Declaration of the United States of America
Declaration of Independence

The Unanimous Declaration of the United States of America

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

 

Reflection Lakes Fort Myers is a gated community in South Ft Myers consisting of 820 properties, 194 of which are single family homes and 358 are villa homes, and 268 condos. Reflection Lakes is centrally located off Summerlin Rd and Cypress Lake Dr with entrances from both.

Perhaps Reflection Lakes greatest beauty is the fact that it abuts Lakes Regional Park full of pristine views and wildlife. Reflection Lakes residents even have their own private entrance into Lakes Park.

Home prices are down significantly from their highs back in 2005, as all neighborhoods are. Currently there are homes priced from $145,000 to $629,700 on the market. The highest sales price for a home in 2011 has been $510,000.

Condos on the market currently range from $119,900 to $219,000. The highest condo sales price in 2011 was $185,000.

Reflection Lakes Fort Myers
4 Bedroom 3 Bath Home in Reflection lakes

The home pictured above is currently listed by the Ellis Team for $280,000 and is located in the Las Palmas section of Reflection Lakes, formerly known as the Estates II section. The home has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and has 2433 square feet of living area. The kitchen features granite counter tops, and the home has a large private back yard with lake views. The home also has hurricane shutters.

Another amenity residents love is the clubhouse. Reflection Lakes offers clay tennis courts, a bocce court, a full sized basketball court, volleyball court, putting green, and an oversized pool with waterfall along with a children’s pool.

Reflection Lakes Exercise Room in Fort Myers Florida

 

Billiard Room in Reflection Lakes

Reflection Lakes Billiard Room

 

Inside the clubhouse is an exercise room with state of the art professional workout equipment, a card room, billiard room, and a banquet room with full kitchen. The community enjoys many community events as the residents have an active recreation committee planning wonderful events year round.

Clay Tennis Courts in Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Florida
Reflection Lakes Clay Tennis Courts

Reflection Lakes is very stable financially which makes it attractive for buyers and lenders. Lenders today are skittish about lending when there are many homes in foreclosure or a certain number are unoccupied investor units. Reflection Lakes is primarily owner occupied or seasonal residents which makes getting a mortgage easier for borrowers. Fees are low and cable TV is included. Lawn mowing is included in the Villa homes and of course all condos.

We enjoy bringing you market stats and timely real estate information that impacts the market each week. To shake it up a bit, we thought every once in awhile it would be nice to update you on what’s happening in a specific community. Stay tuned and one day you just might see your community featured here.

Volleyball Court at Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Florida
Reflection Lakes Volleyball Court

 

 

Basket Ball Court at Reflection Lakes in Fort Myers Florida
Reflection Lakes Basketball Court

SW Florida home sale prices in Lee County single family home sales shot up another 16.68% over the previous month and were up 17.14% over last April’s figures as reported by the Florida Association of Realtors. Year to date home prices are up 34.35% bucking the national trend.

SW Florida Home Sale Prices
SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices 2009-2011

Buyers are astonished to see prices rising like this and inventory is shrinking. It should not come as a big surprise though to readers as we’ve been explaining for months why this would occur. It is simple supply and demand. Demand is still high for affordable homes both from prospective homeowners and investors who can actually cash flow properties right now based upon today’s prices and interest rates.

Typically in the housing cycle buyers try to wait until they perceive bottom and then scoop in and buy. Unfortunately you never really know when you’ve seen the bottom until you see it in the rear view mirror. I’m always amazed at the buyers in a hurry after they feel they’ve missed the bottom who low ball properties with one last try to make up for every last penny they were trying to save on the buy.

This makes about as much sense as the seller who over-prices his home by 20% just after the market has turned and headed down. Sellers never want to get caught chasing the market down, and buyers don’t want to get caught chasing the market up.

Unfortunately we’re seeing buyers chasing the market up and low balling offers only to lose out to another buyer and starting the process all over again. Buyers need to realize they’re not in competition with the seller, they actually in competition with all the other buyers out there. Supply of inventory has shrunk so there is less available property to go around for all the buyers out there. If sales go down later this year it won’t be due to lack of buyers, but rather lack of inventory.

