Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilikinson released preliminary taxable values today.  The Ellis Team was able to secure an advanced copy and has provided a breakdown of values by area.  This is a complicated formula as new construction is built into these numbers, as well as personal property.  The following chart will give you a pretty good estimate by area of the county of how the Property Appraiser’s office feels values fared last year.  You can compare these values with our 2008 State of the Market Report. (Pg 10)

Lee County Tax Roll Values-Estimate 2008
Lee County Total Taxable -12.36%
City of Cape Coral  -26.56%
City of Ft Myers  -2.54%
City of Sanibel  -5.23%
Town of Ft Myers Beach  -11.12%
City of Bonita Springs  -7.27%
Independent Fire District  
Alva Fire District  -9.90%
Bayshore Fire District  -4.88%
Boca Grande Fire District  .19%
Bonita Springs Fire District  -4.72%
Captive Fire District  2.14%
Estero Fire District  1.05%
Ft Myers Beach Fire District  -9.13%
Ft Myers Shores Fire District  -.74%
Iona McGregor Fire District  -4.05%
Lehigh Acres Fire District  -17.33%
Matlacha-Pine Island Fire District  -15.25%
North Ft Myers Fire District  -5.98%
San Carlos Fire District  -.38%
Sanibel Fire District  -3.99%
South Trail Fire District  -3.47%
Tice Fire District  -5.64%
Upper Captiva Fire District  -10.51%
By Independent District  
Alva Area Taxable  -14.60%
Bayshore Area Taxable  -12.32%
Boca Grande Area Taxable  .39%
Bonita Springs Area Taxable  -6.54%
Captiva Area Taxable  2.95%
Estero Area Taxable  -1.15% 
Ft Myers Beach Area Taxable   -10.21%
Ft Myers Shores Area Taxable   -2.92%
Iona McGregor Area Taxable  -7.78%
Lehigh Acres Area Taxable  -22.98%
Matlacha-Pine Island Area Taxable  -19.47%
North Ft Myers Area Taxable   -11.83%
San Carlos Area Taxable   -4.05%
Sanibel Area Taxable   -4.31%
South Trail Area Taxable  -6.93%
Tice Area Taxable -10.58%
Upper Captiva Area Taxable          -10.22%

Tune in to "The Futire of Real Estate" this Saturday at 11:00 AM on AM 1240 in Fort Myers and AM 1270 Naples and Marco Island as Ken Wilkinson, Lee County Property Appraiser will be our guest.  We’ll ask Ken about the latest taxable values as well as upcoming Ammendments on the ballot and what they mean to the taxpayers this upcoming election.

Foreclosures, short sales, and entry level homes are dominating the Southwest Florida real estate market with most of the sales coming from Cape Coral.  When we look at the Percent of April’s closings under $200,000 chart, we can clearly see that closings under $200,000 dominate the Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, and Lee County real estate markets in general.  If you are priced above $200,000 in Lehigh Acres, you’ve got a slim chance of selling as that is not where the buyers are at in Lehigh.  Over 95% of Lehigh’s closings was at $200,000 or less.

We need not look any further than the Months Supply of Inventory Priced Less Than $200,000 chart.  As you can see, Lehigh Acres has over a 2 year supply of homes on the market right now, while Cape Coral and Lee County overall are less than 1 year.

Another interesting chart is the Percent of Homes Listed as Short Sales graph

Over 52% of homes listed in Lehigh Acres are short sales compared to 38.70 Percent for Lee County overall.  If we examine the shear number of short sales listed in Lee County priced less than $200,000 we can gain a little perspective.  Cape Coral has approximately half of the short sales listed in the entire county, and over half of the sales.  This tells us that when affordability meets opportunity, buyers jump off the fence and purchase.

Lastly, let’s look at the Percent of Homes on the Market is SW Florida Priced Less Than $200,000.  So it looks like Cape Coral is where the action is right now, and Cape Coral is probably closer to recovery than Lehigh Acres is, but you can see how fast a market can turn once transactions start occurring in a market segment.

We are also seeing the market being driven by the low end, but also a bleed-up effect which translates to more sales and more offers now in the $300,000-$500,000 range as well.  We expect May to be another good month for sales numbers once they’re posted at the end of the month.

