Report: Naples area has largest percentage home sale drop in state, but prices still soar

By June Fletcher of the Naples Daily News

Single-family home sales dropped by a larger percentage in the Naples area than anywhere else in the state last month, a new report said.

Existing single-family home closed sales were down 16.8 percent in February from the same month a year earlier, Florida Realtors said Monday.

Closed sales for the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island metro area dropped to 297 from 357 the year before. It was the largest drop out of 22 metro areas the trade group tracks.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers had the fourth largest percentage decrease in closed sales in the state for single-family homes.

Closed sales fell 12.5 percent, to 825 from 943 the year before.

Statewide, closed single-family sales were up 0.4 percent, to 18,159 from 18,078 a year earlier.

Brad O’Connor, chief economist of the trade group, attributed the decrease in closed sales in Southwest Florida largely to a lack of inventory in lower price ranges.

“There’s a critical shortage of inventory under $200,000,” he said. “You don’t have much in that price range there.”

Median single-family prices were up throughout Florida, to $200,000 from $179,999, an 11 percent increase.

But Southwest Florida’s median single-family prices and price growth outpaced the state.

In the Naples area, they were up 17.9 percent, to $460,000 from $390,000 a year earlier; in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area, they rose 11.8 percent, to $216,810 from $194,000.

Naples’ single-family home prices were the highest in Florida; Cape Coral-Fort Myers’ the sixth highest.

O’Connor said he doesn’t expect to see the sort of double-digit price growth that Southwest Floridians have become accustomed to beyond April or May.

“Rising inventory and slower sales will mean a relaxation of pressure on prices,” he said. “I expect more traditional levels of price increases, in the 5 percent to 10 percent range.”

That doesn’t bother Rick Fioretti, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

“We can’t knock it over the fence every year — it wouldn’t be normal,” he said. “I’d rather be taking our foot off the gas slowly. It’s more sustainable.”

O’Connor said that by his calculations, the Naples area has become a buyer’s market, with 8.4 months of supply, adjusted for seasonality.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers is a balanced market, with 5.4 months of supply.

Statewide there are 4.5 months of supply, which also is in the balanced range, O’Connor said.

A balanced market is in the four- to six-month range, he said. Lower than that range, the market favors sellers; higher and it favors buyers.

In the town house and condo market, closed sales fell 5.4 percent statewide to 7,658 from 8,099, Florida Realtors reported.

They dropped by a much bigger margin in Southwest Florida.

In the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island market, closed sales were down 21.4 percent to 324 from 412; in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, they decreased to 385 from 521, a 26.1 percent drop.

Yet prices continued to rise for town houses and condos, albeit at a slower pace than they did for single-family homes

In Cape Coral-Fort Myers, they increased to $192,000 from $169,900, a 13 percent rise.

In the Naples area, they hit $271,250, up 8.5 percent from $250,000 a year earlier.

Overall, O’Connor said Southwest Florida’s housing market is being affected by more jobs and economic activity, which puts people on the move.

On the upper end, “the stock market affects the luxury market” and is influencing both buyers and sellers, he said.

The strong dollar also has affected Southwest Florida, since foreign buyers always have been a factor in the housing market, he said.

His comments were echoed in a report by the Bonita-Springs-Estero Association of Realtors, which also was released Monday. The report showed a 6 percent decrease in overall closed sales on a 12-month basis for the Lee County submarket.

Elizabeth Mancini, managing broker of Premier Sotheby International Realty in Bonita Springs, said Canadian buyers, which are the biggest group of buyers in Southwest Florida, “are not buying, just selling.”

Naples ranked No. 1 city in state for retirees

For Naples Daily News Link to Article: Click Here

Naples is the best place in the Sunshine State to retire, a new report says.

Moreover, nationally, Naples ranked third, according to SmartAsset, a New York financial services company.

Using government data, the second annual study rated 4,700 U.S. cities by their tax friendliness, recreational and social opportunities for seniors, and availability of medical care, which it defined as “factors that affect quality of life for retirees.” All the factors were weighted equally and indexed.

For Michael Dalby, chief executive and president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Naples’ high ranking is not really surprising news.

“Florida is a great place for retirees, but Naples is a tremendous place for retirees, with a wonderful support system,” he said. “Our senior population is a critical part of our economy.”

