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Metro area home prices fall nearly 60 percent in year

By Staff | Feb 26, 2009

The median sales price of an existing single-family home in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area fell to $94,900 in January, down 59 percent from the January 2008 median sale price of $234,000, according to a report released Wednesday from the Florida Association of Realtors.
The $94,900 figure is the lowest among 20 Florida metro areas, and the 59 percent decrease is the second largest, year-over-year decline. Marco Island saw a 62 percent drop from January 2008, as its median sales price went from $529,500 to $200,000.
Punta Gorda’s median sales price was the only other Florida metro area to dip below the $100,000 mark for January, standing at $99,500.
Local Realtors said the glut of foreclosed homes being dumped on the market is driving prices down.
“We have such a flood of the foreclosures and underwater homes it’s bringing prices down,” said Chris Porter, co-owner of Cape Realty.
Porter said she does not put much stock in the median sales price as a statistic because high-end homes are still selling locally, but some foreclosures are selling for $50,000.
“I think the median sale price is an artificial statistic. It’s skewed unusually low by all these foreclosures,” Porter said.
Tommy Lee, a Realtor with AA Associates Realty in Cape Coral, disagrees. He said the median sales price could be an indicator of the local housing market’s recovery.
“As soon as we see that median sales price turn upward, then I think the worst will have been behind us,” Lee said.
When exactly the “worst” has passed could depend largely on Lee County Clerk of Court Charlie Green’s “rocket docket.”
In December, Green put additional judges on foreclosure cases to move them through the legal process faster, thus taking them out of limbo and putting them back on the market.
After nearly two years of taking in more foreclosure cases than they were processing, the Lee courts disposed 3,416 cases in December while taking in 2,201. The trend continued in January, with the court receiving 2,074 cases while processing 2,413.
Even though more foreclosures on the market means depressed home prices, Porter and Lee agree that moving the wayward homes through the system as fast as possible is the tonic the Cape housing market needs.
“The quicker we get them out and resold, once we get the absorption of the inventory, then we’ll start to see a turnaround,” Lee said.
“I think the faster these foreclosures get through the system, the better it is for the local market,” Porter said.