We’ve seen a lot of scams and misinformation this past week so we thought we’d pass along some useful SW Florida real estate hurricane news and information.

SW Florida Real Estate Hurricane News and Information Rumor Control

If your property insurance was cancelled leading up to the hurricane, executive order 17-235 issued by Governor Scott provides that cancellation is now rescinded for 90 days.  Furthermore, all rates are frozen for 90 days, and the order allows policyholders 90 days to provide requested information from their insurance company.  In other words, this will give policyholders time to either renew or shop around for coverage in the wake of the storm.  Great job Governor Scott.

FEMA is available to assist people with housing and emergency needs.  From what we can gather, you must prove losses and damage and in some cases, show hardship.  It looks like they’ll issue credits off your tax return in some cases.  FEMA says it will provide some coverage that your insurance company may not.  It may be worthwhile applying at www.disasterassistance.gov  We did hear of somebody receiving $500 on the spot for their business.  FEMA will send out claims adjusters to view your damage.  This is especially helpful if your property has been flooded or is uninhabitable.  There is some housing assistance for those people.

There are rumors that FEMA, the Red Cross and FPL will reimburse you for lost food, but this turns out to not be true.

We’ve heard FEMA will not reimburse you for lost food on the news, and yet we’ve seen a checklist for you to itemize your food losses.

You hear so many things online and in the news and it’s difficult to know what’s true.  It’s especially difficult in times of disaster, limited power, internet, etc.  Beware of scams.

Mortgage Relief

Mortgage forbearance is a hot topic.  Across social media everyone is advising you to apply and the banks must automatically grant you 3 free months of no payments.  Let’s clear up a few things in this regard.  Lenders are forgiving and offering assistance.  If you have a government backed mortgage through FNMA or Freddie Mac you may be able to postpone payments up to 12 months.  FHA loans may extend up to 90 days.  In some cases, they will go longer depending on circumstances.

It’s best to contact your lender yourself.  Be wary of online scams.  There should not be a fee charged to you for this help.  If someone is charging a fee, this might be your first red flag.  These payments are not waived, they are tacked on to the end of the loan, so if you don’t need the assistance, it might be best to pass on the idea.

We’re seeing contractors going door to door looking for work.  Again, be wary.  If you pay them money upfront you may never see them again, and you always want to see their license and insurance.  God forbid they get hurt on your property, or claim they did.  You could be out some cold hard cash and have legal worries. Be wary of offers and possible strings attached.  Evaluate the source of the help.You don’t need permits for everything.  We’ve heard things like fence repair and replacement in a storm doesn’t need it.  Be sure to check for yourself before completing or hiring repairs.

Buyers Are Looking

The good news is we have buyers contacting us looking to purchase.  People up North haven’t given up on Florida either as they are signing up at www.LeeCountyOnline.com and searching for property. If you have a home to sell, we have buyers.

While we’ve been busy this week delivering generators to those in need, we’ve also been scurrying to fix damaged listings impacted by Irma.  We’ve secured contractors to repair and replace items so our sellers can be on their way and buyers can move into their new home.  Buying and selling real estate is more complicated than ever.  It’s wise to hire a professional to help you with all the details.

If you’re buying or selling and need a professional Realtor, please call the Ellis Team at Keller Williams Realty 239-489-4042.  We’re here to help.

More Resources:

Best Hurricane Irma Computer Model

FEMA Hurricane Irma Page

American Red Cross Hurricane Irma Page

Hurricane Irma came and passed, and we survived.  Thank God it wasn’t as bad as it was predicted.  It’s been irritating and people are suffering, but we’re thankful for all we have and preservation of life.  So, let’s look at what we learned and talk about Southwest Florida real estate after hurricane Irma.

Many people didn’t realize flood insurance is affordable.  I spoke with some who thought it would be several thousand dollars per year and because their mortgage company didn’t require it, they were safe.  We learned that people in Houston thought the same thing.  Flooding in parts of Lehigh are horrific.  This flooding was not due to storm surge but rather rainfall.  Other areas like Island Park, Old Burnt store Rd, and several other communities experienced flooding like never before.  If flood insurance is affordable, go get it whether the mortgage company requires it or not.

