Each week we spend a lot of time analyzing the local market which is important to study even though we all know we don’t operate in a bubble.  We’ve always maintained that our market is influenced by the state and national economy, tourism, interest rates, taxation, and markets up North among other things.

RE/MAX national Housing Report

So let’s take a look at the national market.  Fortunately RE/MAX publishes a national housing report.  RE/MAX collects data on 53 metro housing market including markets such as Chicago IL, Providence RI, Miami FL, Boise ID, Phoenix AZ, Detroit MI, Pittsburgh PA, Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, Denver CO, Orlando FL and several others which should give a pretty good cross section of the country.

National Real Estate Market Improving

The monthly study compares data from the previous month and from the previous year.  This month’s report shows transactions nationwide are up 5% over last year and median prices are up 3.7% from $163,995 last June to $170,067 this June.

Prices Rise, Sales Increase
Healthy Gains

Days on the market for homes sold dropped significantly to 84 days in the 53 metro markets. This is down 8 days from May 2012 and down 6 days from June 2011.  Inventory nationwide has dropped significantly which is forcing buyers to compete with other buyers.

Days on Market Nationwide
Days on market Fall

All this news could be good news again for SW Florida.  Last season many buyers came down and looked at properties, and several bought.  We had an excellent season.  Others needed to go back home, sell a property and get their finances in order before they could make the move to SW Florida.  Still others want to take out an equity loan against their Northern home to purchase a second home down here.  In any event, lower inventory and rising prices help our Northern friends who are interested in purchasing down here.

And it helps next year’s crop who will visit our area.  They’ll have more confidence in the market up North which can spur many of them to also consider a move to SW Florida.

Baby boomers aren’t getting any younger and sometimes the only thing standing in their way is having a house to sell or borrow against before purchasing.  This bright housing report helps in that regard.

Having election results out of the way in November may help as well.  There is much uncertainty in Congress and the White House.  Will we have national health care?  Will big cuts go into effect in certain markets Jan 1?  Will taxes go up on small business owners?  Will companies ship US jobs overseas because it’s too expensive here in the US?  Hopefully many of these answers will come in November and next season will be good as well.

What happens in the US economy influences the national real estate market.  Taxes influence the market.  Capital gains rates are set to go up in January which could hurt the market.  We have so many things at stake in November that will influence every one of us in various ways.

Florida truly is a trickle down state.  What happens up North affects us down here.  We’ll keep studying the local market, and occasionally we’ll report on the national scene as well simply because it matters.  If it matters to you, it matters to us.

In the meantime things are looking up.  Let’s keep the momentum going.  We like the direction.  Good luck and Happy House Hunting!


We thought since we know so many of the very top and most experienced agents nationwide it would be great if we could post market updates from around the country.  Here is a list of market updates you might find useful.  We post these without regards to company affiliation.  These agents are known for doing a great job in their market.

National Agent Reports

National Real Estate Market Improving

Minneapolis/ St Paul MN    Video Market Update by Steve Westmark

Louisville KY Market Update by Bob Sokoler

Naples FL Market Improves by Greg Gorman of Team Paradise

Dallas/Fort Worth, Southlake TX by Kellee Heldoorn

Eugene and Springfield OR By Galand Haas

Overland Park and Kansas City KS by Cindy DiCianni

Mandeville LA by Wayne Turner

Orlando FL market Reports  Celebration FL,  Windemere FL,  Kissimmee FL by Teri Isner

Central PA by Don Roth

Charlotte NC by Diane Honeycutt

San Mateo County CA by Samia Morgan

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina by Tim Burrell

Fort Myers – Cape Coral FL by Brett Ellis

Lately agents have been complaining about Condo or Homeowners Associations being difficult to work with to obtain numbers to payoff associations to put a short sale closing together.  To give readers a little perspective, here is the process of a short sale.

Association Management Companies Causing More Foreclosures

Partial List of Association Company Fees
SW Florida Association Fee Chart

Once a buyer is found and contract is negotiated it is sent to the seller’s bank for consideration to take less than the full proceeds to payoff the loan.  The bank asks us to put together a sample HUD closing statement.  To do this, we along with the title company estimate a closing date, pro-rate for taxes and any other costs that would go on the statement.  A lender will not allow the seller to receive any money from the closing, so this statement must match almost exactly.  We plug in the payoff on the loans last and the bank decides whether they’ll take the payoff.

