Fort Myers Area - Lee County- Home Sales Level Off.




Lee County's residential real estate market stayed flat in November as paperwork issues with foreclosed houses caused caution by buyers and banks alike.
Prices and the number of sales for existing single-family homes were almost unchanged from October, according to statistics released Wednesday by Florida Realtors.


A separate report released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors showed that more people bought existing homes in November, the third increase in four months after the worst summer season in more than a decade.

In Lee County, the median price for homes sold with the help of a Realtor was $89,800 in November, down only $200 from October's $90,000. There were 1,022 single-family sales, a mere six more than in October.

Compared to a year earlier, both prices and the number of sales were down: 33 percent off the 1,530 sales in November 2009 and 6 percent off the $95,100 median price.

Steve Koffman, a real estate broker with Century 21 Sunbelt in Cape Coral, said the low numbers in November weren't surprising.

"We came off at a pretty slow summer and it lagged into the fall," he said. "Obviously the numbers were not great."

That was due in part to concerns by buyers that there could be problems with having clear title to houses bought from lenders that had taken them back in foreclosure, Koffman said.

"That's going to linger for another month or two" but is slowly dissipating, he said. "The last couple weeks we've seen a definite increase."

Banks are still pulling some houses off the market at least temporarily because of issues related to how the foreclosures were handled, Koffman said, but the homes will all be sold eventually.

"They'll come on the market, we'll sell them, the banks will take their lumps and we'll move on," he said.

Nationally, buyers bought homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million, the National Association of Realtors report said. Even with the rise, this year is shaping up to be the worst for home sales since 1997.

The median price of a home sold in November was $170,600.

The housing market is still struggling to recover from a boom-bust cycle that helped trigger a severe economic recession. Home prices have tumbled in most markets and many potential buyers worry that prices could fall further.

Sales were up in all regions of the country in November led by an 11.7 percent rise in the West. Sales were up 6.4 percent in the Midwest, 2.9 percent in the South and 2.7 percent in the Northeast.

The November increase was driven by a 6.7 percent rise in sales of single-family homes which pushed activity in this area to an annual rate of 4.15 million units. Sales of condominiums dropped 1.9 percent to a rate of 530,000 units.

The sales gain pushed the inventory of unsold homes down to 3.71 million units at the end of November, representing a 9.5 months supply at the November sales pace. That is still above the six to seven months supply that is typical for a healthy housing market. Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.
Search Fort Myers Real Estate

Cape Coral-Fort Myers economy second worst in the country

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers economy was second worst in the country, according to a survey released Wednesday - but there are some tentative signs that things might be turning around.
According to the Washington-based private, nonprofit Brookings Institution, among the top 100 metro areas, Cape Coral Fort Myers:


- Was dead last in change in gross metropolitan product from the peak in the third quarter of 2006: down 15.5 percent.

- Had the highest percentage of homes taken back in foreclosure by lenders: 21.02 per 1,000 mortgageable properties.

- Fared worse overall than any metro area except Boise, Idaho (Augusta, Ga., was best).

This area's bad rating was due in part to a stark 8 percent increase in unemployment in the past four years, but Barbara Hartman, spokeswoman for Southwest Florida Works in Fort Myers, said there's been a slow, fitful recovery in recent months.

Unemployment peaked at a record 14.2 percent in January, she said, but it's slowly decreased since then. October, the last month available, had a 12.9 percent rate.

The jobs lost here were a result of the home-building crash that followed the implosion of prices in 2006, Hartman said. "The bottom fell out. That affected every other industry."

But now the jobs picture isn't all bleak, she said. "The main industry sector keeping us afloat is health/education, mainly medical. Anything medically related like registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists."

There have also been signs recently that the leisure and hospitality industry has been starting to come back, too, she added, and small businesses are hiring more.

Dr. Michael Collins, a Fort Myers-based eye surgeon who's moving into a larger building this month to keep up with an increase in business, said his field is staying strong because "People still have eye problems, still have health problems. Without your health, what do you have?"

As for the big numbers of bank-owned foreclosure properties, there are two ways to look at that, said Jeff Tumbarello, a real estate agent with Steelbridge Realty and director of the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association.

Because of the resulting low home prices, he noted, this is one of the most affordable places in the country to buy a house. "You can buy a house in either Cape Coral or Lehigh Acres if you make $30,000.

Bank-owned homes make up about 40 percent of sales nowadays, with short sales at 15 percent and conventional sales 45 percent, Tumbarello said.

Ironically, he said, the area was seen as having a healthy economy when the boom was inflating prices to an unsustainable level and now "Everybody is hammering a sustainable market." Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press.
Search Fort Myers Real Estate For Sale

Fort Myers-Oasis Condo sales a sign

Tropical music blared from speakers as people in ball caps and button-downs clutched coffee and studied numbers on pages in their auction packets.


Lamar Fisher, of Pompano Beach-based Fisher Auction Co., took the stage and explained the rules for the day: Hold the auction card high to bid, be prepared to put $10,000 down on a win and remember that transactions for Oasis condominiums are cash-only.


He told attendees that high bidders would get first choice on units at the downtown Fort Myers high-rise development, which prior to the auction was occupied by a sole resident.

"To be the high bidder, get into the bidding game," Fisher said.

The day before the auction, unit 2601 at Oasis sold for $300,000 and 1101 went for $242,000, so those condos would no longer be up for bid, Fisher told the crowd.

After explaining protocol, the auctioneer broke into about a minute-long sample auction round, skimming over syllables at a rip-roaring pace. The music - this time a pumping Fergie song - returned during a brief break, a final chance to ask questions to auction workers roaming the aisles. The song's opening lyrics advised people with no money to go home.

It turned out to be a little too literal.

When the room fell silent again, the bidding began at warp speed. A woman on the right side of the room threw her hands in the air and cheered when she won the first condo for $260,000. "Unbelievable!" a man in a suit called out to the crowd as he approached the woman with paperwork and fellow workers whisked her away.

After the first 40 units sold absolute, officials cut the auction short. Winning bids that fell to the mid $100,000s were presumably too low for the developer.

Though some bidders left with unprecedented deals, others attended the Harborside Event Center auction as a way to gauge the market.

"I'm just here seeing what goes on," said Colin Hall, 78, who lives in Toronto, Canada, part-time, spends the winters in North Port and is planning to purchase investment property in Southwest Florida. "I'm getting an idea of where the prices are compared to the spring when I was down here."
Kevin Mulhearn, a broker with Amerivest Realty in Fort Myers, strolled through the parking lot as the event was under way. He said he stopped by to learn more about auctions and to see how the highly publicized event would play out.
Whether it's a packed ballroom with hundreds of people bidding on luxury units or a handful of potential buyers gathered at a home, real estate auctions in today's market are highly unpredictable.


In March, auctioneer Daniel DeCaro, of Naples-based DeCaro Auctions, which specializes in luxury properties, sold WCI Communities founder Al Hoffman's Gulf Harbour mansion to an AC/DC bassist for $5.12 million, just before its scheduled auction.

From 2002 to 2006, nearly all of DeCaro's properties sold before they hit the auction block. Today, the pre-auction sale is a little less common, he said.

"There appear to be a lot of buyers but the buyers are no longer willing to allow the sellers to dictate price," DeCaro said. "They allow competition or competitive bidding to dictate price."

DeCaro said he expects auctions - which sold approximately $17.1 billion in residential real estate in 2008, according to the latest statistics from the National Association of Realtors - to become even more prevalent in the future. With a 39.2 percent increase from 2003 to 2008, residential real estate is the fastest growing auction sector.

"As we see this market evolve, more and more people are turning to using auctions in conjunction with their real estate firms," DeCaro said. "Rather than a thousand listings, it's one of one because it's the only one at auction. It allows the seller to monopolize the market for a period of time."

Bruce Scott, of Bruce Scott Auctions & Real Estate in North Fort Myers, sold six homes at auction this year, all to end users who were present. For every 25 or 30 homes he considers for auction, maybe one or two will be a good candidate, Scott said.

"I've probably turned more auctions down in the last year, year and a half, than in the 30 years I've been doing this," said the Lee County native.

