Sales of new homes rose unexpectedly in April to the fastest pace this year. 

The Commerce Department reported that sales of new single-family homes increased by 4.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.198 million units, the highest rate since last December.

Economists had been expecting a decline in sales, and were surprised by the news.

SW Florida new home sales are off, however resales have started picking up in recent weeks.  SW Florida real estate may have bottomed out and leveling off.  We’ve seen three straight months of price stability, and April results are due to be released anytime.

Inventory levels have risen in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and all of SW Florida, so it will take some time to burn off all that inventory even if prices are stabilizing.  Some local areas will do better than others due to inventory imbalances.

Just because the overall market may be stabilizing doesn’t mean every home will fare well.  Even in the Hot Hot market we had the last three years, some sellers were over priced.  On the way down, there’s no reason to believe that will change.  There will always be some sellers over priced no matter what the market is.  It pays to consult a professional regardless of whether the market is hot or cold.

And with relatively  low rates and excelllent selection, buyers may look back on May/June 2006 as the best time to have bought real estate in SW Florida.

Lee County schools that scored well in math and reading also did well in science.

Sanibel School scored the top score among Lee County’s elementary and middle schools, while Fort Myers High scored the county’s highest score among high schools.

Collier County FCAT scores were up in science for 5th grade.  While Collier County students improved in 1th grade science, Collier County students lag the state in 8th and 11th grade science scores.

Barefoot Beach received this Top 10 ranking for water quality, open sand, management of the beach, and facilities available to beachgoers.

Here are the Top 10 Rankings:

1. Fleming Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii
2. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida
3. Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina
4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
5. Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
6. Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
7. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
8. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
9. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
10. Barefoot Beach Park, Bonita Springs, Florida

I’ve been to Fleming Beach in Maui, and of course Barefoot Beach.  I also like Fort Myers Beach, and the Lido Key Beach in Sarasota Florida.

The National Hurricane Center has released their annual prediction for the 2006 hurricane season.  Look for 2006 to be a busy season as Atlantic temps are warmer. 

In this report we’ll tell you where to find deals on generators, and how to avoid paying sales tax on certain items during Florida’s sales tax holiday for hurrucane supplies.  We’ll also grade past NOAA hurricane predictions for Florida and the Atlantic hurricane season.

It’s probably too late to protect yourself with hurricane Shutters this hurricane season.  We highly recommend Storm Smart Systems for hurricane protection as they do an excellent job installing and evaluating your needs.

SW Florida has been hit in recent years.  Residents have learned that by following a simple plan before storms hit can protect against misery after a storm hits.  Simple items go a long way.  FEMA tells everyone all you really need to do is be prepared for three days on your own.  FEMA shoould be to you by then.  Those without power or air conditioning for two weeks or more see it a bit differently though, and they’re not waiting.  They’ve been buying gas cans, generators, and portable air conditioners.

Great article featuring The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers Florida and how we use technology.

Some of the newer things we use are Podcasts, Tablet PC’s to do contracts on the road, Virtual Tours using Podcast technology so the Tour is also searchabloe on the Internet.

Technology has made us much the Ellis Team much more efficient in SW Florida real estate.  We are able to demostrate to sellers in SW Florida how we’re able to sell their real estate property faster than other agents using these innoavtive technologies.  It creates a real wow for sellers in SW Florida.

Have you heard of "What’s with the 50 Questions?"  Well, it may not be 50, but it’s darn close.

We’ve developed a list of 49 Questions you should ask your Realtor before you hire them to sell your home.  We developed this for Homeowners interested in selling their SW Florida real estate, however the list works anywhere.

The biggest mistake sellers make is they think all Realtors are alike and work the same.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The other mistake sellers make are picking agents who reccomend the highest price, selecting a friend or relative because they feel obligated, or going with the lowest comission, believing they’ll end up with more money in their pocket at closing.

All these mistakes can be avoided.  You won’t even have to ask all 49.  After about 10 questions selcted by You, you’ll get a good feeling on where this agent stands, and how they hold up to scrutiny.  We love it when sellers print out this list and ask away.  That’s why we post it right on our website.

