Boomers still have sights set on Lee County Retirement homes are selling at a good price Real estate agents say the buying trend over the past several months is helping amp up the number of homes sold in the county. While there are no statistics, agents say boomers accounted for a large portion of the 746 existing single-family homes sold in September with the help of a Realtor. Those numbers are up from the 338 sold in January when declining home values started to give the market a kickstart, according to statistics collected by the Florida Association of Realtors. Boomers are the 78 million people born in the post-World War II population explosion — between 1946 and 1964. And they’ve had Florida in their sights. According to U.S. Census data, 17 percent of the people moving out of their home state in 2005 came to Florida. George Litras, 52, moved to Estero a few months ago from Long Island, N.Y., with his wife Carol and his business partner George Cudnik and his wife Michelle. They own Glitter & Gifts gift shop, which opened Monday on U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs. Litras said he’s house hunting and expects to find good deals on houses. “I do feel real estate prices will elevate” after the election is over and people have more certainty about the future, he said. September’s median sales price for a single-family home was $141,400, less than half the all-time high of $322,300 set in December 2005. The interest from out-of-state boomers is similar to the way it was five years ago before prices escalated out of reach for many. About 57 percent of all vacation/second homes are owned by boomers, according to Merrill Lynch’s “The New Retirement Survey.” “We’re selling more houses now than we did in ’05,” many of them to arriving boomers. The homes being sold are priced more modestly than three years ago at the height of the housing boom in Southwest Florida. “The average sales price is $90,000. One of the buyer's is Howell, Mich., businessman Dave Eichen, who bought a condominium in the Bella Mar development in south Fort Myers for $116,000. He purchased the Dairy Queen on Fort Myers Beach and remodeled the aging building, and will split his time between here and Michigan for the time being with an eye toward possibly retiring here, said Eichen, 43, three months shy of being a boomer. “We moved down here in August and we have no plans even to go back to Michigan until roughly May,” he said. Michael Timmerman, a Naples-based senior associate with Fishkind & Associates, an Orlando-based economic consulting firm, said the uncertain future on Wall Street may be persuading some people to buy homes here. “They say, ‘I can either keep my money in the stock market and watch it go down or I can buy real estate at the bottom and hopefully it’ll come back up,’” Timmerman said. The sales reflect the long-term trend. “People are still wanting to move to Florida,” he said. “I think a lot of people are sitting down and making that decision.” Boomers likely will be buying here in substantial numbers at least until there’s a balance between supply and demand so prices can stabilize, Timmerman said, but “that may take awhile.” Meanwhile, the boomers’ interest is a welcome stimulus to a market with about 14,000 unsold houses. “As long as we can continue to burn off this inventory, that’s a good thing,” Timmerman said. John McIlwain, senior resident fellow for housing at the Washington-based nonprofit Urban Land Institute, said he expects low prices will attract boomers, but worries the economic turmoil of October may continue. “A lot of those baby boomers have had their retirement portfolios cut in half,” he said. “You’ve got to wonder. It’s going to be the rare person who’s signing a contract until they figure out where the stock portfolio is, and if they still have a job. This has been a very sobering month for people who are thinking about retiring.” He’s watching to see if the surge in home buying is still there when the October figures come out. “Sales have picked up, but that’s summer.” A lot of the boomers simply find themselves ready and able to make the move. “Their homes are paid for, the nests are empty, and where do they want to go?” “The Sunbelt.”
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