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.

SW Florida Real Estate Single Family Home Prices
SW Florida Median Sale Prices Single Family Homes

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.

People are celebrating the Holidays in a new special way this year, and some of it is quite interesting.  I’ve received e-mails from various sources, and regardless of what your religion is, anything that is beautiful and makes people think what the Holidays are really about is worth sharing.

Here are a few links, and feel free to share others as well.

A Social Network Christmas

A New Way to Remember The Spirit of Christmas
A Social Network Christmas

The Digital Story of the Nativity – The Birth of Jesus

Digital Story of the Nativity of Jesus

No, we’re not talking about Santa’s bag here.  We thought this week we’d do a mailbag of topics, and invite questions for future articles.  If you have a question or topic you’d like covered, simply e-mail me at Brett@Topagent.com and we’ll do our best.

Interest Rates

Yes, they’ve been on the move, and the move has been upward.  Rates have risen about .625% in the past 1-2 weeks.  For every 1% rise in rates, it takes away about 9% of a purchasers buying power, so buyers have just lost about 5% buying power in the past 2 weeks.  This is why the media and Wall St. talk about rates so much and where they are today versus historically.  Now, they are still historically low, but they have been moving up.  With prices this low, and rates still fairly low, buying power is still great even though it may not be what it was 2 weeks ago.

SW Florida Real Estate Market Update
It's in the Bag

Foreclosure Listings

Foreclosure listings for single family homes active on the market in Lee County stood at 768 in November Versus 1,107 today.  That’s a 32.42% increase in just one month, and we can attribute this to banks placing properties on the market after the foreclosure moratorium because of the robo-signing issues.  Most banks feel confident going forward, especially for their non-occupied properties.  We see this as a good sign.  The quicker we get all inventory out and to the market the faster the market can heal and move forward.

Pending Sales

Pending sales rose again in November which indicates buyers are ready, willing, and able to buy and they’re making every attempt.  This is another reason we’d like to see all available inventory on the market as the buyers are definitely biting.  All areas of Lee County are seeing a rise in pending sales.  Cape Coral saw a rise of 60 pending sales over last month, Fort Myers saw a rise of 69 sales and Lehigh Acres experienced a rise of 32 pending sales.  Season is upon us and we’ve notice an uptick in buying activity from buyers up North sooner than we did last year, which could mean we’ll be in for another good season this year.

Current Market Index

Each month the Ellis Team produces a current market index which accurately predicts forward activity in the SW Florida real estate market.  This month the index dropped to 4.22, down from 4.62 last month.  The lower the number the hotter the real estate market is.  A higher number indicates a buyers market. We wouldn’t say it’s a buyers market.  We’d characterize it as a sellers market if the property is priced correctly.  Buyers are competing against each other with multiple offers on properties that are priced correctly, and bypassing over-priced listings.  The market speaks.  Sometimes it’s as easy as slowing down and listening to what it’s saying, and if a property isn’t receiving offers, then there’s a good chance it’s the price.  The market is hot, but it’s not forgiving.

Closed Sales Flat

November closed sales were relatively flat Versus October.  In fact, our research shows they’re down slightly, but official numbers won’t be released until next week.  Last November sales rose, so when official numbers come out we could see a transaction drop from last year.

This is the last article before Christmas believe it or not, so next week we’ll either answer your questions or provide updated analysis once official numbers are released.  We hope Santa is good to you and brings you good tides and good cheer, and no matter how big the bag is this year, always look for opportunities to lift somebody else’s spirits this Holiday season and into the new year.

Last week we gave tips on how to sell a home in today’s market from the non-distressed home seller’s perspective.  This week we thought we’d revisit tips on how to buy a foreclosure property since so many try, but very few are the winning buyer.  As a listing agent for many banks, we know what the banks are looking for. We speak to the asset managers.  If you follow these tips your chances will increase as not every buyer knows what the bank considers when looking at multiple offers, which many foreclosures receive.

