Ellis Team to Appear on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Regarding Fort Myers Housing Affordability

Ellis Team to Appear on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Regarding Fort Myers Housing Affordability

Brett Ellis of The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group will appear this week on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  The focus will be on buyer affordability in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral housing market, and how buyers have begun purchasing in 2008 as affordability has come back to the market.  Home sales in July were up 80% over last year, and up 32% in August over last year.

This should be a positive story about the SW Florida real estate market.  The show will air Wednesday October 8, 2008 at 6:30 PM ET

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NBC Today Show Interviews Ellis Team in Fort Myers

 

NBC Today Show Interviews Ellis Team in Fort Myers

The Ellis Team was featured on the NBC Today Show regarding the presidential election.  Florida has been identified as a battleground state, and the housing market will play a vital role in how people select the next president.  The Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Lehigh Acres area have been identified as the epicenter of what happened in Florida, and NBC wanted to come here and report on what is happening today.

Click here to watch the viddeo.  The good news is that home sales were up 80% over July 2007 numbers and up 41% over August 2007 numbers, so even though prices are lower, buyers are back in the market scooping up properties because they are affordable.

Foreclosures have been highest in Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres where speculators built many homes in hopes of flipping to other investors or end users, but the speculators overbuilt for the current demand.  Fort Myers has been hit with some foreclosures, but nothing like the Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres area.  For detailed statistics on the SW Florida housing market, visit our housing statistics page.

 

The latest Fort Myers Cape Coral SW Florida real estate Current Market Index has been released today and the overall Fort Myers Cape Coral housing index numbers fell to 7.75, from 7.88 the month prior.  Cape Coral again led the way as Cape’s index fell to 6.38 while Fort Myers stands at 13.76.  The lower the number the more favorable it is for sellers, and the higher the number the more favorable for buyers.

Current Market Index for Fort Myers Cape Coral Area

 

Fort Myers Cape Coral SW Florida real estate current market index chart

Lee County listing inventory for single family homes remained steady at 15,530 up a mere 7 homes from last month, and pending sales increased to 1,617, up from 1,546 in August.  The overall Lee County Florida Current Market Index is at 9.60 in September, down from 10.04 in August.  The September condo index stands at 20.21, up from 19.27 in August.

These numbers tell us the overall market is basically holding steady to slightly improving since August, and should bode well for closings in future months.  It also tells us that so far the market has been absorbing the influx of foreclosures and selling them as they are not adding to inventory supply.  This is another positive sign as the local SW Florida real estate market would be in trouble if the foreclosure activity added to inventory supplies.  The large number of foreclosures is however keeping the supply where it is and preventing it from declining.

About a month ago Reflection Lakes was considering a very bad policy for access to its gate system that would have impaired Realtors ability to show homes, which in turn would impair sellers ability to sell their homes in an already tough real estate environment.  You can read more about that past policy at Reflection Lakes Gate Policy Bad For Home Sales?

The new policy allows the gate to call an agent’s cell phone number so the agent can allow access once another Realtor get’s to the gate.  And there in lies another real problem.  I spoke with a board member prior to the last meeting, and when the board member proposed this idea as a possible solution I told him it wasn’t a good idea.

Here is the issue.  Busy Realtors don’t use their cell phones for incoming calls or showings.  The Ellis Team alone receives on average 80 calls per hour, and this doesn’t even include calls to setup showings which go to a separate showing desk to be logged into our computer system for propert tracking.  RE/MAX receives many calls too, and we have many receptionists to take those calls.

It would be very rude for us to answer our cell phones each time someone called the office.  Just imagine a buyer working with an agent, but instead of being able to talk to that agent one on one for a few hours while viewing homes or negotiating a contract, the agent was answering their cell phone multiple times per minute.  Some of these calls would be for showing feedback, others might be from other clients, others might be from the title company or mortgage company, and now a new call to open a gate.

Keep in mind the agent may be on a listing appointment.  Again, this potential sellers wants quality time with the agent they’re thinking about hiring, and they want to ask tough questions.  People hate being interrupted by someone else’s cell pone every 2 seconds.  It’s just rude to do that to someone.  Now the Reflection Lakes gate calls the agent’s cell phone.  The agent may be unaware of whom this Realtor is or if they really have an appointment, because the agent isn’t at their office, and would have to make another call to the showing desk to find out.