Scott doesn't make a commission unless he closes a transaction at auction and some people have so little equity and are so underwater that selling a home at auction for the price it would take to cover the mortgage is practically hopeless, he said. Article courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press.
Search Fort Myers Area Homes Condos and Foreclosures

Fort Myers Area foreclosures down sharply in November

Lenders filed 343 mortgage foreclosures in November in Lee County courts — less than a quarter of the 1.404 recorded a year earlier, according to statistics released today by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investors Association.

Lee existing home sales, prices fall in October

The number of existing single-family homes sold in October in Lee County was 1,016, down 28 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.

In addition, the median price of a single-family home sold in October was $90,000, down 2 percent from October 2009, the association’s report said.

Only sales assisted by a Realtor are included in the association’s numbers.

Compared to September, the number of homes sold in October was down 8 percent from September’s 1,102 and the median price was down 5 percent from September‘s $94,400, according to the association.

In a separate report also released today, the National Association of Realtors said sales dropped slightly nationwide in October as the housing market continues to battle tough economic conditions including high unemployment and tight credit.

Sales of previously owned homes dipped 2.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million units. The performance was weaker than had been expected, the national association reported.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase had forecast that sales would rise in October to an annual rate of 4.60 million units.

The median price for a home sold in October was $170,500, down 0.9 percent from a year ago, as prices continue to be depressed by weak sales conditions and a huge overhang of unsold homes.

Sales had plunged to the slowest pace in 15 years in July and then posted gains in August and September before slipping back in October. Sales in October were 38.9 percent below their peak of 7.25 million units set in September 2005 during the height of the housing boom.

The Realtors group said that the moratorium that many big lenders imposed on foreclosures may have dampened sales in October by introducing more uncertainty in the sales market. But they said a bigger problem is the tight lending standards that banks have put in place in the wake of record foreclosures. Article courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press.

Fort Myers Area second in Foreclosed Properties

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country in October, according to statistics released today by Irvine, Calif.-based housing data company RealtyTrac.

Some of the report's other findings:
- The area had one foreclosure filing during the month for every 96 housing units, second only to Las Vegas, which had one in 70.
- Other Florida metro areas with foreclosure rates in the top 10 were Miami at No. 7 and Orlando at No. 10.
- Florida foreclosure activity showed the nation's second-highest state foreclosure rate for the third month in a row: one in every 155 housing units received a foreclosure filing, 2.5 times the national average and second only to Nevada's rate of one in 79.
Nationwide, the number of U.S. homes repossessed by lenders last month fell by the sharpest margin this year, as several major lenders temporarily halted most or all of their foreclosures amid allegations thousands of foreclosures were handled improperly.
Home repossessions dropped 9 percent from September to October.
In recent weeks, some lenders that had suspended taking action against borrowers severely behind in payments have announced plans to resume doing so, though at a more measured pace.
Banks have seized more than 909,000 homes through the first 10 months of the year and are on pace to take back more than 1 million homes this year. Article courtesy of Fort Myers News Press.


Fort Myers area Homes Prices Rise

The median price of an existing home sold in Lee County in September rose 5 percent to $94,400 from $89,700 a year earlier, according to statistics released today by Florida Realtors.
Numbers compiled by the group include only sales assisted by Realtors.
The number of homes sold in September was 1,102, down 17 percent from 1,321 a year earlier.
Statewide, the number of homes sold in September dropped 8 percent to 13,536 from 14,781 in September 2009. The median price dropped 6 percent to $133,400 from $141,700 in the same time period.
Lee County’s median home price reached a peak of $322,300 in December 2005 at the height of the residential real estate boom, then fell sharply before stabilizing about a year ago.
September’s median price was up from $88,400 in August but down from August’s 1,193 sales.
In another report released separately today by the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously occupied homes rose last month after the worst summer for the housing market in more than a decade.
Sales grew 10 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.
Home sales have declined 37.5 percent from their peak annual rate of 7.25 million in September 2005. They have risen from July’s rate of 3.84 million, which was the lowest in 15 years.
Most experts expect roughly 5 million homes to be sold through the entire year. That would be in line with last year’s totals and just above sales for 2008, the worst since 1997.
Still, sales could fall further if potential lawsuits from former homeowners claiming that banks made errors when seizing their homes make consumers fearful of buying foreclosed properties.
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press. Locate your Fort Myers area home or condo.

Title insurers seek insulation from foreclosures

The title insurance industry is maneuvering to protect itself from losses if courts rule that banks have played fast and loose with the foreclosure process. But people who buy foreclosed properties from banks may face some degree of loss despite having a title policy.

Fidelity National Financial, the largest title insurance company, is leading the industry in demanding that lenders warrant that they have followed all legal procedures in the handling of foreclosures and indemnify the title insurers if a court decides otherwise.

"They are putting on record that it is absolutely the bank's responsibility," said Susan Wachter, professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

But Wachter said buyers of these properties risk getting caught up in litigation among title companies, banks and possibly other entities if the foreclosure is overturned by a court. "There is still uncertainty," she said. "It's a question of litigation; it's a question of transaction costs."

That uncertainty will continue to place a chill on the foreclosure market, she said. Real estate agents are already seeing would-be foreclosure buyers retreating from the market, said Lucien Salvant, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. And observers fear that a market chill, if it persists for more than a few weeks, could drive property values down further.


Title insurers are at the hub of real estate transactions. They guarantee that the chain of title is clear, unblemished by missing documents, outstanding liens or other factors that would impede an owner's right to sell a piece of real estate and deliver a clean title to the new owner. Lenders always require buyers to pay for title insurance coverage that protects the lender against those risks. Buyers have the option of paying extra to have such coverage for themselves.

Fidelity National Financial, which has 38 percent of the market nationwide, underwrites policies under the brands Fidelity National Title, Chicago Title, Commonwealth Land Title and Alamo Title. As of Nov. 1, all lenders seeking a Fidelity National policy for the sale of a foreclosed home must warrant that all documents and procedures involved in the foreclosure process were handled properly. They also must agree to pay the title insurer's costs in the event that a court finds errors or fraud in the foreclosure process.

Those agreements will be required even sooner for Bank of America, which plans to resume foreclosure sales next week. Peter T. Sadowski, Fidelity's chief legal officer, said the indemnity agreement was drafted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that he hopes their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, soon makes it mandatory for loans backed by Fannie and Freddie as well.

Fidelity executives said they do not anticipate having to pay claims anyway, even if a court sets aside a foreclosure due to a defect in documentation or process. In a conference call to Wall Street analysts Thursday, Sadowski said, "If a foreclosure is set aside - which is very unlikely to happen - the purchaser who bought the property is going to get his or her money back from the lender who sold it to him."

In such an instance, the title insurance company would deal with the lender on behalf of an insured buyer, Sadowski said later in an interview.

Although Sadowski said he does not expect the foreclosure crisis to result in significant losses to the company, Fidelity National nevertheless is building up its cash on hand. The company has halved its dividend and announced plans to cut $50 million in expenses within the next six months. Company officials cited continued uncertainty in the real estate market and the desire to repurchase shares of company stock as reasons for the cash buildup.

The plans and concerns of the other major providers of title insurance - First American Financial Corp., Stewart Title and Old Republic International - will be disclosed this week. Each is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings to investors Oct. 28. Along with Fidelity, they account for 90 percent of the title insurance market. Courtesy of the Washington Post.
Visit BestFortMyersRealEstate.com

Banks seize 288K homes in Q3,

Lenders seized more U.S. homes this summer than in any three-month stretch since the housing market began to bust in 2006. But many of the foreclosures may be challenged in court later because of allegations that banks evicted people without reading the documents.


A total of 288,345 properties were lost to foreclosure in the July-September quarter, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing service. That's up from nearly 270,000 in the second quarter, the previous high point in the firm's records dating back to 2005.
Banks have seized more than 816,000 homes through the first nine months of the year and had been on pace to seize 1.2 million by the end of 2010. But fewer are expected now that several major lenders have suspended foreclosures and sales of repossessed homes until they can sort out the foreclosure-documents mess.


