Prior to 2007 homeowners who had a short sale or foreclosure were subject to pay income taxes on any amount of forgiven debt. So let’s say a homeowner in 2006 had a mortgage of $400,000 and decided to sale as a short sale for $200,000, that homeowner would have had income of approximately $200,000 according to the IRS. Assuming this put that homeowner in the 25% tax bracket, this homeowner would owe an additional $50,000 taxes to the US government. Keep in mind, perhaps none of this money went into the pocket of the homeowner, it was simply forgiven debt. The same would be true for a bank foreclosure.

Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands
Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands

Back in 2007 the US government signed into law the Mortgage Relief Act which provided homeowners who used their home as a primary residence relief up to $2 million for married couples and $1 million for individuals from any shortage being treated as income by the IRS. In the previous example above, the $200,000 would be free from being treated as income as long as it was their primary residence. The lender must formally forgive the loan.

The US government is giving homeowners until December 31, 2012 to complete a short sale or foreclosure. Starting January 1, 2013 any debt forgiven, even on a primary residence, will be treated as income by the IRS and subject to taxes.

A homeowner doesn’t always control when the bank will take back a home or when the bank will complete the foreclosure transaction, so they cannot guarantee they’ll make the December 31 deadline.

A distressed homeowner does control to a greater extent the execution and timing of a short sale. While there is no guarantee the bank will agree to a short sale, or that the buyer will wait around long enough for the lender to agree, it is generally known the seller has more control over their fate in a short sale than a foreclosure.

Time is running out for many sellers as we have 11 ½ months to complete the short sale. Some short sales go smooth, and others are a bit trickier. Sometimes we have to sell it 2 or 3 times if buyers walk. The bank may respond right away, or it could take several months for the banks to complete their analysis depending on who the lender is, whether there is a 2nd mortgage or equity line involved, and especially if mortgage insurance is involved.

Most people just think the banks are slow, which is true. However, the process can be more complicated as the 1st lender may be due money back on certain losses by a private mortgage insurance company. This takes time for all to evaluate, and it must go in steps.

Some loans are guaranteed by FNMA or Freddie Mac, and there are governmental programs in place the lender must follow. A popular program you may have heard of is HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclsoures Alternative) Program. If the home falls under this program, certain procedures and timelines must be followed. Sometimes it takes time just to see if the loans qualify for this program. There are other programs as well.

This is why a seller should decide soon if they may need to sell their home due to hardship. The decision today could save thousands in taxes for years to come. Waiting too long could cost a seller big time.

A bankruptcy may be a solution to avoid such taxation after 2012, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see bankruptcies rise next year from sellers who miss this deadline.

The good news is lenders have beefed up their short sale department staffs the last few years and are equipped to handle more sales today than they were 5 years ago. We’ve had much success completing short sales, although the buyer must be educated that the bank will take some time, and they may counter the accepted price with the seller a bit higher.

No short sale is complete until the lender(s) sign off and everybody agrees to the terms. Short sales are a way to bring otherwise underwater overpriced property to the market at today’s lower prices. Education is the key for everyone involved. The agents involved, both buyer agent and seller agent must be competent in handling complex short sale transactions as both buyer and seller must be educated about the process.

Sales are already heating up this season, so 2012 could be an interesting ride. We’ll keep you posted on news affecting buyers and sellers in the SW Florida real estate market.

 

Because we are writing this article this week before official numbers are released, we decided to go inside the numbers and focus on listing inventory and sales data.  According to preliminary numbers researched by the Ellis Team, listing inventory rose again for the 3rd consecutive month.

Single Family Home Listing Inventory in SW Florida
SW Florida December 2011 Listing Inventory

Lehigh Acres has been holding fairly steady while Cape Coral is seeing the largest gains in inventory.  Fort Myers is inching higher ever so slightly.

