Cape Coral home sales, permits climbing

Real Estate Agent with Nautical Realty Group

Home sales in Cape Coral are climbing, giving the city's weary real estate industry cause for hope. Realtors say an overabundance of housing stock, reduced home prices and new state tax laws have helped boost a market for buyers. The Cape's real estate market is climbing back on the backs of legitimate buyers.Investors with the means to hold property and families and retirees looking to settle in the Cape are starting to snatch up houses. According to figures from the Lee County Property Appraiser's Office, the number of single-family homes sold this year is up an average of 50 percent this year from the last. Speculators looking to buy homes and flip them a month later are all but extinct. Mr. Culver last bought a house in Cape Coral in 1999 when he and his family moved from Indiana. Culver said with the “buyer's market, now is when we're getting serious (about buying another home).” On Friday, a realtor walked with Culver through the backyard of single-family home in the Southwest Cape — about a mile from the Cape Coral Yacht Club. The home, overlooking a canal, was on the market for about $234,000. The house sold in 2003 for $270,000, according to county records. “We're thinking of buying a place we can rent out and wait out the market,” Culver said. Waterfront properties in established neighborhoods are selling quickly. With Gulf Access properties, you really don't have a huge selection. It's not like the entire city is for sale. If a buyer, however, is looking for just “walls, a roof and some square footage,” your options are nearly limitless. Starting three years ago, speculative builders erected thousands of new homes in the city's rural north hoping for a piece of a soaring market. The market crashed leaving thousands of foreclosed properties in its wake. In Cape Coral alone, property owners have filed 7,790 foreclosures since the start of this year. The overabundance of foreclosed properties have forced prices to unprecedented lows. At the start of 2007, the lowest price paid for a home in the city was $140,000, according to the Cape Coral Association of Realtors. This month, that number dropped to $37,000. Even top-end homes have seen a decline. The priciest home sold in 2007 went for $3 million. This year, nothing has sold for more than $1.8 million. “It's not different than the stock market,” said Paula K. Hellenbrand, president of the Cape Coral Association of Realtors. “You sell when it's high and you buy when it's low. Our inventory's coming down steadily. The recovery is happening.” Aiding with the sales is an amendment to the state's constitution passed last year. The amendment, while increasing tax exemptions for homestead properties, will prevent assessment (and property tax) hikes in the future. The amendment prevents a second home's taxable value from rising more than 10 percent from year to year, regardless of the market. It also gives current homesteaded property owners added tax benefits when they move into another house. They're able to transfer to their new home at least some of the tax protections they accumulated on their old home. The ultimate goal for some people is to have a small home up north and a small home down here. All of a sudden they can come here very affordably and they don't have to worry too much about taxes. There also are signs of improvement for those building new homes in the Cape. As of Friday afternoon, new single-family home permits were at 17, up from 7 last month. Lee County was at 30, down 2 from last month, but the total value of those 30 was $14 million — up from $8.8 million — thanks to a permit for a $3.8 million home. The county did have permits for 52 multi-family units, up from 6 the previous month and 30 in October, 2007.

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