Homes sales up, prices down in Lee County

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Lee County had more home sales even as prices fell in the second quarter of this year — a pattern typical of foreclosure-plagued markets like this one, according to data released today by the National Association of Realtors.

The median price of a Realtor-assisted existing home sale fell 28 percent in Lee County to $196,400 from $273,500 a year earlier while the number of sales rose 38 percent from 1,706 to 2,351 in the same period, according to a separate report released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.

For condominiums, the price fell 10 percent from $246,900 to $222,600 while the number of sales rose 15 percent from 457 to 527.

Median home prices fell in more than three-quarters of U.S. cities in the second quarter, the latest sign of the breadth of the housing market decline, according to the national data.

Nevertheless, home sales rose in areas where the market is flooded with foreclosures, indicating that borrowers are taking advantage of steep discounts.

Lee County led the nation in the rate of foreclosures in July with one in 64 households receiving a foreclosure filing during the month, according to a report released today by Irvine-based RealtyTrac. A record 2,467 foreclosures filed during July in the county, which is more than seven times the national average.

Florida single-family homes were off 16 percent in price from $241,200 to $203,000 while sales were off 6 percent from 37,407 to 35,178. Condominiums were off 16 percent from $215,300 to $181,100 while sales fell 10 percent from 12,585 to 11,343, according to the state report.

Nevada and California, battered by a housing market bust, were the only states to show sales gains in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, according to the national report.

Sales were up 18 percent in Nevada compared with last year, after median prices fell by nearly 24 percent in the Las Vegas area. Sales in California were up 3.7 percent.

Prices in Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento have plunged by 30 percent or more, according to the NAR’s data.

Nationally, sales fell by 16.3 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago.

In recent months, the biggest home sales gains “have been in some of the markets with the steepest and fastest price drops,” said Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist. “Buyers in these areas are responding to deeply discounted home prices.”

The Realtors group said median prices for existing single-family homes dropped in 115 of 150 metropolitan areas in the April-June period, while 35 metro areas saw prices increase.
Among the bright spots, prices of homes sold rose by more than 7 percent in Yakima, Wash., Binghamton, N.Y., Amarillo, Texas and Charleston, W.Va.

Nationally, the median home price — the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less — fell to $206,500 in the second quarter, down by 7.6 percent from the same period a year ago, when the median sales price was $205,700.

As foreclosures soar, banks and mortgage investors are also facing a pileup of foreclosed properties on their books and are cutting prices dramatically.

RealtyTrac said it had more than 750,000 foreclosed homes in its database of properties for sale, equal to about 17 percent of the 4.5 million U.S. homes that were up for sale in June.

Nationwide, more than 272,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in July, up 55 percent from about 175,000 in the same month last year and up 8 percent from June, RealtyTrac. said. That means one in every 464 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing last month. Courtesy news wires and Fort Myers News-Press

Property values still dropping across Florida

TALLAHASSEE - The values of homes, businesses and other properties across Florida declined $153 billion during the last year, and the murky economic picture isn't expected to improve until 2009, state officials said.
Total property values dropped an unprecedented 6 percent, double the figure economists had projected last year. The decline would have been worse if not for $55.6 billion spent on new construction, according to data reported by The Miami Herald in its Wednesday editions.
In Lee County, the median price of an existing single-family home sold with assistance of a Realtor was $198,900 in April, the last month for which numbers are available, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. That's down 37 percent from its all-time high of $322,300 in December 2005.
Next year, state property values are expected to drop another 4.92 percent. However, economists expect the situation to slowly improve after the slump.
Amy Baker, the Legislature's chief economist, told the paper that the state is seeing more "fire sales" with homes sold at low prices. She said it's better than the homes not selling at all.
"It's not a terrible thing," she said. "You want to see that."
Foreclosures are up across the country, but certain states, including Florida, have been particularly hard hit. Metropolitan areas in California and Florida made up 16 of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates in the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a company that monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.
The real estate decline puts local governments and schools in a squeeze. They will see a 0.3 percent decrease in taxable value this year and 1.5 percent for schools in 2009. For schools, that adds up to $140 million lost statewide unless the Legislature increases the tax rate.
New construction that helps offset some of last year's decline is projected to decrease by almost 35 percent, or about $36.4 billion, for the 2009 tax rolls.
One measure being proposed on the Nov. 4 ballot would slash property taxes raised for schools in exchange for other new revenue. However, opinions are divided on how the proposal would affect the homebuilding industry. Some argue it will boost home sales while others contend they will end up paying more taxes on materials and services. Courtesy of Fort Myers News Press.

Lee County foreclosures at 2,467 record high

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July was another month of record foreclosures in Lee County and very little new construction of single-family homes.
There were 2,467 foreclosures last month, up 3 percent from the 2,390 foreclosures in June, while permits for new single-family homes could best be described as a mixed bag - up in Cape Coral, down almost everywhere else, according to numbers released Friday.
Not all is bad. People are taking advantage of bargains in the real estate market, giving hope Southwest Florida could soon stabilize itself, housing leaders said.
"Foreclosures are doing what they're doing, but the good news is that people are buying foreclosures, so at least there is a demand for these," said Jeff Tumbarello, director of the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association, which tracks foreclosures.
"For every two deeds they take back, they've been selling one," Tumbarello said.
Still, the numbers paint an ugly picture even for the biggest optimist. In July 2007 there were 1,045 foreclosures. Last month's record figure was the fourth consecutive month foreclosures topped 2,000.
The gluttony of existing and foreclosed homes on the market isn't doing the construction industry any favors.
Community development administrators from Bonita Springs and county government - which includes Lehigh Acres, Estero, south Fort Myers and North Fort Myers - reported drops in the number of permits issued for new single-family homes in July.
Only Cape Coral had a bit of good news, reporting 22 permits for new single-family homes were issued in July. That's the third highest monthly total this fiscal year, which began in October.
"Foreclosures are being sold at prices new homes can't compete," said Jamie Pirrello, chief executive of Cape-based Vision Homes USA.
Even if there was more of a demand for new homes, builders would have a hard time securing financing to start new projects.
"It's tough to get construction loans, as it is tough to get mortgages, he said.
The community development offices reported:
• In Lee County, there were 49 permits issued for new single-family homes, down nearly 13 percent from June's 56. There were 119 permits in July of last year.
• 22 permits were issued in Cape Coral in July, up from the 14 in June. That is still, however, a 51 percent drop from July 2007 when 45 permits were issued.
• In Bonita Springs, only nine new permits were issued in July. Last month, it was double that, 18. This month's number, however, is not far off from July 2007, when 11 permits were issued.
• In Fort Myers Beach, there were no permits issued this month. None last month either and two in July 2007.
"I'd like to see an increase but until we see that inventory absorption I don't think you'll see too many permits, " said Mary Gibbs, head of Lee County's Department of Community Development. "It's been bumping along at the bottom for some time now." Courtesy of Fort Myers News Press