On Wednesday, officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia launched a joint investigation into the matter.
Find your dream Home or Vacation get away

MERS Class Action

mers class action


A class action lawsuit  has been filed in the State of Kentucky.  I applaud the Plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this suit, the fact is, State Attorneys General should be doing this.

MERS does not, nor did it ever have any standing to foreclose on any property as they never had an interest, secured or otherwise.  It is also very clear that all the banks that used MERS were well aware of this fact from the outset.  After all, it was the big banks that created MERS in the first place as a tool to facilitate the bundling, selling and buying of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) – those lovely little toxic debt instruments that still lie ticking on bank balance sheets, pension funds, 401(k)s, and public trusts.

Will this affect our area and surrounding Fort Myers Real Estate?

Read the entire complaint against MERs. Foreclosure Fraud?

Lee County hires new firm to promote the area

All of the content that Lonely Planet creates for the destination will be available to the bureau for use on its consumer website and in other marketing. The publisher also will ask major retailers, such as Books-A-Million, to offer the guide free with the purchase of other Lonely Planet products at stores in Lee’s key feeder markets.

Next Page1| 2Previous PageThe Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and travel publishing giant Lonely Planet are pairing up to promote the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel brand.


Tamara Pigott, visitor bureau executive director, announced the alliance Thursday at the annual Team Tourism Summit at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa. She called it a first-of-its kind partnership between a tourist destination and a major travel brand.


“I’m very excited,” Pigott said. “We need all the firepower in the market we can get.”
The visitor bureau will spend about $700,000 in bed-tax funds for Lonely Planet services in the coming year. These include creating:


• A customized local guide book, in the style of other Lonely Planet titles that will replace the bureau’s more traditional visitor guide;


• A digital/online version of the guide;


• A mobile application of the guide;


• A Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel microsite at LonelyPlanet.com, with different versions for the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.


Lonely Planet will start rolling out these products by year-end, finishing up by the end of January.


The deal also gives the visitor bureau six full-page advertisements in the U.K. edition of Lonely Planet magazine with a distribution of 80,000 in Europe.

About 190 people in the region’s lifeblood tourism and hospitality industries attended the meeting, during which marketing objectives for the coming year also are unveiled and cooperative advertising opportunities are outlined.


Pete Corradino, operations director for Fort Myers-based Everglades Day Safari tours, was especially pleased to hear there would be a mobile application of the visitor guide.
“More and more people are using smart phones for travel-planning,”
Article courtesy of Fort Myers News Press
Search our new and up to date Southwest Florida MLS real estate search engine. BestFortMyersRealEstate.com

Unified Lee County Real Estate Listings Possible

 

Fort Myers Real Estate NewsReal estate agents in Lee County could be in line for something they haven't seen for seven years: a unified service to list all homes for sale here.

Making the proposal is the Bonita Springs-Estero Association of Realtors, which uses the Sunshine multiple listing service run by the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

Agents and brokers in the Bonita-Estero association have to pay extra to join the Rapattoni MLS system operated by the Greater Fort Myers and Cape Coral boards, and vice versa.

Bill Barnes, CEO of Bonita-Estero, said his association's logic is simple: "Bonita Springs is in the middle. Half our people do business to the north and half to the south. That's been a problem for a long time."

The proposal is being reviewed now by Greater Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

Brett Ellis, head of The Ellis Team with Re/Max Realty Group in Fort Myers, said he hopes the deal goes through.

For agents in groups such as his, which handles sales throughout Lee and Collier counties, a unified MLS would be great, Ellis said.

The split, he said, is "a major hassle, a waste of time, a waste of money. I can guarantee the agent who's the end user would definitely be for merging the data, only joining one board."

Besides the cost of joining multiple boards, Ellis said, the current situation forces agents to log on to two separate systems to look up information - researching on behalf of a client what's for sale in a particular neighborhood, for example.

Broker Melvin King of The King Group, president of the Cape association, said its board has approved the proposal in concept "but there's still a lot of study to be done and things to work out."

For example, he said, "Bonita has no canals to speak of" and agents there likely wouldn't be interested in the detailed information on water access that's on the Cape's MLS now.

Greater Fort Myers president Christie Knight of Preferred Choice Realty Group said her association has formed a task force that's studying Bonita's proposal. Bonita intends to keep its 15 percent ownership of Sunshine so members of that board would continue to have the right to join.

But Brenda Fioretti, president of the Naples association, said her group might be amenable to a consolidated MLS including Naples and the Lee County boards.

"I believe the technology is moving in the direction of wider MLS territories," she said. Article courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press

Visit our up to date Fort Myers area MLS Real Estate Listings search engine now!

Obama won't sign bill that would affect foreclosure proceedings

Amid growing furor over the legitimacy of foreclosure proceedings, White House officials said Thursday that President Obama will not sign a two-page bill passed by lawmakers without public debate after critics said the legislation could loosen standards for foreclosure documents.



The bill, named the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act, would require courts to accept document notarizations made out of state. Its sponsors intended the effort to promote interstate commerce. But homeowner advocates warn the new law could allow lenders to cut even more corners as they seek to evict homeowners.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president did not believe Congress meant to undermine consumer protections regarding foreclosure challenges. Still, Obama will use a "pocket veto," which will effectively kill the legislation.

Democratic leaders on the Hill were scrambling to figure out how the bill managed to sail through both chambers of Congress without any objection. The episode may prove embarrassing for Democrats who in recent weeks have been calling for federal investigations into flawed paperwork, forged documents and other kinds of misconduct in foreclosure proceedings initiated by big lenders.

The House passed the bill in April by a voice vote, meaning there's no record of who voted for or against the legislation. The Senate passed the bill on Sept. 27, just before recess, without any debate.

Even the bill's main sponsor, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), was surprised by how quickly the legislation was greenlighted, according to D.J. Jordan, a representative for Aderholt.

Staffers said lawmakers will revisit the bill to add protections for consumers.

Jordan said Aderholt had been working on the issue since April 2005, soon after hearing complaints from a court stenographer in his district that courts in other states were having trouble using documents notarized in Alabama.

"The authors of this bill no doubt had the best of intentions in mind when trying to remove impediments to interstate commerce," said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director. "We will work with them and other leaders in Congress to explore the best ways to achieve this goal going forward."   Courtesy of the Washington Post


Foreclosures: United States Foreclosure Problems Snowball

Foreclosures: Fort Myers

It just doesn't quit.

Questions over the accuracy of legal documents submitted by mortgage lenders have significantly slowed U.S. foreclosure proceedings in recent weeks.

 

The growing controversy has forced at least three banks to temporarily halt foreclosure or eviction proceedings and prompted some lawmakers and state attorneys general to demand a moratorium on home seizures until the problems are resolved.

HOW FORECLOSURES WORK

To foreclose on a house, a lender must prove it has a valid claim.

That means it must certify through an affidavit and other documentation that it clearly holds the right to enforce the terms of the loan, and that the borrower has actually defaulted.

Judges approve foreclosures in 23 states. Otherwise, lenders use an out-of-court process.

Banks are expected to take over a record 1.2 million homes this year, up from about 1 million last year and 100,000 in 2005, real estate data company RealtyTrac Inc said last week.  Not to mention the MERS problems with title.

WHY "ROBO-SIGNERS" ARE A PROBLEM

Emerging evidence of so-called "robo-signers" has thrown a wrench into the foreclosure process. These are mid-level bank executives who signed thousands of affidavits a month claiming they were knowledgeable of the cases.

GMAC official Jeffrey Stephan acknowledged signing an affidavit supporting a foreclosure without reading it or being in the presence of a notary. That disclosure led a Maine judge to reprimand GMAC, now known as Ally Financial Inc, although the court accepted an amended affidavit in the case.

Stephan has testified to signing some 10,000 documents a month.

Consumer attorneys say they have also obtained evidence of similar practices by other servicers. Article courtesy of Reuters

Search Fort Myers Real Estate Foreclosure Homes and Condos

Fort Myers" Businesses feeling foreclosure's impact

Fort Myers Foreclosures

The foreclosure crisis hasn't only hit homeowners in Southwest Florida; businesses are also feeling its effects.