We are expecting more foreclosure listings in the future although we’re not expecting a mass dumping of properties here in SW Florida because we believe we’ve seen the lion’s share of the investor properties that flooded the market the past several years. Instead, we believe we’ll see an influx of foreclosures on “Average Joes” who have lost their job or become underemployed due to the poor economy.

If our view is correct, and if we don’t see any major wildcards affecting the housing market, prices could maintain a slow pace upward until we see more inventory. Sellers have no competition from builders because there is little building activity at these price points. That will change once prices go higher, but the question is how long will it take to get to that point?

The outlook for sellers looks brighter unless you’re looking for a return to 2005 prices which isn’t happening anytime soon. Buyers need to decide if they’re serious and look to buy their 1st choice or their 5th choice. You can educate yourself by reading articles like this or speaking with your Realtor about what’s REALLY going on in your market. If you decide to take this advice, you might just have a chance at that 1st choice. If you’re the type that likes the do-it-yourself home study course, you might be looking down the barrel of your 5th choice. Either way, the market controls your direction and you control when and where you arrive.

The Ellis Team has just released it’s Fort Myers Cape Coral Florida Real Estate Update Video May 2011 covering the Fort Myers Florida and Cape Coral Florida areas. Prices are up over 15%, inventory is down, pending sales are up, and distressed sales are down. The video includes charts and analysis to bring you up to date on exactly what is happening today in the SW Florida real estate market.

 

On April 17 rates are going up. How do we know the date? We know because that’s the date fees change under guidelines designed to attract private money into the lending system and reduce or eliminate FNMA, GNMA, and Freddie Mac, the three quasi-governmental agencies that insure mortgages and bundle them for securitization. They’re not really governmental, but they might as well be as the government has funded them until now. They are private companies that pay investors profit, but tax payer funded when they lose money, so something had to change.

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market
Interest Rates Will Rise in April

So what is changing? First off, rates are going up. This will increase yields, which will attract banks, hedge funds, and other large sources of capital into the market. Large companies will actually compete to make more of this money. A lot of money has been bottled up sitting on the sidelines and this may be the conduit to free up that money.

When rates go up, home prices usually go down. Not so fast! In this case, prices could eventually rise. Many ask how this could be. The answer is complicated, but noteworthy, so we’ll do our best to explain.

Under the new guidelines to get the best priced loans, borrowers will have to put more down. The old 20% down will now be 30% down. However, credit scores will also be lowered for qualifying. Imagine many of those people that sold via short sale being told they wouldn’t qualify by FNMA for 5 years. It turns out they may be eligible after just 12 months under certain conditions.

While rates may go from 4 7/8% today to possibly 6.5% in April, more people will qualify. We still have FHA for low down payment options. Some people are predicting another real estate boom coming sooner than later nationwide as pent-up demand for housing intensifies, and more borrowers being eligible to purchase.

Imagine having a 540 credit score and being able to purchase a home. Those days may be coming again, if you can scrape together a down payment. Home prices are artificially too low in SW Florida and are in fact below replacement cost. This has caused multiple bidding situations for prestigious properties in short supply even in the upper price ranges in certain parts. Naples and Bonita have experienced a resurgence in prices, and many feel this is bleeding north up into Estero and Fort Myers. We are currently being driven by 2nd home buyers looking for deals.

As prices get closer to replacement cost, building will begin to pickup, which will bring jobs. As the SW Florida economy grows, the real estate market could gain traction very quickly, especially with Snow Birds and existing residents qualifying sooner than expected for their next mortgage.

Keep in mind 7,000-10,000 people are retiring or entering the social security income stream everyday. Florida stands to gain from the Baby Boom generation relocating or buying 2nd homes.

Many on Wall Street are anxious to cash in on the looming change to the capital markets coming in April. In fact, Wall St is waiting like a tiger to pounce. Some are predicting a feeding frenzy for housing and rapid price gains.

Some people believe the change to FNMA and Freddie Mac will damage the markets by increasing borrowing costs and raising down payment requirements. Others believe borrowing was next to impossible anyway the last few years and banks only lent to those who really didn’t need it. I don’t know who is right, but I will say if we open the door for more people to buy, the market could recover quicker than most expect.