Are Association Management Companies Causing More Foreclosures

We must put in the HOA fees, and there in lies the problem, HOA and Condo Associations won’t tell you how much is owed without paying them a fee.  Keep in mind it’s in everyone’s best interest to get the deal closed so another happy homeowner can begin paying fees.  If the property goes to foreclosure, the Association has some rights to recover some past fees, but only to a certain point.  Many times the association loses money in unpaid fees. There are Florida Statutes that cover this and we won’t cover that in this article.

HOA’s and condo associations typically contract with CAM”S (Common Asset Property Manager’s) to manage their association.  There is still a board of directors and officers, but the day to day management falls to a management company unless an association is self managed.  Typically the Board interviews and hires a company based upon tasks, and fees among other things.  The management company will quote a fee, let’s say $50,000 in this hypothetical example to manage the association, hire the landscapers, collect HOA fees, and all the things an association must do. The list goes on and on.

What the Board doesn’t always consider are the hidden fees a management company charges, like estoppel letter fees.  An Estoppel letter is the formal instrument that tells the title company how much is owed by the owner so the property can be closed.  Typically the short seller is having money problems and this is why they can’t pay their mortgage or HOA fees.  They are trying to sell, but the HOA fees and legal fees keep mounting.

So when an owner cannot pay the estoppel fee so the file can be closed, it sometimes forces the property to foreclosure.  Here is a list of fees some of these companies charge to tell you how much you owe.  As you can see, they charge a certain fee nd make you wait, but if you upgrade and pay more they’ll tell you sooner.

Most even charge more after 30 days to update the fee.  It typically takes the bank longer than 30 days to approve the short sale, so more fees are almost guaranteed.

Now, the HOA or condo association doesn’t keep that money.  You guessed it, that money stays with the management company, so it’s a profit center for them.  They get paid either way a management fee to run the association.  The HOA or condo may lose money by prolonging things, but the management company doesn’t.

Keep in mind many people belong to multiple associations, so these fees may be doubled or tripled.  Also, if a homeowner is in default, they may owe an estoppel fee to the law firm in addition to the management companies.

If more Boards asked better questions when interviewing management companies they’d save their property values from declining further and the association’s financial situation would be much better off.  Keep in mind, everyone else pays when someone in trouble isn’t.  HOA fees for everyone would be less if they didn’t have to make up for those that aren’t paying.  And less foreclosures leads to higher prices in a community, so everyone but the management company has a vested interest in providing this information quickly and painlessly.

Extra fees are the dirty little secret in association management people aren’t aware of until it hits them.  Nobody is saying a company who does good work like CAM’s do shouldn’t be paid nicely for their work.  I’d rather see them be upfront about it and quote it in their bid instead of complicating things on the back end when time is of the essence.

These companies will tell you it costs them to look up and report these fees.  Does it really cost them a lot more to look them up quicker?  How long does it take an employee to check the computer?

We’ve included a chart that shows recent transactions encountered and the fees that were charged. This chart is by no means complete.  Next time you go to your HOA or condo meeting, you might ask your board to look into this.  If you’re wondering if it’s really an issue, call your agent or title company and ask them their opinion.


In the old days agents would ask sellers to come into their office in hopes that the seller would be so impressed they’d select the Realtor they were going to list with on the spot.  This was a good strategy, and if a Realtor stands out from the crowd by a wide margin, why wouldn’t a seller be impressed?  Some Realtors even refused to visit the seller’s property until the seller selected them as their agent.  While this may seem a little over the top, some Realtors actually used this strategy with some success.

Listing Presentations Going Mobile
90% of Homebuyers Now Shop on the Internet to Buy a Home

Listing Presentations Going Mobile

Today there is no reason an agent cannot do both!  With the advent of Tablets like the iPad or an Android Tablet an agent can now bring the office to the seller.  It’s quite easy to show your office, how you work, and how you market in a mobile world.  If the agent works and negotiates contracts in a mobile world, why can’t they list in a mobile world?

