Prices, sales on upswing in downtown Fort Myers


In downtown Fort Myers, most residential real estate activity centers on modern high-rises and historic homes.
And while there are plenty of vacancies, brokers and agents dealing in both products say they've seen increased activity this year - though they have experienced the typical summer slowdown. Much of the movement in the past year stems from short sales and foreclosures.
The median sale price for all downtown condos - not just luxury high-rises - dipped to $80,110 in October 2009. On Sept. 30, 2009, for example, an 1,108-square-foot condo in Alta Mar on Palm Beach Boulevard sold for $84,000.
Since then, average condo sale prices have fluctuated between $114,900 in April and the high of $175,000 last month, according to the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach Inc.
"We really kind of hit bottom in October of last year and have been eking back up to a good number," Deborah Murray, a broker at Exit Platinum Realty who spoke on behalf of the Realtor Association, said of downtown condo sale prices. "We're seeing a little bit more on the end user and a bit less on the investor."
Only 18 condos sold downtown between January 2009 and July 2009, while agents closed on 90 downtown condos during the same seven-month period this year.
High-rises, in particular, saw a median sale price of $148,000 between April 2009 and April 2010. The high sale occurred at High Point Place, a 272-condo development on West First Street, where a unit went for $399,900. The lowest sale was a $75,600 unit at Alta Mar on Palm Beach Boulevard.
"There were a lot of short sales and foreclosures and really, really great deals," Jean Sanders, a high-rise specialist for Sun Realty, said of the market.
High-rise market
Jackie Yundt, 58, a part-time nurse, and her husband Bill, who works part-time as a pharmacist, bought a four-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot unit at Beau Rivage on First Street in March. After renting there two consecutive years during the five months they spend in Fort Myers, the Canadian couple decided to take advantage of the low price points.
"If we had bought it pre-construction, we wouldn't have been able to afford it," Jackie Yundt said. The couple spent $185,000 for the condo.
The lowest priced unit available at Beau Rivage currently is approximately $140,000, said Rachel Kanel, who works as concierge for the high-rise.
"A lot of those who bought in the last year have bought foreclosures," Kanel said. "Most of the (buyers) are either investors or seasonal (residents)."
Several agents and brokers said High Point Place seems to be one of the most attractive high-rises at the moment due to its proximity to the downtown core as well as Publix and restaurants.
"It was a higher-end product to begin with so it didn't attract as many flippers out of the gate," said Mark Washburn, an agent with Island Coast Realty.
But now, some of those original High Point Place buyers are renting out their units, said Marilyn Covins of Storybook Realty.
"People who did buy early on, they can't afford to sell (units) so they've turned them into investment property," she said.
St. Tropez, part of a twin towers development with Riviera on First Street, offers attractive deals due to short sales and foreclosures, Washburn said.
"A lot of investors bought it pre-construction and a lot of that shake-out is still going on," he said.
Rental market

At The Dean building on Dean Street, there are a handful of commercial office spaces available but residential is full. A few apartment rentals have recently opened up in the Bradford House on First Street, but Bill Weaver, vice president of the building's operator, Bill Smith Inc., said the 41 residential units are typically 100 percent occupied.
"We have a waiting list and as they come open, we usually rent them pretty quickly - within a couple of weeks," he said.
Rental prices in the 113-year-old Bradford House building, which also houses commercial space, range from $425 per month to $1,000 per month, Weaver said.
Renter Erin Cameron, 28, recently moved into a two-bedroom town house on West First Street. She said she chose the condo because it offers her the opportunity to purchase after a year and because the recent beautifications increased her interest in downtown living.
"Growing up in the area, downtown wasn't exactly the place you always wanted to go," said Cameron, who chose to live in downtown Fort Myers despite the fact that she has to commute to Naples for work. "There's definitely more people there now."
Dean Park, Oasis

When it comes to single-family homes, historic Dean Park offers deals on properties that investors bought and renovated, said Tara Molloy, broker at Riverside Realty Group. Molloy recently helped move a buyer into a Fannie Mae property situated on an acre in Dean Park for under $200,000.
Riverside Realty lists several 600-square-foot condo units near downtown on Providence Street for $38,000 and a 1,635-square-foot Dean Park home built in 1955 for $189,900. The agency has 14 pending properties in and near the downtown area and has sold 36 homes and condos in the vicinity since May.
Courtesy of the fortmyersnews-press
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