What’s interesting is the distressed sales market.  We track a variety of graphs.  One graph not shown here because it’s a little tangled and hard to read in newspaper format shows large drops in distressed sales in Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers, and Lee County overall.  Cape Coral has held steady at 50.45% of all single family sales being distressed.  Lee County stands at 48% distressed rate in November.

SW Florida Distressed Sales Chart December 2011
Foreclosures Vs Short Sales December 2011

We have included a Foreclosures Vs Short Sales graph that is a bit easier to read.  It fairly well shows the history of the foreclosure and short sale market in SW Florida.  As you can see, the height of foreclosure sales was in June 2009, while the height of the short sale market was March 2011.

 

Banks revved up their short sale departments to handle an increased load.  It can be said that potentially each of these successful short sales may have saved a corresponding amount of foreclosures, so it was in the banks and the markets best interests to sell these homes as short sales rather than as foreclosures.

Going into 2012 we’re going to continue to watch the listing inventory and the mix of inventory.  Traditional sales are on the rise as a percentage of all sales, although many homeowners are not selling at today’s bargain basement prices.

Speaking of bargain prices, many buyers are calling wanting to buy homes for investment and expecting 2009 prices.  It seems like sellers are always the last to recognize when prices are dropping and buyers are the last to recognize when prices are rising.  Why is that?  Could it be selective hearing or denial?

We can definitively say that investment homes in Cape Coral and Lehigh acres bottomed in 2009 and have risen since.  Buyers today can no longer pick up a home for $35,000 in Lehigh unless it has major problems.  $70,000 is more common place for the low end now, so essentially prices in the low end have doubled.

Sales are flat in December versus November; however we are expecting sales to pickup in season again.  We’ve had no trouble selling homes.  The biggest challenges we’ve faced are closing these homes.  Lately we’ve been encountering title issues, mortgage re-disclosure issues due to any delays, and buyers not waiting patiently for the short sale approval.  We’re getting short sales approved within 60 days in many cases, but buyers are impatient.  Going forward the industry will have to do a better job educating buyers as to what the realistic expectations are for approval and closing time frames on short sales.

We’ll also watch foreclosure inventory as we are expecting a few more in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2012.

We’ll keep our eye on the SW Florida real estate market for you, and whether you’re a buyer or seller, we hope Santa is better to you this year than he was last year.  The market is looking up, and we hope your holiday spirits are too.

 

From time to time we get calls asking about the best time share deals in Florida.  According to Wikipedia, “A timeshare is a form of ownership or right to the use of a property, or the term used to describe such properties. These properties are typically resort condominium units, in which multiple parties hold rights to use the property, and each sharer is allotted a period of time (typically one week, and almost always the same time every year) in which they may use the property.”

Time Shares in Florida Cypress Pointe resort in Orlando Florida
Cypress Pointe Resort Time Share in Orlando Florida

The Ellis Team doesn’t handle time shares in Florida as they are kind of their own specialty, although there are a few timeshare places at Fort Myers Beach.  What we do see more of in SW Florida are rental companies that will assist a homeowner and rent out a condo or home by the week while the owner retains full ownership of all 52 weeks of the year.

We have several condo projects and cottages in SW Florida that rent very well by the week.  A Buyer can purchase a home or unit and place it in the rental pool and produce very good income while allowing someone else to manage the property and rent out the unit.  The owner can even use the property so many days per year per the IRS and still claim it as an investment property.  We encourage you to speak with your tax advisor on those regulations as they pertain to you.

Unlike a property owner who owns all 52 weeks, a timeshare owner is only concerned with one week.  One advantage of a timeshare is its ability to be traded for other like kind properties all over the world.  We’ve talked to several people who own a timeshare say in Orlando and love visiting there, but they also enjoy the ability to trade it for weeks in Hawaii, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and all over the world.

Once you own a timeshare you simply pay the weekly maintenance fee each year and then you’re free to use the unit on your selected week, exchange it for a different week within your association if permitted, rent it out, or join an exchange service like RCI or VRI to exchange it for nice place elsewhere.  While you pay a yearly maintenance fee on your timeshare, there can be significant cost savings when exchanging your unit. Perhaps you own a 3 bedroom unit.  You may be able to exchange for a week of a 2 bedroom unit and another week’s use of a 1 bedroom unit, or both during the same week.