Southwest Florida Real Estate After Hurricane Irma Older Pool Cage
Older Pool Cage

Much of the damage came from trees.  Large beautiful trees are a hazard in storms.  I don’t know what the solution is.  Perhaps cutting and trimming trees would help keep some of the weight down far from the trunk and save some of these trees from hitting homes and blocking streets?  Trees caused down power lines and were probably the number one reason power was out for so long for so many.

Southwest Florida Real Estate After Hurricane Irma Newer Pool Cage
Newer Pool Cage in Reflection Lakes

Make sure your subdivision clears its drains regularly.  This helps alleviate street flooding on private roads and can make the difference whether your street is passable after storm or not.  People in Cypress Cay in Gateway among others were stranded for days.  I’m sure there were other reasons, but anything that helps drainage is good.

Gas lines were long.  Whether you’re running generators or just trying to get to work having some extra gas around ahead of storm is a good thing.

Living close to restaurants and super markets is a good thing after a storm.  While many were slow to open, it was a huge relief when they did.  If you can walk to either, gas isn’t an issue.  If you can’t, at least you won’t burn much gas.  Cash is king.  A few restaurants were cash only because they didn’t have internet.  With banks and ATM’s closed, having cash ahead of storm is good.

Newer homes fared better.  We saw some older homes lose shingles.  Presumably this could be due to newer building codes, although we did see some homes missing tiles on the newer homes.  I saw some pool cages down built to older codes and some untouched built to the newer codes.  Of course, wind direction could affect these too.

The bottom line is SW Florida was lucky.  We are grateful.  Property damage was not as bad as expected and there was limited loss of life in Florida.  Southwest Florida real estate after Hurricane Irma will be just fine, if not better.  We will have a few weeks of rebuilding and repair but overall, we did well.

We have buyers.  If you’re thinking of selling, let us know.  Hurricane damage and flooding may wipe out some inventory for a while so we may be able to plug a buyer into your property soon.

If you’d like to search for your piece of paradise, check out www.LeeCountyOnline.com or call us at 239-489-4042  Power is not on at our office yet as of day we wrote this article, however we are taking calls remotely when we can.

Additional Resources:

We found a neat NOAA website that allows you to track damage to your Fort Myers property.  Click on the Hurricane Irma Imagery and zoom in to the area.  NOAA is updating this with new flights and sensors so new maps will be posted regularly.

Lee County Schools will not reopen until Sept 25th.

Hurricane Preparation Tips- 3 Yr old video while we were still with RE/MAX.  Tips still good though

Fort Myers Beach Sunset 1 Month Before Irma

This past week the over-riding question we get from customers and realtors alike is how will Southwest Florida hurricane affect local real estate market?  The answer is, it depends.

How Will Southwest Florida Hurricane Affect Local Real Estate Market

First off, we’ve been telling clients that the storm isn’t even here yet.  We’ve been focused on protecting life and property this week.  Buyers aren’t in the mood to house shop this week.  As Realtors, we’ve been assisting clients removing signs, lowering hurricane shutters, closing homes, and evacuating.  Our staff has postponed their own plans simply to help others.

Charley hit our area back in 2004 and bolstered our market.  It brought reconstruction and attention to our area.  You would have thought all the negative publicity would have hurt us, but it didn’t.  Renters were sometimes forced to find new rentals and it helped drive the resale and rental market.

One of the things I think about today is the used car market.  I hear there were 1 Million flooded cars in Houston area.  As insurance companies replace these cars for policy holders I can’t help but think it’s going to drive used car prices higher.  Much like the cash for clunkers program, the hurricane may raise used cars prices simply by taking supply out of market.

I’m writing this article days before Irma is scheduled to arrive.  Who knows, maybe Irma will shift east and not even hit SW Florida.

Charley was a small storm in size and we did not receive much flooding.  It was for us mostly a wind driven event.  Houston is primarily a water driven event, and in my opinion, that’s even worse.  Not only is flooding water more dangerous, it’s also more damaging over wide spread areas.

We have a low inventory market, so I’m not real excited about a hurricane eating up existing inventory.  Already rents are high, and if a tenant is displaced by the storm finding alternatives may be difficult if not impossible to find.

In many price ranges it’s slim picking for buyers, and it could get even slimmer.  It could force buyers to buy whatever they can after the storm, much like shoppers at Publix looking for the last truckload of water before the storm.

We’d much rather natural forces drive the real estate market.  We don’t need a natural disaster to create demand.  Demand is already pretty good.  Supply is already limited too.

