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Home Prices Rise In Southwest Florida

By Dick Hogan – Article originally appeared on News-Press.com

Home prices spiked up 17 percent in Lee County in September compared to a year earlier, even as the flood of distressed sales ebbed.

The median price of an existing single-family home sold in Lee County in September jumped to $110,600, according to statistics released Thursday by Florida Realtors.

There were 1,127 single-family homes sold in September, up 2 percent from 1,102 a year earlier, said the group’s report, which counts sales completed with the assistance of a Realtor.

The Naples Area Board of Realtors provides its data to the Florida Realtors, but doesn’t allow them to be publicly available. A separate release issued by the board said the median price in September was $169,000, up from $161,000 a year earlier. There were 491 sales in September, compared to 513 in September 2010.

In another report also released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors, the number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September. Home sales are on pace to match last year’s dismal figures — the worst in 13 years.

Denny Grimes of Denny Grimes & Co. at Royal Shell in Fort Myers said the significance of Lee’s statistics in September is that things are going well even as the number of short sales and foreclosure sales has fallen off.

Traditional sales “are picking up the slack,” he said. “Our market has almost flip-flopped” since 2008 when 70 percent of sales were distressed. Now only 20 percent are — 13 percent short sales and 7 percent sales by banks that took a property back in foreclosure.

In a short sale, the bank agrees to reduce the amount of its loan so a home can be sold at current market value.

The inventory of unsold homes has also contributed to a stronger market, Grimes said: only 800 houses under $100,000 are available for sale now, down from 4,200 three years ago.

Real estate agent Cheryl Turner of John R. Wood Realtors in Naples said the stronger prices there are due to an increased confidence by would-be retirees that the worst is over for the national economy and the local real estate market.

“What I’m seeing is people in their 50s, but thinking when they’re ready to retire the markets going to have recovered,” she said. “They’re still in a position to pay for it while the market is down. They can get a foot in the door before the market recovers.”

Even so, Turner said, “They’re buying a little less.”

Statewide, the median price was down 1 percent from $135,000 to $133,900 and the number of sales was up 10 percent from 132,723 to 15,036.

The national association said that home sales fell 3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million homes. That’s below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.

The housing market has been hobbled by foreclosures, weak demand and falling home prices.

Last year 4.91 million previously occupied homes were sold, the lowest level since 1997.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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