2011 could really be a year to watch and keep an eye on the financing markets. If Wall Street gets greedy like last time, it could be a boom for real estate. The difference is, FNMA and Freddie Mac, and the US taxpayer won’t bail out bad loans, only systemic losses due to financial meltdowns. Hopefully we’ll enjoy the next boom with no meltdown, and higher down payments will help with that. If our markets stabilize like we think they will, even low down payments won’t affect the market because the market won’t be in freefall, and we’ll be adding jobs to the economy versus losing 8 million like we’ve done the past 3 years.

Bottom line, keep an eye out for sunny days ahead in the real estate market and we just might see them sooner rather than later. And mark your calendars for April 17. This will be the beginning of something. Time will judge the ending.

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

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.

This month is particularly interesting to study the latest real estate statistics as we really wanted to see what effects if any the foreclosure moratoriums would have on the market, and already we’re seeing some interesting data.  Watching these stats move feels similar to watching a heart monitor and patient’s vital signs.  I guess these statistics are the vital signs of our local market, so let’s dig in and see what the signs are telling us.

October Distressed Sales Chart Lee County Florida Real Estate
October 2010 Distressed Sales Chart- SW Florida

Some of these statistics interact with each other in a cause and effect way.  For instance, some foreclosure listings were pulled in October and distressed sales were down in October.  Distressed sales were up in Cape Coral, partly because foreclosure closings rose by 34 sales, and partly because short sale closings rose by 14.  Everywhere else short sales and foreclosure sales were down.

Inventory levels rose in Fort Myers 3.12%, but fell in Cape Coral and Lehigh.  Countywide inventory levels are up less than 1% from the previous month.

Closings were down about 8.45% in October from September levels.  Fort Myers sales were down 16.49%, Lehigh down 20.21%, but Cape Coral was up 6.88% over the previous month.  Cape Coral can be explained by the increase in foreclosure sales and short sales, and this may account for why the rest of the county’s sales were down as well, because the rest of the county’s distressed sales dropped.  So there seems to be that cause and effect in play we mentioned earlier.

Going forward pending sales are up county wide, and Lehigh Acres leads the way with pending sales up 5.44% over pending sales last month.  Cape Coral is up 1.92%, and Fort Myers is flat.  We track pending sales as pendings lead to closings, however not all pending sales close, so it’s just a vital sign we track.

We have noticed an up tick in buyer call activity and Internet traffic, so there is definitely buying interest in our market.  Banks have begun to release the foreclosure moratorium, so inventory levels may stabilize which will help transactions move forward.

Total distressed sales have fallen 4 straight months, but this could change as inventory levels have been driving sales numbers.  Demand is in the market and this is a case whereby supply is dictating certain aspects of the market.  Any disruptions to supply will temporarily affect sales numbers, and this should not be misinterpreted as decreased demand.  This past month’s results were supply driven.

Keep in mind these are internal tracking we compile and not official sales numbers which won’t be released until next week.

Where will the market head from here?  We believe supply will even out as banks get on top of some of the affidavit issues which plagued some of their foreclosures, and it may force some banks to work a little harder at completing short sales, which would be a good thing.

We are heading into season, and if this year is anything like last year, there was serious demand from our northern friends last season which could bode well again for this season.  This season “Feels” a lot like last season, as traffic has picked up on our roadways, as has real estate traffic, phone calls, and Internet traffic.  This season could be a chance to work down even more inventory, and it would be nice if that excess distressed inventory is available while the visitors are here rather than gracing our presence after they leave.  We’d just as soon sell and dispose of it now than have it come back and haunt us later when the demand might be less.

When it comes to supply, I say “Bring it on”.  We don’t feel holding it back shadow inventory serves any greater good and only prolongs agony later.  Others may disagree and argue that saturating the market further drives down prices, but so does an expanded process.

Ask anyone in the job market if they’d rather have a very deep recession lasting 3 years or a deep recession lasting 6 years.  I think most would rather take their medicine and get it over with so the healing can begin sooner rather than later.  Here in SW Florida we’ve been dealing with a declining market for 5 years now, and many would like to just get it over and begin that healing process.  We don’t want banks or government deciding to prolong the agony SW Florida has suffered for 5 years, as jobs and our local economy takes its cue from real estate.  The sooner we heal this market, the sooner construction jobs and the economy bounces back, and who wouldn’t be in favor of that in SW Florida bout now, or anywhere for that matter?