A hair salon in Lehigh Acres has been forced to relocate not once, but twice because their shopping plazas were foreclosed on.

Elsa Cora's "Fresh Cuts Hair Salon" started as her mother's dream in 2008, but the reality of a bad economy made owning a small business a nightmare.

"The struggle is more than we thought it was going to be," Cora said.

Cora says the salon's first location off Lee Blvd. never even got off the ground, after the plaza they picked went into foreclosure.

They tracked down another plaza off Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers, only to face the same result a few months later.

"We established our business there, later I found out it went into foreclosure."

While some signs remain, Cora says lease terms under the building's new owner didn't work to stay.  Unwilling to completely quit, she moved the business again.

"If we all stop and think what the risks are, would we really take them.  Sometimes you just have to put the risks aside and just go for it."

Many of her clients and employees didn't follow the salon to Lehigh Acres. Cora's mother even stepped aside as a co-owner, though she works for the salon as a stylist.

Cora is confident the American dream is still out there.

"The drive keeps me going.  I want this to work.  I want to show her it can be done, we shouldn't give up." Courtesy Wink News.

Search Fort Myers Area MLS

Sloppy Foreclosures Procedures could slow down foreclosures.

Sloppy Foreclosures could slow down Fort Myers Foreclosures

There's no polite way to put this. A growing cancer is infecting the backlogged legal process of foreclosing on hundreds of thousands of homes in Florida.

It's endangering the legal and economic stability of this state. And it's exposing an appalling lack of leadership, first for allowing such a breakdown in the legal system and, now, for failing to own up to this mess and get it fixed.

How bad is it? Laws governing who actually owns a foreclosed home are becoming so suspect a new buzzword is emerging: blighted titles. Even the tepid rebound of Florida's economy may face crippling delays in resolving hundreds of thousands of foreclosures in the Sunshine State.

What's wrong? The accuracy and truthfulness of an immense flood of legal documents and affidavits some lenders and their hired lawyers use to foreclose on homes have come under such critical attack that some major banks are suspending their court cases pending internal reviews.

"Sheer volume allowed perversions in the legal system to be overlooked," says Mark Stopa, a Tampa lawyer who helps people fight foreclosures.

"This has long-term catastrophic consequences," adds St. Petersburg lawyer Matt Weidner. He wants an intervention into what he considers a corrupted legal process.

At best, the foreclosure process in Florida is beyond sloppy. At worst, it may suffer from serious fraud. Left unchecked, a growing chorus of critics warns this cancer may have sweeping consequences.

Here's a big one: Title insurance companies may be scared away from offering "clear title" guarantees on foreclosed homes. That would throw into doubt who actually owns many thousands of houses — those going into foreclosure and those purchased out of foreclosure — all across the state.

Who's going to buy a home if they don't have a guarantee that they will legally own it?

If the courts finally acknowledge that many foreclosure documents are inaccurate, people who have bought thousands of foreclosed homes may have to reassert their legal ownership. Some former owners already pushed out of their homes by foreclosure proceedings could find they still own their houses, only to face a second round of foreclosure just to get the ownership documentation right.

The impact of this mess is not limited to foreclosures, which make up a third of area home sales. It threatens Florida's mainstream housing market by making it harder to reach any sort of price stability. Wary buyers will remain on the sidelines until they know the value of what they intend to purchase won't collapse.

Even the credibility of the state's court system could be questioned. Pressured by legislators (who control the court system's budget) to clear Florida's huge foreclosure backlog, many judges employ what derisively are known as "rocket" dockets. They speed foreclosures by minimizing legal arguments. But in the name of expediency, they bend the rules governing individual property rights.

Ultimately, the foreclosure mess could stall Florida's still struggling economy and, worst case, revive the possibility of a double-dip recession.

Florida's foreclosure train is not slowing. Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando are among the top five metro markets nationwide with the fastest-growing mortgage delinquency rates — a harbinger of coming foreclosures.

Last week, lender JPMorgan Chase said it was halting 56,000 foreclosures because some of its employees might have improperly prepared the necessary documents. All of the suspensions are in the 23 states where foreclosures must be approved by a court, including Florida. Chase mortgage supervisor Beth Ann Cottrell said in a court deposition that she was among eight managers who together signed without any personal review about 18,000 documents a month — including critical affidavits of indebtedness.

Last month, GMAC Mortgage, the country's fourth largest home lender, said it was suspending an undisclosed number of foreclosures to give it time to take a closer look at its own procedures. GMAC (majority owned by the federal government after a recent bailout) simultaneously began withdrawing affidavits in pending court cases, throwing their future into doubt.

GMAC employee Jeffrey Stephan said he and a team of 13 others signed an estimated 10,000 foreclosure-related documents a month. Similarly, Erica Johnson-Seck, an employee of OneWest Bank, estimated she signs about 750 foreclosure-related documents a week and spends about 30 seconds on each document.

And just Friday, Bank of America said it, too will delay foreclosures in Florida and 22 other states after disclosing a bank official signed off on 8,000 foreclosure documents a month without reading most of them.

Cottrell, Stephan and the other officials are now known as "robo-signers" — people who are supposed to know what's in the affidavits they sign off on, but are so under the crush of foreclosure volume that they are, in effect, robotlike signature-signers of key documents they never read.

A backlash to GMAC is already under way. Old Republic National Title last week instructed its offices not to provide title coverage to any properties foreclosed on by GMAC.

Already, Moody's says it may downgrade the servicer ratings of GMAC and Chase.

Sarasota lawyer Richard Kessler conducted a study that found errors in about 75 percent of court filings tied to home repossessions. "Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade," he told Bloomberg News.

In the courts, a few judges worry about the problem.

"I don't want to say that every one of these cases is wrong and a fraud on the court, but it is a big concern for us," J. Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Florida, which handles cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties, told the New York Times after GMAC's announcement. Pinellas County alone is dealing with 33,000 cases in the foreclosure pipeline. Statewide, there are more than half a million cases.

Yet many judges are fixated on clearing clogged dockets. Some lawyers gripe about "kangaroo courts" that have largely abandoned judicial process.

Some legislators are pushing for solutions. But most are eager to put a rush on foreclosures in a simplistic belief that speedy resolutions will quicken Florida's economic recovery.

Quite the opposite. If tens of thousands of foreclosures are proved bogus by shoddy legal process, many will have to be done over. Others may face additional litigation for screwing things up in the first place.

Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Orlando recently wrote the Florida Supreme Court, saying, "taking someone's home should not be done lightly." He asked the court to halt foreclosure proceedings for flawed paperwork brought by the most active "foreclosure mill" law firms in the state. Four firms are already under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's office. They are the Law Offices of David J. Stern, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, Shapiro & Freeman and Florida Default Group.

In response to Grayson, the state Supreme Court punted, saying it lacked the authority to get involved. The court referred the official to the Florida Bar to investigate any allegations.

I won't hold my breath on that referral. We're beyond simple remedies or toothless inquiries. Watch the issue of "blighted titles" balloon into an economic nightmare that may require a larger-scale, legislative-legal bailout of its own.

Courtesy of TB Times.

Search for Fort Myers and surrounding area real estate

Foreclosure Shock Therapy

 

Maybe this is like shock therapy. Maybe this will actually get the lenders to the table and encourage them to work out deals that are to the benefit of everybody.”

--Economist Karl E. Case, quoted in the New York Times

The hits are coming fast and furiously.  Major Wall Street mortgage lenders could soon be falling like dominos – and looking again for handouts.

On September 20th, Ally Financial Inc., which owns GMAC Mortgage, the nation’s 4th largest lender, halted evictions and resale of repossessed homes in 23 states.  This was after a document processor for the company admitted that he had signed off on 10,000 pieces of foreclosure paperwork a month without reading them.  The 23 states were all those where foreclosures must be approved by a court, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and Illinois.



