Lee County home price declines lead U.S.

Lee County led the nation in the rate of falling home prices
during the third quarter.
Is it time to buy right now? You make the decision.The median price in
Fort Myers plunged 40 percent to $98,000 compared to the same quarter a
year ago, when the median price was $163,300, the National Association of
Realtors said Tuesday. That beat other hard-hit areas such as No. 2 Las
Vegas, which saw its median price tumble almost 35 percent to $138,500
year-over-year.
Local real estate experts were not surprised at the county's continuing
rank at or near the top of residential price declines. They also predicted
an end is in sight for this trend, as prices in some market segments have
begun to level off."I really think we are, statistically, probably
about done with the price drops," said Realtor Brett Ellis, of Re/Max
Realty Group in Fort Myers.
He cited several reasons for this opinion:
- The backlog of homes at the market's bottom end is shrinking, while
those in the $100,000 to $200,000 range are increasing.
- Banks are increasingly opting to short-sell homes rather than
foreclose. Foreclosures tend to lose more value due to vandalism or lack
of upkeep.
- Prospective buyers from the North, "deep down, they really know
that this is the last year to get those bargain prices so they're really
motivated to get something now."
Ellis said snowbirds are starting to exert "buying pressure ahead
of season.
"Prices in many market segments seem to be stabilizing, said Steve
Koffman of Century 21 Sunbelt Realty in Cape Coral."I don't think
you're going to see prices fall without there being demand to absorb
them," he said. "That kind of balance is a good thing."
Prices in the sub-$400,000 market have been virtually flat since
February, based on statistics from the local Multiple Listing Service,
said Jeff Tumbarello, director of the Southwest Florida Real Estate
Investment Association. The association compiles monthly statistics on
foreclosures.Tumbarello, who's a Realtor for Steelbridge Realty in Fort
Myers, said 64 percent of Lee County sales this year were cash
transactions, according to the MLS records. Article courtesy of the Fort
Myers News Press.

Short-sale sellers get stuck in Cape Coral

Cora Mooney-Graves believed she had her Cape Coral house sold with a willing buyer and approval of the bank for a short sale.But the buyer and the backup buyer had both put offers in for several other houses and bailed out before Mooney-Graves’ lenders gave approval to sell her house for $200,000.
Now, she may have to start over on the time-consuming short-sale process, in which a bank forgives part of its mortgage so a homeowner can set a realistic price at which to sell a house.
It’s a problem some Realtors say is becoming common in the frenzied Cape Coral housing market, where buyers put in multiple offers to assure they get at least one house before someone beats them to it.
"If a deal falls apart on a short sale,” said Fiona Finn of The Finn Team Realty, the seller’s agent has little time to get another buyer in place before the bank’s deadline for a sale passes. Then the whole process has to start over again.
The problem isn’t as pronounced outside the Cape, Finn said. “I haven’t seen it that much in Fort Myers.”
Paula Hellenbrand of Encore Realty, who’s also president of the Cape Coral Association of Realtors, said the practice is growing common but seller’s agents also are sometimes doing the same thing. “They can cancel just as easily as the buyer.”Sellers have tactics available to them to thwart indiscriminate offers, she said: They have the option not to take multiple offers or to require a prospective buyer to put down a deposit — although that’s rare in this market.
The right way to do it is one offer, signed by the seller, and anybody else is a backup offer,” with the backups knowing they won’t get the deal unless the first offer falls apart, said Hellenbrand, who represents about the same number of buyers as sellers.
Buyers who want to lock in a sale might be better advised to bid aggressively, said Patti Pietroniro with McWilliams Buckley & Associates in Fort Myers.“I’m telling my buyers, if you really like the house, right now you need to go higher than the asking price,” Pietroniro said.

Lee County foreclosures up 1 percent

There were 1,628 foreclosure actions filed in Lee circuit court in October, up 1 percent from September’s 1,610 but down 40 percent from the all-time high of 2,665 in October 2008, according to statistics released today by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association.
The number of foreclosures in Lee County started to increase three years ago after the residential real estate boom ended in late 2005 and prices started to decline. Since October 2008, the number filed monthly has generally been declining.
According to the association’s report, 1,403 certificates of title were conveyed by the Lee clerk of court in October — that occurs when a property is sold on the courthouse steps to satisfy the mortgage after a final order is issued in a foreclosure lawsuit. Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press

Upscale foreclosures rise in Lee County

That expensive house you covet might not be quite so expensive in a few months.
Experts say more high-end foreclosures are being filed, more houses are under construction and fewer people are moving in — all adding up to pull down prices in Lee County.
“The cream is coming,” predicted Jeff Tumbarello, director of the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association, which compiles monthly statistics on foreclosures.
In October, there were 1,628 foreclosures filed, down 40 percent from October 2008’s all-time high of 2,665.
But the foreclosures in recent months, though fewer in overall numbers, are showing signs that the middle class is starting to lose its houses. Tumbarello said, for example, a third of the houses that went into foreclosures over the past six months were pool homes.
That’s because the houses going into foreclosure now are increasingly in the higher range, said Brett Ellis, a real estate agent with Re/Max Realty Group in Fort Myers.
Less expensive homes are already at a rough balance of supply and demand, he said, but what constitutes a high-end house depends on the area: more than $100,000 in Lehigh Acres but closer to $200,000 in Fort Myers.
Kerry Collier, a real estate investor and broker, said she and two business partners bought a house in Estero that had been foreclosed on and will close on it this week for close to their $285,000 asking price.
But she said she expects houses even a little more expensive — about $300,000 or more in Estero — will be coming down in price soon.
“If you look at the MLS (multiple listing service), there’s a lot out there,” said Collier, the owner of Collier & Associates Real Estate and HomesByOwner.com.
Even as a wave of foreclosures approaches the market, new construction is actually increasing in Lee County, said Brad Hunter, who directs Metrostudy's market research operations in Southwest Florida.
In the third quarter, starts for detached single-family homes in subdivisions rose to 194 from 91 starts in the previous quarter, according to a Metrostudy report that came out last week. At the same time, vacant inventory rose from 703 houses to 728.
Builders have made reducing their inventories a priority over the past year, Hunter said, but “now it’s at a point where when a builder sells a house, they have to build a house just to have enough houses to sell.”
But those houses being built now will face a lot of competition from the foreclosures coming back onto the market, Hunter said. Up to now it’s been mainly subprime mortgages for inexpensive houses, but now prime loans are starting to show up.
“There’s still another wave of foreclosures coming and that will bring another round of price declines.” Hunter said. “Those homes will be a greater competitive threat to the homebuilders than the first wave.” Courtesy of Fort Myers News Press