Last year we said it was a good time to buy because prices were heading up and interest rates would eventually rise. Is Now the Time to Buy?

Is Now the Time to Buy
Payment on Median Priced Home

4 things affect the cost of owning a home, not counting maintenance of course.  Those 4 things are debt, interest, taxes, and insurance.   Last year prices were rising and they still are.

Interest rates are rising now too.  Interest rates were artificially low because the Fed has been buying down rates by purchasing bonds to stimulate the economy.  They’ve been purchasing about $85-billion-a-month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases however a few fed governors have hinted that they’re ready to vote to discontinue buying down rates as soon as the economy shows signs of recovery.

Wall Street immediately sold off stock a few weeks ago in anticipation of this.  Fed Chairman Bernanke later said they’re not stopping the program now although nobody knows for certain when the program could end.

Here’s what we know.  SW Florida real estate prices were artificially too low after the real estate bust.  They were so far below replacement cost as we worked through thousands of foreclosures and short sales.  It was only a matter of time until the market recovered.

With inventory on the decrease and foreclosures down drastically from their peak, prices have been rising.  After the bust we had two artificial moments that created an absolute buying bonanza for investors and buyers.  Investors were the first to pick up on the opportunity as regular buyers were afraid the market could fall further.  Regular buyers tend to follow the herd and react.

The artificial low prices are wearing off and soon the artificially low rates will too.  This does nothing but add to the cost of home ownership.  For the past several years we’ve pointed out what rising interest rates and rising prices could do, but sometimes it’s easier to see in graph format before it makes sense.

I always get a kick out of radio show call in listeners or people on TV that think Realtors just say “now is the time to buy” because they want a sale.  While I’m sure every Realtor would like a sale today, there is just no way of getting around the facts.  Last year was a better time to buy a home than today, and today may be better than next year.

We’re not saying to follow the herd.  We told people in 2009 it was the year of bouncing along the bottom and it was.  We told people back in 2005 prices were high and not sustainable.  We’re not afraid to tell it like it is because we study market indicators.

Successful Realtors sell properties in up, down, and sideways markets.  Our job is to educate the community on what’s going on today, and we feel like that’s what we do,  Some people like what we have to say and others don’t.  As consumers we don’t always get to choose the market, only how we react to the market we’re given.  Realtors don’t control the market.  If we did the market would have recovered much faster.

We’ll keep informing you what we’re seeing based on the data we look at.  If you’re considering buying, we think now is a good time as you’ll be able to afford more home today for the same payment than you will next year.

If you’re thinking of selling consider two things.  Prices are going up.  When interest rates go up too it cuts into buyers’ potential, thereby limiting how many buyers can afford your home.  Rising rates can stifle demand, which can hold back prices.  It won’t help the buyer when rates go up, and it doesn’t help the seller either.  Until the economy definitively turns around, nobody knows exactly what prices will do.  All we can say is your options are better today than they will be next year.

Good luck and happy buying/selling!

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We interviewed Lee County Florida Sheriff Mike Scott on this week’s show.  Sheriff Scott answered tough questions on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, how his officers conduct traffic stops and how they handle possible illigal immigrants.  We also asked Sheriff Scott his thoughts on terrorism, border control, patrolling SW Floridas’s waterways, the manatee, red light cameras, school resource officers, working with ICE, and recent reports his office may need to cut 5% of his annual budget.

Lee County Florida Sherrif Mike Scott and Brett Ellis
Lee County Florida Sheriff Mike Scott and Brett Ellis

Sheriff Scott answered every question asked by Brett Ellis.  The show is broken up into 3 segments, and you can find all 3 here along with descriptions of each segment. Future of Real Estate Video with Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott.

We’re excited to bring you The Future of Real Estate Radio Show now on video.  We just aired our first show which will be simulcast today on 3 radio stations along with the video.  The advantage to video is we will be able to show graphs and charts as we discuss the market.  We did have our first glitch, so the first chart we talked about on the show didn’t actually make it into the show, however we were able to recapture that portion and place it on YouTube.

