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Industry experts: Housing recovery has begun in Cape

By Staff | May 29, 2009

The housing market has already started to rebound, and Cape Coral is leading the way — most people just do not know it yet.
That was the message Thursday from Paula Hellenbrand, president of the Cape Coral Association of Realtors, who said public perception of the market lags reality.
“We have been recovering for at least six or eight months now,” she said.
Speaking in Cape Coral as part of an economic development roundtable discussion, Hellenbrand said the inventory of houses for sale is being eaten up by a rabid demand for bargains in a down market.
“Right now, we’re getting two offers for every sale closed,” she said.
Out-of-town buyers attracted to the Cape’s depressed home prices are sometimes surprised to find competing offers on homes.
“Then they get here and they’re in bidding wars, and they’re angry sometimes,” she said.
The same rapid dissemination of information through traditional media and the Internet, which Hellenbrand called the “Blackberry economy,” that aided the bursting of the housing bubble is fueling the rebound.
“It created instantaneous fear and right now it’s creating instantaneous investment again,” she said.
Whether the recovery will be aided by significant foreign investment remains to be seen.
Michael Schneider-Christians, a Cape Realtor and German native, said the United States faces hurdles in attracting investment from across the pond, thanks largely to a generally negative public perception.
At the heart of the perception is the fact that the failures or near-failures of U.S. financial giants led to a global economic slide with more detrimental effects to the rest of the world than to the United States.
“They blame us for it. It started here,” he said.
Schneider-Christians said the feeling has softened with the election of President Barack Obama, but Cape Coral must push its natural advantages of great weather and lifestyle even harder to attract scarcer euros.
“If (Europe) recovers they will need six to 12 months after we recover,” he said.
One of the few economic pillars Lee County has been able to rely on recently has been sports tourism.
Sporting events injected $54.3 million into the Lee County economy in 2008, according to the Lee County Sports Authority.
Jeff Mielke, director of the Lee County Sports Authority, touted the impact of spring training for baseball and lauded Cape Coral for throwing its support behind a proposed swimming complex backed by USA Swimming.
“We’ve been working on this project (the swimming complex) for five years. At the end of the day the folks who stepped up and put the most into it was the city of Cape Coral,” he said.
While Hellenbrand and other speakers pointed to positive signs of a possible recovery, all speakers stressed the Cape’s inherent ability to rebound.
“It’s a paradise. We have 400 miles of canals, a 68-degree average yearly temperature,” she said.