Sale prices move up, inventory goes down

Bleak reports continue to surface about the condition of housing markets across the nation.

In Collier County, one in every 717 homeowners filed for foreclosure, a decrease of 37.99 percent compared to December 2010 and a decrease of 72.6 percent from January 2010.

Lee County dropped to 19th in the state for foreclosure filings. One home of every 428 borrowers were foreclosed, a decrease of 35.4 percent from December 2010 and a decrease of 71.74 percent when compared to January 2010. For the fourth consecutive month, RealtyTrac is reporting a decrease in Florida foreclosure activity.

Single-family housing permits increased in 2010 by 23 percent, but new home construction remains extremely flat. This is good news for existing inventory. As visitors from the north continue to experience extreme winter weather conditions, we may experience a greater increase in home sales throughout the rest of tourist season.

Shadows ahead?

Many are expressing fear over perceived shadow inventory, as real estate prognosticators are envisioning another wave of ominous foreclosures that may not be realized for several years. Seriously delinquent homeowners may add to this list, but the Lee County clerk of court reports that we've hit bottom, according to an article in the Lehigh Acres Citizen. Year over year, 12,000 foreclosures have been cleared and the expectation is that they will keep moving off bank books.

Economic indicators, as we've discussed previously, are still on the rise.

The Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University reported increased GDP growth as a result of personal consumption expenditures, exports and nonresidential investment.

Steadily decreasing unemployment rates in the area - despite record high percentages - indicate job growth that is projected to continue throughout 2014.

Consumer confidence for the nation moved down slightly from 74.5 to 74.2, but Florida consumer confidence increased to 77 in January from 70 in December.

RERI reports that the biggest increases were in perceptions of economic conditions in the short and long term, which has to do with sustained gains in the stock market over the past two months, according to Florida CCI survey director Christ McCarthy.

Seasonal activity is robust, given the extreme weather situations in the North. While it's far too early to confirm, indications are moving in the positive direction.

Despite continued negative trends nationally and statewide, Southwest Florida may be rebounding, which supports my "first in, first out" theory. In the midst of Florida's beautiful weather, the perfect storm is brewing in Southwest Florida's housing market.

It's a welcome change in forecast.  Search Fort Myers Real Estate

More states launch help for struggling owners

A $7.6 billion federal effort to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure will soon be running in all 18 states sharing the funds.

The Hardest Hit Fund, announced by President Obama a year ago and expanded to more states since then, largely targets lower-income jobless or underemployed homeowners.

Those eligible receive forgivable loans for mortgage payments, or they may tap other programs, such as one to help them get current on mortgage payments. Generally, the loans are forgiven after five years if borrowers stay in the homes and keep current on payments.

Next month, all of the states plus the District of Columbia are expected to have launched partial, full or pilot programs, says Treasury Department spokeswoman Andrea Risotto.

California, the No. 1 recipient with almost $2 billion, is expected to announce today that its full program is running after a partial start in January. Florida, No. 2 with $1.1 billion, hopes to launch in March.

Michigan, the first to start in July, had approved 700 borrowers for help as of Dec. 31. That will grow to 19,200 this year and pass 49,000 by July 2013, the state's plan says.

More states begin

Oregon took 15,000 homeowner applications over six weeks in December and January for one part of its program. The full program launches this spring, says spokeswoman Lisa Joyce.

The government targeted areas hit hard by unemployment or fallen home prices. States' programs have different rules and benefits.

Nevada, which expects to launch its program this month, will offer up to $500 a month for up to six months to the unemployed to make mortgage payments. Indiana, planning a pilot next month, will give up to $1,000 a month for up to 18 months, based on where borrowers live. In Ohio, the maximum is $15,000 per owner.

In Florida, the most a homeowner will get is $35,000. Lee County's foreclosure rate fell from second in the country to 52nd in January, according to RealtyTrac.

In some states, such as California and Nevada, homeowners may get their loan principal reduced if companies that own or manage loans agree to match state dollars. California has $790 million earmarked for principal reduction, but only one national loan servicer has agreed to participate in that program. More are expected soon, says program director Di Richardson.

Some programs, including California's, were delayed to get loan servicing companies on board and to create systems for states and companies to share data, Richardson says. California aims to help 100,000 homeowners.

The programs will only dent the housing crisis. In Nevada, more than 400,000 households owe more on their mortgages than they're worth, according to the Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies. Nevada's program aims to help 22,000 homeowners. Institute director Nasser Daneshvary fears that many may get money, not find jobs and still lose homes. "I don't think it'll be very helpful," he says.

More information can be found by going to and typing "Hardest Hit Fund" in the search box. Courtesy Fort Myers News Press. Search Fort Myers Real Estate and Foreclosures for sale.