, down 2 percent from $286,500 a year ago.
In Charlotte County, prices were down 12 percent from $213,400 to $186,900 and sales were off 39 percent from 387 to 235.
Complete information for Collier County was not available because the Naples Area Board of Realtors no longer reports its statistics to the state association.

Property Tax Reduction Passes Legislature. What's Next?

Florida voters have a Jan. 29 date with a multibillion-dollar remodeling job on the popular Save Our Homes tax cap.
This year, homeowners can expect to see a $174 average reduction on their tax bills. Other property owners would get a similar break.
And, should the proposed amendment get 60 percent of the vote, nearly three-fourths of Florida's current 4.3 million homesteaders could save an average of $1,300 next year.

For the complete story click on the link below.

Fort Myers News Press

To view real estate bargains, click on links in the lower left hand corner of this blog.

Lawmakers file plan for $31.6 Billion Property Tax Cut

Fort Myers News Press
Lawmakers propose a five year, $31,600 Billion property tax cut, a plan leaders promise if fully approved will save the average homesteader $1300 in next year's tax bill.

"Hardworking men and women who have suffered under skyrocketing property taxes in communities across our state are closer to find the relief they so desperately need," said Gov. Charlie Crist.
Plan Specifics
  • An immediate roll back of county and city taxes on all property owners to 2006-2007 levels. ( My question is, why not go back to 2004 levels before property taxes soared?)
  • Property tax increases will then be capped based on personal income growth and new construction
  • Local governments can opt out of the cuts and caps with super majority approval of boards.

Expanded homestead exemptions

  1. 75 percent exemption from taxes on the first $200,000 in value.
  2. 15 percent exemption on values between $200,000 and $500.000.

There are minor improvements for non-homesteaders. Remember this is only a proposed plan and probably will change knowing politicians. June 12th is the date the legislature meets to go over possible tax cuts.

Sign up to receive emails from this blog each time there is an update. We will keep you posted.

Cape Coral Builder Removes Fixtures - Retaliation?

Fort Myers News-Press
Cape Coral contractor R. Fry builders has started partially dismantling houses where the customers are balking at closing the deal - removing doors, windows, air conditioners and other items.
Customers say the builder is stealing their property, but R. Fry's position is the materials need to be removed to protect against vandalism and theft.
Fry officials said they're responding to an increasingly common phenomenon caused by plunging real-estate values that have left buyers unwilling or unable to close the deal because the mortgage would be more than the house is worth.
At the height of the market in December 2005 the median resale price for a single-family home in Lee County was $322,300; it dropped to $283,200 in April 2007, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

Lee County New Home Permits Up 15%

Fort Myers News Press
Lee County reported Monday a 15 percent increase from April for the unincorporated area plus Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs.
The county's permits - at 303, up from 264 are well off the frantic pace that prevailed in 2005 and the first part of 2006 but it's been about the same level for the past 6 months.
Fort Myers had 44 permits in May, up 10 percent from April. Cape Coral had only 77 permits which is the lowest in 11 years.

Lee Home Prices Up 10%

Fort Myers News Press.
According to figures released Friday by the Florida Association of Realtors, Lee County home prices are up 10% from March 2007 to $283,200.
This reflects a 1% increase in prices from a year ago and is the first time since May 2006 that the price was higher than it had been the year before.
Keith Olson, an investor, who lives on Fort Myers Beach stated "The next 90 days will be golden days for buyers." As prices are still way off their peak.
Keep in mind the inventory of existing homes still remains high. Peggy Hummel, CEO of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach said the inventory of unsold homes should be gone in 2008.

Fence Sitters, Wake Up!

Fort Myers News Press
Fence-sitters, this is your wake up call! You are being put on notice that the bottom is approaching (or past) in existing properties and new developments.

New Developments
Opportunity exists with existing inventory in the dozens of new developments around town. The developers backlog of sales is turning into a backache as many initial buyers are walking from their deposits and leaving the developer with unwanted homes for sale. Unlike a homeowner, developers have no emotional attachment to these homes, and the smart buyers are taking full advantage by getting discounts as much as 30 percent off the sticker price! Timing is everything in real estate. Builders will discount inventory, even if it means selling it at a loss. However, they will not enter into a building contract to build a home knowing it will be for a loss.
It is now possible to purchase a new home in Lehigh Acres or Cape Coral for well below $200,000. Some have sold in the $160,000 range! That is roughly 50 percent less than a similar home would have sold for at the peak of the market. Which sounds better to you: "1/2 off sale" or "Buy one, get one free"?

