Inc. Magazine released their annual list of hottest cities in the nation to do business.  It’s no surprise that Fort Myers, Cape Coral ranks so high as we have plenty of talented and educated workers, beautiful sunshine, no state income tax, and workers generally love to relocate here when emploters move to the area.

Lee County Florida experiences about 5.4% job growth compared to the state average of 3.8%

Rain, rain, we need more rain.  That’s the message South Florida Water Management District is putting out, and they’re asking people to conserve water now.

Wells are running dry in certain parts of the county, and tighter restrictions may follow soon to get us through until rainy season here in SW Florida.  This could affect SW Florida real estate because one option on the table is to halt home cosntruction.

Year round restrictions may be looked at one day as well, but right now it’s crisis time and we need to get past this hurdle.  SW Florida has been much drier than normal, and rainy season doesn’t start until June 1.

Poe Firms policy holders will be moved to Citizens effective before this hurricane season.  A Leon County judge agreed to regulators’ request to put Southern Family Insurance Co. in receivership, run by the state.

Similar action against Atlantic Preferred Insurance Co. could follow, as would Florida Preferred Insurance Co. on June 1.

Look for rates to increase perhaps substantially to these 280,000 policy holders.  This could be a blessing however, as cheaper policies that can’t pay arean’t really cheap.  It’s always better to be paying for a policy that actually will pay off if and when you need it.

This news comes as a shock to policy holders and customers alike.

Many late night talk show hosts make fun of the Iowa Mumps outbreak, but it is serious business as Iowa hasn’t seen these kind of cases in decades.  Mumps are  largely rare as vaccine all but wiped mumps out years ago.

Nobody knows why the Iowa mumps epidemic has returned, or when it will end.  Many in Florida have asked if they can get it.  Chances are the virus is isolated, although it has spread to Illinois, Nebraska and MInnesota.

The MMR vaccine is 95% effective, and many people received two doses when children.  Some only received one.  College kids are the most likely to be infected, and the CDC doesn’t seem to know why.

For all intents and purposes, most experts seem to think Mumps is a Iowa problem for now and the rest of the nation shouldn’t worry too much about it.  If you frequently travel to the midwest and symptoms of mumps occur, check it out.

ORLANDO, Fla., April 25, 2006 — Slowly rising mortgage rates and higher levels of for-sale inventory influenced Florida’s housing sector in March as the state’s market continued to adjust on the heels of a five-year record pace. Statewide, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 18,881 last month compared to March 2005’s sales of 24,091 homes for a 22 percent decrease, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).

While housing industry analysts predict that home prices eventually will cool, annual appreciation currently remains in the double-digits in many markets throughout Florida and the U.S. Realtors report that demand continues to impact housing prices across Florida, as the state’s warm weather, scenic attractions and favorable business climate attract new residents.

Last month, the statewide median price rose 17 percent to $248,200; a year ago, it was $212,600. In March 2001, the statewide median sales price was $121,600, which is an increase of about 104 percent over the five-year-period, according to FAR records. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national single-family existing home median price was $208,500 in February 2006, up 11.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In California, the statewide median resales price was $535,470 in February; in Massachusetts, it was $339,450; in New York, it was $300,000; and in Maryland, it was $294,577.

Looking to Florida’s existing condominium market, sales of existing condos also decreased in March, with a total of 6,481 condos sold statewide compared to 8,388 in March 2005 for a 23 percent decline, according to FAR. The statewide median sales price for condos rose 2 percent to $214,200 last month; a year ago, it was $210,300. The national median existing condo price was $214,300 in February 2006.

In March, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 6.32 percent — still favorable for potential buyers, but higher than the rate of 5.93 percent a year ago. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s larger markets, the Miami Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reported a 21 percent increase in home sales last month with a total of 942 homes sold; a year ago, a total of 777 homes sold. The median sales price rose 19 percent to $383,100; last year, it was $322,300.

Norka M. Diaz, president of the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County and president and broker-owner of Norka Realty Inc. in Hialeah, says she sees a lot of first-time buyers entering their market. “Our inventory is up, but properties are really moving,” she says. “People feel they are wasting their money by renting and are ready to buy, and mortgage rates remain favorable. Miami is a gateway for international travel and a great place to live — it’s fast-paced, with many business opportunities and things to do.”

Jacksonville, another large Florida MSA, also reported a higher level of resales activity last month, with 1,701 homes changing hands for a 9 percent increase over the March 2005 figure. The market’s median sales price also rose 15 percent to $197,400.

Among the smaller markets in Florida, the Ocala MSA had higher sales in March, with 598 homes sold compared to 566 homes a year ago for a 6 percent gain. The median sales price rose 27 percent to $161,100; a year ago, it was $126,800.