SmartAsset gave Naples its highest ranking based on several factors. First was its low 10.2 percent tax rate. Second was access to medical services, defined as number of doctor’s offices per 1,000 people (27) and number of recreation centers per 1,000 people (9.6).

And finally it looked at the percentage of seniors as part of the total population, which in Naples is a whopping 49.3 percent.

On all metrics, Naples was deemed more retiree-friendly than both the nation and the state as a whole. Nationwide, the tax rate is 13.1 percent and has 1.2 doctor’s offices and 0.4 rec centers per 1,000 people and 13.7 percent seniors per total population.

Throughout Florida the tax rate was calculated at 13 percent, with 1.6 doctor’s offices and 0.4 rec centers per 1,000 people. Florida has the highest percentage of seniors of any state, at 18.2 percent seniors per total population.

In the fourth to sixth spots after Naples, three other Florida cities made the top ten list: Inverness, Stuart and Brooksville.

But since SmartAssets’ metrics didn’t include weather, warmth didn’t factor into the rankings.

“We chose not to include climate as one of the factors in our study because of its subjectivity,” said Steve Sabato, public relations associate at SmartAsset. “Everyone will have different preferences.”

Instead, top honors in their best places to retire list went to Wasilla, Alaska, the sixth largest city in Alaska, where Sarah Palin was once mayor — and which has a yearly average high temperature of 47 degrees (compared with Naples’ average high of 85 degrees).

No. 2 was another Alaskan city, Palmer, with a population of about 6,000. It’s the home to the annual Alaskan State Fair.

Although Palmer’s average high temperature is only 45 degrees, several world-record sized veggies have been grown there, because the city gets 19 hours of sunlight daily during the growing season.

So why did the places that ranked highest in the list come from states at opposite ends of the country, with completely different climates?

It’s largely because Florida and Alaska both have very favorable tax climates.

Both states are considered among the most tax-friendly states for retirees, the study pointed out, with no state income tax, which means no tax on retirement benefits from Social Security, pensions and IRAs and 401(k). Both also have no estate or inheritance tax.

Otherwise, there are small differences.

In Florida, property and sales tax rates are close to national averages, SmartAsset observed. However, homestead exemptions lower the tax bill for permanent residents.

In Alaska, however, there’s no state sales tax, though cities and boroughs can collect their own taxes. Although there is no statewide homestead exemption, many cities exempt seniors from paying taxes for part or all of their home’s value.

By June Fletcher, Naples Daily News

SWFL airport will offer direct flights to Bahamas

Southwest Florida International Airport will offer direct flights to Nassau, Bahamas beginning on May 26th, 2016. for the first time.  The public may book a flight to Silver Airways for a non-stop flight from Fort Myers to Lynden Pindling Airport.  These flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Last year, a record high of 8.4 million people flew into and out of Fort Myers.  More and more people are traveling nowadays.  A better economy and great marketing by local tourism agencies have contributed to bring tourists to Southwest Florida.   If you want to go to a foreign country that is only one hour away,  the Bahamas is a great tourist destination!

Season hasn’t boosted SWFL home sales

Naples Daily News Link to Article

By June Fletcher of the Naples Daily News

Unlike the state as a whole, closed sales continued to slow into season for existing single-family homes in both Collier and Lee counties, a new report said.

Statewide, single-family home sales were up 2.7 percent to 16,529 in January from 16,087 the same month a year earlier, according to a monthly report released Tuesday by Florida Realtors.

But single-family sales in the Naples-Marco Island area were down 6.7 percent, to 322 from 345, and fell 5.5 percent, to, 789 from 835, in Cape Coral-Fort Myers.

They were among nine out of 20 metro areas tracked that showed declines in single-family home sales for the month. The others were Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin; Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach; North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville; Port St. Lucie; Punta Gorda; and Sebastian-Vero Beach.

Statewide, town houses and condos saw a decline of 4.8 percent in sales, to 6,942 from 7,294 year over year.

In Naples-Marco Island, sales of town houses and condos fell 5.8 percent to 359 from 381. Sales of town houses and condos dropped 7 percent in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, to 400 from 430.

Florida Realtors Chief Economist Brad O’Connor noted that the sales were declining in properties under $150,000, where there is limited supply, but were actually up in more expensive properties. Turbulent weather, stock market and oil price swings and even the heating up of the presidential election also may have played a factor in the sales slowdown.

Plus, supply shortages began to ease throughout the state in January, as new listings rose 3.4 percent to 18,375 from 17,776 a year earlier.

