SW Florida home sale prices in Lee County single family home sales shot up another 16.68% over the previous month and were up 17.14% over last April’s figures as reported by the Florida Association of Realtors. Year to date home prices are up 34.35% bucking the national trend.

SW Florida Home Sale Prices
SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices 2009-2011

Buyers are astonished to see prices rising like this and inventory is shrinking. It should not come as a big surprise though to readers as we’ve been explaining for months why this would occur. It is simple supply and demand. Demand is still high for affordable homes both from prospective homeowners and investors who can actually cash flow properties right now based upon today’s prices and interest rates.

Typically in the housing cycle buyers try to wait until they perceive bottom and then scoop in and buy. Unfortunately you never really know when you’ve seen the bottom until you see it in the rear view mirror. I’m always amazed at the buyers in a hurry after they feel they’ve missed the bottom who low ball properties with one last try to make up for every last penny they were trying to save on the buy.

This makes about as much sense as the seller who over-prices his home by 20% just after the market has turned and headed down. Sellers never want to get caught chasing the market down, and buyers don’t want to get caught chasing the market up.

Unfortunately we’re seeing buyers chasing the market up and low balling offers only to lose out to another buyer and starting the process all over again. Buyers need to realize they’re not in competition with the seller, they actually in competition with all the other buyers out there. Supply of inventory has shrunk so there is less available property to go around for all the buyers out there. If sales go down later this year it won’t be due to lack of buyers, but rather lack of inventory.

We are expecting more foreclosure listings in the future although we’re not expecting a mass dumping of properties here in SW Florida because we believe we’ve seen the lion’s share of the investor properties that flooded the market the past several years. Instead, we believe we’ll see an influx of foreclosures on “Average Joes” who have lost their job or become underemployed due to the poor economy.

If our view is correct, and if we don’t see any major wildcards affecting the housing market, prices could maintain a slow pace upward until we see more inventory. Sellers have no competition from builders because there is little building activity at these price points. That will change once prices go higher, but the question is how long will it take to get to that point?

The outlook for sellers looks brighter unless you’re looking for a return to 2005 prices which isn’t happening anytime soon. Buyers need to decide if they’re serious and look to buy their 1st choice or their 5th choice. You can educate yourself by reading articles like this or speaking with your Realtor about what’s REALLY going on in your market. If you decide to take this advice, you might just have a chance at that 1st choice. If you’re the type that likes the do-it-yourself home study course, you might be looking down the barrel of your 5th choice. Either way, the market controls your direction and you control when and where you arrive.

The Florida Association of Realtors released official numbers, and as expected the number of sales were down, but fairly steady with last year. We predicted in last week’s article they’d be right where they are. We also said last week that we didn’t study the sales prices, but that we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them rise again in January. Perhaps we should have studied those numbers because they did not rise, they actually fell 3.86% from last year’s numbers and fell 4.32% from December’s numbers.

Median Sale Prices SW Florida Homes
SW Florida Single Family Home Median Sale Prices 2009-2011

We can’t put too much emphasis on one month’s numbers, especially January numbers because there was a flurry of activity in December to get homes closed by the end of the year. Many sales have stalled or pulled due to title issues. We’re just now getting a few listings back from the banks in the higher priced end that were stalled due to this, so this can have an impact on closings and prices temporarily.

Just the same, we half expected prices to rise again as we believed fewer sales would equate to rising prices. Because more of the foreclosure sales in the past have been in the lower price points, fewer foreclosure sales means the median sales prices gets pulled up from the top and pushed up from the bottom. This evidently did not occur. It is possible that as more short sales went through they were in the lower price points.

It is season now and we have pent-up sales and rising pending sales, so again going forward we will not be surprised to see rising prices. In fact last year this happened as evidenced by the chart.

This past week we attended the News Press Market Watch National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun gave some insightful statistics that may impact the US and SW Florida markets. He expects interest rates to hit 6% by the end of the year and 6.5% sometime in 2012 as rising deficits lead to inflation.

Mr Yun still believes we will see 50-60% distressed sales in the SW Florida real estate market this year, and we have 2-3 years total before all foreclosures are worked out of the system. If President Obama enacted an elimination of the mortgage interest deduction it would have an immediate effect of lowering prices nationwide by 15%, and our economy doesn’t need another big hit from real estate.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist NAR and Brett Ellis

He expects about 3% GDP growth and unemployment to be around 9% in 2011 returning to a normal 6% by 2015. Businesses are making money, but they’re afraid to hire due to uncertainties with new health care costs and banks aren’t willing to lend to businesses due to blank pages written into new banking rules. By blank pages he referred to pages that state a future committee will determine actual rules, so banks are hoarding cash and not lending.

