We just pulled up sales numbers for Lee County for July 2010 and we see a trend continuing that began about 4 months ago in many areas. Except for Cape Coral, the percentage of sales that are distressed is rising throughout the county.  Cape Coral has remained relatively steady at about 62% of all single family home sales the last few months, but even that is up from 54.57% in April.

Single Family Distressed Home Sales in SW Florida
SW Florida Distressed Home Sales

Lehigh Acres is leading the county by far with approximately 3 out of every 4 sales being in distress.  This number has risen from 71.31% back in April.  Lee County numbers have risen about 10% in the last 4 months, which is an interesting sign.  Is this troubling? 

Foreclosure sales are going down, as are short sales, but regular sales are falling even faster, which leads to a higher distressed sale percentage.  To that extent, this is troubling. 

Some would argue that more short sales going through is a good thing, and it would be if this were true, but short sales have been going down in recent months.  Banks have not been easier to work with on short sales overall, while in some select instances they have been. 

Foreclosure sales have fallen as a backlog has been slow to enter the market.  We’ve been told there are still many homes in backlog, while some dispute that fact. We’re also noticing new foreclosure proceedings starting on failed short sales and people who’ve managed to hold off this long but no longer can due to employment and the economy. 

Heading into the fall elections, it’s safe to say things are not better with the economy, and the housing market is not finished cleansing itself.  The good news is we have a market, and the market is absorbing new bank foreclosure listings, but nothing is being done to help the economy and prevent them in the first place. 

Mortgage modifications have largely been a failure, and government efforts have been a joke.  Back loading a mortgage modification with extra principal and interest to the back end of the loan doesn’t help the homeowner when given a 6 month reprieve on payments.  At the end of 6 months, they still cannot afford the loan, and now the payment is higher than it was before when they couldn’t afford it. 

If a bank is willing to short sale to a new buyer, maybe they should consider a principal reduction to an existing owner who is in Real trouble.  I know banks are afraid to do this as every homeowner would ask for the same thing regardless of need, and this is a valid concern.  It is, however, probably one of the few tactics that would work.  

The other is to provide meaningful employment, and it’s clear that the stimulus plan hasn’t worked.  The government has failed at both ends of the spectrum.  All mortgage solutions have been voluntary on the banks part, and the banks haven’t always behaved nicely when dealing with distressed sales.  It’s time for a plan with teeth to compel the banks to cooperate, and a plan to get the economy moving again. 

Housing plays a big part in the economy; approximately 32% of GDP, so it makes sense to kick start the economy on Main Street.  Wall Street will respond once Main Street is stabilized.  November is only 3 months away, and I have a feeling the voters are going to vote with their pocket books this year, or perhaps with their pink slip.

Fort Myers Cape Coral Real Estate Current Market Index
Fort Myers Cape Coral Real Estate Current Market Index

 

The December 2008 Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index again showed improvement from last month’s index.  The Current Market Index now stands at 6.65, down from 6.89 in November.  The lower the number the better the market is for sellers.  Transactions in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate markets were up again significantly over last year as our index predicted it would be.  Single family home sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral were up 78% over last year’s numbers in October.

Single family inventory is down 12.42% from last year’s numbers.  In December 2007 we had over 16,000 single family homes for sale in Lee County and now that number is down to slightly over 14,000.  With sales up around 80% over last year’s numbers and inventory declining, many would say that 2008 has been a year of recovery for the SW Florida real estate market, but we cannot do so until prices stabilize.  Median prices have continued to head lower all year and this is why Fort Myers and Cape Coral has bucked the state and national trends, because value and affordability are back in the market.

In fact, prices are so far below replacement costs that first time home buyers and investors alike are scooping these properties up as fast as they come on the market.  While more foreclosures are scheduled to hit the market in 2009, many are condominiums and vacant land.  We are doing a study right now along with the SW Florida Real Estate Investment Association to determine how many Lis Pen dens filings are actual home foreclosures.  Keep in mind, a property may have multiple Lis Pen dens filings which may skew the numbers, so we may not see as many foreclosures in 2009 as some are quoting.

Local mortgage companies are reporting fixed rates in the 4.5% range today with 1 point.  Loan amounts are also on the rise, which could signal an up tick in future home buying in higher price ranges.  We don’t look for drastic upward changes to median home prices, however we do like to look at mortgage applications to get a reading on potential future purchasing activity.

We see regular negative articles and news stories about the real estate market, but the numbers tell another side of the story.  Sellers do not like today’s prices, and nobody knows where tomorrow’s prices will be for sure, however we can report there is a market at the right price and this market has been posting large gains all year.  We think many buyers and investors have figured out there are tremendous buying opportunities available now and they’re not listening to the Downers in the market.

If you really want to know how a market is doing, follow the money.  Buyers are back in this market because the prices are Right.  It’s a lot like the BCS polls.  Don’t follow what the polls say; follow the Vegas odds, because that’s where the money is.  It’s amazing how much better the money does in picking games than the experts do.  The numbers always tell a story.  The real wisdom is deciding not which expert to listen to, but which numbers you should follow.  In the SW Florida real estate market you can look at falling median prices, or increased sales.  Both tell a story, and we’ll leave it to the market to decide what the numbers mean.  We just thought we’d present another side you may not be seeing in the media or hearing from other experts and let you decide.

The latest Fort Myers Cape Coral SW Florida real estate Current Market Index has been released today and the overall Fort Myers Cape Coral housing index numbers fell to 7.75, from 7.88 the month prior.  Cape Coral again led the way as Cape’s index fell to 6.38 while Fort Myers stands at 13.76.  The lower the number the more favorable it is for sellers, and the higher the number the more favorable for buyers.

Current Market Index for Fort Myers Cape Coral Area

 

Fort Myers Cape Coral SW Florida real estate current market index chart

Lee County listing inventory for single family homes remained steady at 15,530 up a mere 7 homes from last month, and pending sales increased to 1,617, up from 1,546 in August.  The overall Lee County Florida Current Market Index is at 9.60 in September, down from 10.04 in August.  The September condo index stands at 20.21, up from 19.27 in August.

These numbers tell us the overall market is basically holding steady to slightly improving since August, and should bode well for closings in future months.  It also tells us that so far the market has been absorbing the influx of foreclosures and selling them as they are not adding to inventory supply.  This is another positive sign as the local SW Florida real estate market would be in trouble if the foreclosure activity added to inventory supplies.  The large number of foreclosures is however keeping the supply where it is and preventing it from declining.

A study contracted by the county on Lee County’s road impact fees recommends an increase of 200%.  If approved, the current impact fee of $2,971 for a single family home would rise to $8,976

Many roads are at grade F, which means the county needs to build more roads and now.  How would this affect the housing market?

Re-sales would instantly be more attractive, and this would hurt home builders who are already being squeezed by rising construction costs and limited buyers who can afford any increase at all. 

Sometimes a builder can pass along extra fees to the buyers, however buyers are already being hit by rising insurance costs, rising property taxes, rising interest rates, and higher prices.  Each one adds on top of the other until at some point less and less buyers can afford to buy a new home.

The obvious choice is to buy a used home, perhaps a little older or in an outlying area, or rent.  Raising the impact fees may curb growth, but it won’t help pay for new roads which we need now if less people build because of the new fees.

Similiar sized counties to Lee County already have lower impact fees than Lee, so tripling the road impact fee will just make that situation worse.  Somehow growth needs to pay for growth, so there is no easy solution.  Nobody in Lee County would argue that the roads are fine in their present condition.  The argument is who should pay for new roads.