On September 24, Representatives Alan Grayson (D-FL), Barney Frank (D- MA) and Corrine Brown (D-FL) directed a letter to Fannie Mae questioning its use of “foreclosure mills,” which were described as “law firms representing lenders that specialize in speeding up the foreclose process, often without regard to process, substance or legal propriety.”  The letter followed a report by the Florida attorney general’s office in August that it was investigating three law firms that had allegedly fabricated documents in thousands of cases to obtain final judgments of foreclosure.

On September 24, California attorney general Jerry Brown asked GMAC to halt foreclosures in his state until the lender could prove it was complying with a law that prohibits lenders from taking steps to foreclose a home before making an effort to work with the borrower.  California is a non-judicial foreclosure state, meaning foreclosures do not require the prior approval of a court.

On September 28, JPMorgan Chase said it was halting 56,000 foreclosures because some of its employees might have improperly prepared the necessary documents. All of the suspensions were in the 23 states where foreclosures require court approval.

On September 29, the Washington Post reported that a top federal bank regulator had directed seven of the nation’s largest lenders to review their foreclosure processes, after learning about widespread mishandling of homeowner evictions.   Besides JPMorgan Chase, they included Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, PNC Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.  The Washington Post reported:
    The paperwork problems range from potentially forged documents to bank employees who never read borrowers' files before signing off on an eviction. . . ."While we don't expect our review to find that consumers were harmed, we will take appropriate action if we find any impact," JP Morgan spokesman Tom Kelly said.

No harm perhaps except the illegal taking of thousands of homes without due process . . . .

On September 30, Rep. Alan Grayson posted a devastating seven-minute video, in which he gave four real-world examples of such travesties of justice, including a man who was foreclosed on when he didn’t have a mortgage and paid cash for the home; a home that had two foreclosure suits against it because both servicers claimed ownership of the title; and a couple foreclosed on over a contested $75 late fee.  Grayson blamed the massive foreclosure problems largely on the electronic shortcut called MERS.  “The banks simply digitized mortgage titles into a privatized system, called the Mortgage Electronic Registry System (or MERS),” he said. “And it did the transfers by trading Excel spreadsheets among the banks and trusts, rather than endorsing the notes as required by their own contracts, by state real estate law and by IRS rules.”  He stated that 60 million properties are recorded in the name of MERS -- 60% of the mortgages in the USA, and 97% of the loans made between 2005 and 2008.

On October 1, Bank of America announced that it was delaying foreclosures in 23 states.

The same day, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal took the radical step of putting a  haltto all foreclosures from all banks in his state.

A Box Even Houdini Couldn’t Escape?

All of this is a major headache for the banks, but according to the New York Times, “The companies say they are reviewing their procedures to take care of any violations.”  They seem to think they can correct the problem by redoing some paperwork.  But if the holdings in recent court decisions are upheld, it will not be just a question of hiring extra staff to clean up some files.  For all those mortgages filed in the name of MERS, say these courts, the chain of title has been irretrievably broken.  Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall and cannot be put together again.

MERS is simply an electronic data base.  On its website and in assorted court pleadings, it declares that it owns nothing.  It was set up that way intentionally so that it would be “bankruptcy-remote,” something required by the credit rating agencies in order to turn the mortgages passing through it into highly rated securities that could be sold to investors.  MERS not only has no assets; it has no employees.  The thousands of people enlisted to sign affidavits on its behalf are merely conduits.  The arrangement satisfied the ratings agencies, but it has not satisfied the courts.  Increasingly, judges are holding that if MERS owns nothing, it cannot foreclose, and it cannot convey title by assignment so that the trustee for the investors can foreclose.  MERS breaks the chain of title so that no one has standing to foreclose.  The homes are effectively owned free and clear.

That does not mean the homeowners don’t owe money to someone.  They do.  But the claim for relief is not in “law” (by virtue of an enforceable contract or rule) but in “equity” (a remedy provided just because it is fair), and MERS is not the proper plaintiff.  Every MERS case involves a securitization, which means the real parties in interest are a group of investors somewhere; and before the homeowners can be made to pay, the investors have to come forward and prove not only that they are the parties owed the money, but the actual sums they are owed.   In some cases they might already have been paid; for example, by insurers on credit default swaps held by the investment pool.  The investors are entitled to recover in equity only so much as they are actually out of pocket, not the full amount of the original promissory notes, since they were not parties to those notes and there is no way to re-establish the chain of title. Article is Courtesy of the Peoples Choice

Visit Fort Myers Florida Real Estate Bargains.

Is your Foreclosure Legal?

Fort Myers Real EstateHere in Florida several law firms are being investigated for foreclosure fraud in regards to certain documents.

We have not even began to deal with the mers crises. It is amazing all the shortcuts to the legal process that were taken. Click on the link below and watch the 5 minute video on Mers. http://www.thinkbigworksmall.com/mypage/archive/1/53413/

The Fort Myers area is currently the 3rd hardest hit metropolitan community hit by the foreclosure crises.

Visit our web website to find Fort Myers area real estate Foreclosure bargains.

New home sales continue to lag

Sales of new homes had their second-worst month on record in August, signaling that the housing market will remain a drag on the economy.

Last month’s new home sales were unchanged from a month earlier at a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 288,000, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales were down by 29 percent from the same month a year earlier.

Statistics for new homes in Lee County aren’t available.

But for existing homes, a report issued Thursday by the Florida Association of Realtors said 1,193 single-family homes sold in August, down 5 percent from 1,252 in August 2009. The median price was down 1 percent to $88,400 from $89,300 in August 2009.

Permits to build new homes have been slow in recent years since the bottom fell out of the home-building industry five years ago. Contractors in Lee County pulled 72 permits for single-family homes in August — down from 90 in July.

Nationally, the building industry normally powers economic recoveries. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

But housing has been at the center of this downturn and it shows no signs of recovering quickly.

The only time new home sales were slower was in May, when the sales pace was 282,000. That’s the worst pace on records dating back to 1963. July’s results had been the worst on record, but were adjusted upward.


High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty about home prices have kept people from buying homes. Government tax credits boosted the market earlier in the year, but those expired in April.

The median sales price in August was $204,700. That was down 1.2 percent from a year earlier and the lowest since December 2003.

Gains in Western and Northeastern states canceled out losses in the Midwest and South. Sales grew by more than 54 percent in the West and by 17 percent in the Northeast. They fell 26 percent in the Midwest and 11 percent in the South.

Builders are competing with millions of foreclosures and other distressed properties that show no signs of abating. They are unlikely to ramp up construction until those are cleared away and demand for new homes picks up.

The number of unsold new homes on the market fell to 206,000, the lowest since August 1968. At the current sales pace, it would take about 8.6 months to exhaust that supply.

The industry is suffering the repercussions of a massive building boom, in which many homes were sold to speculators. They then resold the homes, often to borrowers who took out risky loans and then defaulted. Those unsustainable boom times aren’t coming back.

Economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch predict that spending on building and remodeling homes will decline in the July-September quarter and actually subtract 0.7 percentage points from overall economic activity.

Home construction is up 25 percent from the bottom in April 2009, it is still 74 percent below the peak in January 2006.
Search Fort Myers Real Estate and foreclosures
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

Lee County Shadow Inventory

Is Fannie Mae hording property in the Fort Myers area?

Fort Myers Real Estate Information

Rumors have been swirling in the greater Fort Myers area that the government-mortgage agency has been hoarding residential inventory it acquired in foreclosure, waiting for better times to sell. Real estate agents fear that such a large “shadow” inventory threatens to swamp the residential market and push prices down.

To get at the truth, Jeff Tumbarello, the director the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association, searched Fannie Mae deeds since January 2009. “We could speculate or we could know,” he says.

Tumbarello’s conclusion: “I see no evidence of them hoarding inventory.” Indeed, Tumbarello found that in the last 18 months in Lee County, Fannie Mae has been disposing of properties at roughly the same pace it has been taking them in.

Visit Best Fort Myers Real Estate for your up to date information!

Courtesy of the Gulf Coast Business Review.

International buyers are drawn to Florida real estate

The National Association of Realtors and the Florida Realtors recently conducted a survey of Florida agents. A total of 936 responses were received about their experiences with International buyers.According to a survey, the Sunshine State is attracting property buyers from across the globe due to plummeting prices...

