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
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