Sellers don’t want to list with agents who have nothing else to do but setup showings or sit around and wait for the phone to ring.  Those aren’t the Realtor’s selling properties today.  And what if the Realtor is on another line when that gate request comes through?  What if that Realtor is on vacation?  Realtors take vacations too, but the agent who doesn’t have a showing system in place with their company will lose showings.

Ultimately it will be the homeowner who will be hurt by this policy.  Realtors should have a code that works to get into the gate.  Adding a bunch more bureaucracy and phone calls won’t help the situation.  Reflection Lakes won’t even allow this gate request to go to agent’s company, the very people who setup and manage the showings.  It must go to a cell phone.

We have a tremendous gate problem in Reflection Lakes.  When it was sold to us we were told we they picked the best gate company because repairs and maintenance would be less because this was a quality system.  We didn’t know the gates would be so slow, and that the software wasn’t capable of keeping up because of phone transmission problems.  Now it’s becoming a big issue just getting data to and from the gates.  Adding a cell phone policy for Realtors won’t solve this.  The truth is it’s a technical problem in the phone lines.  If it’s just too much data, then we need a better software system.  You would think for the money we paid for the gates the speed of the gates and the software would be sufficient.

Through July of 2008 the Ellis Team has sold and closed 154 homes.  This is a tough environment, and agents are having to work harder and more skillfully to put deals together, and keep them together.  At an average of 80 calls per hour, you can see there’s not a lot of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring time.  And there’s certainly no sitting around waiting for the cell phone to ring just so we can let someone in Reflection Lakes who may or may not have an appointment to see one of our listings.  If the board is going to take the time to adjust these policies, and speak with Realtors about what works and what doesn’t, at least listen to the advice you get instead of acting unilaterally.  I know the board has tough decisions to make with this gate that doesn’t seem to quite work like it was promised, but please for the sake of our homeowners, take all the facts into account before making the problem worse.

I really don’t believe the security of our community is being jeopardized by Realtors having access to the gates via a code.  The Realtors have access to the insides of homes, so why would you be afraid to give access to the gate? 

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group is hosting another free SW Florida real estate short sale seminar on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 7 PM  We will teach buyers how to effectively purchase properties in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and all of Southwest Florida at or below fair market value.

Registration is FREE, and you must call our office at 239-489-4042 as seating is limited.

SW Florida real estate market numbers released today by the Florida Association of Realtors show a continuing decline in the real estate market, which comes as no surprise as we posted our Ellis Team CMI Index numbers back on October 16 that suggested this would be the case.

Single family home sales fell to 327 in September, down from 520 in August, and 693 last September.  Single family home prices fell to $231,600 this September, and was down 7.7 percent from August’s $250,800 and down 11% from last September’s $261,400.

Single family home sales were the good news.  Condo sales fared worse, also predictable due to the CMI Index numbers released a few weeks ago.  Condo sales were 102 this September 2007, up from 96 in August, but down from 168 last year.  Prices for condos were up to $224,000, up from $218,800 in August, and down from $231,600.  The bad news for condos isn’t the prices or sales levels, it is the sales levels as compared to the level of inventory on the market.

Even with the poor numbers, they can partially be explained by seasonality, and partially by overall weakness.  See SW Florida single family home sales graph 2005-2007. To view sales prices , see SW Florida single family home price graph 2005-2007.

The Outlook going forward actually is brighter than the numbers indicate.  For the first time in a long while buyers are getting excited again, and are venturing out looking at homes.  For some, it is simply becuase home prices are back in their affordability range.  For others, it’s the sense that now may be the time to buy as prices have come down so much, and they’re feeling confident again going forward.

 

SW Florida Building Permits Slowed From Record Levels in 2005. Permit activity in the SW Florida real estate market was off compared to record 2005 levels. Builders are less likely to pull permits for speculation construction with the amount of resale inventory on the market, and investors looking to flip for a quick buck have dried up.  That leaves builders with the normal buyer contracts, and even that has slowed from 2005 levels.

In 2005 buyers bought new construction at record levels for a few reasons.  First, because there was a severe shortage of homes on the market, and new construction was Plan B and served as backup inventory.  Secondly, investors liked buying at pre-construction prices, and the building process gave them time to find a buyer for that home so they could make a nice profit without hopefully ever having to own the home.  Investors serve as financiers so to speak and helped speed up supply.

Demand from end users never changed very much.  We had artificial demand which the investors created, which made the market appear much better than it really was.  While we had artificial demand, we now have Real Supply.  When you mix Real supply with Normal demand, you have a Buyers Market.