You can even exchange credits on your time share towards use on a cruise.  Depending on how nice your unit is, where it is located, and which week you have will determine how much credit you get towards exchange to another timeshare or cruise.

Timeshares can be great for those that like to travel.  Years ago timeshares were selling upwards of $30,000 in the Orlando area.  With the economy being down it seems prices have come down and now you can own them for much less.

In fact, we’re aware of an owner of a 3 bedroom unit at Cypress Pointe Resort at Lake Buena Vista in Orlando willing to sell their unit for $2,000 plus closing costs.  It is a 3 bedroom unit week 43 rated as Emerald and is close to Disney.  It can be exchanged for a 2 bedroom + a 1 bedroom unit or used as a 3 bedroom unit.  Cypress Pointe Resort offers lots of amenities for kids.  While we do not list or sell timeshares, simply call our office 239-489-4042 if you’re interested and we’ll put you in touch with the owner and you can deal directly.

If you’re looking for a condo on Sanibel, Captiva, or Fort Myers Beach and would like info on investing and what it would take to purchase and how much income you could derive from it, we can help.  Simply give us a call.

 

Banks are contacting customers who are past due or in financial trouble and offering owners or tenants up to $20,000 in relocation assistance to move out of home and hire an experienced agent to sell the home as a short sale.  Banks are also offering owners money to agree to a deed in lieu foreclosure in some instances as well.

Benefits of Short Sale Versus Foreclosure Chart
Alternatives to Foreclosure Chart

There are several advantages for taking the bank up on their offer.  If you let the property go to foreclosure, you’ll be evicted without relocation assistance.  Additionally your credit will suffer more in a foreclosure than a short sale or deed in lieu.  The owner is more in control when actively pursuing a sale through an experienced agent than giving up all control to the bank and the legal system.

A short sale is a commonly used alternative to foreclosure. Generally, when putting your home on the market, the goal is to market and sell your house for an amount greater than any and all outstanding liens against the property. Liens include all mortgages, escrows and fees on the property.

If you can no longer afford to make your mortgage payments and your house is worth less than you owe, a short sale allows you to sell your house at the current fair market value. You then have an option to move to a more affordable situation. In a short sale, the investor or owner of your loan must approve the sale because they are entitled to repayment of the loan and will be receiving less than the amount owed.

If you have additional liens on your property with other lenders, such as a home equity loan, all investors must come to an agreement in order to complete the short sale. This process takes time, and an experienced agent is required to navigate and negotiate through these challenges.

Another alternative is a deed in lieu of foreclosure. With a deed in lieu, you voluntarily transfer ownership of the property to your investor to satisfy the amount due on your first mortgage. In some cases, you may be eligible for a deed in lieu without first attempting a short sale of your home. A deed in lieu generally takes about 90 days, depending on your situation.

In either a short sale or deed in lieu you may be responsible for paying a deficiency.  There are many factors that determine this, such as if the home was your primary residence, what state you live in, your financial situation, etc.  Sometimes this can be negotiated with your lender.

In any event, most lenders agree it is much better on your credit report and they are likely to lend you money in the future faster if you agree to a short sale or deed in lieu instead of a full blown foreclosure.

If you’ve been contacted by your lender, it may be at least worth considering your options.  Don’t throw away documents sent to you by your lender.  If they make you an offer call your attorney for legal advice or an experienced real estate agent for advice on the program and assistance selling your home.

The banks really don’t want your home back.  They’d prefer that owners pay their mortgage payments.  When that’s not possible, it may be less expensive to offer the occupant relocation assistance and get on with the process of selling the home before it gets to the costly foreclosure process.  Once the home gets into foreclosure, the costs mount, the credit suffers, and owners lose options.