The first thing buyers must understand is there is a lot of competition for these homes.  Typically bank foreclosures go fast, and for over asking price.  Everybody seems to want them.  So structuring your offer and submitting it correctly will increase your chances.

Tips on buying bank foreclosures in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and all of SW Florida
Tips on Buying Bank Foreclosures in SW Florida

Keep in mind, listing agents must have all the required information, so if they ask for something upfront, they mean it.  Listing agents don’t have time to track your agent down for this info.  We attach a document to each MLS listing specifying what is required with the offer.  Make sure your agent completes every single field.  We submit offers into an online system, and if information is missing, the offer cannot be submitted.

The bank never sees your offer until one is accepted.  The listing agent must enter information into and online submission, and it must conform to what the bank asks for, and all fields must be filled out.  If a foreclosure has 20 offers, the listing agent doesn’t have time to call 15 agents and beg for information they required upfront.  Keep in mind, it takes awhile to upload 20 offers, and the listing agent may be dealing with 20 properties.

Listing bank foreclosures is very time intensive, and the listing agent coordinates everything from repairs to working out HOA fees, title issues, code violations, etc.  Providing the required information is the first step.

Secondly, consider that you’re probably competing against other buyers, and that many will be above asking price.  So how do you compete?  Consider a higher escrow money deposit, shorter closing time, and definitely a shorter inspection period.  Bank asset managers are also gauging the strength of each buyer, so you want to put your best foot forward in hopes of getting the property.

Banks are on the lookout for buyers tying up properties then using contingencies to escape later.  Banks want solid deals, so you want to dress up your offer to make you look like the best buyer in the batch.  The price will be close to asking price or above because it’s a deal anyway, so you have to compete in other ways.

In many cases banks will counter multiple offers with highest and best.  Buyers are shocked when the bank doesn’t and just accepts one offer, so it always pays to pony up early on and go for it.  If you do get a highest and best form, assume the other buyer wants it as bad as you do, and act accordingly, because if you don’t, chances are you won’t end up with the home.

Be careful that your offer is written well and clearly states all fees and costs.  It is difficult to impossible to make changes later, and it could cost you the home.  Any change to contract later on opens up possibility the home goes back out for rebid and you could lose it, so it pays to write offer correctly the first time.  Same applies with names; make sure everyone who wishes to take title is on contract from beginning. You may not be able to add names until after closing, which could require new title insurance and additional fees.

If you’re purchasing as an LLC, make sure you provide documents upfront that you’re authorized to sign for the LLC.  The bank will ask.

These are some very useful tips by an experienced foreclosure agent. Each bank has their own rules, so be sure to follow directions well.  Make sure you’re working with an agent who understands contract language. Many times we see financing contracts that don’t match up or specify some costs buyer is not allowed to pay under the buyer’s financing program, and the offer cannot be presented to bank until language is cleaned up which could cost the buyer the sale because of delays.  Be sure to work with an agent who has experience writing clear and concise contracts and understands financing in and out.

Following these tips will increase your chances, and ignoring them will most assuredly have you scratching your head wondering why the bank selected another offer.  Good luck and happy house hunting.

Search SW Florida bank foreclosures single family homes

Search SW Florida bank foreclosures condominiums

I’ve received this e-mail a few times and forwarded it on, but today I thought it was good enough to post.  Author unknown.

______________________________________________________________________

Two Choices
What would you do?….you make the choice. Don’t look for a punch line, there isn’t one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its
Dedicated staff, he offered a question:

‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.
Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.
Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning..’

One Young Boy Decides Shay Should Play on Their Team


Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball

However, as Shay stepped up to the
Plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!
Run to first!’
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third!

Shay, run to third!’

Our Attempt to Illustrate That Moment
Our Attempt to Illustrate That Moment


As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team

‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOT NOTE TO THIS STORY:
We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate.

