We’ve recently been testing a concept to gauge consumer interest at a subdivision level. For years agents have been sending out Just Listed or Just Sold postcards, or even market updates to communities. Typically this only reached sellers. This was OK because the target was always the sellers who might list their homes. It’s a practice in the industry known as “Farming.”

Map with Homes for Sale and Solds in Reflection Lakes
Reflection Lakes Interactive Map

We thought buyers might also be interested in similar information, but reaching them in addition to targeted sellers in that area can be dicey. You can’t just mail to a certain area as the buyer could come from anywhere.

We thought “What if we could target both worlds, the buyer and the seller?” One way to target buyers is to reach them on the Internet for specific search items. For instance, let’s say a buyer is looking to buy in Reflection Lakes. If we could somehow provide this list of data when buyers are searching, would buyers find that helpful?

We don’t know, but our hunch says they might. We’ve researched a way to provide a map of an area which shows all the homes available for sale, all closed sales within a certain time frame, and all pending sales and pinpointed them on the map. Additionally, if you click on the pin, you get additional information on the home, like list price, sold price, size, age, pool, waterfront description, bedrooms, bathrooms, and much more. You can customize it to display about anything you want.

We even went so far as to provide links to additional information if available, virtual tours and more. In this way, a buyer or seller can quickly see a homes location on a map and compare it with other like kind homes for sale. It is color coded and sorted by status, so you can look at the solds to get an idea of what homes are selling for or just actives. Perhaps you’re riding down the street and just want to know what it’s on the market for.

The map is set for a particular point in time, however it can be updated at any time. The agent selects the fields to display. The consumer can zoom in or out, as well as click on street view to look up and down the street and view the homes photos, or even take a satellite view to get an idea of the terrain and the surroundings of the community.

We exported all this information into a Google map., so the possibilities are endless on how you can view these homes. It’s really kind of fun. We liked it, so we thought consumers might too,

We selected fields we thought the consumer would be interested in. These fields are flexible and we can add or subtract when building the next map. It took me about an hour to setup this map in Reflection lakes. If you’d like to view it, simply go to www.Reflectionlakes.com

We can setup a map like this for any area and import data from the MLS. If you live in a community you think would benefit from something like this, give us a call at 239-489-4042 or send me an email Brett@topagent.com and I’ll look into it. If you think it’s missing something, or have feedback, we’d like to hear it.

If you think we’re nuts and nobody will use it, you can let us know too. Feel free to email us or comment on our Blog http://blog.topagent.com

We honestly don’t know if the public will use it or like it. We do know it’s cool and useful to us, and we enjoy trying new things if they have the potential to help in the buying or selling process.

Stay tuned for future updates for other areas around Lee County on our website at Topagent.com

Good luck, and Happy House Hunting!

The home inspection industry has sure changed in recent years. Not long ago buyers would hire a home inspector to determine if there were issues with a home. If there were, the standard contract called for seller required repairs up to 3% of purchase price for covered items and up to 2% for wood destroying organisms.

Uniform Wind Mitigation Verification Inspection
4 Point Home Inspection

Contracts have changed and now seller required repairs are 1.5% for covered repairs if at all, as more and more contracts are now As-Is with right to inspect. The types of inspections have also changed, so we’ll attempt to inform you about the various types of inspections. In any event, we do recommend a buyer have a home inspection regardless of whether the seller agrees to make any repairs just for the education and knowledge about what you’re buying.

First there is the pre-purchase home inspection. Buyers use this to discover items that may not be working properly and educate themselves about the systems of the home. A home inspector is a great resource as to how various systems operate and the proper maintenance of these items. You may or may not be able to use this report to have seller correct deficiencies depending on the contract you used and the items discovered.

There is also a separate 4 point inspection report your insurance company may require, typically on homes older than 20 years. The insurance companies specifically want information on 4 areas, including the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), electrical wiring and panels, plumbing connections and fixtures, and the roof.

Insurance companies have become increasingly reluctant to issue Homeowner Insurance Policies on older homes (usually 25 years old or more). Their common concern is that there may be conditions in an older home that could become a liability to them. For instance; a home with a roof nearing the end of its reliable service life may fail while under the policy and the homeowner may seek reimbursement from their insurance company for damages to the home or its contents.