Inventory is up overall in the Naples market, according to Naples real estate broker Phil Wood, growing by almost 600 homes from the same month from a year earlier. Supply now equals 6.1 months of inventory, considered a sign of a market in balance. Supply is at it’s the highest level since April 2013.

Yet even as more Florida markets experienced sales slowdowns, prices have continued to rise.

Statewide, single-family prices rose 13.7 percent to $199,000 from $175,000, while town house and condo prices rose 10.9 percent to $152,000 from $137,000.

In Naples-Marco Island, single-family home prices rose 13.2 percent, to $447,000 from $395,000, but dropped 5.8 percent, to $289,990 from $280,000, for town houses and condos.

In Cape Coral-Fort Myers, prices were up 22.6 percent to $233,000 from $190,000 for single-family homes, and they also rose 12.1 percent, to $185,000 from $165,000, for town houses and condos.

A separate market report released Tuesday by the Realtors Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach noted price surges on homes on Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva, as well on homes in the $1 million and up range.

SWFL Home Prices Will Rise, Become Overpriced

By June Fletcher of the Naples Daily News

For Link to Naples Daily News Article: Click Here

Posted: March 09, 2016

Southwest Florida home prices are predicted to rise over the next three years but will become overpriced during that time, a housing research group predicts.

Local Market Monitor’s first-quarter forecast projected that average overall home prices in the Naples-Marco Island area will rise 7 percent each year for the next three years, for a total of 21 percent.

That puts it 10th out of 20 metro areas in Florida that the Cary, N.C.-based group tracks. Nationwide, the firm follows 315 markets.

The projected price growth in the Naples area is almost half the cumulative three-year price growth the firm predicted in the first quarter of 2015. Last year it expected three-year cumulative price growth of 41 percent.

“Economic growth has been erratic since the recession, when 15,000 jobs were lost in a relatively small market,” said Ingo Winzer, president and founder of the firm, in the report.

In Naples, actual single and multifamily home prices (as determined by mortgage data the company tracks) reached $363,800 in the quarter. Prices are 3 percent below what Winzer calls the equilibrium home price of $376,772, which he calculates as the price where a home is neither overvalued nor undervalued.

So if prices rise another 7 percent in the coming year, that would make the Naples market overvalued in a year’s time. He emphasized that if “actual home prices rise well above the equilibrium level, they always eventually come back down.”

Cape Coral-Fort Myers ranks fifth in the state for projected price growth, Winzer said. The metro area will see prices rise 11 percent by the first quarter of 2017. By the first quarter of 2018, they should rise an additional 9 percent, and the following year, another 8 percent, for a total increase of 28 percent.

That’s faster price growth than LMM predicted in the year-earlier quarter, when it expected three-year total price growth of 21 percent.

With current home prices at $224,861, it would take two years for homes to reach their equilibrium point of $261,006, he predicted.

One reason why Lee County’s housing market is expected to have stronger price growth than Collier’s is because its job growth has been stronger, Winzer noted.

In December, job growth in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area rose 3.4 percent over the year, compared with 2.3 percent in Naples-Marco Island.

The unemployment rate in Lee County is also less, at 4.3 percent, compared with 4.4 percent in Collier County.

“Overall, job growth was good in recent months,” Winzer said in the report. He characterized growth in the tourism sector as fair in Collier County, and strong in Lee County

Kathy Zorn, a real estate broker with offices in Naples and Bonita Springs, said that while she doesn’t see signs of a bubble brewing or popping, the volatile stock market, concerns over the direction of the economy, and the election are making buyers more cautious.

“Buyers are telling us that maybe prices are just a little too high,” she said, adding that sellers have gotten into the habit of expecting prices to inflate indefinitely.

“But I don’t think it’s a bad sign if prices don’t go up every month,” she said. “It’s OK.”

So is it better to own or rent a home in the two metro areas? Winzer said that if the rent-to-home price ratio is greater than 4 percent, it makes more sense to rent; if below that level, buying is a better financial alternative.

Rents are more closely tied to local income, while home prices more easily respond to relatively small changes in supply and demand, he added.

In the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area, the current monthly rent averages $1,025. So the rent-own ratio is 5.5 percent, making it a better market for renters.

Average rents are higher in the Naples-Marco Island area at $1,234, but home prices are much higher, too. With an average rent-to-own ratio of 4.1 percent, renting makes more sense, but only slightly.