Brett Ellis-Future of Real Estate SW Florida
Brett Ellis-Future of Real Estate SW Florida

To view the entire show go to  Topagent.com  To view the 1st segment with the graphs go to our YouTube broadcast.  The first segment illustrated graphs of the distressed property market in SW Florida and how that affect the overall market.  We look forward to bringing you future broadcasts each week, and improving on the quality.  Sorry for the first glitch, but we are real estate agents afterall venturing out into the brave new world of video, and we’ll only get better.

Home sales in the SW Florida real estate market set an all-time record in April 2009 with 1,468 single family home sales, eclipsing the mark set in March of 1,464.  Sales are literally off the charts as affordability is in the market.  In fact, median home sale prices in the Fort Myers Cape Coral area fell by 3.39% last month down to $85,500, down from $88,500 in March.  For a comparison of monthly home sales in SW Florida from 2005-2009 see the latest Fort Myers Cape Coral home sales chart.

Median prices in SW Florida are down 57% from last year, down from $200,300 to $85,500  Median single family home sale prices have fallen every month this year except for February when they went up 2.74%  See our SW Florida Real Estate Month Over Month Prices chart.  To illustrate just where median home sales prices are today Vs. where they have been every year since 2005, visit our SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices 2005-2009 chart.

Condo sales in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral area were up 7% over last year, and probably would have been much higher if FNMA hadn’t changed financing rules making it increasingly difficult to finance most condominium associations throughout SW Florida.  It used to be we worried about whether or not the buyer was qualified for a mortgage, and this past year we learned it was much more difficult to get a condo association approved than it is to get the buyer approved.  Banks have over-reacted and will cause further problems in the condo market going forward, which may actually increase delinquencies as existing owners will not be able to refinance or sell to anyone other than a cash buyer. 

Condo median prices in Cape Coral and Fort Myers fell 33% from $195,500 last year to $131,800 this year.

Statewide single family home sales were up 18% and median home sale prices were down 31%, and condo sales were up 21% and median condo prices were down 40%.  As you can see, Fort Myers and Cape Coral are leading the state, as our home sales are up 81% over last year compared to the statewide average of 18%.  SW Florida condo median prices were down 33% compared to the state average of 40%

The Fort Myers News Press interviewed Brett Ellis of the Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers about Lee County’s all-time sales record.

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers has long supported baseball in Lee County, and this year baseball has paid back.  Jason Ellis, Brett’s son played for the Junior Twins in South Fort Myers and the Junior Twins took home the County Championship this past week, which is a tremendous achievement.

South Fort Myers Little League County Champions Jason Ellis and Brett Ellis
Jason Ellis and Brett Ellis

South Fort Myers Little League County Champions

Paul Hobby managed the team and did an excellent job as he is a great role model with the kids.  The coaches all put in extra duty this year to get the kids ready for a winning season, and the kids worked hard too.  Brett Ellis and Matt Scott coached the team along with Paul.

Manager Paul Hobby, Coaches Brett Ellis and Matt Scott, and the Twins
Manager Paul Hobby, Coaches Brett Ellis and Matt Scott, and the Twins

South Fort Myers Junior Twins: The team won the Lee County Championship over the South Fort Myers Red Sox 13-3 on Friday. Of the 23 Junior Little League teams in Lee County, the South Fort Myers Little League had all four of its squads in the county semifinals. The Twins captured a 9-8 semifinal victory over the SFM Cardinals. The SFM Red Sox outfought the SFM Mariners for a 4-2 victory in the semifinals. Zach Belcher was the winning pitcher for the SFM Twins in the championship game, pitching five innings.

2009 South Fort Myers Junior Twins Championship Team Photo
2009 South Fort Myers Junior Twins Championship Team Photo

Read News Press coverage of Title Game.

Industry experts Brett Ellis of the Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers Florida and Adrian Jacobs from Countrywide Home Loans in Fort Myers Florida outlines successful strategies in identifying short sale candidates, structuring your offer so the bank can accept it, and compiling the short sale package the way the banks want to see it.  We also go into qualifying the seller, getting pre-qualified, and talk about lien searches and why they’re important.

