When the headlines come out in a few weeks experts will be talking about how sales prices are up over last year’s numbers, and that would be true.  At the Ellis Team we like to study the market and identify trends for our customers, and today we’ll pass that along to you. Fort Myers Real Estate Prices and Cape Coral Looking Flat.

Fort Myers real estate sales prices Cape Coral real estate

We first reported some possible trends we’d be keeping an eye on back on Feb 26th in a blog post Are SW Florida Real Estate Sales in Trouble?

Again last week we wrote about some subtle changes we’re seeing in the market. Listing Inventory Rises Slightly in February, Sales Increase- Is the SW Florida Real Estate Market Changing?

Today we’d like to talk about some pricing trends we’re seeing.  I pulled up March 2014 sales data the morning of April 1. Keep in mind it takes many days for some agents to input closings into MLS after they close at the end of the month.  Not sure why, but it’s been a reality for years.  Based upon preliminary numbers we’re seeing, median price for closed single family homes in Lee County Florida remains at $185,000.  This is the same number as officially reported in February.   In other words, median prices did not increase in March.

Fort Myers Real Estate Prices and Cape Coral Looking Flat

Average sale prices came in at $265,386 in March, down from February’s $311,536.  While both numbers are higher than March 2013, they are the same or lower than February 2014.  So what does this tell us?

It tells us experts will be telling us how much better the market is this year because prices are up over last year, but it doesn’t give us perspective.  Typically prices begin an upward trend in February culminating around April-May, and sometimes June.  This year we’re not seeing that.

Season tends to set the trend for the rest of the year.  For the past several years we’d see our big price gains during season then the market would ride the train for the rest of the year, typically with prices dipping back down a bit after season until the following season.

If preliminary numbers for March pan out, we appear to be flat lining at a time when prices normally increase.  It’s called seasonality of the market, and we’re not seeing the seasonality.  If this trend holds true, our market may have peaked and retrench a bit later this year.

Or, it could be a blip on the radar and mean nothing.  I try not to read too much into data until a developing trend emerges.  I do like to inform readers and agents as to some of the trends I’m watching.

A good agent shouldn’t be tied to the outcome.  Far too often I’ve seen agents make predictions and then choose data that supports their predictions. Right now we’re not predicting anything, just reporting some things we’re keeping an eye on.  As a seller, this is information you might want to consider when pricing a home.  We do similar analysis at the subdivision level as well, as all real estate is local and just because one area of the county is hot or cold doesn’t mean all subdivisions are at the same rate. Last week we posted a more complete analysis on our YouTube channel with graphs and trends you might find useful.  Go to www.Youtube.com/brettellisfl to watch that video.

Where is the market headed?  Will it pick up steam or cool off in 2014?  Nobody knows the answers, however we will keep you posted every step of the way.  Knowledge is power.  Not having knowledge can cost you money, both on the buyer and seller end.  People think the value of a Realtor lies in their MLS data.  Sure, you can search the MLS at www.Topagent.com. That’s not the value of a Realtor though.  The true value is a Realtor’s ability to guide you through the tricky real estate maze and help you make the best decisions for you.  We take that very seriously as do many full-time Realtors.

Always hire an experienced agent.  Finding out the hard way later on can cost you in more ways than you know.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!
If you’re considering buying or selling in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Ft Myers Beach or anywhere in Lee County Florida, give us a call. 239-489-4042 or visit our website www.Topagent.com

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Thinking of Selling Automated computer home valuation system SW Florida real estate

Thinking of Selling? Sellers have read that home prices are up and interest rates are low, so they’re curious if it would make sense to consider a move right now.  Many have been trapped in their home for so long they forgot what it was like to have options.

They want to take advantage of low interest rates but many are not sure they have enough equity to make a move.  The whole process can seem daunting.

For years the Ellis Team has played with several online valuation models to help curious homeowners out.  We’re excellent at counseling sellers and going over options, but many don’t even want to waste our time until they get a sense that they can do this.  The online valuation models were all over the place until now.

Automated computer home price analysis Fort Myers real estate

No online valuation will ever take the place of what we do; how could it?  The computer has never been inside your home or the homes it’s using as a basis to compare yours to.  It’s just a computer.  We have found one that does a decent job though.

