Naples Realtors say they're enjoying one of their best seasons since 2005

Local Realtors say February sales show a major upswing, what do you think?

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* Note to viewer: Please scroll 20 seconds in for video to begin.*
Brett Brown, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors, tackles issues that are important to property owners and buyers.
Those issues include market trends, the impact of the federal stimulus, availability of mortgages, and problems with short sales and buying foreclosed properties.
He was interviewed by Daily News Editorial Page Editor Jeff Lytle on Wednesday, March 4, for the program that originally aired on Comcast's My TV8 at noon on Sunday, March 8.

* Note to viewer: Please scroll 20 seconds in for video to begin.* Brett Brown, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors, tackles issues that are important to property owners and buyers. Those issues include market trends, the impact of the federal stimulus, availability of mortgages, and problems with short sales and buying foreclosed properties. He was interviewed by Daily News Editorial Page Editor Jeff Lytle on Wednesday, March 4, for the program that originally aired on Comcast's My TV8 at noon on Sunday, March 8. Watch »

Naples-area Realtors say they’re having one of their best seasons since 2005.

They point to February resales activity as part of the evidence.

Closed sales were up 26 percent and pending sales – sales that have yet to close — grew nearly 70 percent to 808, up from 479 a year ago, according to a monthly report by the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR).

The report tracks home sales in Collier County made through the SunshineMLS, or multiple listing service, excluding Marco Island.

“There is a lot of people out there looking,” said broker Brett Brown, NABOR’s president.

And buying.

“The market is definitely up from last year. There is no doubt about it. Our sales were up 124 percent in February, over February of last year,” said Bill Coffey, managing broker for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate on Fifth Avenue South in Naples.

Foreclosures and short sales — sales made for less than the bank is owed to avoid foreclosure — continue to drive the market and drive the median price down.

The median price of sales made in February was $188,000, a more than 42 percent drop from $326,000 in the same month a year ago.

The median price is the price at which half of the homes sell for more and half for less.

In February, 393 single-family homes and condos sold in the Naples area, up from 312 a year ago. Of that total, 277 went for less than $300,000.

North Naples had the most sales at 113. That was followed by East Naples, with 90.

Realtors say pending sales are a better indication of buyer activity because sales usually take a few months to close. Short sales can take even longer.

Mike Hughes, vice president of Downing-Frye Realty in Naples, said this season is shaping up to be the best one since 2005. He’s seeing multiple offers on homes.

“What’s encouraging is that with a tough economy and now the stock market creeping into the picture we are still producing some pretty strong numbers,” he said.

He’s surprised by the activity.

“The low end continues to lead the way,” Hughes said. “There is an awful lot of value in that price range right now. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen these kinds of prices.”

Of the 808 pending sales in February, 587 are priced at under $300,000. Another 96 fall in the $300,000 to $500,000 market. At the high end, 19 are under contract for $2 million-plus.

Sales of higher-priced homes are lagging behind where they were a year ago. But they’re still moving.

In February, Coffey, with Coldwell Banker, said his company had an $11 million sale, a $9.5 million sale and sales in the $150,000s.

“They were all over the board, which is good,” he said. “That is the way we want it.”

He said the low interest rates _ at about 5 percent _ are helping to spur more sales.

Hughes agrees. But he feels a lot more homes could be sold if lenders weren’t “buried in paperwork,” with so many short sales and foreclosures.

“We have a lot of buyers that are waiting to hear from lenders on whether they have a contract,” Hughes said.

He expects good things over the coming months.

“For Downing-Frye, March, April and May are by far big months,” Hughes said.

At his company, pending sales for this year are up 15 percent over last year, he said.

“The cold winter up North has certainly helped,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of visitors down here.”

Last month, his office had more than 3,300 showings

The inventory of homes on the market in the Naples area continues to drop with the rise in sales. Listings dropped 7.6 percent in February to 11,427, down from 12,377 a year ago.

The Marco Island and Fort Myers markets are seeing the same trends.

In the Fort Myers area, single-family home resales more than doubled in February. There were 936 homes sold, up from 464 sales a year ago, according to the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach Inc.

Pending sales climbed 67.5 percent in February to 1,740, up from 1,039 in the same month a year ago.

“We can’t predict what the economy is going to do,” Coffey said. “But it does have a big bearing on what happens in real estate. I think unless there is a major downswing in the economy, we are going to see sales being much better throughout the whole year.”

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