Lately we’ve been focusing on the local real estate market as we know all real estate is local.  However, sometimes the national market helps us spot trends that may affect us in the future. National Housing Market Update.

National Housing Market

When Northern markets have struggled in past years it made it difficult for some buyers to purchase down here because they no longer had the equity they used to have in their current home or they just couldn’t sell their home to make the move down here.

RE/MAX International releases a national monthly housing report which is a survey of 52 metropolitan areas. The latest report released in July shows transactions were up 4.1% over last year even though they dipped from May 2013 levels.

This dip could be due to limited inventory nationwide.  This year there are 23.9% less homes on the market. This would explain why we have only 3.0 months supply of inventory nationwide.  This low supply typically indicates a sellers market.

Rising rates may curtail transactions somewhat as less people qualify for what they used to just a few short months ago.  Fannie Mae did a study that said this theory isn’t true.  Sometimes rising rates act as a motivator.  Inventory levels are probably the biggest threats to transaction volume right now.

Local numbers haven’t been released at the time this article is written.  Our internal analysis suggests a 30%+ rise in price over last year with all price ranges except for $100k and under posting fair to large sales gains.  The reason the under $100k market is posting losses in sales is because with recent price gains there are fewer lower priced homes to sell.  We saw exceptional strength in the $600-1 Million price range as well as the $250k-$400k range.

We have 14% fewer active listings and a 17% rise in new pending sales locally.  This too should drive prices higher going forward.

To relieve some of this pressure builders are seeing more activity.  Going forward building will become a viable option.  The only downfall to building is locking in the interest rates.  If it takes 6-9 months to build a home there is a significant amount of time rates could rise.  Remember, a 1% increase in rates takes away about 9% purchasing power, so a buyer has to be careful when they select their home today that they can afford it when the home is completed.  Locking in rates that long is almost impossible and costly if more than 45 days out.

Perhaps builders will offer interest rate protection one day but either way it’s built into the price of the home.

More than 800,000 homeowners regained positive equity in their home in the 1st qtr of 2013.  This could spur more sellers to enter the market.  Many homeowners have been trapped in their home and can now afford to make the move.  Many are motivated to beat the interest rate hikes.  Even if they wait for their home to go up a little bit more in value it still costs them to wait as the home they’re buying is also going up as are the rates to finance it.  Waiting is a double whammy for a seller right now.

If you’re thinking about making a move in today’s market, give us a call at 239-489-4042 We’ll show you your options and you can decide if a move makes sense for you right now.  It always helps to get the facts before deciding one way or the other.

Good luck and Happy Selling/Buying!!!

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As expected, SW Florida median single family home sale prices rose in February, up 4.1% over last year’s numbers and up 3.39% from this January’s numbers. Sales volume was down 12% from last year and up 3.17% from this January.

SW Florida Real Estate Sales Prices
Single Family Home Prices in SW Florida

These sales numbers were not unexpected as we’ve definitely seen an uptick in 2nd home buyers from up North looking to secure their piece of paradise before prices go back up. Banks have also lowered inventory due to legal issues with the foreclosures which has dried up inventory at the lower end. Investors are finding it more difficult to find lower priced homes to flip. We’ve entered a period where the short term investor is being squeezed out and we’re left with long term investors who can purchase and rent the property with a positive cash flow, but can’t flip right now and make a guaranteed home run.

Actually the market is healthier and more balanced in this period than it has been since 2005. It’s always dangerous to buy something with the immediate expectation of a flip. This is all well and good when it works, but too many speculators didn’t have a plan B if the market turned, which it obviously did. Back in 2005 prices a property wouldn’t cash flow, so when the flip didn’t work, neither did the rent for cash flow. Today investors truly should focus on long term. Prices are still well below replacement cost and artificially too low, so there is automatic built-in price increases on the way, it’s just a matter of time.

Positive cash flow buys time, and a great investment provides cash flow and long term appreciation, not to mention possible tax benefits. For regular homeowners we always recommend buying a home that suits your needs and you can be happy in. Long term, a home is usually a good investment, but why suffer with a home that doesn’t meet your needs in the meantime? In the end the numbers work themselves out but you have to live with the home. You might rent a home you’re not crazy about, but why buy something you don’t like just because it appears to be a good investment?

Home affordability is high, although inventory selection has been declining. Unless banks start listing foreclosures again, we should see another decline in inventory levels this month as sales have been strong. The perfect opportunity for a buyer was probably between April 2009 when prices were at their lowest and December of 2009 when inventory was it its highest. Since then prices are higher by 7.02% and inventory countywide is down 8.70%

We’ve been hearing from banks and Fannie Mae that they could start releasing inventory again in the next month or two. We’ve seen listings trickle in, and we expect more in the coming months.

The market has always had a thirst for more inventory, so that won’t be an issue. The lack thereof will create price increases, so the true test will be how much more bank owned inventory is on the way compared to market thirst. The answer is prices will rise; the question is how high and how fast. We’ll be keeping an eye out for the inventory as that will be the leading indicator for the answer to how high and how fast.

It seems on every appointment we go or every speaking presentation people want to know if our market has stabilized and finally headed up.  The answer is it seems that way, but our market is still in the process of healing.  The more complete answer is we are headed for better days; it’s just a question of where we are in the process.

Sales Prices in Fort Myers Cape Coral Florrida
Sales Prices and # of Sales in SW Florida

To illustrate where we are, we made a new chart that shows a timeline of median sales prices compared to sales volume, or # of transactions.  Sometimes as prices go up or down it can affect transaction volume, so we thought we’d study that and show you.  We’ve also included a graph of the Emotional Housing Cycle we brought to you in a State of the Market Report several years ago.