Entry level homes are driving the demand for single family homes in Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral Florida real estate.  Several lending institutuions asked us to do some analysis on the foreclosure market here in SW Florida, and by far Cape Coral leads the way in the county for transactions.  In fact, it can be said that Cape Coral is the hottest market in Lee County.  Lehigh Acres is much more soft.  We’ve uncovered some interesting facts exploring this data.

Here is a graph of all SW Florida real estate homes on the market.  This data was pulled from the Greater  Fort Myers and the Beaches MLS.  As you can tell, Cape Coral has the most listings on the market, and Lehigh Acres is home to some of the most affordable homes in Lee County.  As you can see from the April 2008 closings graph, 371 of Lee County’s 677 transactions were in Cape Coral.  This means that over half of SW Florida’s closings occured in Cape Coral Florida.  Another startling graph is the SW Florida real estate months supply of inventory graph for homes under $200,000.  As you can tell, Lee County is down to 9.69 months of supply and Cape Coral is even better at only 7.74 months of supply for homes priced under $200,000.

What this is telling us is that buyers are definitely off the fence and buying now, and most of these buyers are end users.  It’s also telling us that they prefer to buy in Cape Coral over Lehigh Acres.  In the Boom market, Lehigh did very well because Cape Coral was priced about $85,000 higher for the same house.  The difference was in the land prices.  Now that price differential has come down to about $15,000, and buyers are saying to themselves, for only $15,000 difference they’ll choose Cape Coral.  For $85,000 difference Lehigh Acres looked affordable and attractive.

This also tells us that either prices will go up in Cape Coral, or prices must come down further in Lehigh Acres, or a combination of both until we hit equilibrium.

Feel free to check our SW Florida real estate housing statistics webpage for lots of other charts and graphs.

This article is the first in a series utilizing this new data, so check back often for more updates to the entry level home pricing market in SW Florida, or subscribe to receive e-mail updates to this Blog.

Sales numbers released by the Florida Association of Realtors for April 2008 shows the Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate markets sales increased dramitically.  In fact, sales are up over March numbers as well.  SIngle family homes sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral increased 41% over last year’s numbers, and Condo sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral increased 57 % over last year’s numbers.

The Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index is an accurate indicator or future sales, and has been improving steadily since January 2008.  In January we began reporting that sales numbers should begin picking up, which has been the case.  Pending sales started increasing, followed by rising closed sales.  Inventory levels have been falling in 2008 which is a good sign for sellers.  We still have a high level of inventory, but it is getting more manageable everyday.

Median home prices have fallen, but that does not mean that all home prices are declining.  We have seen solid sales in Cape Coral.  Lehigh Acres home sales have fallen behind Cape Coral.  We’ll be posting some very interesting numbers within a week or so illustrating those differences.  Median home prices have fallen, and that is an indication that more of the home sales have occurred at the bottom half of the spectrum.  As the bottom has firmed up, it will eventually translate into firming in the higher price ranges.  We are getting more offers today in the $300,000+ range and that is encouraging once again.  It all started with that $100,000 range which led the charge.

Many properties in the $100,000 range have multiple offers on them and buyers are scrambling to get these properties.  In fact, buyers display desperation when competing against other buyers to get in on these deals.  The Fort Myers News Press did a home sales story on the April Fort Myers and Cape Coral numbers.  Money Magazine also did a story on national home sales and it talked about how Cape Coral Florida is leading the nation as one of the bright spots.

Stay tuned as we look for more good numbers being reported in when May’s numbers are reported next month.

 

The Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index showed improvement once again.  We decided to illustrate what is going on in Southwest Florida real estate in graph format this time.  Basically inventory is falling and pending sales are remaining steady as closings are picking up.  Read below graph for further analysis.

Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate May 2007 Current Market Index

The latest Fort Myers – Cape Coral data shows a Current Market Index down to 7.47, down from 7.71 in April 2008.  The lower the number the better the market is for sellers.  The higher the number the more of a buyers market it is.  Lee County Florida numbers have fallen steadily as well.  Actually home sales numbers in Cape Coral Florida are some of the strongest numbers in the county right now.  The Cape Coral CMI index stands at 6.32 which is less than the rest of the county.  Lee County overall stands at 9.57. 

