To: ex-LEE Countians, present LEE Countians, and future LEE Countians or
those who know a LEE Countian:

We’re about to enter the peak of the hurricane season, which starts June 1
and ends November 30.  Any day now, you’re going to turn on the TV and see a
weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Gulf of Mexico and
making two basic meteorological points:

   (1) There is no need to panic.
   (2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in LEE County.  If you’re
new to the area, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to prepare
for
the possibility that we’ll get hit by ‘the big one.”

Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple
three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

   STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at
least three days.
   STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.
   STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this
sensible plan.  Most people will foolishly stay here in LEE County.

We’ll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:
HOMEOWNERS’ INSURANCE: If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance.
Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home
meets two basic requirements:

   (1) It is reasonably well-built, and (2) It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located in LEE County, or any other area that
might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer
not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to
pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance
business in the first place.  So you’ll have to scrounge around for an
insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to
the replacement value of your house.

At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss.

Since Hurricane Frederick, I have had an estimated 27 different
home-insurance companies.  This week, I’m covered by the Bob and Big Stan
Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my
premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.

SHUTTERS: Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all
the doors, and — if it’s a major hurricane — all the toilets.  There are
several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself,
they’re cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself,
they will fall off.
Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get
them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands
will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.
Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they’re very easy to use, and
will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have
to sell your house to pay for them.
"Hurricane-proof” windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane
protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand
hurricane winds!

You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so.  He lives in
Nebraska.

Hurricane Proofing Your Property: As the hurricane approaches, check your
yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture,
visiting relatives, etc. You should, as a precaution, throw these items into
your swimming pool (if you don’t have a swimming pool, you should have one
built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects
into deadly missiles.

EVACUATION ROUTE: If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an
evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying
area, look at your driver’s license; if it says you live anywhere in LEE
County, you live in a low-lying area.)  The purpose of having an evacuation
route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits.
Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from
your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees.  So, as a bonus,
you will not be lonely.

HURRICANE SUPPLIES: If you don’t evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies.
Do not buy them now! LEE County tradition requires that you wait until the
last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights
with strangers over who gets the last can of SPAM.

In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

23 flashlights. At least $167 worth of batteries that turn out, when the
power goes out, to be the wrong size for the flashlights.

Bleach. (No, I don’t know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the
bleach is for. But it’s traditional, so GET some!)

A 55-gallon drum of underarm deodorant.

A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a
hurricane, but it looks cool.)

A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who
went through Fredrick; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)

$35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy
a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions.

As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast
of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in
rain slickers stand right next to the surf at the Gulf of Mexico warning
everybody to stay away from the ocean.

Good luck and remember: It’s great living in paradise! Those of you who
aren’t here yet, you should come. Really!

I

Buyers who wish to buy with no money down had better hurry, because the new Housing Bill signed recently essentially eliminates down payment assistance from the seller on all FHA loans, and Congress added in the bill a provision that the new minimum down payment  will now be 3.5%, up from the previous 3%.  Financing is getting increasingly harder to get, and underwriting guidelines are changing daily.

We’ve heard of several loans in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral area that were approved by a lender and then pulled a day or two before closing due to changing underwriting conditions.  The new changes is making it tougher on buyers and sellers, as well as anybody in the industry.  Brett Ellis recently did a news story on the changing financing conditions.

Buyers who buy now will also receive a $7,500 tax credit on their tax bill as long as they fall within income guidelines, which are $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a married couple.  Buyers will receive slightly less if they make more than these amounts up to $90,000 for a single person and $180,000 for a married couple.  This is an interest free loan and does not have be repaid unless the borrower sells the home within 15 years, in which case $500/yr comes off the tax bill for every year they owned the home.

So there is much incentive for buyers to purchase now, and even more if the buyer needs a zero down loan.  These buyers need to buy and close before October 1, 2008 or they will need a down payment.  There may be some specific bond programs available after October 1, but that money goes fast and eligibility requirements are more stringent.

We’ll report on more of the provisions of the latest housing bill in upcoming days, so stay tuned.

Official housing numbers for Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and all of SW Florida were released for June 2008.  Single family home sales prices fell 18.83% in one month from May 2008, and 32% from last year’s numbers.  See Florida Single Family Home Sales Report June 2008  The only good news in all of this is that single family home sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral rose 29% over year ago levels as homes became more affordable.

Condo sales in Cape Coral and Ft Myers were down 18% while median prices were down 19% over year ago levels.  Many in the industry felt good about sales going forward due to affordablity being back in the SW Florida real estate market, but others aren’t so sure.

The new Housing Rescue Bill will help certain borrowers, but will harm others.  Down payment assistance is going away effective October 1 on FHA loans, so a large segment of first time borrowers could be affected.  We’ll have another post in the coming days on what effects the new Bill will have on real estate in SW Florida.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index declined 15.8% from last years levels, signalling home values in other areas are falling as well.  For a few years it felt like SW Florida was the only area falling in price.  This was the worst price decline ever recorded nationwide.  The SW Florida area lost 32% in median home value from last year, down from $253,900 to $172,400.  Median home values can be deceiving though and may not be indicative of the entire market.

We’ll have more updates on the local SW Florida real estate sales market, including official sales numbers released by the Florida Association of Realtors in the coming days.