The truth is they can, and they should.  The two most important ingredients in a successful home sale is the relationship between the seller and the listing agent, and the property itself.  The agent’s office really doesn’t matter.

33% Repeat Buyers Find Their Agent on Internet
How do Buyers Find Their Agent

Oh, we’re proud of our physical office and all the things we can show a buyer or seller from the office.  However, many times offers have come in while I’m out of town or away on appointment and I’ve been able to look at the offer, make changes, negotiate, and close the sale, all in the amount of time it would have taken to drive back across town from the appointment and begin that process.  The office never entered into the equation.

Sure, we have a team of assistants back at the office assisting us, but that had nothing to do with negotiating the offer.  Just the same, we no longer feel the need to show a seller the office and meet the team before listing their home.  We can bring the team to the seller.  We even have powerful video conferencing we can utilize with our sellers and our team.

A seller can surely list a home without going to an agent’s office, but it’s pretty tough for an agent to list a home without seeing the sellers home. Pricing the home depends on condition, functionality, upgrades, etc.  There is no substitute for viewing the home.

You have to ask yourself, am I listing my home or listing the agent’s office?  We all know the answer is the home, so why not focus there?

You’re also hiring an agent, so it’s important to ask questions, such as how will you market my home?  Why should I hire you?  What do you bring to the table that another Realtor doesn’t?  Show me examples.

Some things are just hard to show on paper.  So much marketing today is online or the print is not the standard 8 1/2 x 11.  I remember the days when we used to handout 80 page packets explaining the sales process and our team.  Those days are now gone.

An agent today can show a seller how buyers are using Apps to search for their home.  We can show how the home looks online, how many people have seen it, and where the agent ranks in search engines.  Sellers can see virtual tours, photos, satellite views, etc all in the comfort of their home.

Not all agents are the same.  Results can vary greatly from agent to agent, and from company to company.  Ask your Realtor to show you everything.  Buyers today are demanding tech savvy agents when searching for a home.  If your Realtor can’t show you their business in a mobile world, how in the world are they going to market your home to today’s buyer?

Later on it may be necessary to meet at the office, but selecting which Realtor to list with is no longer one of those necessities.  If you’re considering selling your home, let us show you how buyers really view your home, and why selecting an agent with today’s tools matters.

Good luck, and Happy Home Selling.


The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group is holding two open houses this weekend.

Ellis Team Weekend Open Houses July 14-15

2322 SE 8th Street, Cape Coral $165,000
Open Saturday 1PM-4PM

Ellis Team Weekend Open Houses July 14-15
2322 SE 8th Street, Cape Coral $165,000

Move-in ready, 3 bedroom, 2 bath canal front home in quiet, well maintained neighborhood. Home features spacious bedrooms,vaulted ceilings, large screened lanai which overlooks dock and canal. All assessments are in and paid.


Rear Water View
2322 SE 8th Street, Cape Coral Water View

14091 Oak Hammock Lane $300,000


Sunday Open House
14091 Oak Hammock Lane Fort Myers, FL 33905 Front View
Rear View 14091 Oak Hammock Lane Fort Myers, FL 33905
14091 Oak Hammock Lane Fort Myers, FL 33905 Rear View



Paradise for those who love the outdoors and peace and quiet. Spacious family home on 1+acres with 5 bedrooms, 2 baths is surrounded by towering Live Oaks and many tropical plants. Home site borders creek that forms one boundary. Exquisite Brazilian Mesquite floors in the living areas, wood burning fireplace in the family room. Sitting room/den off master bedroom could be used as as office, tv room, nursery, your choice. Large master bath has over sized walk-in shower as well as a jacuzzi tub and dual sinks. Large flagstone patio has a built in fire pit and just a short walk away is a personal putting green. Call today to see this beautiful property. Some furniture available separately.


Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group

7910 Summerlin Lakes Dr

Fort Myers, FL 33907


We’ve recently been testing a concept to gauge consumer interest at a subdivision level. For years agents have been sending out Just Listed or Just Sold postcards, or even market updates to communities. Typically this only reached sellers. This was OK because the target was always the sellers who might list their homes. It’s a practice in the industry known as “Farming.”