Single family homes on the market dropped to 15,340 while pending sales stood at 1,603.  To put that in perspective, pending sales back in January were 821, so you can really see sales have picked up significantly in the last few months.  Most agents, mortgage companies, and title companies I speak with are busy again, although prices are down.  Agents essentially have to do twice as much work and close twice as much to compensate for the losses in sales prices.  Additionally, it takes time to educate buyers as to what is ocurring in today’s market, just as it took time to educate sellers when the market turned in 2005 and 2006.

Short sales also create extra work as many times there can be multiple offers on the property and no guarantee the bank will accept any of the offers.  Overall this is welcome news because real estate fuels the rest of the SW Florida economy, and a surge in real estate activity can only help the rest of the economy over time, even if at lower prices.

Last week the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach made a significant change to the Realtor lockbox system in SW Florida that will affect the way homes are shown.

Realtors across Southwest Florida used a grey lockbox that only Realtors had access to show.  Realtors used a Supra key to unlock these boxes, and each night the system would update the Supra key boxes and transmit data on who showed the listing, etc.  It would also grant access to the Realtor for the following day.

Last week the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach changed lockbox systems and keys.  Realtors have a new key, and some new phones will also operate as a key using the infrared feature.  I particularly like this feature.  Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Lehigh Acres Realtors as well as Fort Myers beach made the switch to the new lockboxes.  The old key will open both the new and old lockboxes.  Bonita Springs, Estero, and Naples did not upgrade yet to the new lockboxes.  What this means is All Realtors will be able to show proeprties with the new Blue lockboxes, but any Realtor using the old Grey lockboxes will not work with the new keys.  Make sure your lockbox looks like this one.

Fort Myers Realtor Blue Lockbox

 If your Realtor isn’t using the new lockbox, your house cannot be shown by any Realtor from the Lehigh, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach area unless they are also a member of the Naples or Bonita Estero Board of Realtors and purchse that lockbox key as well.  Clients who have listings in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Lehigh Acres will be at a significant disadvantage because Realtors in those areas will not be able to show those properties.

Homeowners in Bonita Springs and Estero, as well as San Carlos Park and South Ft Myers also will want the new lockbox system as there could be many showings from South Fort Myers brokers who will not have access to the old lockboxes.  The Bonita Springs, Estero, and Naples Board of Realtors will be making a system wide changeout next year, but homeowners should request the new lockboxes now for maximum exposure.

Whew, another week has blown by.  By now I had intended on posting the Ellis Team’s latest Current Market Index numbers, information about the new lockbox system, and much more.  We’ve just been swamped with offers on properties and BPO"s (Broker Price Opinions) on foreclosure property, as well as contracts and inspections that we haven’t had the time to post to the Blog in awhile.

Last Monday I had offers on 4 different properties on my desk, so it pretty much took all of Monday to negotiate those deals.  2 of the 4 went pending on Monday, and a 3rd went pending just yesterday from those initial offers on Monday.  Throw in a few closings this past week, and you can see why we’ve been hopping.  Sande has been working lots of offers too.  I’m not sure how many she put together.

OK, here’s a teaser until we get the latest CMI numbers posted.  Cape Coral is hot right now.  Lee County’s inventory levels fell once again, and pending sales have remained stable.  We think April and May’s closing numbers will be good.  Prices are off significantly from last year, but transactions should be up as the pendings have gone up.

That’s all for now.  Just wanted to give everyone a quick update on what’s happening in the market.

I can’t tell you how many properties we sold last week because I don’t have those numbers in front of me as I write this Blog, but I can tell you we were busy and several did go pending.  We had multiple offers on several properties, which I’ll tell you more about later on.

We’ll be updating our SW Florida Bank Owned Bargains page tomorrow.

The best priced properties are selling in SW Florida, and many are bank foreclosures, but not all.  Many have predicted that bank foreclosures would top out last month, and we were hopeful as well because we saw 2-3 months of declining rates.  I spoke with good friend Jeff Tumbarello today who tracks Lis Pendens with the county probably better than anyone, and he tells me April will be another record setting month.  When I heard the number I was amazed.  We’ll let him announce it tomorrow, but this just tells me we have another wave coming, so stay tuned for some more upcoming bargains.

