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Home sales climb in metro area

By Staff | Oct 28, 2009

Cape Coral’s two-year housing crisis may be coming to an end, according to a September report of home sales from Florida Realtors and the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.
The Fort Myers-Cape Coral metropolitan area had 1,321 home sales in September, a 77 percent increase from September 2008 when 746 homes were sold. These dramatic numbers were likely spurred by a median home price of $89,700.
“It is very bright news as we enter the winter season, our strongest selling season,” said Gloria Tate, a member of the Cape Coral City Council and a Realtor. “We are expecting a brisk selling season.”
Figures from Cape Coral led many others statewide in home sales, including Fort Lauderdale at 800, Sarasota-Bradenton at 781 and Miami at 619. On the other hand, three metro areas had greater sales than Fort Myers-Cape Coral, including Jacksonville with 1,127, Orlando with 2,247 and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater with 2,410.
Tate said Fort Myers-Cape Coral is on its way to recovery because lower home prices are allowing people to be homeowners who never had a chance before, and they come from a number of different professions.
“Police, firemen, teachers and those people who in the long run weren’t able to buy in the Cape,” she said. “But now the average homeowner can more than afford a home in Cape Coral.”
Home prices in September were down 37 percent from September 2008 when the average home was priced at $141,400. Of course, home prices are slowing getting higher, Tate said.
“There are all new kinds of financing opportunities, it’s never been a better time to buy,” she said.
Short sales have become a trend in the real estate industry, Tate said, with many homeowners being financially forced into a short sales, while others choose to walk away even though they have the money to afford the home.
Cushman & Wakefield Executive Director Gary Tasman is “encouraged” by the numbers. He said the increase in home sales has been the greatest since officials began keeping local records.
“It’s going to be the foundation in which the economic recovery is built,” Tasman said. “This is what we need to see happen to lead the commercial recovery out of its doldrums.”
The city also has many commercial properties that are vacant. Landlords and property managers have been offering businesses rent-free commercial space until they generate a profit.
Tasman said today’s market is a mix between investors and first-time buyers, and the inventory of vacant homes is decreasing at a rapid rate.
“It’s going down at a faster than expected rate,” he said.
In the meantime, residents, local businesses and Realtors are all hoping that the local economy reaches some semblance of normality.
Tate said it will take awhile for the market to correct itself.
“But, we have a lot of people moving here from all different walks of life and areas of the country,” she said. “There is a marketplace for the investor, but there also happens to be people wanting to live here.”
Tasman added that many foreclosures are still waiting in the pipeline and could delay economic improvement.