Map with Homes for Sale and Solds in Reflection Lakes
Reflection Lakes Interactive Map

We thought buyers might also be interested in similar information, but reaching them in addition to targeted sellers in that area can be dicey. You can’t just mail to a certain area as the buyer could come from anywhere.

We thought “What if we could target both worlds, the buyer and the seller?” One way to target buyers is to reach them on the Internet for specific search items. For instance, let’s say a buyer is looking to buy in Reflection Lakes. If we could somehow provide this list of data when buyers are searching, would buyers find that helpful?

We don’t know, but our hunch says they might. We’ve researched a way to provide a map of an area which shows all the homes available for sale, all closed sales within a certain time frame, and all pending sales and pinpointed them on the map. Additionally, if you click on the pin, you get additional information on the home, like list price, sold price, size, age, pool, waterfront description, bedrooms, bathrooms, and much more. You can customize it to display about anything you want.

We even went so far as to provide links to additional information if available, virtual tours and more. In this way, a buyer or seller can quickly see a homes location on a map and compare it with other like kind homes for sale. It is color coded and sorted by status, so you can look at the solds to get an idea of what homes are selling for or just actives. Perhaps you’re riding down the street and just want to know what it’s on the market for.

The map is set for a particular point in time, however it can be updated at any time. The agent selects the fields to display. The consumer can zoom in or out, as well as click on street view to look up and down the street and view the homes photos, or even take a satellite view to get an idea of the terrain and the surroundings of the community.

We exported all this information into a Google map., so the possibilities are endless on how you can view these homes. It’s really kind of fun. We liked it, so we thought consumers might too,

We selected fields we thought the consumer would be interested in. These fields are flexible and we can add or subtract when building the next map. It took me about an hour to setup this map in Reflection lakes. If you’d like to view it, simply go to www.Reflectionlakes.com

We can setup a map like this for any area and import data from the MLS. If you live in a community you think would benefit from something like this, give us a call at 239-489-4042 or send me an email Brett@topagent.com and I’ll look into it. If you think it’s missing something, or have feedback, we’d like to hear it.

If you think we’re nuts and nobody will use it, you can let us know too. Feel free to email us or comment on our Blog http://blog.topagent.com

We honestly don’t know if the public will use it or like it. We do know it’s cool and useful to us, and we enjoy trying new things if they have the potential to help in the buying or selling process.

Stay tuned for future updates for other areas around Lee County on our website at Topagent.com

Good luck, and Happy House Hunting!

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers has created an interactive map for searching data in Reflection Lakes in South Fort Myers. By clicking on a listing the map will give you detailed information on the property including links to further detailed information. If a virtual tour is available it will link to that as well.

Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Update



View Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Florida in a full screen map

Check it out and let us know what you think. Feel free to check out floor plans at our Reflection Lakes website

Watch the SW Florida Real Estate Update June 2012

Last week we wrote about the influence of mobile marketing and how it’s influencing real estate buying.  We must have touched a nerve because the last portion of the story was about a new mobile app and several people emailed asking for the link for this free tech tool. Mobile Apps For Real Estate!

Mobile Apps For Real Estate
RE/MAX Mobile App for iPhone and Android

Because there was so much interest, we decided to do a follow-up and concentrate solely on this new app.  Unlike other apps like Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, Realtor.com, the RE/MAX app doesn’t sell advertising opportunities per zip code to agents from various companies, so there isn’t pressure from agents trying to convert an advertising opportunity.

The RE/MAX app simply puts detailed information in the hands of the consumer and lets the consumer make choices.  Most apps let the consumer decide when to request information, but RE/MAX isn’t selling consumer data to companies for profit.  This app is solely a benefit to consumers provided by the RE/MAX network, and any consumer info is available only to RE/MAX agents when a consumer decides to reach out and request information.

There are some very cool things you can do with this app.  For instance, if you have your GPS on, the app will show where you are on a map and show homes on the market in your area. Users can also enter search criteria such as number of bedrooms, price, location, etc.