Buyers are in the driver’s seat, no question.  The only question is the speed at which they are driving, and how long it will last.  We are starting to see signs of increased buyer activity.  This is welcomed news for many.  Many buyers were sitting on the sideline waiting for somebody to give the “All Clear, it’s OK to buy now signal.”

Many buyers have heard the signal and are stepping back in.  The market may not be All Clear in all segments; however we are seeing very nice activity in certain segments.

Mixed Messages:  Many buyers think when they hear the words “Buyer’s Market” that they own the road.  Buyers still need to be aware that many properties are pried very well.  Those sellers are successful at selling in this market.  It’s not like we don’t have any buyers, we certainly do.  We have normal buyer activity just like we’ve always had.  Because the best properties always sell, buyers are not in competition with the seller for those properties.  Buyers are in competition with other buyers who will scoop up the property and steal it from them.

So, if you’re a buyer and see a property you like and is priced well, don’t sit too long.  The best values are selling, and you’ll be on your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th choice before you know it.  The only good news is that if you can live with your 2nd -4th choice, they are there for you this year.  Last year you didn’t have a 4th choice.

Single family home sales in the Fort Myers Cape Coral real estate market dropped 36% from 2005 levels in September, down from 1,075 sales last year to 693 sales this year. SW Florida Real Estate Market Report shows median prices dropped 9% since last year from $288,700 down to $261,400

Sales actually increased since August 2006 from 691 to 693 sales.  Prices remained relatively steady since August 2006.  September prices came in at $261,400, down from $264,100 in August.

Single family home sales and prices in Lee County seem to have leveled off, and this could be a silver lining.  Many national experts predicted sales prices would fall in SW Florida about 18% from it’s all-time high.  We’ve already seen a 15-20% price drop, so then end may be near.  Inventory is still rising, and pending sales have dropped slightly, not encouraging news.

What is encouraging is the rate of homes coming on the market is dropping, and the decrease in pending activity is dropping as well, signaling a leveling off may occur sometime in the future.  Showings have also actually increased, which could lead to an increase in pending sales down the road.

Additionally, pending sales are picking up in other parts of the country, which may affect home buyers looking to purchase here.  We still have a lot of inventory, but there are some really great buys out there now awaiting home buyers, and we think now is the time for buyers to pounce.  We won’t know exactly when the market has hit bottom and starts to go back up.  What we can say is that there are definite signs a leveling off maybe close at hand.  Until that leveling off actually occurs and we start eating into existing inventory levels, we can’t officially say we’re at the bottom.  Stay tuned.

Condo sales in Lee County were off 52% from 126 sales in September 2005 to 61 in 2006.  Sales prices of condos in Lee County were down 3% from $314,800 in September 2005 to $305,600 in 2006

Collier County single family home sales were down 37% from 377 in September 2005 to 236 in September 2006.  Sale prices were down 8% from $487,500 last year to $446,900.  Naples condo sales were down 62% from 456 condo sales last year to 173 this year.  Sale prices were actually up 4% from $365,700 last year to $378,600

We think this is partly the reason sales in Naples are down because sellers haven’t reacted as quickly to changing prices as sellers have in Lee County.  We believe sales are much closer to leveling off in Lee County than they are in Collier County because of this fact.  Affordability and price are a much larger issue in today’s market.  It’s total cost of ownership, not just the price.  As homeowners insurance goes up, property taxes goes up, interest rates, gas, etc it eventually weighs down on buyers.  There is too much price disparity right now between Naples and Fort Myers.  Soon you will see another rush of buyers purchasing in Lee County because Collier County is just so expensive.

Naples is a beautiful place to live, as is Fort Myers,  The address won’t matter as much going forward as price will.  Collier County is poised to lose buyers to Lee County, just as Lee County will lose some buyers to Charlotte County for the same reasons.  Housing affordability.

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Or is it Residential roof tops Vs. Commercial businesses in downtown Fort Myers real estate?

This is the question.  Retailers, bars, and restaurants needs consumers, and consumers want businesses before they decide to live in an area.  This scenario has been playing out for the better part of 3 years now.  Investors have lined up and purchased units, however downtown needs end users for a vibrant business climate.

This could all be about to change, just not overnight.  It’s still a process, and we’re in the middle of it now.  Within 5 years we’ll see significant change.  The issue is how many are willing to wait, and for how long?

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on downtown Fort Myers development in the future.