Here are some of the highlights:

•Sixty-five percent said they worked with an international client in the past 12 months. One in five worked with two international clients, and 18 percent working with three or more.

•Half of the respondents said international clients accounted for 25 percent or less of their business; 15 percent said international homebuyers accounted for more than half of their business.

•One in three said that international clients were an increasing share of their customers in the past two years, while just under half noted that their share of international clients stayed about the same.

•Canada had the largest share of buyers, accounting for 36 percent of recent sales. Buyers from the United Kingdom accounted for 15 percent, and the rest of Western Europe accounted for an additional 14 percent.

•Latin America, defined for the report as Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, accounted for 16 percent. Specific countries with a small but significant share of sales included Germany (5 percent), Venezuela (3 percent), Brazil (3 percent) and France (3 percent).

•Eleven percent of foreign buyers bought a new home, while the remaining 89 percent purchased a previously owned home.

•Fifteen percent of buyers plan to use their property less than one month a year; 21 percent expect to use it one to two months; and 34 percent three to six months.

• Nineteen percent bought a home in the Orlando-Kissimmee area; 17 percent chose Miami-Ft. Lauderdale; 13 percent opted for Bradenton-Sarasota; and Tampa, Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Naples rounded out the top six with at least 5 percent of purchases.

Courtesy of  The Tampa Tribune

Visit our site for Ft Myers, Florida Real Estate Information

GMAC Mortgage Mishandled Affidavits on Foreclosures

 

Ally Financial Inc., whose GMAC Mortgage unit halted evictions in 23 states amid allegations of mishandled affidavits, said its filings contained no false claims about home loans.

The “defect” in affidavits used to support evictions was “technical” and was discovered by the company, Gina Proia, an Ally spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Many Employees submitted affidavits containing information they didn’t personally know was true and sometimes signed without a notary present, according to the statement. Most cases will be resolved in the next few weeks and those that can’t be fixed will “require court intervention,” Proia said.

“The entire situation is unfortunate and regrettable and GMAC Mortgage is diligently working to resolve the situation,”Gina  Proia said. “There was never any intent on the part of GMAC Mortgage to bypass court rules or procedures. Nor do these failures reflect any disrespect for our courts or the judicial processes.”  ( I wouldn't bet on it)

State officials are investigating allegations of fraudulent foreclosures at the nation’s largest home lenders and loan servicers. Lawyers defending mortgage borrowers have accused GMAC and other lenders of foreclosing on homeowners without verifying that they own the loans. In foreclosure cases, companies commonly file affidavits to start court proceedings.

“All the banks are the same, GMAC is the only one who’s gotten caught,” said Patricia Parker, an attorney at Jacksonville, Florida-based law firm, Parker & DuFresne. “This could be huge.”

Aside from signing the affidavits without knowledge or a notary, “the sum and substance of the affidavits and all content were factually accurate,” Proia wrote in the e-mail. “Our internal review has revealed no evidence of any factual misstatements or inaccuracies concerning the details typically contained in these affidavits such as the loan balance, its delinquency, and the accuracy of the note and mortgage on the underlying transaction.”

Affidavits are statements written and sworn to in the presence of someone authorized to administer an oath, such as a notary public.

GMAC told brokers and agents to halt evictions tied to foreclosures on homeowners in 23 states including Florida, Connecticut and New York and said it may have to take “corrective action” on other foreclosures, according to a Sept. 17 memo. Foreclosures won’t be suspended and will continue with “no interruption,” Proia said in a statement yesterday.

In December 2009, a GMAC Mortgage employee said in a deposition that his team of 13 people signed “a round number of 10,000” affidavits and other foreclosure documents a month without verifying their accuracy. The employee said he relied on law firms sending him the affidavits to verify their accuracy instead of checking them with GMAC’s records as required. The affidavits were then used to complete the process of repossessing homes and evicting residents.

Florida Attorney General William McCollum is investigating three law firms that represent loan servicers in foreclosures, and are alleged to have submitted fraudulent documents to the courts, according to an Aug. 10 statement. The firms handled about 80 percent of foreclosure cases in the state, according to a letter from Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat.

“It appears that the actions we have taken and the attention we’ve paid to this issue could have had some impact on the actions that GMAC took today, but we can’t take full credit,” Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for McCollum, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

‘Committed Fraud’

In August, Florida Circuit Court Judge Jean Johnson blocked a Jacksonville foreclosure brought by Washington Mutual Bank N.A. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, which had purchased the failed bank’s assets, and Shapiro & Fishman, the companies’ law firm. Documents eventually showed that the mortgage on the house was in fact owned by Washington-based Fannie Mae.

WaMu and the law firm “committed fraud on this court,” Johnson wrote. JPMorgan had presented a document prepared by Shapiro showing the mortgage was sold directly to WaMu in April 2008.

Tom Ice, founding partner of Ice Legal PA in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, said a fourth law firm representing GMAC in recent weeks has begun withdrawing affidavits signed by the GMAC employee.

“The banks are sitting up and taking notice that they can’t use falsified documents in the courtroom,” Ice said. “There may be others doing the same thing. They’re going to come back and say, ‘We’d better withdraw these,’” Ice said in a telephone interview.

Alejandra Arroyave, a lawyer with Lapin & Leichtling, a law firm in Coral Gables, Florida, who represented the employee at his December 2009 deposition, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A phone call to the employee wasn’t returned.

GMAC ranked fourth among U.S. home-loan originators in the first six months of this year, with $26 billion of mortgages, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter. Wells Fargo & Co. ranked first, with $160 billion, and Citigroup Inc. was fifth, with $25 billion.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan said the implications of Ally’s internal review and the GMAC employee’s deposition could be “enormous.”

“It would call into question whether other servicers have engaged in similar practices,” Madigan said in a telephone interview. “It would be a major disruption to the foreclosure pipeline.” Article Courtesy of Bloomburg

Visit Best Fort Myers Real Estate for up to date real estate information.

New Homes under Construction

New homes are under construction at the Pelican Preserve and Verandah communities in Fort Myers.

D.R. Horton is offering single-family detached villas in two Verandah lifestyle neighborhoods, Citrus Creek and Otter Bend, located off Palm Beach Boulevard northeast of Interstate 75.

The builder purchased 55 homesites, and started construction in late August. Home prices start in the mid-$200,000s, with community amenities including a dog park, golf and Orange River access.

WCI Communities has introduced six new home designs at Pelican Preserve, a 55-and-older lifestyle community, just south of Colonial Boulevard on Treeline Avenue. Preconstruction pricing starts in the $140,000s, with each home including upgrades such as gourmet kitchens with granite countertops and concrete tile roofs.

Find complete Fort Myers Real Estate Homes, Condos, and Foreclosures

Fort Myers Commercial Real Estate Purchase

Robert Johnston, Jerry Messonnier and Derek Bornhorst of Grubb & Ellis|1st Commercial represented both parties.

- Vincent Simonelli purchased a 2.5-acre industrial site from Blue Water Trust at 7100 Bucks Lane, Fort Myers, for $104,000.

Steve Wood of Woodyard & Associates Commercial Real Estate negotiated the transaction.

- SimplexGrinnell LP leased a 30,000-square-foot warehouse/office space at 6400 Metroplex Drive, Fort Myers, from Harry Lowell. Todd Holman of Woodyard & Associates Commercial Real Estate represented the lessor and Tim Schneider of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers-Naples, represented the lessee.

- Spirit Halloween Superstores LLC leased 11,194 square feet of retail space from Smyrna Land Co. Ltd and Tamiami North LLC at13560 Tamiami Trail N., Naples. Paige Eber of Investment Properties Corp. negotiated this transaction.

- Jackson Signs and T-Shirts renewed its 5,000-square-foot lease at 1109 Tamiami Trail, Suite 3, Port Charlotte, from Trojan Electronic Supply Co. Ron Struthers, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the transaction.

- Xtreme Furniture leased 4,200 square feet of industrial space in the Metro Distribution Center at 4010 Warehouse Road, Suite A, Fort Myers, from BLS Holdings LLC. Stan Stouder, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the lease.