The app provides instant access to homes in your search along with listing details and available photos. It also provides turn by turn directions to homes you want to see, interactive maps for navigating neighborhoods, and the ability to save searches.

There is an email option to share properties with your friends and family.  There’s even an integrated mortgage calculator for instant calculations on how much the payments would be.

Sellers love the app because they can find out how their neighbors are pricing their homes.  If a new home comes on the market, a seller can just look it up instantly.  Buyers love it because as they’re driving around they have the power of knowing the price of each home, the details of the home, and pictures right in the palm of their hand.

For years buyers would call about homes they were in front of and be totally surprised at prices in a neighborhood.  This free tool is a powerful education technology that will save buyers much time.  Buyers still seek out quality, professional agents to answer their specific questions the Internet cannot, but this piece of technology sure empowers the consumer and shortens the learning curve.

Judging by the interest last week, we think you’ll like this tool as well.  And best of all it’s Free.  Simply email me Brett@topagent.com and I’ll send you the link to get this tool for Free.  Good luck and happy surfing!


We’re seeing another shift in buying habits and it’s affecting everything from store coupons to selecting hotels to buying real estate. Yes, we’re talking about mobile marketing. Mobile Marketing Influencing Real Estate Buying.

Mobile Marketing Influencing Real Estate Buying
Ellis Team Virtual Tour on Smartphone

Years ago the Internet came along and everybody said newspapers and TV stations would no longer be needed. We found this wasn’t true; however the delivery methods have changed a bit since the advent of the Internet.

Ironically now some are saying the Internet isn’t needed because everything is going mobile. I’ve seen reports that there is now more traffic to websites via smart phones than computers. While it is a fact more people have the power of information literally in their hand wherever they go, there is no substitute for wasting time at work on a big screen surfing the Internet, at least for now.

Market Share by Platform
Smartphone Market Share

The iPhone was a big player in bringing the mobile world to the consumer, but many would be surprised to know that Android is actually the bigger player today. Android just crossed over the 50% mark in January of this year and market share is still growing. The only thing constant is change. Years ago Netscape was The browser in the industry. Microsoft managed to knock off Netscape with Internet Explorer. Now Google Chrome is making inroads along with Mozilla, Firefox, etc.

Remember when Yahoo was the thing in search engines? Today it’s Google with Microsoft fighting for relevance with Bing. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, however we do know what works today.

If you’re in real estate, you’d better design your website to work on a mobile phone. If you visit our website Topagent.com from a mobile device it recognizes the mobile device and gives you the option to view on a mobile optimized website. We’ve included a photo example of one of our virtual tours. All our virtual tours are optimized to play on any smart phone or phone capable of viewing the Internet. Of course we still have our full blown feature rich tours available for those old fashioned people viewing tours at work or home on a laptop. That sounds kind of weird talking about people on the Internet as old fashioned, but kind of fun I guess too. My how times are changing!

The point is, if you want to be successful in business, you’ve got to be where the customers are. If a business employs old technologies, they’ll get diminished results and wonder why their leads are falling off. They’ll blame it on the Internet and say things like the Internet just doesn’t work anymore. We heard that about newspapers, yellow pages, and radio advertising in the past. They all still work, but customers buying habits are evolving, and if you want to maximize your success, it pays to find out what the consumers are doing and provide solutions.

We have several websites. Even though Android is now king of the mobile market, we can tell you that the iPad is 74.76% of our mobile users on our Topagent.com site. These numbers change on various sites. As more tablets are released this year featuring Android, perhaps those numbers will change. The key is you have to know your market, design your marketing to work on the various technologies, and be available to answer customers in the fashion they like.

If a customer calls you speaking English, they generally would like to speak to someone in English. If a customer calls speaking German, chances are German is their preferred language and they’d like to speak with someone that speaks German.

The same is true with technology. Many people will contact you from their Smart phone. It doesn’t mean they’re ready to talk to you yet. If they ask you to email or send a text of a home, you’ll probably lose that buyer if you fax it to them because that’s more comfortable to you.

