Cape property values up for first time in five years
Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson was happy as he shared the news Friday.
“For the first time in five years they’ll be happy with me,” he said.
After years of plummeting real estate valuations and tax revenues, it appears the long nightmare is just about over for Lee County, especially in Cape Coral.
Cape Coral’s estimated tax roll value increased 3.53 percent in 2011, the biggest increase among all 91 taxing authorities in Lee County, according to preliminary figures furnished by the appraiser’s office Friday.
“The Cape leads the trend that we’ve bottomed out,” Wilkinson said. “We waited for it to hit bottom, and now it’s there.”
The news made Cape Councilmember Rana Erbrick stand up and cheer, though she said she stopped short of doing Snoopy’s happy dance.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ve turned the corner. It’s certainly better than in the past few years,” Erbrick said. “Property values are up which means Cape Coral is worth more. We finally have room where we can budget.”
The estimated total value of property in the Cape was $8.869 billion, up $302 million from 2011.
That follows a trend seen in most of Lee County. And while the overall value of $52.787 billion is down .90 percent from 2011, it’s a far cry from the double-digit downturns of past years.
By way of comparison, the overall value in the city was down 2.51 percent in 2011, 14.17 percent in 2010 and 32.78 percent in 2009, when the whole economy bottomed out.
In other words, compared to 2006, the Cape still has a long way to go.
“When it crashed, it crashed. They were really cussing me out then,” Wilkinson said.
The numbers are important because they not only mean properties have, overall, increased in value, they also mean the city can start planning its budget with a 3.53 percent head start in mind.
“It’s a sigh of relief. It means we’re looking at the beginning of a trend,” said Erbrick. “It gives us some breathing room.”
“With angst the cities wait for this. It gives them a starting point. I like the process in a down market because it exposes more about property taxes,” Wilkinson said. “It leads to accountability.”
It also means that prospective homebuyers, who have been on the fence for years, can finally consider buying a home.
For Wilkinson, the numbers send a message. Lee County, which was ground zero of the housing bust, is back.
“It sends a message to the economy, which is based on perception and good faith,” Wilkinson said. “It may be time to get in the market.”
The official numbers and breakdowns will be issued in July.