Mr Yun says Washington DC is to blame for businesses not hiring due to uncertainty. If we could give certainty back, business may hire more quickly, and this would speed up time lines for recovery dramatically. For instance, we’ve lost 8 million jobs since Obama took office, and in 2010 we created 1 million jobs. 1 million jobs is pretty good, but nothing compared to what we lost. At this rate we’ll create 2 million jobs in next 2 years, but we’re still way down from levels just 2 years ago. If we could speed up businesses hiring, we could speed up the recovery, which would help real estate. Wall Street is doing OK as we’re seeing record profits, but no motivation to hire due to Washington.

Sales are near record levels. To put this in perspective, in 2001 we had 376 single family home sales. We had 443 in 2002. In 2011 we had 1,072, down slightly from 1,115 in 2010. Our sales are on fire. Our prices leave a little bit to be desired, unless you’re the buyer. Buyers realize SW Florida is on sale and they’re buying as fast as they can. We can see light at the end of the tunnel, and prices should increase going forward. Just don’t expect 2005 pricing to come roaring back anytime soon. We’re looking for modest gains, and as Dr. Yun says, cities like Las Vegas and Fort Myers might even see some occasional surprises on the upside of pricing going forward.

SB550 has not been well received in Florida.  That is an understatement.  Some of the published comments regarding the bill affecting septic systems or Onsite Wastewater Treatment Plants were:

“I hope they flush this legislation…”
“Something smells here.”

The most onerous piece of this bill is that many of those  who had an older septic system were required to bring it to code.  Why fix it if isn’t broke?

A coalition comprised of members of the Florida Association of Realtors, the Florida Homebuilders Association, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association have been meeting to address the situation.  Repeal or amend SB550 and simultaneously propose legislation addressing the issues of clean water and a good mechanism for wastewater treatment. The hope is to get a sponsor of the new bill at the same time SB550 is repealed.
On Site Wastewater Treatment Plants (septic system) basically treat where generated.  How efficient is that?  The other choice would be to just “sewer the world,” said Bob Himschoot.  Bob is indeed an area expert on the issues.  He has a degree in forestry and is a member of  more than one of the groups in the coalition. Those who know Bob know that he has the credentials.  He ran the family business Gulf Disposal and developed Gulf Coast Landfill before he sold them to Waste Management, Inc..  He is a Rotarian and past president of the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.  Bob  formerly served on the board of the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association and currently serves the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association.  He is president of Crews Environmental which he acquired 30 years ago.  His son and daughter are involved in the day to day operations.  When Bob isn’t driving to Tallahassee to promote clean water he is actively involved in the management of Crews. He has raised his family here and probably is good to his dog.  I don’t even know if he has a dog.  And, he isn’t running for public office so it doesn’t matter.  The point is that he is a person passionate about clean water in the state of Florida and has spent his adult life in that pursuit.

Bob advocates the onsite wastewater treatment plants. Without septic sytems there would be many more “non buildable” lots in the state of Florida. He says there are many nuances and unintended consequences to “sewering the world’.   His philosophy is “know what you have and maintain it.”  He is not opposed to some sort of requirement to pump and check the system every 5 years.  The cost per homeowner would be something like $500 or $100 per year maintenance.  Those of us on a central water system (sewer) pay at least $350 per year for maintenance of that system.  Look at it this way.  The system is permitted so it must meet the code when it is installed.  The buyer of the property is generally not involved in selecting the system or the workings.  Many move in to the property and expect a “happily ever after” with no thought of maintenance of the system.  Sometimes the septic survey and how a septic system works are never conveyed to the buyer. A buyer of a property with an onsite wastewater treatment plant must don the role of sanitation engineer. There are many measures that will prevent septic failure.

A county health official in the state of Florida has coined a phrase for raw sewage on the bathroom floor.  It is the “Ten Phone Call Failure” and what is better known as the Class I Failure.

Class II Failure is evidenced by raw sewage in the yard.  I recall a property management company giving me a tour of a duplex that the owner wanted me to list.  The backyard could not pass the “sniff” test. I was wearing sandals (I usually am) that day and slipping and sliding in stuff you don’t want to slip and slide in.  I did not know where to step next.  I just wanted to be sure that I did not slide and lose my balance.  When I got to my car I threw my shoes in a bag.  I disposed of the bag at the next receptacle. Adjacent to this wet area in the backyard  was an incredible vegetable garden with some of the best looking greens and plants I have ever seen.  I was so relieved that there was not a vegetable stand at the curb.  When the owner indicated no interest in repairing the septic or disclosing the issue, I did not list the property.  As always, “If you can smell it; you can’t sell it.”

