SW Florida real estate agents were expecting big numbers this real estate season, and so far, we’ve seen SW Florida home sales flat this season.  The real key going forward will be March and April numbers when they are released over the next two months.

SW Florida Home Sales Flat This Season

We have a crystal ball that tells us how sales numbers might come in.  Pending listings leads to closed sales.  While not all pending sales close, we can generally track future closings by the level of pendings.

Pending inventory is down 5%, so it’s logical to believe that we won’t see a major increase in future closings unless many more homes go pending at the end of March.

SW Florida Home Sales Flat This Season Summary

Inventory levels have risen 6.1% from last year and month’s supply of inventory has risen 11.1%  While SW Florida is a large and diverse market, overall this tells us the market has cooled a bit as inventory is growing with fewer pending home sales.

We can’t judge a book by its cover.  The cover may say we have a healthy, slightly cooling market, and that’s OK.  This book however has many chapters, and each chapter tells a different story.  Collectively all the chapters combined give us the overall figures.

Homes priced below $300,000 are on fire, and even many homes priced higher are receiving multiple offers.  We have a good market and demand from buyers.  Prices have risen steadily in recent years and there is a cap to this.

Home sellers many times price ahead of the market.  In a rising market, each new seller prices just higher than the last sold and it seems to work, until one day it doesn’t.  This tells us either the market is taking a pause, or the market has capped relative to the income typical buyers have to qualify for that bracket of home.

Rising rates also influence home affordability and can cap prices.  We’ve seen a few rate hikes by the Fed with more coming.  On balance, we have a healthy market and I like where we’re sitting.

SW Florida Home Sales Flat This Season

As in any market, it’s imperative to price your home where the buyers are.  In a shifting market advertising and marketing plays a larger role as well.  Full market exposure brings the highest possible price, so don’t settle for inexpensive or non-existent advertising.

If the agent you interview tells you advertising doesn’t sell homes, it’s probably because they don’t advertise homes much.  Perhaps they prefer to advertise their public image, or perhaps they just don’t have the budget to market listings.  In any event, it pays to interview agents that do advertise so you get full market exposure.

We’d be happy to sit down with you and cover all the ways we advertise homes.  You’d probably be surprised at the difference, and this might explain why certain agent’s homes sell faster and for more money than others.

If you’re a buyer, we can help too.  Our market knowledge and monthly market statistics help you make the best decision possible.  When competing in multiple offer situations you need an agent that knows how to help your offer compete.  If the chapter you’re looking in happens to be a cooling market, you don’t need to stretch too much and overpay.  Let a seasoned professional from the Ellis Team help you.

You can search the MLS like a pro.  Our database is updated every 5 minutes and contains the latest listings, price changes, and information you need to compete.  If you’re a seller, you should check it out too.

Always Call the Ellis Team at 239-489-4042 and ask how we can make your dreams become reality.  It pays to work with professionals that know the market.  If you think working with a professional is expensive, just wait until you hire an amateur.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

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If you read our article on a consistent basis you’ve been hearing about a decrease in pending sales and a potential shift in the SW Florida real estate market.  Official numbers confirm a February real estate sales drop in SW Florida.

February Real Estate Sales Drop in SW Florida

Nationally existing home sales fell 7.1% in February.  Locally home sales were down 12.8%. This wasn’t a difficult prediction to make as we’ve been watching pending sales decline.  The good news is we made some adjustments to our listings in reaction to the market and we’ve been able to get many of our listings under contract in March.  Regardless of whether the market is up, down, or sideways, understanding the market and making changes can be the difference between success and riding the merry go round awhile longer.

Median sales prices are up 11.8% over last year.  They are down 6.95% from January numbers.  Average sales prices are down 1.2% from last February and down 31.23% from January.  This is why we use median price as a more valid indicator than average price because it’s a more stable indicator and less susceptible to wide variations due to a few large or small sales.

February Real Estate Sales Drop in SW Florida

It does tell an interesting story though.  While we hesitate to read too much into one month, we did see a fall-off in sales and prices in February.  SW Florida wasn’t alone as the overall US market seems to be affected as well.