Entry level salaries are jumping the highest in 2006, by as much as 18%.  Almost accross the board salaries will be inreasing as the school district focuses on adding new teachers, and retaining existing teachers.

In 2004 Lee County hired 836 teachers.  Our school district is growing, and we must hire teachers.

Lee County Florida is a great place to live and work, and business is booming in SW Florida.  Latest job relase figures show unemplyment fell to 2.1% in april 2006, down from 3% in April of 2005.

Basically, anyone who wants a job can have a job in SW Florida.  Companies are hiring.  Florida is a destination state because so many move here from colder climates, and growth fuels growth.  As the economy heats up, look for even more hiring in the coming months.

Top Agents Pat Hiban John Bendall Brett Ellis Real Estate Leaders

Pat Hiban is the leading agent in the Washington DC area, and his office is located in central Maryland.  Pat’s office is simply amazing.  Pat came up with the Sensible Listing and allowed the Ellis Team to use it several years ago.

John Bendall is one of New Jersey’s leading real estate agents, and has been so successful he opened up three RE/MAX offices as a broker in the past year.  John is President of his local Board of Realtors in New Jersey, and is very influential in the industry.  Together Pat and John are often asked to speak at national conentions and conferences.

Brett, John, and Pat met at Pat Hiban;s office to discuss trends in real estate, changes in the marketplace, and advanced marketing techniques.  The trio compared office systems, technology, personnel, office space, company vehicles, branding, media presentations, commercials, MLS systems, International marketing, investor relations, and a myriad of real estate topics.

Spending time with the Top Agents in the industry helps each one of us.  We learned so many things that we can bring back to the SW Florida real estate market, and much of what we learned translates into results for our clients.  Agents from all over the country pay top dollar to shadow these agents for a day.  Once in awhile, it’s good for us to get together and compare notes and strategies.

Pat, John, and Brett will meet up again along with 200 of the Nation’s Top Agents in New York City at the annual Star Power Conference.  John, Brett, and Pat all teach at the conference, and share their wisdom to aspiring agents from all over the country.

Pat, John, and Brett last taught together at the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) Convention this past January in San Antonio Texas.

SW Florida real estate has on average bottomed out.  That’s not to say there won’t be tough times in isolated areas, but overall prices have steadied for the past three months and buyer activity has really picked up in the last two weeks.

Buyers will look back and say they should have bought in April  or May of 2006 as inventory levels were excellent for the buyers and mortgage rates were at their lowest.  Prices have also come down around $40,000-50,000 since their highs in some market price ranges.

We’ve had pent-up demand from buyers who have been afraid to buy because they thought if they just waited a month or two, prices would be lower in the future, and they would have been correct up until now.  We’ve seen prices level out.  Buyers need re-assurance that it’s OK to buy, and they haven’t had that.  This changed about two weeks ago as buyers started buying again.  When the word gets out to other buyers, they’ll all turn on, like fire ants.  Fire ants seem to bite all at once.  They’re there, everybody knows they’re there, and when the decide to bite everybody will know they’re biting.  The same is true with buyers of real estate.

Fort Myers real estate is rebounding nicely, followed by Cape Coral and Naples.  Naples probably had the furthest to fall as it was the most ahead of itself.  Cape Coral still has loads of inventory, and that will take time to work itself through.

Thye wild card is rising interest rates and rising insurance costs.  If insurance costs goes up $100/mo it reduces the buying power of a buyer by about $16,000.  Rising interest rates, insurance, and property taxes all work the same way, and could limit the price increases we’ll see down the road.

The good news is overall the market has stabilized and is near bottom.  Expect the market to level where it is while buyers eat up inventory, and eventually rise about 5% per year once inventory levels have come down.

Home appreciation could have been in the 7-9% range and may be limited by rising home ownership costs described above.  It’s possible the market will just stay level the rest of the year and not appreciate too much as we work through this inventory.  Buyers should buy now though because rates are expected to rise throughout the year, and waiting may increase the payments.

Just a quarter percent rise in rates costs the buyer several thousands of dolalrs in buying power.  For these reasons, this is why I say that buyers will look back on May 2006 as the best time to have bought real estate in SW Florida