If we can help, call us at 239-489-4042.  Each situation is unique and it takes time to look into each program.  The good news is we have past experience with many of these programs.

 

People are surprised to learn fixed interest rates are at or below 4% for 30 yr mortgages.  Because of this there has been a refinance boom which should throw some disposable income back into the economy.  It did the last time we had a refinance boom.  Not everyone can take advantage of this bonanza though as some are upside down on their mortgage.  Owners might be happy to know there is a government program that allows homeowners to refinance even if their first mortgage is up to 120% of current value, and if you have a second mortgage or equity line it can be subordinated to the 1st.  All good news if your rate is 6% or higher.  It’s possible good news even if your rate is in the 5%+ range depending on the home value.  Check with your lender for details.

Housing Affordability in SW Florida
Fort Myers Cape Coral Year End Sales Prices

Getting back to the main subject of this article, buyers today can now afford more home than ever before.  The reason is simple.  A home’s cost has several elements, and the two primary elements are sales price and financing costs.  As you can see from the year end sales prices our median home values have dropped dramatically and at the end of 2010 year end average prices were approximately even with 1997 prices.

Everyone rushed to buy in 2005 when in fact they should be rushing today.  Prices have moved upward a bit and when year end prices are posted for 2011 they will show an upward trend.  Bottom line is they’re still a far cry from the peak in 2005.

Income Needed To Qualify for $200,000 Loan

Look at the average 30 yr interest rate chart.  Back in October 2006 rates were approximately 6.36%. Today rates are around 4%. That’s a difference of about 2.36%. A $200,000 mortgage this year would be roughly $300 cheaper than it was 5 years ago.  This fact alone makes housing much more affordable.  Combining the lowest rates we’ve seen on record with deep price reductions in our market, it’s no wonder why this is the best time in years to purchase a property. Much thanks to Keith Cloak from Summit Home Mortgage for pointing out these historical rates to me.

The nation’s economy has been stalled for years.  Locally our market was hit first, and hard.  Because of that our market may be poised to recover sooner.  Tourism may get a shot in the arm if the proposed $1 Billion casino is approved at the Forum.  This would put Florida on the map for additional tourism and the all important convention and trade show business.  We would have our gorgeous Sanibel and Fort Myers beaches, year round sunshine, and now convention business attracting tourism to our area.

I spoke to Lee County sheriff Mike Scott the other day about his thoughts on the casino.  Those against bringing gambling to Florida argue it brings crime and detracts from the family atmosphere Florida is known for. Sheriff Scott doesn’t believe a casino would bring crime from a law enforcement standpoint.  Judging from my visits to Las Vegas or a seminar I attended in AZ at a casino on an Indian reservation, I don’t necessarily buy into increased crime either.

I do see this as an opportunity to add $1 Billion in construction at a time when our area desperately needs it.  I also realize we have gambling in Florida at Indian reservations, so I wonder why the state can’t capture some of that revenue too.  Lord knows our state needs the revenue as well.  Primarily I think about what increased tourism, conventions, trade shows, and visitors who might extend their stay a few days because Florida has so much more to offer than Las Vegas.  Vegas has gambling, but we have beaches, Disney, water sports, nature, and so much more.  I can envision vacationers choosing to come here instead of Vegas or Gulf Port MS, or even places like Branson MO.

With housing affordability in SW Florida at all time highs, home prices on the rise which will settle people who may be afraid if now is the time to buy, and a possible economic jolt to our economy, it sure is exciting to live in SW Florida.

Check out what Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island have to offer you.

Social media has been the buzz words the past few years and it seems everyone has tried to capitalize and make money from the latest craze. For those that understand its value and proper use, social media can be very rewarding. For those that make freshmen mistakes, the cost can be lost customers and countless hours of wasted time.

Realtors Connecting With Customers on Social Media

Realtors Connecting With Customers on Social Media
Ellis Team Twitter Page

The benefits are clear. If done properly, consumers may flock to your content, or you may find yourself interacting at deeper levels with your customers and finding out more about them than you ever would have face to face. Social media opens up a new world where people sometimes feel safer sharing inner feelings and facts about themselves than they do in real life.