Therefore, this will be your best opportunity to own a new construction at a price that we may never see again.

Existing Homes
Our market suffered its fall alomost two years ago, and it has been painful for property owners to see their values plummet. Yet, the market is coming back.
Currently Lehigh has more than 300 homes for sale that are 2006 or newer and priced under $200,000, and there are only 87 in Cape Coral. It is still a buyer's market in Lehigh, as there are 19 months of inventory in this price range. However, Cape Coral's sub-200 market is definitely a seller's market, as there are only five months of inventory for sale.
OK, then why act now?
Because you can buy existing inventory below replacement cost! Hello, McFly!....This opportunity does not come around very often, so you fence sitters should take advantage of it while you can. Forget about buying wholesale because for a limited time you can buy below cost!
How much better can it get?
Save money and visit our websites where you can view many of these special prices
Fort Myers Real Estate
Lehigh Acres Real Estate

30 Year Mortgage Rates Edge Lower

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30 year fixed rate mortgages averaged 6.15 percent.
Rates have fallen in three of the past four weeks.

Home Prices in Lee County might start to rebound

Fort Myers News Press
The number of permits pulled for single family homes in April was down 69% throughout Lee County, but, experts say that could be a good sign for battered home prices.
"Hopefully now that we have been skating along the bottom like this, basically going back to the number of four year ago, now it will pick up". Said Michael Reitmann, executive vice president of the Lee County Building Industry Association.
Brad Hunter, Metrostudy, the drop in units under construction suggests that a significant decline in finished vacant inventory will soon follow, providing substrantial relief from the downward pressure on prices."

Lee Housing Inventory Falls

Fort Myers News Press 5/1/2007
A study issued Monday shows that Lee County's inventory of vacant house started to fall in 2007, while the number of homes under construction declined sharply.
Thst's good news for the area's ailing housing industry said Brad Hunter, who directs market research operations in Southwest Florida for Metrostudy.
He also noted that the number of people moving into homes increased from 1,274 in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 1,349 in the first quarter of 2007.
Meanwhile, the inventory of vacant lots fell from 7,939 in the fourth quarter to 7,885 in the first quarter - still much higher than the 6,210 reported a year ago.

Lee County Real Estate Market Recovering Slowly

Fort Myers NewsPress 4/29/2007
Market conditions are ripe for home buyers who can enjoy the vast supply of choices currently available in most price ranges. Buyers now have a window of low interest rates and flat or reduced prices from sellers who have accepted the soft market for what it is.
Basically the volume of sales activity is almost exactly the same as it was before the houseing boom in Southwest Florida.
There were 633 existing single family hoimes sold in March 2002. In March 2007 there were 636 homes sold. Basically the volume of sales activity is almost exactly the same as it was before the housing boom in Southwest Florida. The median sale price more than doubled from $128,300 in March 2002, to $268,000 in March 2007. Not bad for a five year period.

Lee County Home Sales Spike - Belies National Trend

~Florida Association of Realtors~
The number of existing houses sold in Lee County spiked up sharply in March, after a long slide that began last summer.
There were 636 single family homes sold with the assistance of Realtors in March, according to the association.
That's up 50% from February's 423 but still below the 955 sold in March 2006.

The median price increased 5 percent to $268,000 from February's $256,100 although that was still 5 percent less than $281,300 a year ago.
Prices have generally been increasing slightly since October 2006, but the number of sales has been flat or declining since July 2006.

Florida Lawmaker Negotiate how to Lower Property Taxes

Fort Myers News Press 4/24/2007
The Florida House is willing to be flexible on how taxpayers get lower property taxes as long as they get them, the leader of a house team negotiating the matter said Monday.
Talks on the issue between the Houses and Senate began with Rep. Dean Cannon insisting property tax cuts average $1200 for homesteads, $750 for other residences and $3300 for commercial and industrial real estate.
"We are not locked into any single one approach or to any one particular method," said Cannon.

House OKs Property-Tax Reform

April 19,2007 Fort Myers News-Press.
The Florida House passed its version of a multi billion dollar property tax reform Wednesday that would ask voters to swap their property taxes for higher sales tax. If it gets Senate approval, it could make Florida the only state in the nation without a personal income tax or property taxes on primary homes.

