Lee County home prices fall, sales are up

Sales of existing single-family homes in Lee County climbed in February, rising 44 percent to 1,261 over the same month a year earlier. View foreclosure homes.

Meanwhile, the median price of homes in Lee dropped - from $97,500 in February 2009 to $88,000 this February, a 10 percent decrease, according to a report released Tuesday by the Florida Association of Realtors. That median sales price had been rising during the end of 2009.

Condominium sales increased 94 percent from 223 to 432, while the median price fell 7 percent from $140,500 to $130,900, the report states.

But those falling prices shouldn't scare Southwest Floridians too much, said Denny Grimes, owner of the real estate firm that bears his name.

"The issue is that last year was a record year, so we'll probably see sales fall this year relative to last year," he said.

This year also will likely bring a new wave of foreclosures on higher-priced homes, which will lower their prices. And as more of those homes sell, the median price will rise.

In January, 1,115 single-family homes sold at a median price of $91,000; 390 condominiums sold at a median price of $121,400.

An influx of seasonal visitors looking for homes will keep sales and prices up this time of year, said Brett Ellis, a real estate agent with Re/Max Realty Group in Fort Myers.

"Don't be surprised in the next month if we have more transactions and they're at a higher price point," Ellis said.

One plus to the market: National news focusing on the area's struggling real estate market has brought in more prospective buyers, Grimes said.

"The real estate market has become the No. 1 tourist attraction," he said.

Nationally, sales of existing homes fell for a third straight month in February, pushing sales down to the lowest level since July 2009.

For February, the inventory of unsold homes nationally jumped by 312,000 to 3.59 million, an unusually large jump that pushed the supply of unsold homes to 8.6 months.

Although home sales are up in Lee County, the number of homes on the market far outweigh the number of buyers, said Steve Koffman, a Cape Coral-based agent with Century 21 Sunbelt Realty.

"We still have a lot of inventory to absorb," Koffman said. "Until that inventory is absorbed, we're going to have supply problems."

Koffman and Grimes agreed that a solution to the housing crisis won't come until the economy picks back up.

But with home sales on the rise, the market is headed in the right direction, they said.

"Are we there yet? No, we are not there yet," Grimes said. "But we're making progress."
Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press.
— The Associated Press also contributed to this report.