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

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