Lee County Florida Prices Up Again

Lee County (Fort Myers Area) home prices  have been down so long, it looks like “up” to us now where housing prices are concerned.

Local housing numbers were the opposite of the state as a whole, and the long, painful housing slide here is to blame.

In October, the median price of an existing single-family home was up 15 percent from a year earlier, rising from $89,100 to $102,100, according to statistics released Monday by Florida Realtors. The number of sales fell 6 percent from 1,002 to 938.

Florida as a whole, however, saw a 4 percent fall in prices from $136,600 to $131,200 while the number of sales soared 13 percent from 12,145 to 13,7355.

Of 19 metropolitan areas in the state, Tallahassee was the only other place to see sales fall.

“Prices had dropped so far over there (Southwest Florida),” said Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach-based real estate consultant who tracks home markets on both coasts of Florida. “Prices overshot and then overcorrected, rising more than the other markets in Florida. It’s not surprising to see it come up some. You might say it was tremendously undervalued.”

Meanwhile, in a separate report also released Monday by the National Association of Realtors, home sales rose 1.4 percent nationally last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million.

That's below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market and slightly ahead of last year's sales — the worst in 13 years.

In most of Florida, distressed real estate sales are rising even as they’ve fallen steadily in Lee. There were 440 in October compared to 1,156 in October 2010, according to the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association.

On the demand side, “What it feels like is that everybody locally who can afford a house has bought one,” said Steve Koffman, a broker associate with Century 21 Sunbelt in Cape Coral.

But, he said, “We’ve still got a lot of investors in the market” because they can buy a house for $80,000, rent it out for $850 a month and “hold it until it’s worth more.”

Brett Ellis, head of The Ellis Team with Re/Max Realty Group in Fort Myers, said it’s hard to read the numbers and predict what’s going to happen next.

“I can’t decide if it’s ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or ‘trick or treat,’ ” he said, noting that the inventory of unsold single-family homes in the county has increased slightly recently and is now about 7,600.

One problem is that tough federal regulations make it hard for people to finance a home purchase, although investors are still going strong, Ellis said.

There won’t be a shortage of foreclosed homes coming back on the market next year, he said. “I’ve got too many banks telling me there’s more coming.”

The statewide results of Florida Realtors include the Naples Area Board of Realtors, but the board doesn’t allow those figures to be made public.

In a separate report, the board said it showed 507 sales in October 2011 compared to 471 a year earlier. Courtesy of the Fort Myers News Press.
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