Gregory Lord, president-elect of the Ocala-Marion County Association of Realtors and co-owner of Homes To Ranches Realty Inc. in Ocala, says the area’s laid-back lifestyle and friendly residents draw buyers. “People are still looking for the quality of life in new ranch homes that Marion County has to offer,” he says. “Our area remains a little more rural, with a relaxed atmosphere that appeals to many newcomers. And we’re well-known in the horse world — if people are looking for an equestrian community, this is the place to be.”

Brett Ellis of The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group noted that Fort Myers – Cape Coral home sales declined 29% over March 2005, and prices climbed 12%.  While sales declined from 2005 levels by 29%, they actually increased 40% over February 2006 levels.  Prices remained steady near $280,000 which means the market may be stabilizing with increased sales and stable prices.

The Fort Myers – Cape Coral condo market reported a sales drop of 53% from 2005 levels, but also a sales increase of 38% over February 2006 levels.  Condo prices gained 39% over year ago sales in March 2005, but dropped 10% in price from February 2006 levels, suggesting that buyers are now getting back in the market now that values are more in line.

Other smaller MSAs in the state reporting higher March sales compared to last year include: Tallahassee, where 499 homes changed hands for a 10 percent increase; and Gainesville, where 298 homes sold for a 4 percent gain. The median sales price also rose in those markets: in Gainesville, 28 percent to $218,600; and in Tallahassee, 12 percent to $173,500.

A chart showing statistics for Florida and its 20 MSAs is attached. The chart compares the volume of existing, single-family home sales and median sales prices in March 2006 to March 2005, based on Realtor transactions.

Single-Family Chart

Condominium Chart

Lee County residents in SW Florida have long known what great beaches we have.  From Naples Beach, Vanderbilt Beach, Lover’s Key, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva Beach it’s no wonder people love to move to Southwest Florida.

The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association recently awarded Captiva Beach a Top 10 Beach.  Chico’s FAS which is headquartered in Fort Myers Florida in Lee County  features Captiva Beach on the cover of their May catalog.  The catalog featuring the casual clothing that has made the Fort Myers-based retailer famous is being delivered to 6 million households around the United States.

Chico’s first store ever is still open, and is on nearby Sanibel Island. 

SW Florida is very proud of its beaches, so indeed it is an honor that another organization has rated our beaches a Top 10 Beach in the US.

Snow birds flock to SW FLorida.  The Toledo Blade Newspaper details many Ohio residents and where they enjoy vacationing.  A hot spot is the Winter Wine Festival at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort, or the Ritz Carlton on the Beach.

In naples, the Vanderbilt Inn on Vanderbilt Beach is another popular destination.  in Lee County, Sanibel and Captive Islands are Hot in spite of the recent hurricanes.  Fort Myers Beach is always prime real estate in SW Florida.

Check out the linked article for a host of residents and where they like to vacation in SW Florida.

Traditionally, past sold data has almost always been better than current and pending inventory.  Many times today the past sold data is outdated, predicated on a market we had last year.

In some subdivisions, there may be 80 homes on the market and 0 or 1 pending sales.  There may be 0 sales in the last 4 months, making it difficult to use past data.  And the new inventory may be priced less than the past sales, guaranteeing future sales will be at a lower price point.

Experienced agents must account for all of this and make a recommendation.  In the end, the free market will always determine the value.  Which buyers and sellers get there is another story.

The seller sets the price, and the market determines the value.  If the price is out of line with the value, nothing good can happen for the seller.  If it’s too high, it just sits there, perhaps going down in value as the market falls.  If it’s too low, the seller just gave all the equity away to the buyer.

Correctly setting the price takes skill.  No computer model has been able to do it.

For a computerized Valuation of your home, check out The Ellis Team Home Value Model.

The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University recently released a study by two distinguished professors.  Ford is co-founder of the marketing research firm MarketStat and a lecturer in the College of Business at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Dr. Rutherford  is the Elmo Burke Jr. Chair in Building Development and Professor of Finance in the College of Business at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Their study studied more than 55,000 transactions from the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex area, and concludes that Discount Service Brokers netted much less than Full Service agents, negating any savings gained by lower comissions.  In fact, not only did they sell their homes for less money, it took them significantly longer to sell their properties, if at all.

Bottom line is if it seems like a Deal, it might be a Bust.  Read the entire linked article.

The Deapratment of Education released writing scores for the State of Florida.  You can see the percent that of 4th graders who scored a 3.5 or higher on the writing portion of the FCAT.  3.5 is the minimum passing score.

Pelican Marsh Elementary and Tommie Barfield Elementary scored the highest in Collier County with 92% of students scoring a passing grade.  Pelican Marsh’s mean scores were considerably higher however, so we give top honors to Pelican Marsh Elementary as Collier County’s top elementary school.

Pine Island Elementary ranked highest among Lee County schools with a 95% passing grade.