Richard and Sharon Smith purchased 3,072 square feet of industrial space at 12960 Commerce Lakes Drive, Suites 10 and 11, Fort Myers, from Daniels Industrial Condo Ltd. for $184,320.

- GCM Contracting Solutions Inc. leased 2,608 square feet of industrial flex space at 16121 Lee Road, Unit 101, Fort Myers, from Alico Road Business Park. Bjorn Rosinus of Alico Commercial Group negotiated the transaction.

- R&L Building & Construction Inc. leased a 2,500-square-foot industrial space at 4240 James St., Suites 8 and 9, Port Charlotte, from Trojan Electronic Supply Co. Ron Struthers, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the lease.

- Searching for Solutions Institute Inc. leased 2,245 square feet of office space from Poinciana Professional Park at 2640 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Clint Sherwood, CCIM, of Investment Properties Corp., negotiated this transaction. Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

Visit Best Fort Myers Real Estate for up to date Real Estate Information.

Lee County Homes Sales stay firm.

August prices and sales of existing homes in Lee County kept cruising at about the levels where they’ve been for the past year, according to statistics released Thursday by the Florida Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, in a separate report issued Thursday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose last month, but not enough to keep this summer from being the slowest for home sales in more than a decade. And the year is not expected to finish much better.

In Lee County, there were 1,193 single-family homes sold in August, down 5 percent from 1,252 in August 2009. The median price was down 1 percent to $88,400 from $89,300 in August 2009.

The association’s numbers include homes sold with the help of a Realtor.
Will the trend continue?

Local real estate brokers said there are factors that could change the numbers for good or for bad.

Marc Joseph, owner of Fort Myers-based Marc Joseph Realty, said it’s important to remember there’s a massive “shadow inventory” of homes owned by banks that took them back in foreclosure.

What those banks do with their inventory could influence the market here, he said: So far, “The banks are not flooding the market, it’s a trickle. They don’t want to bombard the market with a whole lot of inventory.”
Things could get a lot worse fast if the lenders let go of the homes they’re holding back, Joseph said.

“My personal feeling is if they threw it all out there at once, we would see a double dip,” he said. “But I think there are enough smart bankers out there who know they’ll make more if they hold off.”

Elmer Tabor, owner of Cape Coral-based Wonderland Realty, said an unusual number of potential buyers are expressing anxiety about the future of the economy and what will happen in the November elections.

“You can almost tell how the stock market’s doing by the number of calls you get,” he said. “The market gets squirrelly, people won’t commit to buying that second home.”
Nationally, about 3.4 million previously occupied homes have been sold through August. Most experts expect roughly 5 million to be sold through the entire year. That would be in line with last year’s totals and just above sales for 2008, the worst since 1997.

The median sale price last month was $178,600, up only 0.8 percent from a year ago.
For complete Fort Myers Real Estate News go to our new website
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

Fort Myers Foreclosures




Fort Myers Real EstateUS homes lost to foreclosure up 25 percent on year

Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said. This is significant.
August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May. Banks have been stepping up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans with an eye on eventually placing the foreclosed properties on the market, but they can’t afford to simply dump the properties on the market.  Concerns are growing that the housing market recovery could stumble amid stubbornly high unemployment, a sluggish economy and faltering consumer confidence. U.S. home sales have collapsed since federal homebuyer tax credits expired in April.   That’s one reason fewer than one-third of homes repossessed by lenders are on the market, said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.“These (properties) are going to come to market, but very slowly because nobody wants to overwhelm a soft buyer’s market with too much distressed inventory for fear of what it would do for house prices,” he said.                                                                                                                        As a result, lenders are putting off initiating the foreclosure process on homeowners who have missed payments, letting borrowers stay in their homes longer.

The number of properties receiving an initial default notice — the first step in the foreclosure process — slipped 1 percent last month from July, but was down 30 percent versus August last year, RealtyTrac said.  Initial defaults have fallen on an annual basis the past seven months. They peaked in April 2009.                                                                                                                                          Still, the number of homes scheduled to be sold at auction for the first time increased 9 percent from July and rose 2 percent from August last year. If they don’t sell at auction, these homes typically end up going back to the lender.
More than 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by lenders since the recession began in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac. The firm estimates more than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year.
In all, 338,836 properties received a foreclosure-related warning in August, up 4 percent from July, but down 5 percent from the same month last year, RealtyTrac said. That translates to one in 381 U.S. homes.                                  The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.                                                                                                                       Among states, Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate last month, with one in every 84 households receiving a foreclosure notice. That’s 4.5 times the national average.Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rate in August were: Florida, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Hawaii.Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, are now the main catalysts for foreclosures.

Lenders are offering a variety of programs to help homeowners modify their loans, but their success rates vary. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners can’t qualify or fall back into default.The Obama administration has rolled out numerous attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis but has made only a small dent in the problem. Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.

The program, known as Making Home Affordable, has provided permanent help to about 390,000 homeowners since March 2009.

Regardless, many troubled borrowers have seen their efforts to get a loan modification stymied.

Larry Book of Winter Garden, Fla., was one packet away from a permanent loan modification from Chase under the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention plan after more than a year of back and forth and one failed attempt.

But his modification never went through. Instead, his loan was transferred from Chase to IBM Lender Business Process Servicers in July and he was told he owed $9,562.62 and must bring his mortgage current by Sept. 15 or foreclosure proceedings will begin.

“It just becomes too exhausting,” Book said about the modification process. “That’s why some people walk away. But I’ve invested too much and given up too much to just let it go.”
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.




View all foreclosures in Fort Myers

US homes lost to foreclosure up 25 percent on year



Share/Bookmark

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.


The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.


In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said.


August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May.


Banks have been stepping up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans with an eye on eventually placing the foreclosed properties on the market, but they can’t afford to simply dump the properties on the market.


Concerns are growing that the housing market recovery could stumble amid stubbornly high unemployment, a sluggish economy and faltering consumer confidence. U.S. home sales have collapsed since federal homebuyer tax credits expired in April.


That’s one reason fewer than one-third of homes repossessed by lenders are on the market, said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.


“These (properties) are going to come to market, but very slowly because nobody wants to overwhelm a soft buyer’s market with too much distressed inventory for fear of what it would do for house prices,” he said.


As a result, lenders are putting off initiating the foreclosure process on homeowners who have missed payments, letting borrowers stay in their homes longer.


The number of properties receiving an initial default notice — the first step in the foreclosure process — slipped 1 percent last month from July, but was down 30 percent versus August last year, RealtyTrac said.


Initial defaults have fallen on an annual basis the past seven months. They peaked in April 2009.


Still, the number of homes scheduled to be sold at auction for the first time increased 9 percent from July and rose 2 percent from August last year. If they don’t sell at auction, these homes typically end up going back to the lender.
More than 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by lenders since the recession began in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac. The firm estimates more than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year.
In all, 338,836 properties received a foreclosure-related warning in August, up 4 percent from July, but down 5 percent from the same month last year, RealtyTrac said. That translates to one in 381 U.S. homes.


The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.


Among states, Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate last month, with one in every 84 households receiving a foreclosure notice. That’s 4.5 times the national average.


Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rate in August were: Florida, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Hawaii.


Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, are now the main catalysts for foreclosures.


Lenders are offering a variety of programs to help homeowners modify their loans, but their success rates vary. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners can’t qualify or fall back into default.


The Obama administration has rolled out numerous attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis but has made only a small dent in the problem. Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.


The program, known as Making Home Affordable, has provided permanent help to about 390,000 homeowners since March 2009.


Regardless, many troubled borrowers have seen their efforts to get a loan modification stymied.


Larry Book of Winter Garden, Fla., was one packet away from a permanent loan modification from Chase under the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention plan after more than a year of back and forth and one failed attempt.


But his modification never went through. Instead, his loan was transferred from Chase to IBM Lender Business Process Servicers in July and he was told he owed $9,562.62 and must bring his mortgage current by Sept. 15 or foreclosure proceedings will begin.


“It just becomes too exhausting,” Book said about the modification process. “That’s why some people walk away. But I’ve invested too much and given up too much to just let it go.”
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.

