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