A few months ago we informed readers about a possible shift in the local SW Florida real estate market.  Agents were calling complaining that their buyers didn’t have a sense of urgency and just weren’t responding to seller’s counter offers. Today agents react to shift in local real estate market.

Times have been tough for agents lately.  Season is the time agents can make it up if the rest of their year has been flat, but this year things were different.  Our sellers did fine as we saw the changes coming and recommended strategies to get our client’s homes sold.

Agents who read this article or study the market the way we do also made changes, but many agents didn’t and are hurting today.  Some are leaving the business, while many more are getting into the business.

You might question if some are getting out why would others be getting in?  Truthfully, it’s happened before.  A whole new crop of newbie agents don’t know what’s happening in the market, and that’s a good thing.  It’s not good that they won’t know the market, but it’s good that they’re not listening to the doubters as you’d never make it in this business if you listened to negativity.

And besides, there’s always room for good people no matter what the market is doing.  This business isn’t easy.  Buyers and sellers need good quality agents to guide them, and these shifts in the market can help weed out some of those agents.  Agents who didn’t make it on their own will flock to teams, which is maybe where they should have been to begin with.  Teams spend lots of money generating leads.  Capturing today’s buyers and sellers isn’t free and newer agents just don’t have those resources to spend and stay in the business.

Agents React to Shift in Local Real Estate Market

Agents React to Shift in Local Real Estate Market March Home Sales
March 2016 Home Sales and Dollar Volume

 

It’s always been said that when prices rise sales naturally fall, and you typically make up for the slower sales with increased volume.  With fewer sales, this means some agents won’t be getting a piece of the pie, but the agents that do will have larger pieces.  But what if that wasn’t true either?

I pulled up unofficial statistics for March and noticed home sales were down 18.74% from last year.  I looked at total dollar volume and it’s down 25.65%, even more than the drop in sales.  This tells me prices have dropped, or sellers have dropped their prices.  Total dollar volume has dropped through a combination of fewer sales and lower prices.

I expect average prices to drop in March and quite possibly median prices too when numbers are released later this month.  I did not study median prices for purposes of this article.

The news is not all bad.  This doesn’t mean prices have fallen 25%.  It means that if a seller was listed too high their home didn’t sell.  Perhaps it was 5-10% too high.  In any event, the market rejected it.  If enough sellers are 5-10% too high, number of sales fall and so can sales volume.  If all the sellers out there reduced their price to where the market really is, number of sales might be the same or better.  Sales volume might be slightly lower because prices are 5-10% below last year, but you wouldn’t see declines of 25%

Not all real estate is lower.  Some prices are appreciating while some are taking a break from recent peaks.  It pays to hire an agent who has experience and can guide you through these market shifts.

And if you’re an agent who is struggling but feel you have what it takes to succeed in real estate, perhaps consider joining a team.  Yes, your splits may be different, but you’ll actually have business and profit because you have leads and guidance versus wallowing with few leads and little coaching.

If you’re a buyer or seller, you can search the market and do market research at our MLS Search Site. You can always call us at 239-489-4042 and one of our agents will be happy to guide you through the market.  And if you’re a good agent that needs some help, call us too.

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Official sales numbers were released both nationally and at the statewide level, and the good news is SW Florida’s real estate median prices rose 3.65% from $90,400 in 2009 to $93,700 in 2010.

SW Florida Real Estate Year End Prices
Year End Prices SW Florida Single Family Homes

Does this mean we’ve experienced the bottom and on our way up?  The answer is possibly, as foreclosure sales have fallen and prices have risen in the lower end of the market.  As this lower end of the market rises, which comprises a large part of the Lee County home sales, it automatically drives the median price up.

Higher priced homes could actually be falling and also raise the media price up.  You might ask yourself, how could this be?  A Median price simply means that half the homes sold over a certain price point and half under.  So in 2010 half the single family homes sold at or below $90,400 and the other half sold at or above this number.

For the sake of illustration, let’s say 20 homes sold in a given month at $400,000.  Now let’s reduce all the $400,000 homes down to $300,000.  Do you think more would sell?  Of course they would.  So now let’s imagine the new bargains at $300,000 generated 60 sales instead of the previous 20.  This could pull the median up from $90,400 to perhaps 93,000.

I know this example is hypothetical.  We also know there are less and less $50,000 homes, so as there are less home sales at the bottom end, and more above the median, the median price gets pulled from the top end and pushed up from the bottom.  It is not however a great indicator of what could be happening at all price points.

We’re not saying the $400,000 market is still falling, although it could be.  What we know for sure is the bottom has firmed up.  It feels like anything priced correctly today at $150,000 or less is firm.  Priced correctly is the key term.  Homes priced at $200,000 today were priced much higher several years ago, and we are noticing these homes selling too.  In fact, we believe this season will produce more sales $150,000-$300,000 than we’ve seen the last several years.