If you’re considering selling simply go to www.swfloridahomevalues.com  In just a few easy steps it asks for your property address, brings up an aerial view of your home and asks you to verify if it has the home size, bedrooms, and bathrooms correct in the database, and voila’ it sends you a beautiful automated selling price analysis for your home complete with a map of comparable sales, a list of comparable sales along with their selling price, date sold, price per sq ft, and more.  It also provides neighborhood ratings and will email you instant alerts on changes to your home’s value.

It’s free to use and very helpful.  All we ask is that if you decide to sell now or in the future, you at least give us a shot and see what we can do for you when you’re interviewing agents.

We’re experts at guiding you through the home selling maze.  We understand many pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place and many times we can offer suggestions to help you.  We’ve helped thousands of homeowners through this process so we’ve gained some experience along the way that can really help you make better decisions.

If it’s just preliminary information you’re seeking, we’ve got tools like this website for that. If you need more detailed information or have questions about how the process would work for you, we’re always here to talk to.  We’re not pushy salespeople; we sincerely like to help people.  Whether you’re buying or selling today or perhaps years from now, the Ellis Team is here to help.  To search the MLS visit www.Topagent.com and you can always call us at 239-489-4042


Good luck and Happy Buying/Selling!

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Each year we announce the official SW Florida real estate year end prices which are basically an average for the year of the median sales prices for residential homes in Lee County Florida.  It isn’t the December year end sales figure as sales in any given month can be seasonal and can vary from month to month depending on what closes in any given month.

Year End Prices Rise 86% From Their Lows

Official numbers haven’t been released yet so we calculated the weighted average median price each month and performed the calculation.  I would expect our number to closely resemble the official number if/when it is released.  Sometimes the Board goes back and revises numbers in the past and we didn’t do that.  We also noticed that the monthly official sales total 12,060 sales while the January 2014 release shows there were 12,144 closed sales for the year, so perhaps they’re revising past numbers again.

In future years we’ll just track sales directly from MLS as we’re now on one system.  Back in 2008 we described the year end chart as something like a shark’s fin.  It still looks that way but at least we’re coming out of the downturn nicely.  You can see we clearly have a ways to go before reaching the highs back in 2005, but 2013 sure looks a lot better than the low in 2009.

In fact, we’re 86.09% better than we were at the lows in 2009.  Each week we provide data and graphs on the inventory levels, monthly price gains, market absorption, and much more, and only once per year do we get to break it down like this.

In a rising market it sure is a lot more fun to look at this graph.  Back in 2007 and 2008 people were wondering when the market was going to bottom, and in 2009 we had our answer.  We saw it on a monthly basis and it’s very easy to see looking at in on a yearly basis.

Many sellers are calling us and pleasantly surprised that they’re now able to sell their home due to the price increases.  Unfortunately there are some sellers that refinanced or bought at the top of the market and didn’t put much money down and they’re still upside down and can’t sell yet.  Each passing month adds more potential sellers who can afford to sell if they wish to.

Each year prices have gone up combined with their mortgage going down which has allowed more to become free from their home.  So many felt trapped in their home while they were upside down, so they just waited for the market to respond.

If you’re a seller, the time might be right for you to sell now.  Inventory is still low and we have buyers actively looking for the right home to come on the market.  Interest rates are still low so moving to your next home is affordable now.  It may not be as affordable in the future.  Plus, the future home you hope to buy when your home sells may be going up in value too.

Keep in mind this is a market snapshot.  Not all homes in all prices appreciate or depreciate at the same rate.  It’s important to speak to a professional who can help you with your situation.  Of course, if you’d just like to snoop around on the MLS you can at www.TopAgent.com.  If you’re considering selling, please give us a call at 239-489-4042.  We’re easy to talk to and we never pressure you.  We’re here to present you with your options and let you choose what’s best for you.


Good luck and Happy House Selling!
If you’d like to search the market as either a buyer or seller, visit www.Topagent.com If you need extra help we’re always available to talk to you and help you make better decisions. Our phone number is 239-489-4042 Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

To search the MLS for properties go to www.TopAgent.com or give us a call at 239-489-4042 You can even search for waterfront property in Fort Myers, Cape C oral, or all of SW Florida    Good luck and Happy House Hunting!!!

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Official housing numbers for May are in and both the median and average sales price are up over 20% over last year.  The results are noteworthy and we expect the market to ride similar margins throughout the year, but the big gain in prices may have subsided for a bit. June SW Florida Real Estate Market Update.