If you want to pick up more German buyers, it might help to learn the German language. If you wish to pickup more buyers today, it might help to learn to speak their tech language. If a customer texts you, I’d respond with a text. If you’re not willing to learn the technologies customers want, the real estate industry will pass you by. But then again, so will most industries.

If you don’t know what a QR code is, how to text, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, provide virtual tours, syndicate your listings, do videos on the market, etc. you might be well served to visit Best Buy and look around at how they market with Bar scans, and what devices will read them. Watch customers compare prices the store is offering versus the Internet, and listen to how these devices are shaping buyers decisions. If you can see all this in half an hour at the electronics store, just imagine what is happening on the street in front of the home.

RE/MAX has launched a mobile app that allows you to search all the homes on a map directly from your mobile phone. You can see what homes sold for, what people are asking, and photos of the home you’re in front of. Talk about changing the dynamic of house shopping. Customers can text, call, or email an agent directly from the street for more information. If you’d like this cool new free mobile app send us your email address and we’ll send you the link. Brett@topagent.com

Have you ever negotiated with someone and felt like you weren’t getting anywhere, or felt like you’d like to ring their neck because they weren’t reasonable. After negotiating thousands of transactions and teaching negotiating sessions for the Council of Residential Specialists and national conventions, we’d like to offer a few tips that may help you in the future. While we could probably write a book, we’ll offer what we can in about negotiating to win.

Negotiating to Win
Negotiating Success Tips

Some people feel they’re excellent negotiators as evidenced by their ability to out-negotiate anybody and win at someone else’s expense. This rarely works unless one party is all out of options and there are no other interested takers. In this market, there are usually several interested takers. Let’s talk about some tips that may lead you to a successful deal.

Find out what’s most important to the other party and try to give it to them. Most people think it’s all bout price, but sometimes the closing date is important, or the move in date. Maybe it’s the personal items or the furnishings. I’ve seen some people emotionally attached to a washer and dryer a family member gave them as a present. Ask yourself, is that washer/dryer more important than the overall deal? This question could be asked of either side.

One tactic that rarely works is when one side asks to split the difference as a gesture of good will. This works when both sides feel each has negotiated in good faith and you’re close on the deal. This will blow up the deal when this isn’t the case. Here’s an example. Let’s say a seller prices their home at $200,000 and it’s truly worth $200,000. A buyer makes an offer at $150,000 and the seller laughs. Maybe the seller goes to $198,000 and the buyer goes to $160,000. The seller says they’ll go to $195,000 just to keep it going, but they’re about done. Buyer and seller are now $35,000 apart when the buyer says, “let’s split the difference and go to $177,500.” The deal dies.

Splitting the difference is usually the quickest way to death of a transaction. It’s all a function of where you started. Had the buyer started at $190k and they were only a few thousand apart it might work, but using this tactic when the buyer was unrealistic to begin with only exaggerates an unrealistic deal.

You might save a little bit on price if you give the seller something they want. Maybe the seller has kids and doesn’t want to move them until the end of the school year. They might sacrifice a little bit of money knowing they have their house sold but occupancy until the end of the year for the kids. If that works for the buyer, it’s win/win for both buyer and seller, and buyer saves a little bit of money while helping out the seller.

Another tip is research the market and offer fairly upfront. I’ve seen buyers get better deals by making a fair offer upfront rather than insulting the seller and offering far below market value. Everyone wants to get the best deal they can. This includes buyer and seller. If a buyer insults the seller, the seller is on guard and subsequent dealings tend to be contentious, so the seller counters higher to a buyer they don’t like than a buyer that was fair to begin with.

Don’t use gimmicks and deceit. Make your offer clear and complete. If you try to back-end your way into a negotiation the seller or seller’s agent will sniff that out and it will usually backfire. If you’re clear upfront with your intentions, contingencies, etc. you’ll build trust and perhaps you can get what you’d like. When trust is broken on the front end, it’s very difficult to get what you want through trickery and deceit. I don’t have room for examples and we could list plenty.

Work with an agent that listens and will guide you. Listen to your agent. Agents work with people all day long, every day for their job. Experienced agents who are successful have learned a thing or two about dealing with people and negotiating for success. If you find yourself out-negotiating the market but never ending up with a purchase or a sale, you might be out-negotiating yourself. It pays to seek the advice of a negotiating pro. It pays even more when you listen and act upon it.