Sunny Outlook

Excerpts from Glen Salyer's (Economic Development Analyst with the Economic Development Office of Lee County) article featured in the Fort Myers News Press.
The Southwest Florida residential real estate market's return to the planet Earth seems to be the topic on nearly everyone's lips these days. Perhaps less discussed are the positive growth trends shaping Lee 'county's continued economic expansion.
Among the 100 fastest-growing counties natrionwide, Lee County's population numbered 585,608 in 2006, according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The bureau projects more rapid growth in years to come, prediction that our population will approach 675,000 residents by 2010.
A recent survey conducted by a national employment services firm pointed to additional strength, forecasting the Southwest Florida job market to be the second strongest in the country during the second quarter of 2007.
In 2006 our new airport served more than 7.6 million passengers including 17.2 percent more international travelers than the previous year.
We have seen an up tick in real estate sales this April as buyers are taking advantage of the low real estate prices.

Time to Buy?

Local real estate experts shared a positive outlook about Southwest Florieda's real estate market at Market Pulse 2007.
Jim Scarz, managing broker of John R. Wood Realtors said the market has begun to turn for single family homes, but the over saturated condo market will take a little longer to bounce back.
Scarz said that 2007 will be the third best year on record for real estate sales, with 2008 comparable to the 2004-05 boom.
Mike Timmerman of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence expects a slower turnaround. The said the existing home sales pace will remain slow in 2007 but might pick up as prices have come down. "There has been a decrease in sales over the 18 months since September of 2005," Timmerman said "On the positive side, most cycles don't last more than 18-24 months.
Scarz said "Baby Boomers will have a tremendous impact on the local real estate market." (They begin retiring in 2008). "Prices always take off with a roar at some point after the plateau, achieving far higher levels than in the past".

Pending Home Sales Up

The national Association of Realtors' index for pending sales of existing homes rose in February at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.7 percent.
The index is well below where it was a year ago but stronger than Wall Street investors expected, reasuring them that the housing sector, while weak, is not being pummeled by the struggling subprime mortage sector.

Builders Pull More Single Family Home Permits

Builders in unincorporated Lee County pulled 318 permits for single-family houses in March, about 6 percent more than in February.
About 73 per cent of the single family home permits in the county were for construction in Lehigh Acres.
These numbers are lower than 1 year ago but it shows hopeful signs that things are picking up.

Home Sales Decline in Lee

Fort Myers News-Press.
Prices and sales of homes in Lee County fell in February even while the national housing market showed a sharp increase in sales.
February's median price for single-family homes in the county was $256,100 down 4 percent from January's $266,900 with sales down 14 percent to 423 from Januarys 492.
For Condominiums the median price was down 13.1 percent to $247,600 from January's $285,000. The number of sales was up 8% from January.

KB Home earnings better than expected

For the quarter ended Feb 28 the company reported net income of $27.5 million or 34 cents a share. The results topped Wall Street's expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for profit of 25 cents a share.

Results were significantly lower than year ago results. The company attributes these results to intense price competion that could last throughout 2007.

Lee County Fastest Growing County

Lee County added more people to its population than any other Florida county in the year 2005-2006.
According to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau today, the county grew by 27,148 or 5 percent.
Miami-Dade, the most populous Florida county with 2.4 million people, grew by about 24,000.
Since the 2000 census, Lee County has grown by 30 percent - more than 130,000 people.
It appears the secret is out. We look at every day as just "Another Day in Paradise"

Allstate to cut Insurance Rates

14 percent reduction will impact 23,433 SW Florida Policyholders.
Allstate plans to drop hurricane insurance rates by an average of more than 14 percent accross Florida later this summer if state regulators approve, officials said Monday.

Rates on 30-Year mortages fall to lowest level of the year

Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to the lowest level since mid-December as investors scrambled to the safety of bonds following last week's stock market turmoil.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.14 percent this week down from 6.18 percent last week.

House Hunting

There is a great selection of resale housing, down from their irrational peaks and prices apparently bottoming out.
The Greater Fort Myers Board Multiple Listing Service shows 13,838 houses and 9,246 Condominiums were available in Lee County.

Lehigh Acres Leads in New Home Permits

Lehigh Acres ( Suburban Fort Myers) accounted for the most new home permited in Lee County in February according to a report issued Monday.
Historically, Lehigh Acres has averaged 60 percent to 70 percent of permits issued but in recent months the percentage has crept up as the new home industry has sagged.
About 81 percent of the single family home permits were for construction in Lehigh Acres, valued at about $50.7 million.
Michael Reitmann, executve vice president of the Lee Building Industry Association, said that although permits are down there's some indication that buyers are returning.
More than 2,000 people paid $5 a piece to tour the Paseo community in the past nine days as part of the associations annual Parade of Homes, he said, and "there was a significant number of sales."