We have a new metric to track which is the total dollar volume of the local market.  Obviously if sales are down it will influence this number.  When prices are rising its not uncommon to see declining sales as less people can afford the higher prices.  If you have lower sales you can sometimes make up for it with higher prices, but we didn’t see that this month.

SW Florida Real Estate Dollar Volume

Total dollar volume fell 13.6% in February.  We’ll be keeping an eye on this indicator going forward and help you track it.

It pays to know the numbers.  If you ask an agent how the market is doing most will give you an honest answer based upon how their own sales are going.  Knowing the underlying numbers is critical. If an agent is having a good month or a lousy month it may have no bearing on what the overall market is doing.  I would even go so far as to tell agents you’ll have better months if you study the market and take actions for your clients based upon what’s really happening.

New pending sales fell 12.1% in February and new listings increased 14.3%.  This tells us March and April sales might not be at 2015 levels either.  Keep in mind some January pending sales may get extended into March as new lending guidelines can extend some closings.

Buyers may have a few more choices if new listings keep rising.  We have a pretty healthy market, but as of right now, gone are the days when the seller can name the price and the buyer had to comply if they wanted to buy.  It’s a more balanced market now and sellers must justify their price.  Buyers and sellers are on a level ground in many price ranges with the seller still having the upper hand in a few ranges.

If you’re looking to buy or sell, consult a professional who can guide you through the market, financing, and closing process.  We’d be happy to help 239-489-4042 or visit our Free SW Florida MLS Search Site where you can search the MLS for free and do valuable market research.

Good luck and Happy Hunting!

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Yes, we said it, and don’t be alarmed as we’ve said for months we wouldn’t be surprised to see prices pull back a bit due to seasonality.  Median sale prices are still up 20.7% over last year.  As you can see from the single family homes median price chart, most of our gains occur in season January through April.  That’s because more of the expensive homes sell that time of year pulling the median price up. SW Florida Sale Prices Retreat.

SW Florida Sale Prices Retreat

We’re still receiving multiple offers on many properties and inventory is as low as ever.  Last year there were 5,668 active homes on the market and this year there is only 4,924.  Closed sales are up 6.8% over last year and they’d be much higher if we had more inventory to sell.

Cash sales accounted for 51.7% of all single family home MLS sales which is really helping with appraisals.  In a rising market it’s sometimes difficult on appraisers because they’re using comparable sales from the past even though the market is rising now.  Cash sales typically aren’t subject to appraisal, so as they close they provide fresh new sales data that is sometimes more indicative of the market.

In July 1,466 new listings came on the market.  Some of these aren’t actually new listings as they could have been withdrawn or expired and re-listed.  July also saw 1,149 listings go pending, so approximately 78.4% of the new listings went pending.  In reality it wasn’t because some of the pendings would have been on properties listed before July, but it does show that the market is turning over at a high rate.

Average days on market are falling to 49 days now, down from 57 in June and 60 in May.  This is a result of buyers having fewer choices when searching for homes.  Buyers are really surprised when they find out there are only a few homes on the market that match their criteria.

If you’re considering selling now may be a good time to research your options.  Inventory is critically low and we’ve been selling our listing inventory to the point we have few listings left.  We’re selling them as fast as or faster than we can list them.

Just because it’s a seller’s market it isn’t a license to get crazy on pricing.  Prices are going up however we don’t have runaway prices as the overall economy still limits how fast and how far prices will rise.  If we had a great economy prices could be much higher, although we would see more sellers entering the market which would add supply.

Builders are building again which is helping pick up the slack as today’s market just can’t fill the demand.  Buyers are often left scratching their heads wondering how they’re losing homes to other buyers.

If you’re a buyer and you want the house, don’t leave the door open for the seller to entertain other offers.  If you’re offering below asking price and the home is priced fairly, expect that someone else will offer full price or more.  More buyers are losing their first or second choice by leaving the door open.

Price isn’t the only way to make your offer look good to the seller.  Offer friendly terms, larger escrow deposit, and position yourself from strength.  Sellers not only look at price but how likely the buyer is to actually being able to perform.  If your offer is light on down payment, has contingencies, or other outs the seller may question your ability compared to other buyers.