A lot of our regular sellers are selling now as well, so it’s not just the foreclosures.  Basically anything that is priced at market is selling, and buyers are jumping off the fence in droves.  We think when April sales numbers are released next month there will be an uptick in closed sales, because we’re seeing it.  In fact, we just hired another staff person to keep up with the workflow, and we’re hiring buyer specialists right now as well.

Back to the multiple offers.  Everyone probably thinks as a listing agent having multiple offers is fun.  All I can say is it is more fun than having a listing for months and no offers, but the fun ends about there.  Last week we had several properties receive multiple offers.  One had four offers, and the agents involved just had to have this property for their buyers.  We let each agent know that we had several offers and gave each of them ample notice to inform their buyer and come with their best offer.  Each one did, and was convinced the bank should sell to their buyer and their buyer alone.

There truly was one offer that was better than the others, and another offer that was perhaps second best, and so on.  The best offer was never in question, and by definition the bank can only accept one offer, so it should be no surprise that there will be one winner and 3 losers.  In this case, the losers didn’t take it well and wanted to know why their offer wasn’t taken, told us how their buyer deserved this home, and so on and so on.  One even tried to complain to the bank directly about how they didn’t like the process.

From a listing agent standpoint, it’s never fun to have to tell 3 people they didn’t get the home they wanted.  I spent all weekend talking with these agents, even though I couldn’t present the offers until Monday morning when the bank opened.  There were a few procedures that must be followed, such as one about pre-approval letters that must accompany the offers, but some saw fit to not do this step until after I told them they wouldn’t get the property without it.  I spent almost all day Monday dealing with this one property.  As a listing agent, I can only sell it once, but I had to deal with four agents all weekend and all day Monday, and three were Mad at the outcome.

Then I had to start all over with another property, and another.  Invariably we get some agents who don’t or won’t understand the process and work to do what is necessary to get their buyer the property.  I received an offer today from an agent who didn’t like the counter-offer I gave them back.  She informed me that the bank should know it’s a buyer’s market, future assessments are coming, and so on and so on.  I tried to tell her the bank gets a BPO from me and they do their own appraisal.  This property today is listed well below my BPO number I thought it was worth, and I was being conservative.

Still, they are arguing over the price, meanwhile the property had several more showings today.  Most of these bank foreclosures sell at or above full price, and it’s only a matter of time before we get multiple offers.  This could happen tomorrow if we don’t get this property wrapped up soon.  And if it happens, I hope to not have to hear about how this buyer deserved the property, had their offer in first, why it’s stupid for the bank to counter-offer, etc.  It’s a good deal and I hope this buyer sees it.  If not, another one will soon, I am certain of that.

Bottom line is even when you’re getting multiple offers, it’s not always fun.  Many buyers, some of our own included, are learning the hard way that their first and second choices are being sold out from under them and they’re left with their third choice.  Buyers have read for so long how terrible this market is, and they believe it.  The sooner buyers hear and believe what really is happening on the streets, the more likely it will be that they’ll get their first or second choice instead of the left overs.  Listen to your agent, and don’t doubt that there are some positives in this market.  The headline of the story doesn’t always match the article, so read the entire article.

Ask your agent.  A multiple offer situation is not fun for the listing or selling agents.  Buyers are placed under a large amount of stress, and agents do the best they can for their client.  I know the agent today who is telling me what the bank should know is just doing her job the best way she knows how.  I hope secretly that she’s telling her buyer what a good deal this house is and to now mess around and lose it.  One of our buyers took too long this past week and just lost out on a nice golf course home in Fort Myers.  They had a verbal agreement, but took a week to get back with us and by the time they could get a formal contract to us, another buyer had come along and beaten them to the punch.  The seller was not obligated to honor a verbal and took the higher offer that was in writing.

The lesson to this story, if you’re going to steal, don’t do it in slow motion.  And don’t get too greedy fighting over the last few thousand dollars.  Get the deal and get it wrapped up.  Otherwise. you’ll be on your 3rd choice in no time.  Stay tuned and watch for some big foreclosure numbers, but don’t just read the headline.  Read the whole story, and the story in the days that follow.  Our market has a silver lining.  And stay tuned for more deals to come.  We have several on the way, so call our office if you’d like in on one of these deals.