Connecting with customers is all about getting to the heart level and learning what’s important to them. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” At the Ellis Team we like to use the Platinum standard which is “Treat others as they’d like to be treated.” We study personality profiles and adapt our communication based upon the way our customers like to communicate. Not every personality profile is the same.

Official SW Florida Real Estate Facebook Fan Page
SW Florida Real Estate Fan Page

Some personalities are bubbly outgoing social beings that have never met a stranger and are certainly the life of every party. Another is the calculated detailed oriented person who must know all the facts before making a decision. There is also the family oriented person that could talk children and family all night, as well as the dominant director type that makes quick decisions and is in charge. Knowing who our customers are helps us to interact with them on their level. The director type turns off with hours of facts and needless chatter, while the engineer, detailed oriented person would never make a decision without studying it from many angles.

Social media helps us to understand our customers and deliver information on many levels. We also engage our customers. We teach our team that if you can get a person to talk about (FORD) Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams you will connect at a deeper level and become friends with everyone you meet. Many of our customers are friends because we care about them as a person, not just a transaction.

Apply FORD to Facebook. In just a few minutes you may find out about someone’s niece or nephew, their child’s soccer game. You might also find out their new relationship status, how happy they are in their job, what they did on vacation, how their sports team is doing, etc. You can hit all 4 FORD items quickly. Social media is an opportunity to engage.

There is no substitute for being face to face with someone and interacting, and many people condemn social media because of that. However, perhaps there is no more efficient way to connect as social media. In real life true communication may mean asking many questions. We call it going 4 or more deep with questions to find out what someone really means. Because people aren’t as inhibited online as real life, true feelings come out much quicker, so in some respects I think social media has improved true communication. Not everyone has the time or skill to go at least 4 deep. However, the downside with social media is you might just learn a whole lot more about someone than you cared to know. LOL

So the next time you jump online and into a social media platform, think about more than just posting random thoughts. Use it as a tool to elicit responses, get people talking, and learning more about others. When you learn and care about others, you become more attractive as a friend or resource, and people will enjoy telling you everything, and maybe even doing a little business with you. And if not, at least you’ll make some true friends.

Good luck and happy communicating. We’ve included a few of our public social media pages in case you’d like to get some ideas. And maybe we’ll become friends too.

 

Useful Social Media Links:

We’re writing this article this week two days before official numbers are released, so by the time you read this official numbers will have been released. Absent this knowledge, we expect prices in August to be higher than last year and sales to be down from last year, however sales volume may be higher than July.

SW Florida Real Estate Bargains
Year End Median Sale Prices For Single Family Homes SW Florida

We’ve included a chart of average year end sales prices which is really an average of prices for that given year, not the Dec 31 average price. As you can see, prices fell from their peak in 2005 through 2009 where they stabilized and actually rose in 2010. In 2011 we’ve seen more gains over 2010.

We started writing articles and advertising back in 2009 that Florida was on sale and buyers flocked here in droves looking for bargains from all over the world. Buyers have been competing with each other for the best bargains and in fact many of these properties have seen multiple offers. As you can see from the year end chart, prices are still very affordable and are on par with 1996-1997 prices. If you look at the attached chart you’ll notice prices in July were up 14.33% over last year and up 19.1% over 2009 prices.

Median Sale Prices Single Family Homes in SW Florida
SW Florida Real Estate Prices 2009-2011

We are fielding calls from buyers looking for foreclosures, short sales, and otherwise good bargains. They just finished reading on a website or watching an older YouTube video how another buyer bought a $20,000 condo or $30,000 house close to the beach and they want to come here and buy the same thing.

If you ask any agent in this market I’m sure they’d chuckle because they’re answering some of the very same calls. This is where the perception that Florida is on sale, which it is, collides with reality. The days of buying newer homes for $35,000 are over unless the home has serious defective drywall issues or is gutted. We still have some inexpensive condos for sale. For instance we just listed a bank foreclosure 1 bedroom, 1 bath condo in Mystic Gardens for $27,900 which is a bargain. These deals are becoming fewer and farther between.