Emotional Housing Cycle
Emotional Housing Cycle

When we first presented this concept we were illustrating that our market needed to go through a healing process and there would be pain ahead. Back in January 2006 when prices peaked we were in the Euphoria stage.  We went on TV in October 2005 telling people this market had run its course and wasn’t going to sustain price increases and people had better start looking at the fundamentals of the market.  We pulled investors from new opportunities.

We bring all this up because back then it was a herd mentality, and we weren’t afraid to alert the market to a forthcoming change.  People of course made fun of us and said this market was a run away train and we couldn’t stop it, as if we were trying to.  Fast forward to 5 years later and you’ll find that we’ve gone through the painful process and we’re probably past Desperation and approaching Hope.

I know if you’re home is in foreclosure or has been foreclosed and times are desperate, you might not be feeling the hope.  From an overall market perspective, there is hope.  A few weeks ago at the CCIM Outlook a question came from the crowd asking where we are in the foreclosure crisis.  I answered I think we’re at about the 7th inning.  We do see more foreclosures coming, but they are not at the pace and intensity we’ve seen in years past.   Once we get to the point of fewer foreclosures, and fewer short sales, prices can increase rapidly.  We’re not there yet.

We’ll also keep an eye out for signs the overall economy is improving, and of course we always need to pay attention to wildcards like foreign oil supplies, interest rates, and financing availability.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be privatized and lower down payment options may dwindle to FHA and VA loans.

2009 was a record year for sales.  If you look at the graph, even though prices are down from last months numbers, transaction volume is higher than 2009.  2009 pumped out foreclosures at a record pace, so we probably will see less volume in 2011 simply because we’re seeing fewer foreclosures.  Short sales are still a tricky proposition and not guaranteed to close in a timely fashion, if at all.  Someday we’ll write a book on all the shenanigans we’ve seen banks play with short sales.  We have sold several, we’re just saying don’t always count on banks to do the logical thing or what’s in the best interests of even the bank.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see a rise in median prices next month and good sales volume as we are seeing a backlog in pending sales.  We’ll be releasing our 2011 State of the Market Report soon which will cover some of these trends.


Many SW Florida residents will happily ring in the New Year and say good riddance to 2010.  Others will wish it was Groundhog Day and would like to wake up to 2010 all over again. Your perspective today probably depends on where you sit on the housing fence, and what your expectations are for the New Year.

So let’s set the table and give you some reasonable expectations of what to look forward to in the coming year.  Experts disagree on where the market is headed nationwide.  For instance, we noticed a recent Case Schiller national housing report that said October prices fell .8% year on year.  Only Denver and Washington D.C. saw small price gains, and cities like Las Vegas fell 57.8% and Dallas 8.6% from their peak.  Some cities have hit their lowest levels since 2006.  Case Schiller and Standard and Poors only tracks 20 major markets.  In their opinion, markets may not have bottomed, but they have stabilized.  This study concentrated on the past.

Standard and Poors Case Shiller Real Estate Home Price Index
S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index

On the other hand, Fannie Mae believes the economic and housing outlook for 2011 is brighter.  Falling unemployment claims and an uptick in consumer spending this holiday season are reasons cited in the December 2010 economic outlook.  FNMA is a player because they insure many of the mortgages on the secondary market.  This essentially creates the financing that fuels the real estate market and the economy, and FNMA plays a large role.

For 2011 growth was upgraded to 3.4% from 2.9% due to changes in the economy.  The report assumes an improving labor market, which we’ve long said is the key to any housing market recovery.

Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan was quoted as saying “Despite rising mortgage rates, our forecast for home sales is stronger than the previous forecast, given our brighter economic growth and labor market outlook. We expect modest increases in home sales, despite recent interest rate rises, due in part to modest additional declines in home prices, and we expect people to take advantage of affordability as their employment and income outlook brightens”.

So two top forecasters are predicting declines in home prices nationwide in 2011, but what does that mean for SW Florida? Many believe SW Florida was the first to react and our prices have already fallen.  Our prices have flattened and some believe we’re on the upswing.  This could be true as foreclosures seem to be falling.  We’ve cleared out seemingly all the investors from the 2004-2006 frenzy and now we’re dealing with foreclosures from regular folks who just can’t hold out any longer.  If this is true, inventory could continue to lessen, and eventually we’ll see upward pricing pressure.

SW Florida real estate prices are artificially too low and will at some point increase.  The real question is when, and at what rate.  If we’re setting realistic expectations, a full blown recovery could still be years away.  If we’re looking at statistics, 2011 could be a better year for sellers price wise, but nothing that will be earth shattering.  SW Florida is almost 100% dependant on investors, 2nd home buyers and the like until our job growth rises again.  Construction is almost non-existent and isn’t coming back strong anytime soon.  Until we get real investment and job growth going in SW Florida, there won’t be major upward pricing pressure.  For the near term, our upward pricing pressure will be the sunshine and all the great things SW Florida has to offer.  Our sunshine, beaches, and nature surely must look appealing to anyone stranded in an airport for 3 days, and each blizzard up North can’t but help make our outlook a little brighter.

Florida took its lumps in 2010.  We had an oil spill, high foreclosure rate, bumpy economy, and high unemployment.  The oil spill is over and we came out largely unscathed, our foreclosures are declining, and the economy may have started improving nationwide.  When this economy trickles down to SW Florida, all the pieces are in place for a brighter 2011.  The investors may wake up and wish it was Groundhog Day so they can continue to buy at 2010 prices, but the rest of us will be glad 2010 in behind us and we can all start moving down that road of recovery and progress.  Now if someone could just tell us definitely how long that road is, that would be nice.  At least now the table is set, and maybe realistic expectations will be met.