Northerners are just plain tired of the awful weather up north, and they realize home prices are great deals now and they’re becoming increasingly afraid they may miss out on the bargains.

Speaking of inclement weather, this past week we had several buyers place offers from up North and they commented they just couldn’t take it anymore.  Several agents I’ve spoken with shared similar stories, so the bad weather up North may be good for business down here.

As you can see by the graph, SW Florida home prices are at 1997 levels.  This sure is a steep curve on the downside but the worst may be over.  We believe there will be more foreclosures, but it feels like we’re at about the 7th inning.  Most of the investors have already lost their homes, and now we’re down to average people who have lost a job, or lost household income and cannot afford the payments, and they just cannot sell at today’s prices.  How much more of these we see will depend on the national economy and how long the recession persists.  Uncertainty in the Middle East and oil prices will be a wild card, so let’s all hope for Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and anywhere else to remain calm and shipping lanes open.

Banks look like they’re bulking up to increase short sale business, although we’ve heard the talk before.  We can say Bank of America has been much better to deal with recently and we’ve gotten several short sales approved and closed.  It would be nice if other banks sped up their processes too.

Inventories actually rose in December despite an increase in distressed closings due to backlogs.  We expect this inventory could go down; however we believe there is much shadow inventory.  Many refer to banks holding back properties from the market as shadow inventory, but the shadow we’re referring to is regular homeowners who would put their home on the market if they could, but they just can’t because they owe too much and can make the payments.  There is now way to measure this, but typically most in SW Florida would move around every 3-5 years, and people just haven’t been doing that these past five years.  The reason:  See Graph.

We’ll be coming out with a new SW Florida Real Estate Video update, but until then you can view our December 2010 Video Update.

Final year end official stats are in and as expected, 2009 set all kinds of records.  Every single quarter of 2009 was a transaction record, so it’s no surprise that the entire year set a transaction record as well.  2009 saw 16,260 single family home sales compared to 8,272 last year for a whopping 97% increase over last year.  2005 saw 12,123 home sales, so 2009 eclipsed that lofty mark as well, but this time it was done in a more healthy way, if you can believe that. 

Lee County Single Family Home Sales by Qtr
Lee County Single Family Home Sales by Qtr

2005 sales were fueled by regular home sales and builder sales from previous years that took until 2005 to complete and close.  We’re not seeing any builder sales, pent-up or otherwise because today’s home prices are well below replacement cost, so builders cannot afford to build today as they would lose money on each deal.  So what’s different about 2009 vs. 2005? 

The main thing is housing affordability.  At the height of the market single family home prices were about $322,000 and now they’re at $94,500.  This makes it much more affordable for families that still have jobs.  Obviously if you’ve been affected by the economy and a job loss, almost any mortgage payment is too much, so when we mention affordability we’re speaking to people who are blessed with a job.  We also have low interest rates which positively affect affordability. 

Property taxes are lower which greatly reduces the monthly payment as well, further adding to affordability.  We still have a home buyer tax credit which is up to $8,000 for first time home buyers and $6,500 for existing buyers.  Nationwide December sales slumped because Congress waited until end of November to extend and expand this credit, but we expect sales nationwide to pick up again.  Locally sales were up 40% over 2008, so the tax credit expiration didn’t affect us much as everyone is trying to get in on these rock bottom prices. 

First time home buyers are in steep competition with investors for the best buys as well.  For years we would tell investors property in SW Florida just won’t cash flow unless you put a bunch down.  This isn’t true anymore, so investors are coming in and scooping up these artificially low values and either renting them out for a positive cash flow or flipping them for a generous profit. Cash flow is the rent or income earned minus expenses, like debt service, property taxes, repairs, vacancy and collection losses, etc. In preparation for our annual State of the Market Report I started flagging several home sales that were flipped in 2009, sometimes a few times. 

Today’s prices are too low, especially at the bottom end of the market, and 2009 saw 5 of the last 6 months with rising median prices.  We hear from our sources that there are more foreclosures on the way.  Banks study default rates and can predict how many will foreclose in the future; because once a homeowner gets behind, statistically they don’t catch up very often.  While the worst may be behind us, we believe we may have more to go.  This fact and the job market should keep prices relatively stable until the economy turns around.  We may see escalating prices going forward, and if so it will be because we are undervalued on a cash flow basis no matter what the job market is, but we believe true price appreciation will occur once the job market stabilizes. 

The commercial market is currently experiencing an adjustment similar to what the residential market has gone through in years past, as commercial tends to lag residential.  This could put pressure on some banks, so 2010 may be a year to watch the banking sector for mounting losses on the commercial side.  In the next few weeks we’ll have detailed analysis in out State of the Market report.  You can view last year’s report at www.Topagent.com in the Housing Statistics section.  We have additional graphs you can view there as well. We’ll be unveiling this year’s report online and on The Future of Real Estate show broadcast also on the website. 

Sales are off to a boom in 2010 with many sales contracts happening right now, so 2010 will be another fun year to track.