 

The Ellis Team SW Florida real estate Current Market Index leveled off in July to a 7.51 mark, up slightly from the 7.23 numbers in June.  The lower the index the better it is for sellers, and the higher the index the better it is for buyers.  We witnessed 5 straight months of decline before this leveling off.

 

SW Florida Current Market Index July 2008 Ellis Team RE/MAX

Single family listings in Lee County Florida rose slightly from 15,634 to 15,668, while pending sales dipped slightly from 1,697 to 1,574.  Both factors contributed to the slight uptick in the CMI index.  This could be somewhat seasonal.  We’ve also noticed a surge in investors swooping in to buy distressed bank foreclosures in recent weeks, which could be a positive sign.  Investors tend to be less emotional and more analytical about the numbers, and their comfort level with today’s prices speaks volumes.  It is important to note that these pending sales have been translating into significant increases in closing volume of 2007 levels.  Home sales in Lee County were up 43% in June over last year’s numbers, following up on a big increase in May as well.  Prices are down and volume is up.

The CMI index in Fort Myers actually improved, while Cape Coral softened just a bit.  Listing inventory of single family homes declined in Fort Myers from 2,528 to 2,489, while inventory in Cape Coral rose from 5,092 to 5,104.  Pending sales dipped slightly in the Cape while they held steady in Fort Myers

Official May 2008 sales numbers were released for SW Florida, Fort Myers and Cape Coral, as well as the entire state of Florida.  We predicted a 57% increase in the number of sales and a 25% decrease in the average sale price in Official SW Florida Real Estate Sales Numbers Due Out Tomorrow post on June 25.

As you can see from our Florida Sales Report – May 2008 Single-Family, Existing Homes, official home sales were up 43% and the median sale price was down 25%.  The official numbers use statistics from various sources and we analyzed statistics from the Greater Fort Myers and the Beach Board of Realtors.  We knew our stats would be close to official numbers and while the number of sales was a little off, the trend was overwhelmingly positive no matter how you look at the numbers.

We posted a new Ellis Team Current Market Index on June 20th, and the prognosis for continued strong sales activity persists.  Condo sales were up 32% and median sale prices of condos in SW Florida were down 9%.  See Florida Sales Report – May 2008 Existing Condominiums   For additional housing statistics in Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate, see our Housing Statistics page.  If you’d like to search for property in SW Florida, including Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers, Estero, Bonita Springs, and all of SW Florida, visit our SW Florida MLS Property Search Website.

If you’re interested in Bank Owned Properties and Bank Foreclosures throughout Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Lehigh Acres, visit our Bank Owned Bargains webpage.

 

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? 

We were uploading video to our YouTube account the other day and we came across this news story we did back on March 3, 2008 where we said the real estate market is changing.

We also mentioned on air that we were seeing a 60% increase in pending sales back in April in a news story entitled SW Florida Real Estate Housing Numbers.

On June 18, 2008 we wrote an article entitled Preliminary SW Florida Real Estate May Sales Numbers  All signs point to housing numbers that should show an increase in sales of about 57-61% in transactions.  We expect to see a decline in median price from May of last year around 25% give or take a few percentage points.  Many thought April’s numbers were a one-time event, but we don’t think so.  In fact, our Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index suggests transaction strength for awhile to come.

We’ll all be watching the numbers as they are released tomorrow, and we’ll be surprised if the volume isn’t very strong as affordability is back in the market.

This week’s guest will be Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott.

We will ask the sheriff for a crime update in SW Florida.  We’ll also ask how the economy and foreclosures are affecting crime, and his efforts to crack down on air conditioner and appliance thefts in Lee County’s vacant homes.  We’ll also ask what the sheriff”s office is doing to crakdown on grow houses and drugs,  A lot of people ask us about trafiic enforcement, so we’ll ask why there seems to be a stepped up effort to write speeding tickets and we’ll ask where that money goes.

We’ll definitely ask how the property taxes and the budget crisis is affecting his department, as well as gas prices and salaries.  This should be a power packed hour filled with lots of questions and hopefully lots of answers, so tune in Saturday at 11:00AM on WINK AM 1240 and 1270 in Naples live, or you can listen to the show on the Internet starting next Monday after it airs.  SImply go to  our Radio Show page and click on Listen Online.

The Ellis Team SW Florida real estate Current Market Index improved for the 5th straight month.  The index moved down to 7.23 for the Fort Myers, Cape Coral area.  For the entire Lee County Florida area the Current Market Index fell to 9.21, down from 9.57 the previous month.

Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index

Single family listings in Lee County rose to 15,634, up from 15,340 the month prior, but Pending sales increased to 1,697, up from 1,603 in May.  We’ve already predicted May sales numbers should be about 57-60% higher over last year, while average prices should be down about 25% from last year.  We used the mean average and the official numbers use the median average, so there could be some slight variations when numbers are released.

We look at closed sale data in addition to using the Current Market Index to get a direction of where the market is headed.  This index has been so successful in its accuracy that the National Association of Realtors have adopted a similiar but more simple formula to predict the future market called the Pending Home Sales Index.

Next week we’ll report official numbers for May, but suffice it to say that not only will May numbers look stellar but June numbers should also look stellar once the month is completed.