Unfortunately buyers from all over are calling and expecting homes close to the beach or on the beach for ridiculously low prices. While it is true back in 2009 we had some seriously under-priced homes from some of the banks, prices have gone up considerably since then. We’re still well below replacement cost in most cases and we’re not headed back to 2005 prices anytime soon, however we are still a bargain.

Florida Real Estate Bargains

I guess there is a difference between a bargain and a steal. The steals are over, but there are fantastic bargains and opportunities in this market if you’re realistic. If a buyer is unrealistic, they’ll suffer the same fate as an unrealistic seller, which is no transaction. A buyer who fails to buy in this market is just as damaged as a seller who overprices and misses the top. While the bottom may be behind us, we’re still close enough to it that we can see it in our rear view mirror and prices today will look like a bargain years from now.

Remember back in time when someone you know once said “Gosh, I should have bought every piece of property I could get my hands on back when prices were lower?” Well, in the future I’m sure there will be those that say, “Gosh, I should have bought everything I could back in 2010 and 2011. Those were the days when there was little competition from new home builders, interest rates were at their lowest, prices were below replacement cost, and at those prices they actually cash flowed.”

It pays to be an educated consumer, whether you’re on the buying or selling end. Remember, money is always made on the “Buy”, not the sell. Inventory is going down. If you’re truly a buyer, learn the market and step up now. I bet you’ll be glad you did.

It’s kind of funny how humans follow the herd mentality. When everyone else is buying, people feel more comfortable buying at the top, but when things are down, people are scared of overpaying. Back in 2005 you were overpaying, but most felt good about their purchases. Look what prices have done since. The smart money is buying and holding today. Failure to land a property now is a wasted opportunity.

Banks Revving Up For More Short Sales

Because Bank of America is the largest servicer of residential loans in the United States, it seems quite reasonable they would have the largest number of foreclosures and for a few years that was true. A few years ago Bank of America announced it was stepping up its efforts to assist homeowners with short sales in hopes of decreasing the amount of foreclosures. It takes time to ramp up, hire, and train enough people to lighten that load, and it used to be said that Bank of America was the worst at processing short sales. That can’t be said any longer as they actually closed more short sales in 2010 than foreclosure sales, and since they automated and moved their short sale process to Equator, an online sales management software tool, the process has become streamlined and much quicker.

No, we didn’t say Ecuador, a country in South America. We said Equator, an online tool qualified agents can become certified in to assist homeowners complete sales transactions. Not every agent will handle a short sale, nor should they. A short sale is a very complex transaction where the bank, or banks, asks for specific documents to help them make a decision on whether to accept less than the full mortgage payoff.

Banks Revving Up For More Short Sales
SW Florida Listing Inventory

This is a very complicated process because there are tax implications for some homeowners and investors, and the banks may sometimes ask for deficiency judgments in others. It gets really complicated when 3rd party liens are placed on the property, like HOA liens or judgments against the creditor. These must all be identified and negotiated as part of the process.

Listing agents are reticent to list these properties as they are more time intensive, and there is no guarantee the bank will agree to a short sale. Further complicating the process, the bank surely won’t agree unless every I is dotted and T crossed to satisfy their guidelines. This generally requires a hardship letter explaining why a short sale should be considered, a letter of authorization authorizing the agent to deal with all the various debtors and lien holders, bank statements, etc. Short sales also take time, as you may be dealing with a primary lender, the investor behind that loan, FNMA, a PMI company, and perhaps a 2nd loan and investor or a home equity line of credit.