Class III failure has no smell and no excess moisture around the drainfield.
Class IV failure  described as long term, environmental  degradation is the hardest failure to prove as it is determined by computer modeling and may provoke the cynics among us looking for at least some proof.

We should all be aware of things that will plug a septic system sooner. According to the local based plumber contractors, a garbage disposal is hard on any plumbing.  It sends larger pieces through the system.  Grease and even salad oil, coffee grounds, paper towels, cigarette butts are but a few of the items that will clog the system and can damage components if trapped.  Doing all of your laundry in one day might make you feel efficient; but, might be harmful to the system.  The new Energy Star clothes washer is said to use 50% less water than a standard model.

Limiting the amount of water that we use is not only beneficial to the water supply; it limits the amount of water that must be treated.  All Floridians have a responsibility to use our resources sensibly and to pass on a legacy of clean water to our children and grandchildren.

For more information:

When the legislature meets again to consider this issue, let’s hope they pay attention to the likes of Bob Himschoot and the various members of the coalition.

Written by Sande Ellis


The Florida Association of Realtors released official sales numbers this week and the numbers came in just about where we expected.  Last week wrote that by our calculations November sales were relatively flat versus October sales, and the official numbers bear that out.

Officially we had 6 more single family home sales in SW Florida in November than October.  October had 1,016 sales and November had 1,022.  Single family home prices were flat too.  Median prices were $90,000 in October and $89,800 in November.

SW Florida Real Estate Single Family Home Prices
SW Florida Median Sale Prices Single Family Homes

We are seeing a rise in pending sales as banks and title companies are struggling to get these files closed.  Closings are becoming trickier as homeowners associations are trying to collect as much or more than the law will allow and this delays closings.  Municipalities are trying the same thing with code violations, lot mowing fees, utilities, etc.  These tactics are really delaying closings.  With cash strapped governments it’s no wonder they’re trying to squeeze every dollar they can as tax revenues have declined.  They sell it as cleaning up the neighborhood and neighborhood stabilization, but money is the root and certain municipalities are much worse than others, and everyone in the industry knows exactly who they are.

These tactics do collect more revenues for government, but they also cause deals to fall through and properties to sit on market months longer, and we don’t believe this helps stabilize a neighborhood.  One of these days we’ll have to have the News Press do an expose on these tactics.

Statewide median sale prices of single family homes were down 5% and sales were down 15% versus last year.  Lee County sales were down 33% from last year, and prices were down 6%, so our price declines from last year are in line with the state, but our sales have been affected more radically.  This can be because our area is harder hit than others with foreclosures, and because of delays in the process by HOA’s and municipalities we discussed earlier.

We’re really going to be on the lookout in the 1st quarter of 2011 for what the banks do with inventory.  Evictions are due to start up again January 3rd with several of the large banks and Fannie Mae properties. Many of the large banks are resuming foreclosures again too, and the real test is going to be just how many are actually left to foreclose upon.

Our suspicion is we’re definitely in the second half of this crisis, and the worst is behind us, at least in SW Florida.  The rest of the country has more to go as we’ve already weeded out many of the investors from the boom, and the mortgage rests will affect other states more than us.  The real question is how many people are barely hanging on, and can they hold on long enough for the economy to recover.  This is the wildcard that will affect how many future foreclosures we see.  The sooner we clear out the foreclosures the quicker our real estate market can respond.  This, along with an economic recovery will do wonders to fixing a lot of ails.

Have you noticed that the weather has been dreadful this year up North?  A lot of northerners have, and SW Florida is looking pretty good in December.  Our prices are low, our weather is much better, and in a blizzard visions of sunshine, warm weather, beaches, and all the good stuff we enjoy seems worth looking into.  What used to be a dream can turn into a plan quickly, and we’re already seeing it.

Our market may be down, but it won’t be forever.  We just have too much good going for us to stay down for long, and this flat market could take off.  We’re just one blizzard away from several plane loads of buyers, so buckle up and let’s see what Santa and 2011 brings us.

SW Florida Real Estate Home Sales Statistics

Fort Myers and Cape Coral saw a 128% increase in home sales over last year as reported by the Florida Associatiopn of Realtors.  Statewide sales were up 24%, but locally they were up much greater becuase affrodability is back in the SW Florida real estate market what is not priced into all Florida markets. Median sale price is Fort Myers and Cape Coral dropped to $141,400 from $231,600 last year.