Similar concerns extend to the condition of the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems in an older home. If these elements are in poor condition, in need of being updated or replaced or were improperly installed, they may fail and cause fire or water damage to a home.

Newer homes are assumed (by the insurance companies) to not have these problems as frequently as older homes. There is a standard form for this type of inspection that must be filled out by a qualified inspector or contractor.

There is also a Uniform Wind Mitigation Verification Inspection which provides significant discounts to a homeowner if the home qualifies. The state has recently changed the reporting rules this year making it harder to qualify for such discounts. More proof is needed in the report including photos.

There is also a Roof Certification Inspection insurance companies require when the roof is approximately 15 years old. The 4 point inspection report may suffice if your insurance company asks for this inspection. Check with your company.

Lastly, don’t forget the Defective Chinese Drywall, Mold, or Radon reports. Defective drywall was typically found in homes built around 2005-2007 but that’s not absolute. Keep in mind re-modeled homes could be affected as well. The name comes from China as they exported the vast majority, but truth be known there was defective American drywall in the past as well.

Discuss with your inspector which type of reports would benefit you most given the property you are buying. Inspectors tend to cover themselves, so they will notate anything and everything they see as a concern or potential concern. This is good as it educates a buyer who has never lived in the home about what to look for now or in the future.

Buying a home seems like a scary proposition, however it can be fun and enlightening process if you take the time to learn what’s involved with home ownership. It’s not time to freak out just because items show up in the report. Many of these items are to inform you of what to look for in the future. Isn’t it better to purchase knowing what to look out for than being blind-sided later on by unexpected surprises? We think so.

Good luck and happy house hunting. If you need help buying or selling, don’t hesitate to call us. We’re here to help. 239-489-4042


The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers has created an interactive map for searching data in Reflection Lakes in South Fort Myers. By clicking on a listing the map will give you detailed information on the property including links to further detailed information. If a virtual tour is available it will link to that as well.

Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Update



View Reflection Lakes Fort Myers Florida in a full screen map

Check it out and let us know what you think. Feel free to check out floor plans at our Reflection Lakes website

Watch the SW Florida Real Estate Update June 2012

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX is accepting new listings. We’ve sold practically everything and we’re ready to help more people. If you haven’t heard this before, you probably will in the future. It should be a common theme.

Prices have been rising, that’s well documented. Let’s illustrate why. We’ve created a few graphs that show official inventory levels and added a month’s supply of inventory graph.

Months Supply of Inventory in SW Florida
SW Florida Listing Inventory and Months Supply

Last month only 868 new single family listings came to the market compared to 1,413 at this time last year. Fewer listings coming to the market shows why we have fewer listings on the market today than in months past. Officially we’re down to 4,169 single family homes which includes villas and duplexes. It also includes Charlotte, Hendry, Collier, and Glades county properties listed in our MLS. In the coming months those other counties will be dropping out of the official numbers, so look for Lee County numbers to fall even further.

Combining a trend of less properties coming to the market each month is the market’s ability to absorb everything the supply side throws at it. Let’s just say the demand side’s appetite is larger than the supply side’s ability to deliver.

If you’ve ever hear the phrase “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” you know the concept. Well, in this case, the eyes aren’t bigger. The stomach is easily devouring everything it sees. Buyers in many cases are in bidding wars. That’s not to say transactions are easy. In fact, perhaps they’re more difficult than ever to close.

This market has a large appetite, but it needs teeth to chew on it and fully digest what it’s about to consume. Some properties have title issues. For instance, we’ve been working to close a file that had an open pool permit from years ago. Another had old code violations that must be cleared up including hearings with the city or county. All these take time, and some buyers aren’t willing to wait.

We’ve seen buyers walk believing they can just go find another great deal. That’s until the realization sinks in that they might want to hang in there on their current deal because the alternatives may not be as nice, and may cost a lot more. And who’s to say the slim pickings left on the market don’t also have unknown issues that need to be worked on. Though frustrating it may be worth it to hang in there.