June SW Florida Real Estate Market Update
SW Florida Home Prices

A few months ago we warned that prices were rising steadily however this is a trend we’ve seen repeat over the past several years only to watch the market cap out for the year around April-May.  In several past articles we pointed out that beginning in May we’ll be watching the month over month prices to see how the market is faring in real time.

This month we decided to post a historical price graph dating back to January 2009 illustrating the median single family home in Lee County Florida. Sometimes agents will make predictions based upon gut feelings on what they perceive is going on in the market.  While this gut feeling can be a useful tool, it can also be deceiving.  In the past I’ve spoken with different agents in a given month.  One would be super busy and another would be having a lull, for whatever reasons.  You can just guess which agent was more optimistic and which was more pessimistic that month.

We prefer to make predictions based on facts, data, and logic.  Yes we’ll throw in a feeling from the street if we hear changes in buyer’s or lending activity, but it has to be founded on some mathematical data to be meaningful.  We try to pull out numbers that are meaningful and not just stats, because as you know, anyone can make stats say about anything.

May numbers are in and they’re actually down from April’s numbers.  May’s median price was $176,330 compared to April’s $182,000.  May’s average price was $288,547 compared to April’s $292,201.  If you look at the graph you’ll see this trend has occurred each year beginning about May for the past 3 years.  Back in 2008 we predicted 2009 would be a year of bouncing along the bottom and that’s what it did.  There just wasn’t a lot of price swings.

January of 2011 was the beginning of the breakout in prices.  Listing inventory fell again in May and pending sales are up, so why didn’t prices increase?  The answer is our more expensive properties sell when we have the most affluent buyers here which is in season.  We still have strong sales all year round, but not as many higher end sales.  New pending sales have ranged from 1,465 to 1,485 from March through May.  It’d probably be higher if we had more inventory, but not necessarily the prices.

Remember, all real estate is local.  This means that even though the market may plateau for awhile, there can still be pockets where prices increase.  The whole market doesn’t march in unison.  The low end could be appreciating while the high end is suffering.  We’ve seen instances where prices get a little ahead of themselves in Cape Coral so people started buying in Lehigh because it offered more value.  Sure, Cape Coral off water has always held a premium over Lehigh, but there are limits and we saw those back in the big buildup in 2004 and 2005.

The same can be true with any area.  If waterfront prices shot up instantly in Fort Myers at some point buyers would move over to waterfront in Cape Coral.  Fort Myers may hold a premium, but there is a limit.

Next month will be most interesting to see how the numbers fare.  It really sets us up for the balance of the year if recent history has anything to say.  of course, we all know recent history can be trumped by future news, so we’re also keeping our eye on the bond markets and how that will affect interest rates, the economy, taxes, etc.

Stay tuned.  If you’re in the market to buy, heed the warnings!  Interest rates are on the rise.  Waiting will cost you money.  A month or so ago we posted on our Blog how the Fed’s pullback of QE (Quantitative Easing) may impact the stock market and affect interest rates.  You may want to check out that article (May 23) at Is Stock Market Ready to Make a Move?

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Last week we reported we expected sales to be roughly even if not slightly behind 2010 levels when official numbers were reported.  Well, its official and we were wrong.  Sales actually increased by 25 sales over last year.  Single family home sales were reported as 1127 sales versus 1102 last year.

Fort Myers - Cape Coral SW Florida Homes Closed
SW Florida Homes Closed

We also reported listing inventory actually went up slightly by 43 units which was another change in direction.  It turns out the sales weren’t a change in direction, but it doesn’t matter.  Whether they were up or down 25 units statistically it’s not a big difference.  What was interesting was the first change in direction, and something we wanted to monitor going forward.  While we’re usually correct with our predictions, this time we were off on the sales numbers.

Home Sale Prices in Cape Coral - Fort Myers Florida
SW Florida Real Estate Home Sale Prices

There was another bit of good news in the official numbers.  Not only were sales up, but prices rose 17.6% over last year and 7.17% from the previous month.  This could be because home affordability is at an all-time high and buyers today can afford more home due to lower prices and lower interest rates than ever before, or it could be because there was less distressed this past month.  In fact, in September 50.77% of all single family home sales were distressed, down from 54.26% in August.  Those numbers were as low as 44.57% in June of 2011.  Banks have not brought significant foreclosed inventory to the market since the robo-signing fiasco, although we’re being told this may change in January as several of the large banks are able to bring more as they’ve worked through legal issues pertaining to those questionable foreclosures.