Sales of Homes in Lee County Up

Sales of existing homes in Lee County rose 5 percent from 1,139 in July to 1,193 in August while the median price fell 5 percent from $93,500 to $88,400, according to statistics released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.
August home sales were down 5 percent from August 2009, when the number was 1,252. The median price was down 1 percent from $89,300 in August 2009.The association’s numbers are for sales of homes in which a Realtor handled the transaction.
In a separate report also released today, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose last month, but not enough to keep August from being the second-worst month for sales in more than a decade.
Sales rose 7.6 percent in August from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million, the National Association of Realtors said today. Sales were down 19 percent from the same month a year earlier.
July was the worst month for sales in 15 years. That was unchanged by a slightly upward revision.
High unemployment and a record number of foreclosures have kept the economy from gaining strength since the recession ended. Those factors have also deterred many people from buying homes.
The housing industry received a boost this spring when the government offered home-buying tax credits. But it has struggled since those expired in April.
Low prices and the cheapest mortgage rates in decades haven’t been enough to lift the housing market.
The median sale price was $178,600, up 0.8 percent from a year ago. Courtesy Fort Myers Newspress and Associated press.
Visit our website for complete Lee County Real Estate Information

Lee County existing-home sales, prices fall in July


Share/Bookmark



Prices and the number of homes sold in Lee County fell sharply in July, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Florida Association of Realtors.
The number of existing single-family homes sold with the assistance of a Realtor dropped 24 percent from 1,501 in June to 1,139 in July and the median price fell 3 percent from $96,600 to $93,500 in the same period.
Meanwhile, sales of existing homes nationally plunged last month to the lowest level in 15 years, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades and bargain prices in many areas, the National Association of Realtors said in a separate report Tuesday.
Why the big drop in Lee County?
Partly, the slowdown is due to the normal seasonal variation in sales here, said Mario D'Artagnan, a broker associate with the Jim Fischer Team at Gulf Coast Realty Network in Cape Coral.
"Historically, July and August are a little bit slow anyway," he said. "I think with school starting, people taking last-minute vacations, that puts a little bit of sluggishness in the numbers."
John McWilliams, owner-broker for McWilliams, Buckley & Associates, with offices in Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres, said today's rock-bottom interest rates are so far failing to juice up the market.
"The problem is in previous cycles, interest rates at this level have stimulated not only buyer activity but frankly helped bump prices up a little bit. But in this environment, they're not responding to the interest rates. And you can borrow at 4.5 percent or even a little better for 30 years."
One troubling recent trend, McWilliams said, is that "The number of houses coming onto the market is still twice, on average, what's being sold.
"Today there were 216 houses listed and 83 sold. That does not bode well."
Nationally the statistics were even grimmer, according to the national association's release.
July's sales fell by more than 27 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million. It was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968, and sharp declines were recorded in all regions of the country.
The associated press and fort myers news press contributed to this article
Search Fort Myers Real Estate

Homes not a path to riches


Share/Bookmark




Some leading national experts argue that gone are the halcyon days of wealth being created by the home you own.
"People shouldn't look at a home as a way to make money because it won't," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
Southwest Florida became the poster child for bloated home prices.
The median price of a single-family home sold in Lee County with the assistance of a Realtor reached an all-time high of $322,300 in December 2005 before declining steadily over the next four years and leveling off over the past year.
In June, the last month for which statistics are available from the Florida Association of Realtors, it was $96,600.
Homeowners, though, can't look at that roof over their heads as a personal ATM, like so many did during the go-go years, said Michael Reitmann, executive vice president of the Lee Building Industry Association in Fort Myers.
"Too many were using the values of their homes that had become so inflated in value to live the high lifestyle," Reitmann said. "They used equity in their home to purchase other things. They have spent that money, and now they are under water."
Baker said that because housing is such a highly leveraged investment the implications can be huge.
"For example, if someone puts $20k down on a $200,000 home and it loses 20 percent of its value, then they are $20,000 under water," he said. "The fact that home prices can fall makes homebuying a very risky investment."
Also falling into that camp is Stan Humphries, chief economist for the website Zillow.com.
"There is no iron law that real estate must appreciate," he said.
He said homeowners will likely keep up with inflation, but their home won't necessarily be a ticket to great riches and a carefree lifestyle.
Fort Myers Realtor Brett Ellis agrees on one hand, but not another.
"I don't care if we ever go back to five years ago," he said, referring to a time when people were flipping houses, making easy money, and values were sky-rocketing to unheard of highs. "That was an irrational market. It wasn't founded on anything that meant anything."
"Most experts would say that traditionally a home is a good long-term investment. Real estate has been one of biggest wealth builders. Too many people look at the short term."
Unlike a lot of commodities, a home you can live in," he said. "You can't get to do that with gold."
Growth in real estate value began in earnest after World War II, when returning GIs helped create a construction boom. In the 1970s, inflation exploded, driving up the value of hard assets, and then in the late 1980s interest rates declined, further escalating the value of dirt and the buildings sitting on it. Then came the go-go days of the early 21st century when things got all out of whack, the boom went bang and Southwest Florida became a symbol for housing foreclosures.
"No lot in Lehigh was worth $50 or $60,000," Reitmann said. "In some places, there was no infrastructure. They had been $1,500. It didn't make sense.
"Now with the adjustment, these homes and lots that were inflated are coming down to market value."
Ellis said that the real estate market here has improved, and he estimates only an 8.5-month supply of homes on the market.
Reitmann said there is far more than just the nest-egg mentality to owning a home.
"It adds a certain social stability to the community," he said. "There's the pride of home ownership . ... You take care of it, and it brings stability to family.
"And that's not just a theory. There have been major studies on the subject, including one Harvard did."
The allure of white-sand beaches, golf course communities and the sky's the limit demand for new homes, Zillow's Humphries said, could be over.
"All those theories advanced during the boom about why housing is special - that more people are choosing to spend more on housing, that more people are moving to the coasts, that we were running out of usable land - didn't hold up."
Reitmann, though, said it's far too early to tell.
"Until the market stabilizes, I don't think you can predict anything," he said. "I don't think you are going to lose by going back to true investment qualities ... putting 20 percent down."
Reitmann said people will return to buying homes.
"You have to live somewhere," he said.
Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press. Search Fort Myers Real Estate

After the craze: Fort Myers Condo conversions leave fractured communities


Share/Bookmark



Michael Jacob was living at the Monterra apartments in Bonita Springs in 2006 when the wave of condo conversions came through.
Jacob, and everyone else in the 244-unit complex, was told by management to leave if they didn't want to pay the sky-high price to buy - it was the very top of the wave to turn rental apartments into more lucrative condo sales.
Luckily for Jacobs, he and his wife didn't buy their one-bedroom apartment for owner Tarragon Corp.'s asking price of about $200,000. Prices crashed almost immediately and Tarragon hastily canceled its plans even before the last tenants left.
"Poetic justice," said Jacobs, who works as an assistant Lee County attorney. "It was just such an outrageous price."
The original conversion craze got going in earnest in 2004 as developers, faced with a huge demand by speculators for property, got in early and made a lot of money but those who were still playing the game in 2006 found themselves unable to sell at a profit.
Monterra tops the list of wildly excessive pricing. Tarragon paid $54 million in October 2005 for the complex, an all-time county record of $222,090 per unit.
Now, four years later, it's a different landscape - many of the apartment buildings that were converted have reverted or, more commonly, exist as "fractured" communities with owners and renters living in uneasy proximity.
Prices have fallen sharply. The median price paid for an existing condo in 2009 was $125,400 - less than half the $298,800 prevailing in 2006. Investors have reacted by walking away from condos they bought hoping to flip for a quick profit, contributing to the huge rise in foreclosures over the past four years.
What now?

Not much in the short term, because investors and condo dwellers alike are typically underwater on their units and unable to sell, said Paul Kaplan, managing partner of Miami-based KW Property Management & Consulting, which provides services for condo and homeowner's associations.
Over time, he said, it's likely that a trend of "absorption" will take place: as prices eventually rise, the rental units in a split community will be sold and the conversion complete.
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press
Find Fort Myers Real Estate