We suspect it may take a week or two for life to return to normal, and that’s if the storm moves east and does minimal damage here.  If the storm were to hit the East coast of Florida hard, you could see many displaced people coming over here and paying cash for homes.  Not everyone can do that, but enough can that it could swallow up a lot of our inventory.  For years people from Miami have been coming over here and buying property.  If they were hit hard by a sudden event, it could spur more to move right now.

How Will Southwest Florida Hurricane Affect Local Real Estate Market?

We could write for days on possible scenarios and how the storm could affect the local real estate market.  So much of it just depends.  I think for now, we should all just focus on staying safe, executing our evacuation plans or hunkering down, and watch out for each other.

Hurricanes bring out the best and worst in people.  We witnessed so many wonderful people helping in Charlie and Wilma.  And we saw what stress can do to people as well.  Remember, stress manifests itself in many ways.  If you see someone lashing out or easily angry this next week or two, it may just be the stress of the storm piled up on other things going on in their life.  Lend a helping hand, be kind to one another, and watch out for your neighbor.  You’ll feel better knowing you did, and you just might need a helping hand yourself when you least expect it.

If you need help, don’t be too proud to ask.  We’re all in this together!  We’ll get through this.  If you’re looking for the best real estate website, check out www.LeeCountyOnline.com Or call us at 239-489-4042  Most of all, stay safe!  Real estate can be replaced.  You cannot!

This past week agents have been calling us asking how we see the local SW Florida real estate market.  Agents are complaining that their closings are down in August.  This was predictable because recently released data shows SW Florida pending real estate inventory dropped 9.6% in July.  July pendings are an indicator of what will close in August and September.

We saw a dip in average and median sales prices in July from June, however median prices were up 2.5% over last July 2016 and average prices were up 5.9%.

SW Florida Pending Real Estate Inventory Drops Sales Prices

All year we’ve been tracking homes closed and we’ve said it’s been tracking between 2015-2016 numbers.  2016 closed sales were down against 2015.  We are close to tracking down against 2016, and if this occurs we’ll keep an eye out for potential changes in the market.

SW Florida Pending Real Estate Inventory Drops Homes Closed

Last year, as evidenced by the graph, sales numbers increased in August, so if July’s pending inventory is an indicator, we might not reach those levels.  The Ellis Team has sold some quick close cash deals that went pending in mid-August and are scheduled to close at end of August that might add to the July pendings and help, but will it be enough?

We’ve been telling sellers throughout the year, now may be a good time to sell.  You have less competition from other sellers and interest rates are scheduled to go up as the Fed is pulling back its $4.5 Trillion bond assets.

If pending sales continue to decline, it will add to more time on the market.  This may be a blip on the map as we’ve recently sold 9 properties in less than 2 weeks.  The market could heat up again just like that.  As we enter the Fall and Winter, more listings typically enter the market.  Sellers will have more competition.  Who you choose to market your home will be more important than ever, as marketing matters when inventory rises.

If you’re a buyer, you might like to search all the homes for sale at www.LeeCountyOnline.com  Our database is updated every few minutes, so it has the latest data.  You won’t be frustrated with seeing homes that sold years ago and no longer on the market.

Free Home Valuations

If you’re a potential seller, you’ll love the website too as it has Free home valuations in addition to valuable neighborhood data, market reports, and photo galleries of nearby active, pending, and sold properties.  There is no substitute for talking with the Ellis Team at Keller Williams Realty, but if you’re going to research on your own, www.LeeCountyOnline.com is your best bet.

We have a database of buyers we can search when we list a property.  We can then call all buyers that are searching for homes matching that listing.  For instance, let’s say we’re listing a property in Paseo.  I went into our database and we have 190 leads looking for homes that match Paseo.  They might be looking at other areas too, but definitely considering Paseo.  We can do this for any neighborhood or price range.

Not only do sellers receive benefit of our current marketing, they also get the benefit of our past marketing.  For this reason, marketing matters!  When you’re interviewing agents to sell your home, ask for detailed marketing plan and how many buyers do they have right now that match your home.  This will tell you the marketing muscle they bring to the table.

Whether looking to buy or sell, professional advice matters.  Always call the Ellis Team at Keller Williams Realty 239-489-4042.  We’re here to answer your questions and help you accomplish your goals.  Not our goals, your goals.

Good luck and enjoy the Labor Day Weekend!