Number of home sales up - Prices lower

Fort Myers, FL – Single-family home sales across the Greater Fort Myers area rose again in June for the sixth consecutive month, according to the statistics released by the REALTOR® Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, Inc. Sales of single-family homes rose by 53.2 percent on a year over year basis, with the number of closed sales at 717 compared to 468 last June.

While the median price of a single-family home dropped by 34 percent to $158,000 compared to $239,500 a year ago, it is apparent that buyers are deriving solid value from the properties on the market. Pending sales are up 80.1 percent with 1379 single family homes pending compared to 762 in June 2007.
“Buyers are benefiting from an attractive selection of housing inventory from which to choose along with historically low interest rates. Sales demand in the Greater Fort Myers area is continuing to grow as housing prices return to a more affordable range,” said Ron Carpenter, president of the REALTOR® Association. "We are very pleased with the upward trend in home sales over the past six months and we're expecting that, as prices have become more reasonable, more buyers will realize that now really is a great time to buy a home."

Housing permits in Lee County tumble

The slow rise in permits for single-family homes in Lee County was short-lived.

Cape Coral, which saw an increase the past two months, had the biggest drop. The city's building department issued 14 permits, down 59 percent from the 34 issued in May and a drop of 80 percent from the 69 issued in June 2007, city spokeswoman Connie Barron said.
In unincorporated Lee County, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, 74 permits were issued. That's a 7.5 percent drop from the previous five-month high of 80 in May. June's total was an 83 percent decrease from the 448 issued in June 2007.
Large inventories of existing and foreclosed homes continues to limit activity in the new home market.
The number of foreclosure actions last month in Lee County was 2,390, which is down 2 percent from the 2,450 in May. But it is up 147 percent from the 968 foreclosure actions in June 2007, said Jeff Tumbarello, director of the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association, which tracks those numbers.
Lee County Department of Community Development spokeswoman Joan LaGuardia attributed the large number of permits issued in June 2007 to a rush to beat a deadline to qualify for a lower road impact fee.
Bonita Springs accounted for 18 of Lee's permits, down from 32 in May. Lehigh Acres had eight single-family home permits, up from six in May, Laguardia said.
"Obviously, we do not see the concentration of building in Lehigh that we saw in the previous two years," LaGuardia said. "It's spread pretty evenly throughout unincorporated Lee County."
Permit numbers for Fort Myers, which is counted separately, were not available Tuesday.
Cape Coral accounted for more than a third of the county's foreclosure actions, with 878 last month. Lehigh Acres had 560, Tumbarello said.
The drop in new-home permits did not surprise area home builders, nor did Cape Coral's steeper decline in permits.
"My attitude has been that Cape Coral comes back first, in comparison to Lehigh Acres," said Jamie Pirrello, chief executive of Cape-based Vision Homes USA. "But there are a number of master-planned communities throughout Lee County. ... I wouldn't doubt that a bunch of the permits are being pulled in the master-planned communities."
Michael Gay, general manager of the Fort Myers division of Adams Homes, said his company is concentrating on clearing out already-built houses in Lee County.
"We haven't pulled a new permit in 18 months or two years," he said. "If you can't go out and build a house and make a profit, there's no sense doing it."
Gay said that 56 finished Adams homes, mostly in Cape Coral, were sold in June, leaving 44 to be sold.
Low prices generated by homes that have been foreclosed on by banks and other lenders are the main reason not so many new homes are being built these days.
Tumbarello said the trend in Lee County foreclosures is a direct reflection of the drop in new-home construction since 2006. He added that banks lost an average of $170,000 per mortgage on which they foreclosed.
Gay doesn't think he will see anything like the good old days of the early 2000s.
"I think it will be several, several, several years before we see something like that again," Gay said. "The first step is to return back to a normal market, with gradual increases of less than 10 percent. Courtesy Fort Myers News Press