Insurance Rates to Drop

Starting in June, insurance rates in Florida could drop from 10 to even 50 percent.

The reductions come from calculations released Thursday by Florida regulators. Gov. Charlie Crist called them very encouraging.

Example savings calculated by regulators range from 27-39 percent in Lee and Collier counties.
Mobile home residents will see slightly higher reductions and condominium residents slightly less.

The final inpact to individual home bills will vary widely from area to area and from company to company.

January Home Prices up Slightly

Prices were up slightly but the number of sales were down for Lee County homes in January.
The Florida Association of Realtors announced Tuesday that the median price of a single family home sold with the help of a realtor rose 1.7 percent to $266,900 from December's $262,500 even as the number of homes sold dropped 17.7 percent from 598 to 492.
For condominiums, the price was up 11.2 percent to $285,000. Sales were down 14.3 percent

Home builders balk at building codes

Florida's home-building industry is pushing to delay strengthened building codes, claiming hurricane protections sought by Gov. Charlie Crist and passed by the Legislature in January come too fast.
"While your efforts will bring forth reductions in property insurance rates, the very law that provides the relief has spawned an immediate, and minimum, $72 million negative impact on Florida's second largest economic engine, the Construstion industry," wrote John Wiseman, president of the Florida Home Builders Association in a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Part-Timers sue over Taxes

A group of Alabama residents with second homes in Florida has filed a class action lawsuit asking a Florida judge to throw out the State's Save Our Homes property assessment cap.

The suit is believed to be the first of its kind challenging the legal standing of the Save Our Homes amendment, which limits assessed value increases on the homes of full time homeowners.

Buy Now?

The following is an excerpt from my friend Gregg Fous' real estate newsletter.

The fifteen to twenty couples a day we are touring though our new project know that. But these are smart buyers now, not just buying in a frenzy. They want value, location, and above all, they want to know that they are buying at the bottom of the price cycle.
I am doing my best to tell them, and you, that I believe, at least in some areas, we ARE AT THE BOTTOM. Now is indeed the time to buy. Yes, some prices need to come down. But just as assuredly, there are wonderful deals out there.
This morning I went to my grandson Jacob’s basketball game. I sat next to Steve Beach. I as in my habit, I struck up a conversation about real estate (surprise, surprise). He told me he and his wife Betty are now buying everything they can get a mortgage on that makes sense. Steve and Betty are now adding to their rental inventory. Steve and Betty are true “insiders” by the way. Betty has been an agent in town for many years and Steve is a retired banker. They are not just operating from “their gut” . Their experience tells them, like it tells me, that we are at the bottom – or can be with the correct offers and the proper professional guidance.

Let me help you get back in to this market before you say to me, heck, I missed it.

Toll Brothers quarterly profit falls 67 percent

Revenue slipped 19 percent from the previous year.
States in the North showed the biggest decline for Toll, down 32 percent, followed by the west and the mid-Atlantic states. The South had the smallest dip.

Home sellers advised to get real on prices

Fort Myers News-Press February 21, 2007.
A massive inventory of unsold homes in Lee County could bring bad times to both the residential and commercial real estate markets.
But real estate agents could help soften the blow by telling sellers to ask more realistic prices for their houses.
Talking about the results of falling land prices, "the work force housing crisis is over with houses in Lehigh Acres selling for less than $200,000".
Too often, agents soothe sellers with optimistic talk about additional open houses or other tweaking of sales campaigns. However, the solution is a price reduction.

I would add that now is the time to use a full time local realtor to help you with your home purchase. We know the market. Many sellers are still trying to sell their properties at last year's prices. We can save you money by finding properties that are priced correctly for today's market. It is a great time to buy.

Slow market means great bargains.

The 12th annual Cape Coral Construction Industry 2007 Builders Showcase Home Tour kicks off Saturday.
Bob Knight, Vice President of Paul Homes Says "I expect that hundereds will take the tour". "I think that people have seen the market bottom out and they are ready to take a look at our products." 1200 people are expected to take the tour.

Home Prices off 6.4%

Housing prices in Lee County were down 6.4% in the last quarter of 2006 compared to a year earlier according to Zillow.com. Meanwhile, the Florida Association of Realtors released a report Thursday saying the Realtor-assisted sales of single family homes in the county fell 23 percent during the same period. Condominium sales were down 14%.