Ask your Realtor to make your offer look good to the seller.  If you need help, feel free to call the Ellis Team.  We’re here to help. 239-489-4042

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!!!

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Like anything else, buying at auction can be a good deal, or a rotten deal depending on what you buy and what the terms are.  While there can be upside at an auction sale, the downside is much more frightening and should never be attempted without proper advice and education.

Is Buying at Auction a Good Deal
Is Buying a Home at Auction Always a Good Deal?

Each month we see big auctions advertised on billboards, newspapers and such touting bargains.  I’ve attended several auctions and I’ve learned many things.  In this article I’ll attempt to educate you on some of the things to watch out for that you might not know about.

Is Buying at Auction a Good Deal?

At one auction I noticed a group of people in front and another group in back.  One group kept bidding up the property to prices higher than market value and I wondered why.  Later on I discovered that when they won the bid for some reason they didn’t finalize a contract and the property went back out for re-bid.  This happened as many as 2-3 times per property.  At the end of the night when the crowd had thinned the property was purchased for much less by an investor who really wanted the property.  Essentially it was off the market all night tied up in contract sessions.

Another thing to look out for is reserve versus absolute auction.  An absolute auction means the property will be sold to highest bidder no matter what.  If it’s reserve, you never really know what the reserve is and they try and negotiate with you after you’re awarded the winning bid, so be prepared.

If you’re buying a condominium, or even in a homeowners association for that matter, I would look not only at the property, but also the association.  You may purchase and be the only one paying condo or HOA dues.  This may also make it impossible to sell your property to anyone but a cash buyer as lenders will not lend if the association doesn’t meet certain requirements.

Many are surprised to learn that the title work isn’t sufficient to actually sell the property.  Some have learned they may need to file suit to Quiet Title after they receive what they thought was good title to property.  There is a difference between insurable title and marketable title, and title policies today can exempt many things leaving you the purchaser holding the bag.

The property may also have many defects that aren’t known or get lost in the shuffle, and the buyer inherits them.  At one particular auction I’ve attended, once you put down your non-refundable deposit, you lose it regardless of whether you cannot get the mortgage (even if they promised to give you one at the auction) or if the property has major defects.  You simply MUST inspect the property beforehand or you will most likely be surprised afterwards.  I saw one home when the back half of the home was missing, and the buyer lost their deposit of 10%.  Additionally, if the air conditioner gets stolen prior to closing or damage occurs to property between auction and closing, it’s the buyer’s responsibility, so you are taking All the risks.

You also want to research code enforcement liens, fines for improper permitting, etc.  I had a house listed in Cape Coral with about $70,000 in fines, and a lot in Cape Coral with over $90,000 in fines by code enforcement.  We recently sold a $20,000 lot in Ft Myers with over $200,000 in fines.  In each case we rectified the problems before closing or didn’t close at all in the latter case, but this would not be true at an auction as the buyer would be stuck assuming those fees.

I attended one auction whereby the winning bidder put down their 10% and agreed to finance the unit through the bank at the auction.  They were approved on the spot for financing.  The problem is the property did not qualify because too many people weren’t paying their dues, and the loan was denied on that basis.  The new lender was the same lender selling the property at this foreclosure auction.  The lender obviously knew the property did not meet FNMA guidelines but they sold it to a buyer obtaining financing anyway, and in fact approved their loan.  The buyer was astonished to learn that after being approved, they were later denied, and their escrow deposit was being retained by the seller (the bank) for non-performance of the contract.

Like we said in the first paragraph, sometimes a good deal isn’t a good deal when it’s rotten.  You must thoroughly investigate the property, the association, the contract, the market, the financing, and the title work before you bid or you run the risk of being let down later.

If everything checks out to your satisfaction upfront, we would also encourage you to set limits on what you’re willing to offer so you don’t get caught up in the moment and overpay, only to find out later it doesn’t appraise and your loan is denied and deposit forfeited, unless of course you’re a cash buyer and don’t mind paying too much.

Like anything, an auction is just another way to buy and sell, and no matter which vehicle you use, please be sure to work with professionals and do your homework upfront.  You’ll be glad you did later.  Happy house hunting!