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.
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Courtesy Fort Myers News Press
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