Properties listed for sale under $300,000

In Cape Coral, about 44% of listed properties are priced between $200,000 and $300,000. In San Carlos Park, the majority of listings are in this price range.
In North Fort Myers 80% of listings are between $200,000 and $300,000. In Lehigh Acres there are more than 2,600 active listings with the vast majority falling withinh the $200,000-$300,000 range.

Inspector jobs frozen

Lee County cites housing-market slump.
A meltdown in the Southwest Florida housing market has forced a hiring freeze of building inspectors and permitting staff in Lee County.
"We're hearing that things could be slow possibly for another year, so I don't think we'll be filling openings any time soon." Mar Gibbs, director, Lee County Department of Community
Development.

Lee Builder Permits up in January

Lehigh Acres draws 77 percent of single-family home applications.

Builders throughout Lee County pulled more permits in January than the month before, but the numbers were still far below the fevered pace of a year ago.

In unincorporated Lee County, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach builders pulled 305 permits for single family homes in January: 4 percent more than December's 292 but 52 percent less than January 2006's 632, the Lee County Department of Community Development reported Monday.

3 Paths to Cheaper Homes

A task force asked to find ways more people, especially workers such as teachers, nurses, firefighters, and police officers, can afford to buy home in Lee County has suggested three approaches.

1. Allow developers to build more homes in less space
2. Make it easier to get permits for the developments
3. Educate the public to the need for workforce housing.

How many workforce homes are needed? From 2002-2025 the county will need 69,578 new dwelling units.

SW Florida Real Estate and Economy

Hank Fishkind, Local Economist spoke at the CCIM Outlook Conference on January 26th.

On the residential market we are at or near the bottom of our cycle. Low interest rates and the weak dollar will fuel stronger house sales. The strong employment picture coupled with low fuel costs will further add strength to our market. The Office Sector still has a great disparity between rents on existing buildings and what developers will need for rent for new buildings. To me this is a buy signal for investors – buy existing leased commercial property, wait out the leases, and sell when rents go up (or hold). Look for rents to escalate quickly, especially with the rebound in the housing market that he sees coming.
We have crossed an important hurdle in that we are now selling more housing units per month than we are permitting. This means we have begun nibbling away at our excess inventory.
Nationally the Naples/Fort Myers housing market is one of the weakest. This is another buy signal. If you are a buyer you want to buy in a weak market. All signals point to buy now, and I believe prices will continue to creep up.

Housing Signs Improve

Fort Myers News-Press, February 2, 2007.
Fourth quarter statistics from Lee and Collier counties offered early signs of hope for the housing market, according to Metrostudy, which provides information to the industry.
Combined housing starts in the two counties fell below the level of demand for the first time in two years. Metrostudy said in a release on Thursday that there were 1,260 starts vs 1963 move-ins.
The number of resale listings is still increasing but Metrostudy expects a peak within the next few months.

Fort Myers Area Real Estate Information
Lehigh Acres Real Estate Information

Governor Crist eyes $2billion first-year tax relief

Governor Charlie Crist proposed property-tax relief Tuesday of about $2 Billion in the first year for homeowners, landlords and business.
Those savings are estimated to increase to $4.7 Billion annually in five years.
Crist said "This money's going to the people. They've had it taken from them and taken from them and taken from them, whether by insurance premiums or property taxes."

Prices rising and home inventory decreasing

It is impossible to predict a bottom in the real estate market. The following article in the Fort Myers News Press is encouraging.

News Press 1/26/2007. December median home price $262,500, up from $258,600 in November. This is two months in a row of price increases. In another sign the slide may be almost over, the number of homes on the market decreased for a second month.

Property Taxes State's Next Target

Fort Myers News Press January 25, 2007
With insurance checked off the to-do list, Florida lawmakers are turning to another issue that's enraging the electorate - soaring property taxes.
Easing property tax increases is part of a larger plan on which Gov. Charlie Crist and many lawmakers campaigned last fall to ease the spiraling costs of owning a home.
"Property in our state has exponentially increased in its value, so I think that is very doable (lowering taxes) and something we will be able to achieve".

Lower Real Estate Prices Prompt Lee County Schools

On January 9th, the Lee County School District bought 16.3 acres on Gunnery Road in Lehigh Acres for $3.4 Million. Minutes later, school board members authorized spending $6.1 million for 101.8 acres on another future school site off Joel Boulevard in Lehigh Acres.