Brett is a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) and has helped dozens of homeowners sale their properties in SW Florida.  Working with a CDPE is a good idea and Brett encourages agents to obtain the accredidation.  The more agents with this knowledge the more it helps the entire market.  Both the listing and selling agent must have detailed knowledge about the process to make a short sale work.  Making mistakes can cost the buyer several months, kill the deal, and the buyer has lost out on many other properties they could have purchased during the time they waited for the failed short sale.  The seller faces likely foreclosure in a failed short sale, so the results are tragic on both buyers and sellers.  Working with a CDPE helps improve the success rate by only focusing on qualified short sale opportunities and putting together a package that works for the banks.

Watch Tips on Short Sales.  We also talk about buying bank foreclosures in SW Florida, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral as well.

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers released the Annual SW Florida State of the Market Report in February.  Local TV stations covered the release and here are some of the stories.

WINK News 6PM Coverage of State of the Market Report 

WINK News 10 PM Coverage-Home Prices Back to 1999 Prices

WINK News 11 PM-Housing Prices and New Construction

FOX 4 News Coverage of State of market Report Release

Download the State of the Market Report  In this report we detail the Fort Myers real estate market, along with updates on the Cape Coral real estate market, Lehigh Acres home sales, Bonita Springs and Estero real estate updates, Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, and all of Lee County Florida.

We also detailed bank foreclosure information, and short sales statistics, distressed property information, and we talked about the CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) designation to help owners keep their homes or sell their homes to protect their credit

We’ll be uploading more video in the coming days, so stay tuned.

Brett Ellis from the Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group specializes in selling homes in Cape Coral Florida, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, onita Springs, and all of SW Florida.  Brett created another weekly video update and tells a little about what he presented last week at the Annual State of the Market Report presentation at the SW Florida Real Estate Investors Asociation meeting.

Yesterday Brett Ellis of the Ellis TEAM at RE/MAX delivered the SW Florida State of the Market Report to the public.  The report is 77 pages and includes data on Lee County Florida home sales, including Cape Coral real estate sales numbers, Fort Myers real estate sales numbers and pricing trends, Bonita Spring real estate updates, Estero, Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, Pine Island, and all of Lee Couny.

The report shows single family home inventory in Lee County Florida declined 15.61%, and months supply of inventory in Lee County declined 42.66% due to decreasing inventory and increasing sales.

Cape Coral is the hot spot for sales activity, with 4,633 sales and less than a 1 yr supply of inventory.  Lee County overall inventory level stands at 17.53 months, down from 30.57 last year.  Median single family home sale prices were down 37.89%.  Two areas actually saw a rise in mean average sales prices in 2008; Bonita Spring-Estero and Central Fort Myers.

The report provides insightful data at the county level, and at the neighborhood level, as well as foreclosure data.  The sub-markets we analyzed were Cape Coral North, Cape Coral Central, Cape Coral South, North Fort Myers, Central Fort Myers, SE Fort Myers, SW Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, East Fort Myers including Alva, Bonita-Estero, Pine Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  We provide data such as monthly pricing graphs for 2008, monthly sales charts, List price to sales price ratios, months supply of inventory levels, total list and sales volume,Minimum listing, maximum listing, lowest sold listing, highest sold listing, median price, average price, and total sales.

It is our most detailed report yet.  We scrutinized the data from multiple MLS boards and eliminated duplicates.  This one of a kind database is more thorough and accurate than services such as MLS Alliance because some boards pull their data out of the Alliance.  Additionally, we scrubbed the data for known errors.  We allowed duplicates when there were actually multiple sales on the same property for the same year.

73% of foreclosures in SW Florida were non-homestaeded property, meaning investors walked from their investments when the value fell below what they owed.  Most investors were planning to flip for a profit when they purchased.  SW Florida bank foreclosures were absorbed and sold, and inventory fell as the market heated up, even if prices have not.

We’ll add video of news stories from the report in coming days.