The Florida Association of Realtors released official sales numbers this week and the numbers came in just about where we expected. Last week wrote that by our calculations November sales were relatively flat versus October sales, and the official numbers bear that out.
Officially we had 6 more single family home sales in SW Florida in November than October. October had 1,016 sales and November had 1,022. Single family home prices were flat too. Median prices were $90,000 in October and $89,800 in November.
We are seeing a rise in pending sales as banks and title companies are struggling to get these files closed. Closings are becoming trickier as homeowners associations are trying to collect as much or more than the law will allow and this delays closings. Municipalities are trying the same thing with code violations, lot mowing fees, utilities, etc. These tactics are really delaying closings. With cash strapped governments it’s no wonder they’re trying to squeeze every dollar they can as tax revenues have declined. They sell it as cleaning up the neighborhood and neighborhood stabilization, but money is the root and certain municipalities are much worse than others, and everyone in the industry knows exactly who they are.
These tactics do collect more revenues for government, but they also cause deals to fall through and properties to sit on market months longer, and we don’t believe this helps stabilize a neighborhood. One of these days we’ll have to have the News Press do an expose on these tactics.
Statewide median sale prices of single family homes were down 5% and sales were down 15% versus last year. Lee County sales were down 33% from last year, and prices were down 6%, so our price declines from last year are in line with the state, but our sales have been affected more radically. This can be because our area is harder hit than others with foreclosures, and because of delays in the process by HOA’s and municipalities we discussed earlier.
We’re really going to be on the lookout in the 1st quarter of 2011 for what the banks do with inventory. Evictions are due to start up again January 3rd with several of the large banks and Fannie Mae properties. Many of the large banks are resuming foreclosures again too, and the real test is going to be just how many are actually left to foreclose upon.
Our suspicion is we’re definitely in the second half of this crisis, and the worst is behind us, at least in SW Florida. The rest of the country has more to go as we’ve already weeded out many of the investors from the boom, and the mortgage rests will affect other states more than us. The real question is how many people are barely hanging on, and can they hold on long enough for the economy to recover. This is the wildcard that will affect how many future foreclosures we see. The sooner we clear out the foreclosures the quicker our real estate market can respond. This, along with an economic recovery will do wonders to fixing a lot of ails.
Have you noticed that the weather has been dreadful this year up North? A lot of northerners have, and SW Florida is looking pretty good in December. Our prices are low, our weather is much better, and in a blizzard visions of sunshine, warm weather, beaches, and all the good stuff we enjoy seems worth looking into. What used to be a dream can turn into a plan quickly, and we’re already seeing it.
Our market may be down, but it won’t be forever. We just have too much good going for us to stay down for long, and this flat market could take off. We’re just one blizzard away from several plane loads of buyers, so buckle up and let’s see what Santa and 2011 brings us.