Visitors are here, pending sales are rising, and inventory is stabilizing, so let’s hope for a great season and a good 2011.

Like anything else, buying at auction can be a good deal, or a rotten deal depending on what you buy and what the terms are.  While there can be upside at an auction sale, the downside is much more frightening and should never be attempted without proper advice and education.

Is Buying at Auction a Good Deal
Is Buying a Home at Auction Always a Good Deal?

Each month we see big auctions advertised on billboards, newspapers and such touting bargains.  I’ve attended several auctions and I’ve learned many things.  In this article I’ll attempt to educate you on some of the things to watch out for that you might not know about.

Is Buying at Auction a Good Deal?

At one auction I noticed a group of people in front and another group in back.  One group kept bidding up the property to prices higher than market value and I wondered why.  Later on I discovered that when they won the bid for some reason they didn’t finalize a contract and the property went back out for re-bid.  This happened as many as 2-3 times per property.  At the end of the night when the crowd had thinned the property was purchased for much less by an investor who really wanted the property.  Essentially it was off the market all night tied up in contract sessions.

Another thing to look out for is reserve versus absolute auction.  An absolute auction means the property will be sold to highest bidder no matter what.  If it’s reserve, you never really know what the reserve is and they try and negotiate with you after you’re awarded the winning bid, so be prepared.

If you’re buying a condominium, or even in a homeowners association for that matter, I would look not only at the property, but also the association.  You may purchase and be the only one paying condo or HOA dues.  This may also make it impossible to sell your property to anyone but a cash buyer as lenders will not lend if the association doesn’t meet certain requirements.

Many are surprised to learn that the title work isn’t sufficient to actually sell the property.  Some have learned they may need to file suit to Quiet Title after they receive what they thought was good title to property.  There is a difference between insurable title and marketable title, and title policies today can exempt many things leaving you the purchaser holding the bag.

The property may also have many defects that aren’t known or get lost in the shuffle, and the buyer inherits them.  At one particular auction I’ve attended, once you put down your non-refundable deposit, you lose it regardless of whether you cannot get the mortgage (even if they promised to give you one at the auction) or if the property has major defects.  You simply MUST inspect the property beforehand or you will most likely be surprised afterwards.  I saw one home when the back half of the home was missing, and the buyer lost their deposit of 10%.  Additionally, if the air conditioner gets stolen prior to closing or damage occurs to property between auction and closing, it’s the buyer’s responsibility, so you are taking All the risks.

You also want to research code enforcement liens, fines for improper permitting, etc.  I had a house listed in Cape Coral with about $70,000 in fines, and a lot in Cape Coral with over $90,000 in fines by code enforcement.  We recently sold a $20,000 lot in Ft Myers with over $200,000 in fines.  In each case we rectified the problems before closing or didn’t close at all in the latter case, but this would not be true at an auction as the buyer would be stuck assuming those fees.

I attended one auction whereby the winning bidder put down their 10% and agreed to finance the unit through the bank at the auction.  They were approved on the spot for financing.  The problem is the property did not qualify because too many people weren’t paying their dues, and the loan was denied on that basis.  The new lender was the same lender selling the property at this foreclosure auction.  The lender obviously knew the property did not meet FNMA guidelines but they sold it to a buyer obtaining financing anyway, and in fact approved their loan.  The buyer was astonished to learn that after being approved, they were later denied, and their escrow deposit was being retained by the seller (the bank) for non-performance of the contract.

Like we said in the first paragraph, sometimes a good deal isn’t a good deal when it’s rotten.  You must thoroughly investigate the property, the association, the contract, the market, the financing, and the title work before you bid or you run the risk of being let down later.

If everything checks out to your satisfaction upfront, we would also encourage you to set limits on what you’re willing to offer so you don’t get caught up in the moment and overpay, only to find out later it doesn’t appraise and your loan is denied and deposit forfeited, unless of course you’re a cash buyer and don’t mind paying too much.

Like anything, an auction is just another way to buy and sell, and no matter which vehicle you use, please be sure to work with professionals and do your homework upfront.  You’ll be glad you did later.  Happy house hunting!