Buyer agents are also reticent to show short sales as they’ve discovered some sellers are not a candidate to sell short, or the listing agent isn’t qualified to take the sale to closing. The short sale isn’t a sale to practice on, it must be done by skilled, tireless agents with experience and extensive training with the banks. If you’re a short sale seller, be sure to interview your agent and make sure they are a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) or similar designation and have lots of experience working with different banks. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Nationstar, BSI Financial Services, ASC, and others use Equator and expect the agent to be qualified on that system. Others, like Aurora, SunTrust, Ocwen, etc. use their own proprietary system to consider a short sale and the agent must know how to reach each and identify what each lender requires. Ideally this information should be obtained at the time of listing, not when a contract is accepted as this will further delay the process. Learning on the job isn’t a great option for buyer or seller, so working with a listing agent who has experience closing these sales helps all.

Banks today are even reaching out to agents asking to help with our short sales. Two of the largest banks are sending their customers letters on how they may be able to short sale rather than lose their property to foreclosure and they’re even recommending qualified agents to assist. A short sale is not something a For Sale By Owner can do, nor is the bank looking for that.

As you can see by the graph, approximately 31% of all single family home listings today in Lee County are listed as short sale. Listing inventory is going down, and so is short sale inventory because successful short sale closings are going up.

If you’re on the brink of affording your home or property, talk to a short sale expert. It’s amazing that of the foreclosures, 71% of the homeowners never reached out to anyone for help. Help is available, and a short sale is much better on your credit. With banks today getting better at the short sale process, it pays to ask for help. Call your agent today and ask if they can help. If not, don’t hesitate to call us and we’ll see if we can get you help now so it’s not a crisis tomorrow.

The Ellis Team currently has 3 CDPE’s on staff. A CDPE is a Certified Distressed Property Expert, which requires intensive training and extensive short sale experience to attain. To help gear up for the increased short sale demand, the Ellis Team at RE/MAX recently hired Marisa Morgan who worked many years as a long time banker with Bank of America and also in the title business. For years Realtor clients came to her asking advice on how to properly package short sales so the bank would accept them. She sat down and met with several sellers so they understood the process, so it makes sense to add Marisa’s experience to SW Florida’s premiere team to help sellers sell their short sale properties.

Brett discusses short sale issues with Marisa on this week’s Future of Real Estate show entitled “Banks Gearing Up for More Short Sales in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, SW Florida” Video.

Unofficial numbers show SW Florida real estate sales rose in June. Official numbers will be reported July 20, so as we are writing this article early in the week we have to go with internal numbers that show sales rose in June even as inventory numbers fell once again.  We lost another 230 units of single family home inventory as many have been questioning where are the foreclosures banks said were coming.

From the beginning we questioned how many foreclosures would hit SW Florida as the distressed inventory directly impacts our market.  Nobody seems to have a firm answer other than to say more are coming, and we don’t doubt that.  The question is to what degree.

SW Florida Real Estate Sales
SW Florida Single Family Real Estate Sales

While sales rose in June, pending sales are down as we simply don’t have as much inventory to sell. Foreclosure sales in Fort Myers rose by 16 homes while Cape Coral foreclosures fell by 19 homes.  Lehigh Acres foreclosure sales rose by 7.

This past week we were assigned 3 more foreclosure listings, so perhaps this is the beginning of the banks being able to release inventory.  Banks have been hamstrung as legal proceedings have shown many of the banks didn’t follow proper legal procedures to foreclose on certain mortgages in certain states, and it’s caused banks to go back and start many foreclosures over and cancel hearings on others until they sort out where the mistakes were made and correct them.

In light of this legal situation, banks have increasingly been more diligent at handling and agreeing to short sales as it may take much longer for the bank/investor to be paid back partial principal if the home is tied up for months or years in foreclosure.  We feel there is no advantage to holding back inventory and the sooner we sell all distressed inventory the sooner our market can recover.  Others feel by holding back you can prop up prices.  We believe in an attempt to prop up prices you ultimately prolong the recovery and keep prices down for longer than if you just take the medicine and deal with it.

