Lee County foreclosures reach year low in September

In September, new foreclosure filings in Lee County reached their lowest number this year.

There were 1,584 filings last month, down from 1,625 in August and 2,447 a year ago, according to the Lee County Clerk’s Office.

Another report by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association shows similar trends, though its numbers are slightly different.

“The right side of the bell curve is definitely forming,” said Jeff Tumbarello, the association’s director.

The real news, however, is not the decline in foreclosures, but the rise in home sales, he said. Residential sales are about to reach a new annual record in the county.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff there,” said Tumbarello, who is also a Realtor for Steelbridge Realty Partners LLC in Fort Myers. “It’s bigger than the foreclosures trending down.”

In all of 2005, when the market reached its peak, there were 15,188 Realtor-assisted residential resales in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral areas, he said. A recent check of the multiple listing service, or MLS, showed 15,146 resales this year.

Tumbarello said a new record could have already been reached, considering the lag in recording sales.

“It’ll likely happen today,” he said early Thursday, noting that closings often happen at the end of the month. “The day hasn’t started in earnest and we have only 42 sales to go.”

Of course, home prices are much lower than they were in 2005.

The report by the Southwest Florida Real Investment Association shows more investors are buying homes at courthouse auctions. Fannie Mae and Wells Fargo acquired the most properties from those auctions last month.

New filings are being led by Bank of America, Countrywide, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, Tumbarello said.

The more recent foreclosures are the nicer homes. Many have pools, Tumbarello said.

“There is a lot of canal and gulf access houses. A lot of them are in deed restricted communities,” he said.

He said it make sense that the more expensive homes would take longer to fall into foreclosure. Their owners are often more affluent and can hold on longer in a bad market because they have more money to keep paying their bills.

“The cream always comes last,” Tumbarello said.

He said there are more foreclosure actions being taken against commercial properties. Recently, there was a filing against Time Square on Fort Myers Beach.

As the winter season approaches, Tumbarello is feeling optimistic that sales will continue to be strong in Lee County. With temperatures already breaking 40 degrees up North, more buyers could soon be headed this way as they flee the colder weather for sunny weather in Southwest Florida.

“What I see is a bright future,” Tumbarello said. “We’re an affordable place to retire again. What’s wrong with that?”

Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.

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