The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you’re thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you’re probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren’t the ‘appropriate’ ones to receive this type of message Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference.
We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the ‘natural order of things.’

So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:

1. Delete

2. Forward
May your day, be a Shay Day.
MAY GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO DECIDES TO PASS THIS ON IN MEMORY OF SHAY…………..

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

In past articles we’ve given tips on what to be aware of when buying a short sale or foreclosure as these sales are relatively new to SW Florida in the past few years. We’ve also given tips on how to select an agent to properly handle a complex short sale when selling, but we haven’t yet offered tips on how to sell a normal non-distressed property in today’s distressed environment.

Tips on How to Sell a Property in Today’s Market

Selling Your Home is a Balancing Act

Selling a “Normal” sale can be much different than selling a distressed property.  A normal seller has some distinct advantages over distressed sellers, and a few disadvantages as well.

A short seller may have limited time to sell if they haven’t been making mortgage or HOA payments.  Either the bank or HOA can foreclose, so time is not always on the seller’s side.  A short seller needs to price the home competitively, but not too high or too low.  If they price too low the bank will reject the short sale and if they price too high buyers won’t be interested.

A normal seller should also price correctly.  If the property is priced too high, buyers will either not buy, or will buy something that offers better value.  If the home is priced too low, the seller is just giving equity away to the new buyer.

A normal seller typically doesn’t “Have To” sell because of a bank foreclosure.  They may want to sell to trade up, trade down, take a job relocation, move closer to schools, family, etc.  The “Wish To” sell is very different than the “Have To” sell.  Buyers are often more interested in a “Normal” sale because there is just one decision maker.  The buyer doesn’t have to wait weeks or months for a decision and there is less stress on the “Normal” seller about deficiency judgments and tax implications, all making for a smoother transaction even if bank accepts the short sale.

When pricing the subject property, we often have to look at the condition of the short sale and foreclosed homes.  Many times these homes need appliances, flooring, fixtures, landscaping, air conditioners, and much more.  Condition plays such a big part in comparing homes.  Normal sellers are competing with short sales and foreclosures, but they’re not always apples to apples and adjustments need to be made.

Agents also look favorably on normal sales because they are rarely affected by last minute title, judgment, and lien issues.  I can’t tell you how many times HOA, utility, code enforcement, and other liens delay a closing on foreclosed and short sale homes.

Financing a normal home is much easier for a buyer because they can reasonably lock-in they’re interest rate.  It’s almost impossible to lock-in a rate on a short sale as you never know when you can actually close, and also true on a foreclosure if any of those last minute title surprises creep up we mentioned earlier.

Normal sellers need to keep their eye on the “Current” of the market.  Even though the normal seller has many advantages, the distressed sales aren’t emotionally tied to the home, so many times they’re more willing to look at what is actually going on in the market versus what they “Feel” they need out of home.  A bank or the investor may just want out and can afford to dump a property versus a normal seller who has worked hard for their money and need it for the next venture.

In a declining market you never want to get caught chasing the market down, and this is true for distressed and normal sales.  You really need to study the “Current” of the market and see what it’s doing, not only for the overall market, but also competing homes like yours.  Traditionally, sold comparables mean more than Active listings as anybody can ask anything for a property, but the proof is what others are willing to pay.

The market doesn’t rise or fall in unison for all properties.  It’s possible the market has bottomed and even started going up in certain segments of the market and still declining in others.  Recognizing where your home stands in the various sub-markets will be critical to pricing it effectively, and will offer you the greatest chance of selling, even in today’s market.

It doesn’t matter if the market is up, down, or sideways, pricing based on analysis is critical.  Marketing is especially important when buyers have many homes to choose from, so make sure you’ve discussed with your agent and have a clear plan based upon your property’s needs.  Marketing, pricing, negotiating, and solving the transaction puzzle are the keys to being successful in any market, and today we hope we’ve offered tips in two of those areas.

Good luck in successfully selling your property.