If you’re a buyer, your success could very well be getting your first choice or moving on to your 4th or 5th favorite home. If you’re a seller, your success could very well be negotiating to close with your first buyer or waiting months and several price reductions later to close with your 4th or 5th buyer.

Your agent’s marketing brings buyers to the table. What you do with it can make those efforts worthwhile or futile.

If you look at the February and March 2012 graphs for single family home sales in Lee County, you’ll quickly notice that a large percentage of homes have sold for cash versus financing. This is not a new trend. While cash sales have saved our market the last few years, it does have its good and bad points. And we’ll attempt to explain why we’re seeing so many cash sales as well.  Cash Sales Dominate SW Florida Real Estate Market!

Cash Sales Dominate SW Florida Real Estate Market
SW Florida Cash Sales Versus Financed Sales

You would think that with interest rates at historical lows, more people would be jumping on the train to buy now and finance. Homeownership is affordable, as rates are low and prices are low compared to the height of the market, although prices are on their way up. We believe price will go much higher if the government would get out of the way and make financing possible again.

Local lenders are complaining, as are buyers, that the Dodd Frank Act has made it so difficult for qualified borrowers to actually produce unnecessary redundant and onerous documents that many just give up. Banks have gone from easy documentation loans in the boom to crazy stupid documentation now. We can’t just blame the lenders, because lenders are just following new provisions of the Dodd Frank Act. You might recognize the names, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, two names synonymous with getting loans and perks from the banking industry maybe they shouldn’t have gotten. We’ll leave those scandals for another story. I’m sure you can read all about them over the Internet.

In an attempt to regulate and improve the mortgage market, Dodd Frank has hurt the market in several ways. Parts of the act require higher down payments which will take many buyers out of the market. 2 recent studies suggest requiring all buyers to put at least 10% down would force about 40% of otherwise credit worthy buyers out of the market and requiring 20% down would force about 60% out.

Mortgage Rates 2010-2012
Mortgage Rates Trends

FHA has always required about 3-3.5% down and allows sellers to pay buyers closing costs, and their delinquency rates haven’t been substantially higher than banks requiring 10% down or more.

Secondly, and speaking from personal experience, the documentation requirements banks are adding because they’re afraid of getting fined or having to buy back the mortgage are awful. We’ve had several buyers have to go back to the Social Security Administration and request newer social security cards because their older cards may not reflect a name change due to a divorce, marriage, etc. The number has stayed the same throughout their life, and the lender can see this, but they still require the new card which pushes back the closing. Because the closing gets pushed back, it generally requires all new bank statements and employment stubs. We’ve had lenders wait until next month’s stubs before they’ll loan the money, so both buyer and seller must wait.

Wait, there’s more. Because a few fees might change due to the delays, like the interest rate lock may have expired, or the prorations could be off due to the delays, it required a new Truth in Lending Disclosure. You guessed it, if the lender has to re-disclose, there is a waiting period for that. That waiting period could trigger more bank statements, and updated pay stub, etc. It seems the cycle never ends, and it’s ridiculous. It’s no wonder listing agents want to know which bank is approving the buyer, and if the bank has a track record of delaying deals due to extemporaneous paperwork, it may cause the seller to accept another buyer’s offer over that one.

Lenders are getting penalized under Dodd Frank, and they’re getting hammered by sellers and real estate agents who are looking at best offer and most likely to close on time, if at all.

We feel that requiring higher down payments wouldn’t stop the market in a correction like the one we saw starting in 2006, so why add that on to borrowers who could never save that down payment while paying rent, preventing them from the American Dream? And even if you disagree with that statement, most would agree that Dodd Frank is preventing the market from moving higher because it’s essentially blocking access to capital markets for many.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re qualified, you can get a mortgage. You just have to know where to go to get the money, and be prepared to document everything just in case.

Good luck and happy house hunting. Rates are low, and prices are low but on the rise. If our buyer agents can be of assistance, feel free to call us at 239-489-4042

SW Florida Real Estate Update April 2012