Condo sales in Cape Coral and Fort Myers saw a 50% rise in condo sales over last year, while the median price dropped 17% to $185,000.

Home sale prices declined for the 4th straight month in Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate.  See our month over month prices graph. You can also view a monthly price summary by year for Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate.  We’ve also included a home sales by month for the past several years for Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

We’ve created some videos for you to learn about the SW Florida real estate market better.  Some of these videos were newscasts done on TV, while others were simply us on a video camera talking about the market in our office.  We’ll be adding more videos like the newscast we did for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams a few weeks ago, so stay tuned.

Thank you for reading our SW Florida Real Estate Home Sales Statistics update this week.  We look forward to bringing you further SW Florida Real Estate Home Sales Statistics.

The Florida Association of Realtors released official home and condo sales numbers for the month of August.  Median sale prices were down 41% for single family homes in the Fort Myers Cape Coral area from last year.  See SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices 2005-2008 and were down 5.16% from July’s numbers.  See Month Over Month % Price Change Chart Fort Myers Cape Coral Florida.

Median home sale prices in Cape Coral and Fort Myers have fallen 30.84% in three short months, from a median price of $212,400 in May to a median price of $146,900 in August.  Home sales were up 31% over last year with 684 sales this year Vs. 520 last year, but home sales were down 11% from July 2008 numbers.  Financing has become increasingly difficult for many homebuyers.  Even though affordability is back in the market, many good credit homebuyers cannot qualify due to changing underwriting standards and amidst a capital crunch on Wall Street.

It’s also important to note that foreclosures are driving the median home sales price down more so in areas with higher concentration of foreclosures, like Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral.  Fort Myers has not see the concentrated number of foreclosures like the previous two areas, and home prices have not suffered as much in many areas in Fort Myers because of that.

Anywhere we saw rampant speculation building; we saw rampant cases of investors/speculators walking away from their investment.  Most of these homes were built in 2005 and 2006 with no end user in mind.  The speculators were convinced they’d buy as many houses as the banks would lend money on and flip them to a buyer or another speculator for large profits.  This strategy worked until we ran out of bigger fools, and the whole strategy came crashing down, taking lenders with them, as well as legitimate end users who bought in that time frame.

Now banks and Wall Street are in trouble and asking the taxpayer for a bailout.  Most people are strongly against this idea, and yet the government is probably going to have to get involved in some capacity whether we like it or not to protect a domino effect of financial institutions from crumbling under their past poor decisions.

It’s not right, but it is where we’re at today, and unfortunately we may all have to pay for the sins of others.


July 2008 SW Florida real estate sales numbers were released today by the Florida Association of Realtors which includes data for Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate.  The latest data shows a home buying frenzy as single family home sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral were up 80% over last year’s numbers.  From the SW Florida Real Estate Homes Closed 2005-2008 chart, you can see home sales surpassed both 2006 and 2007 levels for the month of July.  Last July there were 426 single family home sales and this July there 768 home sales.  Condo sales in SW Florida increased 35% from 129 last year to 174 this year.

Median single family home sale prices in Fort Myers and Cape Coral dropped 37% from $246,100 last year to $154,900 this year.  Median sale prices dropped 10% in July from June 2008 levels, and have dropped about 27% in the last two months alone.  See SW Florida Real Estate Month Over Month Prices chart.  Our SW Florida Real Estate Sale Prices 2005-2008 chart illustrates sales price trends for the last 4 years.

Be careful not to judge the overall market by the median price, as foreclosures are skewing the data downward in the lower price end of the market.  While it is possible that multiple market segments are dropping to some degree, we really don’t see all market segments dropping to the degree the median price is.  Home buyers are jumping in with both feet as they have found affordability back in the market.

We believe home sales, while at a frenzied pace right now, would actually be stronger if financing wasn’t such an issue for homebuyers.  Lenders have certainly tightened the screws, and to some extent have caused the market to decline due to tougher underwriting standards.  We are not arguing as to whether the banks are right or wrong, as each lender has their own specific situation to deal with and less money to lend, but it is a fact that sales are being curtailed due to tighter lending policies.

Nationally pending home sales numbers have been stronger, which hopefully will be a good sign for the future as well.  We’ll keep reporting what we’re seeing in the local SW Florida real estate market, so tay tuned.  Be sure to check our Fort Myers real estate website for updates on the market as well.  You might also like our Housing Statistics webpage.