This weeks guest on the Future of Real Estate will be local attorney Kevin Jursinski who will explain his Deed in Reduction program and how it benefits borrowers and lenders alike  to minimize costs associated with short sales and foreclosures.  We’ll ask Kevin tough questions on various situations ranging from credit repair scams, to working with lenders to take a lower amount than what is owed in order to sell at today’s lower market values.

If you’re considering buying a short sale or foreclosure, or if you’re considering selling property in SW Florida, you’ll definitely want to tune in to this week’s show on AM 1240 Saturdays at 11:00 AM, and re-broadcast over the Internet at NBC-2.com and www.Topagent.com

Recently we were asked to comment on the new Reflection Lakes vendor gate policy as to how it will affect home sales in the community.  First, let’s state what the new policy is.  Basically, Realtors must purchase a keyfob for each listing for entrance into the gates.  Each keyfob costs $35 and is good for the term of the listing.  The keyfob can be saved and re-used for another listing for a $5 charge each time a new listing is taken.  Realtors must also submit a copy of the listing agreement to the association, as well as any extensions to the listing.

First, I don;t think the association needs to see the actual listing agreement.  A letter from the seller to the association stating the dates should be sufficient.  That listing contract is a private contract between homeowner and listing company.  By giving that information over to an association, there is no guarantee to the privacy and confidentiality.  A homeowner may not want released certain things that could be contained in that agreement.

 More importantly than the first point is the next point.  By forcing Realtors to purchase gate keyfobs, you’re essentially requiring all Realtors who wish to show a property to a prospective client to drive to listing agent’s company to pick up a keyfob to gain access into the community.  There is a reason Realtors purchase expensive lockboxes, and that is to minimize showing agents efforts to show the listed property.  It is a proven fact that properties without lockboxes realize far less showings than those that do have lockboxes.  Realtors simply don;t have the time to drive all over town picking up keys to show a property, then drive all over town dropping the keys back off.  Buyers don’t want to waste time either driving with their Realtor to pickup and drop off keys.  There is an abundance of properties on the market right now.  If a Realtor has to either drive to an office to pick up a key, or pick up a keyfob to even gain access to the community, it will be quite easy to skip those showings and move on to other more easily accesible listings in the MLS.  Keep in mind we have approxinately 16,000 single family homes on the market in Lee County, and over 8,000 condos.  There is no shortage.

 Even though this policy may be a Boom to the Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group because our office is located essentially within Reflection Lakes, it is bad policy for homeowners.  We can forsee every Realtor in town wanting to pickup a keyfob at our office simply becasue we’re located on-site.  We will make keyfobs available for our listings only.  We know other agents will show our listings just to gain access to a keyfob so they can show whatever other listing they wish to show.  We will have to come up with a deposit system from other Realtors to make sure we get these keyfobs back in timely fashion each time.  I’m sure that’s going to go over big, but again it’s the Association’s policy that is going to limit showings, not ours.

Essentially the association is taking al lockbox off each property whether they realize it or not.  Even though a lockbox might be on the property, the benefit of the lockbox has been destroyed because an agent still needs to drive to the listing company’s office to pick up a keyfob to even get to the lockbox.  In a down market, this is not the time to be limiting showings.  It is unfortunate that there isn’t another method of allowing access to Realtors for showings.

 I’m not sure if any Realtors were consulted on this issue before implementing, but I can assure all that almost all Realtors would tell the board this new policy is a bad idea for homesellers and property values.  The gates were put up to promote property values, and in this case the new gate policy may hamper property values by cutting off showings.  Don’t be surprised when showings go Down when the new policy takes effect.  At last count Reflection lakes had approximately 40 homes not paying association fees and facing foreclosure.  Do we really wish to limit showings in this kind of environment?  Curentlythere are about 45 Reflection Lakes Homes on the market.

The rest of the homeowners usually end up funding the unpaid fees of the foreclosures.  If properties in Reflection Lakes become even more difficult to sell, that number could rise.  Seems to me there could be another alternative.  Seems a shame to fix one problem and create another huge problem.

I salute the board for being proactive and making difficult decisions.  Their job is never easy, and sometimes has unintended consequences.  This is one such time.  I hope the board has the foresight to take this new information into account and consider any other alternatives that may be available to them for showings and listed property.  If the board has further questions, we can be reached at 239-489-4042.

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