Pending sales were down last week, so we’ll have to see how this affects sales going forward, however they are typically down this time of year and start picking back up again going forward.  There is some seasonality in these numbers we like to account for, and this year is no exception.

We have noticed our roads are getting busier and our northern friends, sometimes referred to as snowbirds, have begun their trek to SW Florida, and judging by our phone calls and Internet leads, many are in search of their piece of paradise.  This could bode well for another strong season in the SW Florida real estate market.

Two new programs were just announced that will greatly benefit distressed homeowners.  One program allows underwater sellers to refinance their home no matter how much is owed if it is a FNMA or Freddie Mac insured loan as long as they’ve been current on their mortgage in the last 6 months, and another program that offers sellers up to $20,000-$30,000 in financial assistance to move and sell their home for less than what is owed.

We’ll bring more information to you about these two new programs in the coming weeks.  If you’re a homeowner and struggling to make your payments, you might be interested in either of these programs.  Simple give us a call at 239-489-4042 or email me at Brett@topagent.com feel free to visit our website www.Topagent.com for other timely information and links to our videos.


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.

This is the question most often asked, by both buyers and sellers.  The truth is nobody knows for sure, but the market usually leaves clues.  Sometimes the market leaves strong clues a kindergartner can figure out, and sometimes they’re more obscure only a tea leaf reader might understand. 

So what clues is the market leaving right now?  Median single family home sale prices are up about 10% over last year in June.  July numbers haven’t been released yet.  Prices are down .31% over last month, so we’ll call that about even.  Home sales are down 12% over last year, but home sales are up 2.81% over last month. 

SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices
SW Florida Median Sale Prices 2009-2010

As you can see by the attached chart, last year home prices rose steadily in 2nd half of the year, perhaps due to the home buyer tax credit, low interest rates, and bargain buys in the SW Florida market. 

Prices continued to rise this year right up until the home buyer tax credit ran out.  Is this coincidence?  We don’t know.  Some speculate it is due to the expiration of the tax credit, others speculate it could be effects from the oil spill, while still others wonder if it’s not the economy and the job situation.  Perhaps it’s all three, or perhaps its simple supply and demand at equilibrium in this new economy. 

Banks have slowed down bringing bargain homes to the market, and we’ve long wondered what will happen to our market when the bargains are gone.  Because we don’t have sustained employment opportunities, it seems almost impossible for prices to shoot up drastically once the distressed sales are gone. 

The distressed sales are not gone; it’s just that foreclosure listings have slowed recently.  We’re hearing that FNMA has more properties coming to the market soon, and we have seen a slight jump in pre-listed foreclosures we’re working right now.  We’ve also seen a slight increase in short sale transactions, although not enough to make a dent. 

HAFA, the government program designed to make short sales easier to sail through with the banks has been a huge flop.  It’s almost to the point the government should stop trying, because they’re making things worse.  Last year the government intervened and tried to instill loan modifications and workouts, but it was a flawed theory and failed miserably.  Because of this, we said 2010 was the year of the transaction either a short sale or a foreclosure.  Short sales have not worked like intended.  It was a voluntary program and had no teeth or real chance.  It was just an arbitrary deadline designed to make the politicians look good, but now they just look bad. 

Right or wrong, this all leads up to more eventual foreclosures.  We believe more are coming, and they take time to work through the process.  The Lee County Clerk’s office has been working down the backlog of files lis pendens, and this is a good sign.  Unfortunately, there are more to come.  The stimulus has not worked, nor has the governments plan to revive housing.  It’s time for a new plan, a plan that can actually work.

 We invite local, state, and federal officials to sit down with those on the street and think about the big picture.  Theory should align with reality, and implementation should be realistic, and have teeth.  Otherwise politicians are kicking the can down the road, prolonging the housing crisis, and adversely affecting the economy.  Housing is 32% of GDP, so it makes sense to work on a comprehensive solution that helps both, not one that sounds good for votes but does nothing. 

Where is our market headed?  We’ve identified some clues, and maybe there are others.  You can read the tea leaves and decide for yourself which elements will win out.  We can say we have record low rates, below replacement cost prices, and affordability is at an all-time high.  So if a buyer has a job, has good credit, and wants to buy, now is a good time.  I just want to get more people good jobs so more people can take advantage of this market.

Watch this week’s The Future of SW Florida Real Estate Video Show August 13, 2010