Insurance-rate drop done deal !

Fort Myers News-Press. 1/23/07. Insurance-rate drop done deal! For customers of state created Citizens Property Insurance, the average savings could be about 18%. The measure would reverse a recent 21 percent rate increase and cancel a 56% increase that was schedule for this year.

Existing Homes Sales to Trend Upward in 2007

Existing-home sales are expected to rise gradually in 2007 from current levels, with annual totals slightly lower than 2006, while new-home sales will continue to slide, according to the latest forecast by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, says market conditions will vary around the country next year.“Roughly three-quarters of the country will experience a sluggish expansion in 2007, while other areas should continue to contract for at least part of the year,” he says. “Most of the correction in home prices is behind us, but general gains in value next year will be modest by historical standards.”For Buyers, a Window of Opportunity“Buyers, especially first-time buyers, with the combined benefits of seller flexibility and an unexpected drop in mortgage interest rates, have a window of opportunity,” he adds. “These conditions will persist in many areas until early spring when inventory supplies are likely to become more balanced.” Existing-home sales for 2006, finishing the third-best year on record, are projected at 6.47 million, a decline of 8.6 percent from 2005. For 2007, sales expected to rise steadily to an annual total of 6.40 million, which would be 1 percent lower than this year’s total. “By the fourth quarter of 2007, existing-home sales will be 4.6 percent higher than the current quarter,” Lereah says.Builders Slow New-Home ConstructionNew-home sales in 2006 are expected to fall 17.7 percent to 1.06 million, the fourth highest total on record, before sliding an additional 9.4 percent in 2007 to 957,000. Much of the contraction in the new housing market results from cuts in builder construction to support pricing for current inventories. In addition, high construction costs in many areas are taking a bite out of potential profits. Total housing starts for 2006 are likely to drop 12.3 percent to 1.82 million units, with another 15.1 percent decline in 2007 to 1.54 million.Mortgage Rates Seen Rising to 6.7%The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is forecast to gradually increase to 6.7 percent by the fourth quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate dropped to 6.11 percent.The national median existing-home price for all of 2006 is projected to rise 1.4 percent to $222,600, with another 1.0 percent gain next year to $224,700. The median new-home price should ease by 0.5 percent to $239,700 this year, and then rise by 0.8 percent in 2007 to $241,700.“Keep in mind that overall home prices were still appreciating at double digit rates in the first quarter of this year — prices in this buyer’s market are temporarily a little below a year ago when we were in a strong seller’s market,” Lereah says. “This correction is one of the factors drawing buyers into the current market, but most sellers are still seeing very healthy long-term gains.”Unemployment, Inflation ForecastsThe unemployment rate is expected to be 4.8 percent in 2007, after averaging an estimated 4.6 percent this year. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is forecast to be 3.4 percent for 2006 and 2.3 percent in 2007, while growth in the U.S. gross domestic product is likely to be 3.3 percent for all of this year and 2.3 percent in 2007. Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is projected to grow 2.6 percent for 2006 and 3.5 percent next year.Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine [December, 2006] with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

Analysts, U.S. builders believe worst of housing slump is over

Bloomberg News Service - "The worst of the drag on the economy from construction is behind us," says Chris Varvares, President of St.. Louis based Macroeconomic Advisors, LL. As a result he says growth should pick up to an annual rate of more than 3 percent in the second quarter from 2 1/4 percent in the current quarter.

Top home sale prices for 2006

Top 4 Lee County home sales for 2006. $5.35 Million 16590 Captiva Drive. $5.1 Million 5063 Joewood Drive, Sanibel. $4.9 million 17004Treviso Way, Bonita Springs. $4.5 million 16910 Captiva Drive.

Lee County sees Hot Tourism Season

Lee County's tourist-drawning barrier islands are expected to host more tourists this season than since 2004. "Our web site activity and request for visitor guides is way up. Airlines we've been talking to are filling up", said D.T. Minich, executive director of Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

"For sale" glut slowed home building in '06

Lee county's pace of construction slowed last year as a huge inventory of unsold housed piled up - but it still was the strongest on record except 2005 according to the Fort Myers News Press.

Fort Myers River District in state of transition

News Press December 31, 2006. Now that the market for high rise condominiums is no longer investor and speculator driver, 2007 and beyond will be transitional years for the city until more real end users provide the backbone of sustainable growth. This is important because the revitalization of the Fort Myers River District depends on new residents, not speculators.