Click here to Search the Entire SW Florida real estate MLS.  You can also view Ellis Team Virtual Tours of our listed properties.  Feel free to visit our Bank Owned Bargains webpage for SW Florida bank foreclosures, and don’t forget our weekly radio show entitled “The Future of Real Estate” which you can listen to online.

Brett was recently interviewed on TV regarding what caused the local SW Florida foreclosure crisis.  Click here to watch that interview.


The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index declined 15.8% from last years levels, signalling home values in other areas are falling as well.  For a few years it felt like SW Florida was the only area falling in price.  This was the worst price decline ever recorded nationwide.  The SW Florida area lost 32% in median home value from last year, down from $253,900 to $172,400.  Median home values can be deceiving though and may not be indicative of the entire market.

We’ll have more updates on the local SW Florida real estate sales market, including official sales numbers released by the Florida Association of Realtors in the coming days.


Official sales numbers for May won’t be released until about June 25th by the Florida Association of Realtors.  I’ve spent some time this month analyzing May home sales, and it pretty much confirms what our latest Current Market Index suggested, that sales would be up in May.  The Current Market Index accurately predicts the SW Florida real estate market into the future, so May’s number’s won’t be surprising.

We’ll release these numbers today with one caveat.  The official numbers are derived from various MLS sources, and are adjusted after the fact sometimes a year later.  The results we release today may not be 100% in line with what is officially released, but we will go on record with our predictions and we’ll see just how close they were once the officials are released.

From the data we’ve looked at, it appears May Sales were up 51.67% over last May’s numbers, which would beat the 41% increase of the official April numbers.  It would also hint that April’s sales numbers were not an aberration and may indicate buyers are truly off the fence as homes have become affordable.  In fact, homes sales in May were up 7% over April’s blistering pace.

Home prices in May were down 25.07% from last May’s numbers, less than April’s 29% official number.  For this example we used average mean price and not the average median price.  We are showing a 1.82% price increase ion the average mean price of a home in SW Florida this May over this April, another encouraging sign.

So what does all this number business mean?  It means buyers are back in the game, sales are very, very strong, and prices may have leveled this past month.  We’ll wait for official numbers to be posted later this month, but don’t be surprised to see more encouraging news once official numbers are released.  We think buyers have their greatest leverage right now, and time is slowly slipping away on buyers as market inventory has actually been going down and sales are up drastically.  We predicted 2008 to be a year of bouncing along the bottom in our 2008 State of the Market Report released last January, and it certainly is shaping up that way.

Bank foreclosures and short sales have helped affordability in the SW Florida market.  Inventory has been coming down, and without the bank foreclosures and short sales we would eventually run out of inventory and be back in the same sellers market we were in a few years ago, minus the wild speculation that occurred.  To listen to Brett Ellis tell how to buy bank foreclosures in Fort Myers and Cape Coral in a radio interview, click here.

Check out  an Inside the numbers look at Entry Level Home Sales and Inventory in SW Florida for april.  This will give you an idea of what is driving the Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres home sales market.


Sales numbers released by the Florida Association of Realtors for April 2008 shows the Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate markets sales increased dramitically.  In fact, sales are up over March numbers as well.  SIngle family homes sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral increased 41% over last year’s numbers, and Condo sales in Fort Myers and Cape Coral increased 57 % over last year’s numbers.

The Ellis Team SW Florida Real Estate Current Market Index is an accurate indicator or future sales, and has been improving steadily since January 2008.  In January we began reporting that sales numbers should begin picking up, which has been the case.  Pending sales started increasing, followed by rising closed sales.  Inventory levels have been falling in 2008 which is a good sign for sellers.  We still have a high level of inventory, but it is getting more manageable everyday.

Median home prices have fallen, but that does not mean that all home prices are declining.  We have seen solid sales in Cape Coral.  Lehigh Acres home sales have fallen behind Cape Coral.  We’ll be posting some very interesting numbers within a week or so illustrating those differences.  Median home prices have fallen, and that is an indication that more of the home sales have occurred at the bottom half of the spectrum.  As the bottom has firmed up, it will eventually translate into firming in the higher price ranges.  We are getting more offers today in the $300,000+ range and that is encouraging once again.  It all started with that $100,000 range which led the charge.

Many properties in the $100,000 range have multiple offers on them and buyers are scrambling to get these properties.  In fact, buyers display desperation when competing against other buyers to get in on these deals.  The Fort Myers News Press did a home sales story on the April Fort Myers and Cape Coral numbers.  Money Magazine also did a story on national home sales and it talked about how Cape Coral Florida is leading the nation as one of the bright spots.

Stay tuned as we look for more good numbers being reported in when May’s numbers are reported next month.