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Glimmer of hope? Numbers spur some ‘cautious optimism’

By Staff | Jul 3, 2010

Single family building permits are up year over year in Cape Coral, while foreclosure sales and filings are down county wide.
Property valuations are still in the dumps — the county is facing an 14 percent drop, and the city looking at a 15.6 percent decrease — but the permits and foreclosure sales could be the first signs of the local economy starting to recover.
Mayor John Sullivan said the numbers make him “cautiously optimistic” about the turnaround.
While he’s not entirely convinced, he said he’s hopeful things have begun to turn around.
“It maybe an indication there could be a turnaround happening, but I don’t think it’s enough of an indication to say it is happening,” Sullivan said. “Looking at the numbers there seems to be hope, but they haven’t convinced me yet.”
Lee County had fewer than 1,000 foreclosure filings in April of this year, the first time foreclosures have dipped below that mark in three years.
There were 810 foreclosure filings in Lee County in May 2010, down from 1,801 in May 2009, and down considerably from 2,352 in May 2008.
Foreclosure filings in Lee are down nearly 3 percent from the final quarter of 2009, with an average sales price of $94,656, according to information released by RealtyTrac, an online market place for foreclosure properties.
However, Lee County is still one of the leading counties in the state, trailing only Broward county.
While single family building permits in the city are up — there have been 143 pulled through May 2010 compared to the 159 pulled in all of 2009 — Realtor Paula Hellenbrand from Encore Realty said it’s still cheaper to buy from the existing inventory than it is to build.
She added that higher end home — priced at half a million and up — are not moving, while homes priced at quarter of a million and less are moving.
“I see a very balanced market in terms of supply and demand. Right now there’s a tremendous opportunity to buy below cost. How much longer that will last, I don’t know,” she said. “There probably won’t be an opportunity like this again in the future.”
Councilmember Marty McClain pointed out that property valuations are reflecting 2009, not what’s happening in the market now.
He said he’s encouraged by the increase in permits, and the decline in foreclosures, but not surprised by the devaluations.
“There’s a lot of positives here … but it doesn’t reflect what’s happening in 2010,” McClain said.
Jennifer Berg, from the Lee County Economic Development Office, could not be reached for comment.