Lee County Florida Home Prices Fall

The median price of a single-family-home resale in September in Lee County
was $89,700 in Lee County — 37 percent off $141,400 a year earlier, according
to statistics released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.
Meanwhile, the number of homes sold increased 77 percent in the same period
from 746 to 1,321.
In Charlotte County, the median price fell 19 percent from $136,900 to
$110,600 while the number of homes sold increased 56 percent from 153 to 238.
Statewide, the median price fell 19 percent from $174,900 to $142,000 while
the number of homes sold increased 34 percent from 10,778 to 14,419.
In a separate report also issued today, the National Association of Realtors
said U.S. home sales rose 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of
5.57 million in September, from a downwardly revised pace of 5.1 million in
August.
Sales had been expected to rise to an annual pace of 5.35 million, according
to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
The median sales price was $174,900, down 8.5 percent from a year earlier,
and slightly lower than August’s median of $177,300.
“There’s a mini-boom going on in the housing market,” said Thomas Popik,
who conducts a monthly survey of real estate agents for Campbell Communications,
a research firm.
The inventory of unsold homes on the market fell about 7 percent to 3.63
million. That’s a 7.8-month supply at the current sales pace, and the lowest
level since March 2007. Nationwide sales are up nearly 24 percent from their
bottom in January, but are still down 23 percent from four years ago. Article
courtesy of the Fort Myers NewsPress

Lee County Real Estate Rental Business in a Shambles

Between falling rent rates, the rising cost of insurance and
unscrupulous tenants, Bob Wilson is having trouble breaking even on the
modest houses he rents out for a living.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years and I’ve never seen
anything like this,” he said. “I’m paying more for taxes and
insurance alone than for what I used to pay for principal, interest, taxes
and insurance.”
Wilson is not alone. Statistics released today by Novato, Calif.-based
RealFacts shows that the average rent for big apartment complexes in the
third quarter dropped 7 percent from a year earlier in Cape Coral-Fort
Myers — second only to 8.8 percent in Naples-Marco Island.
Meanwhile, occupancy in Cape Coral-Fort Myers also rose sharply: up 8.5
percent to 90.2 percent, the second biggest jump in the state after Ocala.
While it’s good news for those who are looking for an inexpensive
place to live, the falling rents are wreaking havoc on the rental industry
itself.
“This is pretty much the trend all over the country although it does
seem that particular market, Lee County in general, has had a more
dramatic hit in terms of rent erosion,” RealFacts CEO Sarah Bridge said.
“It was $950 in 2007 and now, two years later, $826. It has definitely
sustained a steady decline of rent in this market and it’s pretty much
happened every quarter.”
The company tracks rents for apartment complexes of 100 units or more.
Dave Roberts, owner of Dave Roberts Realty in Fort Myers and of the
FREE Apartment Finder Service, said the reason for the low rent prices is
plain to see:

“You’ve got more people buying investment properties: short sales and
foreclosures.”
Those investors typically rent the houses out but they’re often in
for a rude surprise, he said. “The problem is you’ve got these
landlords who are new to the business. They say, ‘We’re going to rent
this for $925 a month, and first and last’” month’s rent required up
front, he said.
“Well, God bless you, we’ll try, but it’s not likely,” he said.
The market may eventually make rental rates pick up, but this area is
particularly prone to a sustained renter’s market, Bridge said, noting
that besides the flood of foreclosures there’s little chance for the
economy to rebound because the home-building industry dominated the area
so strongly before the market crashed in early 2006.
That rebound will be awhile in coming, Roberts said, in part because
this area actually lost population last year and is likely to do so again
this year.
He expects rents to get a short-term lift from the tourist/part-time
resident season just starting, but that the downward trend will still be
in place by the second quarter of 2010.
Wilson said the prognosis is gloomy for small landlords like him.
Renters sometimes agree to rent only to “renegotiate” after a
month, knowing that a landlord will have to spend up to $1,000 in court
costs and attorney’s fees, he said.
Even after spending the money, Wilson said, “It takes forever to get
rid of them.”
Now, he said, it looks like the rental industry will be in bad shape
for the foreseeable future and he’s looking for steadier work.
“I’m looking to get a job dealing poker” at the Naples-Fort Myers
Greyhound Track, he said.
Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press

Defaults help Lee County home sales soar past record

Driven by foreclosures, sales of single-family homes in Lee County this year have already blasted past the record set at the height of the buying frenzy in 2005.
And sales of all residential properties in the county this year will set a record once the September figures are released next week.
Through August, the last month for which data is available, 11,178 homes were sold with the assistance of Realtors, according to statistics from the Realtors Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach.
That’s well past the 9,842 for all of 2005, the previous high-water mark.
At the present pace, it would take about five months to run through the roughly 11,000 single-family homes listed for sale, according to association statistics.
If anything, the numbers understate the current pace of sales, said Jeff Tumbarello of Steelbridge Realty
Partners, noting that more than 300 foreclosed houses a month are being sold at county auctions on the courthouse steps.
Suzanne Sherer of Re/Max Realty Team, who is president of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, said the houses are selling so fast because “the prices are in line with incomes in the area.”
There are even bidding wars for some houses that are up for sale, and buyers should be aware they might have to offer more than the listing price, she said.
“Any buyer in today’s market, if they see a house and it’s $20,000 less than everything else, other buyers do, too,” Sherer said.
Driving the supply of inexpensive houses is a record number of foreclosures, with lenders still filing more than 1,600 a month, although the pace has slowed in recent months.
Still, some of the most desirable types of houses have stabilized and even increased in price.
“At this time last year you could buy a sailboat-access house that needs some work for $150,000 or $200,000 in Cape Coral,” Tumbarello said. “Now they’re $250,000.”
Kenny and Kate Champagne bought a foreclosed southwest Cape Coral home in August for $261,000, according to the Lee County Property Appraiser site.
The three-bedroom, 21⁄2-bath home has a caged pool and a boat dock with a lift.
“It’s got all the things we looked for, and then some,” said Kenny Champagne, 52, a customer service representative for Southwest Airlines who went home-shopping with Century 21 Sunbelt Realty.
Dwight Bessette, 68, moved from Princeton, N.J., to Fort Myers in June.
The retired salesman visited a few areas of Florida in February, settling on Lee County.
He paid $138,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath home at Colonial Country Club. The home sold for $224,600 in September 2005, according to the Lee County Property Appraiser site.
“I got such a good deal on what I really wanted in Fort Myers,” Bessette said. “It was the clear choice for me, given what I was looking for and what I wanted to spend.”
— Staff writers Fort Myers News Press Laura Ruane and Don Manley contributed to this report.

Foreclosures Down in Lee County

There were 1,610 mortgage foreclosure lawsuits filed in Lee County in September, down slightly from August’s 1,692 and sharply off the near-record 2,462 from September 2008, according to statistics released today by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association.

Foreclosures spiked sharply higher after the residential real estate boom in Southwest Florida ended in early 2006. For the past several months, foreclosures have been on the decline