Professional agents are the teeth that get in there and chew on the issues and get them worked out. In the end, everyone is happy, but it can be frustrating when you’re scheduled to close only to find out a week before closing there are issues that will take some time. We tell our buyers not to get too attached to the closing date on the contract, because issues have been creeping up that must be dealt with.

When you look at the month’s supply of inventory standing at 3.5 months, you quickly realize buyers are not in the driver’s seat right now. Choices are slim, prices are rising, and time is ticking. Buyers want to capitalize on this buying opportunity with lower prices, low rates, etc.

Buyers should realize the seller or the title company isn’t the enemy. The competitor is other buyers. If a buyer opens up that contract even for a second, it gives another buyer the chance to swoop in and take it.

When you find a property you like, ask yourself how much more will this property cost me down the road if I wait? Ask yourself, what if I don’t find something I like as much? Back in 2009 properties were entering the market fast and furious. Times have changed, and the selection just isn’t there.

Don’t be discouraged. There are great properties out there, and more coming. You just have to be educated ahead of time so when that great deal comes, you’re ready to pounce. The time to learn the market isn’t when the property hits the market, it’s before. If you wait to learn, you’ll have your lunch handed to you by another buyer who took the time to seek advice before their desired home hit the market.

And if you encounter a few hiccups, work with an agent who’s used to digging in and getting problems solved. As the market continues to rise in value, you’ll be glad you did.

Good luck and happy house hunting. Call the Ellis Team at 239-489-4042 if you need the assistance of a professional.

For the most part the Lee County market bottomed out in 2009 at the height of the foreclosure boom.  We had some fluctuations throughout 2010, however most agree the bottom was in 2009.

SW Florida Home Sale Prices 2009-2012
SW Florida Single Family Home Prices 2009-2012

It’s important to note that even though we had an influx of high levels of distressed sales back in 2009, the market was able to absorb these properties, illustrating that we have a market, even at reduced prices.

Some markets don’t really have a market at any price.  Detroit has been down for years and many properties don’t sell even for $1,000.  The banks really can’t give them away, so in some cases they’ve just demolished the home for liability purposes.  I haven’t checked on the Detroit market in a little while, but I haven’t heard any differently, although we’re certainly not Detroit experts.

We’ve learned that we do have a market, and that high foreclosure rates wouldn’t last forever.  Foreclosures are down significantly and we are seeing traditional sales rise.  We know that distressed sales weigh down the market, as evidenced by the median sale prices of distressed homes of about $80,000 compared to the $150,000 median prices for traditional sales.  As prices keep rising more sellers who would like to sell will be able to.

Traditional sales Chart SW Florida Real Estate
Traditional Sales Versus Distressed Sales

Inventory is down to a 3.5 month supply and has been falling steadily.  Most people consider a normal market to be somewhere around 6 months supply.  Anything too much above that becomes a buyers market and anything much below that becomes a sellers market.  There is no question we’re in a sellers market right now as it’s not uncommon to see multiple offers on new properties entering the market that are priced correctly.

Before sellers get too excited reading we have a sellers market, keep in mind general economic conditions still apply.  Buyers still must get mortgages in many cases, and the property must appraise.  Incomes are not rising substantially, and unemployment is still too high.  Buyers have a hard time saving for a down payment in today’s economic climate.  Everything just seems to cost so much, from gas, to insurance, to groceries.  A young family or single person just has a hard time saving with these conditions.

If the economy were to turn around, prices could probably rise faster.  Keep in mind; it’s all supply and demand.  We have demand at the right price, and we have limited supply.  As prices rise, we expect to see increasing supply as sellers could then afford to sell.  Many cannot now because they owe more that house is worth and don’t want to take the hit to their credit report.

Prices are still too low but rising.  Inventory is too low and won’t rise overnight which will allow for price appreciation.  Many people are upside down in the 6 figure range that a 10k or 20k rise won’t help, but as prices rise it does free up more sellers to enter the market.  If our prices suddenly doubled, I assure you we’d see many more homes on the market, which is why it won’t suddenly double.

Conditions today favor a measured approach.  Supply and demand are in play, and if ever a student wanted to study the economic forces, the SW Florida real estate market would make for a great example.

We hope this information on the market is helpful, and if you need help buying or selling in today’s market, feel free to give us a call. 239-489-4042