Listing Inventory in Cape Coral, Fort Myers Florida
SW Florida real Estate Single Family Home Inventory

Without naming names, we have seen some entities holding back, but this may also be that they can only show so many losses at a time on the balance sheet..  For the most part, most banks are bringing inventory to the market as quickly as they legally can.

As of today, foreclosure listing inventory is up over last month.  Fort Myers has 35 more units on the market, Cape Coral has 22 more units on the market, and Lehigh Acres has 15 more units.  This could be a sign that banks are releasing.  One month doesn’t make a trend, but it is a reversal in direction and July 2011 could be the beginning of that last wave to hit the market.

We’ve just added a new Cape Coral Real Estate Blog in German for our German readers. Be sure to check back for timely real estate information and videos in German. Sharyl Leifeld is a buyer specialist on the Ellis Team who speaks German and promotes education to German’s about the SW Florida real estate market.

 

 

Real estate agents today using video are turning to efficient ways to meet with clients and online video is fast becoming a favorite amongst clients to communicate with their agent.  Online video has been around for years, but it has come a long way recently and has become mainstream as industry giants have adopted the technology and incorporated it into their products.

Recently Facebook added video using the Skype service to its online chat, and Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all have video chat and Instant Messaging.  Video chat is now available on smart phones as iPhone and Android have incorporated video into their handsets.

Real Estate Agents Using Video
Online Video Conference

The picture shown in this article is a video application called QIK that allows smart phones on the Sprint network to place video calls, record and share videos, upload videos to a library that can be shared, or just send a video mail message.  Skype has similar features, as do Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc.  We use video conferencing over cell phones to host quick meetings amongst agents on our team when one of our agents is out in the field or can’t be face to face.

Similarly, clients love to video call as we can talk about contracts and even place items on the whiteboard for each of us to look at and talk about.  Sometimes clients have specific questions about a form or contract and it helps to have it on screen and talk about where to initial or how to sign a document.  Clients can also ask specific questions relating to a contract.

Photos can even be shared so we can talk about inspection items, details about what needs to be done with a repair, and bring all of the issues into proper context and perspective.

Agents can also use the technology to participate in webinars, and learn from other top agents from all around the country.  We’ve done video sessions where we discuss recent short sale trends regarding specific lenders, or shared foreclosure information to assist each agent’s clients obtain the foreclosure.  Agents can now share information regardless of which city they’re in and we find this useful in assisting clients. Clients are not only hiring one agent in a particular town, they’re now getting expertise from all around the country as agents have speedy access to talk to one another about particular issues.

In the old days agents would pick up the phone and call one another, or share information on groups and wait for other agents to respond.  Now agents who belong to powerful networks can video chat with one another instantly in many cases.

Agents can also post timely information up to YouTube.  Our YouTube channel is located at http://www.youtube.com/brettellisfl Many agents these days have YouTube channels in addition to websites and Blogs and are finding video is an important way to educate and communicate.  Today’s sophisticated webcams make joining a service relatively easy, and adds two way communication versus the standard way agents communicated via video on YouTube or websites.

We really believe video will replace much wasteful travel time in the future.  There is no replacement for seeing a home, but once the home is viewed an agent and client cannot always be in the same place at the same time.  For instance, a client make work odd hours, or have to go out of town for awhile and yet they may not want to wasted time waiting to return home.  Now that client can meet with their agent wherever they are in the world if the just have a webcam and an Internet connection, or simply even a smart phone.  Today’s technology is making video chat so easy and it’s free, and one day soon we’ll all look back and wonder how we lived without it for so long.

Don’t be surprised when we hear people say, “Remember the days when people used to call each other on the telephone?  Yeah, how crazy is that?”  I remember the days when fax machines were a novel idea, and people used to ask back in the mid 90’s “What’s the Internet?”  Thank goodness Al Gore invented it.  Young people today just don’t recall what life was like before the Internet, and in a few years people may have a hard time remembering life before video phone calls.

If you haven’t tried it before, the time may be now.  It’s not only a big time saver, but it’s free and fun.  We hope you have as much fun communicating with people online as we do.