It’s a Great Time To Be on Sanibel & Captiva Islands

weather forecast 12-27-13photoIt is a quiet end to the week on Sanibel and Captiva. Though the islands are busy with visitors and vacationers, most are out enjoying the terrific weather. A brief cool down on Christmas eve has given way to sunny 80-some degree weather again, with the next cool-front not expected until Tues when the high is only expected to go into the low 70’s. Even that temperature makes outdoor lovers happy. The beaches and bike paths continue to see more action than real estate.

Accommodation managers advise that turn-over tomorrow will bring even more visitors. Maybe we’ll get lucky and have some buyers in that new group. Below are a couple of news items, including a real estate summary of 2013 and some 2014 forecasts, followed by a report of the islands Multiple Listing Service action this week.

Sanibel Welcomes a Soldier

FlagSanibelSusan made her last pre-Christmas off-island shopping adventure right after work on Dec 23. I thought it odd when I passed a couple of fire trucks and other vehicles stopped just before the high-rise bridge. Not seeing evidence of an accident, I remember thinking “That’s good; it’s a terrible time to have a fender bender”.

To my surprise, as I drove back on the island a short time later, I was stopped in traffic as a 30′ American flag that had been raised to fly between the top of a pair of ladder trucks, creating a gateway to the island, was being lowered. It was an impressive sight made to provide a patriotic reception for an Army soldier arriving at his Mom’s Sanibel home for the holiday. Thanks to four members of Sanibel Fire and Rescue District and two crewmen from the Iona-McGregor Fire Department, they positioned the two trucks at the base of the Sanibel Causeway high span bridge, hanging the flag which had been borrowed from the City of Fort Myers Fire Department. I am sure that I was just one of many whom when seeing this thought of the many men and women serving our country.

Florida REALTORS – Top Real Estate Stories of 2013

FLRealtors_newlogoPosted on-line at, here is a summary of what as happened in the business this year:

“The real estate industry changed in 2013 – in some ways, significantly, Florida REALTORS® has put together its annual recap of the top news stories that impacted Florida’s real estate brokers and agents:

“The (housing recovery) beat goes on – At the start of 2013, it seemed as if only a handful of experts were beating the housing recovery drums. By the end of the year, just about everyone was upbeat – especially buyers and sellers. It has been a steady upward rebound, and it is obvious. The real estate market is improving.

“Make your move – Florida has a 5-month supply for new and existing single-family homes. Normal levels are 6.1 months for new homes, 7.3 months for existing homes. With mortgage interest rates on the rise, Realtors are working to get sellers to list and buyers to commit.

“Price point – With housing prices on the rise, owners began to recoup some of the equity lost during the recession. In January, the median Florida single-family home sold for $145,000; in November, it sold for $169,900 – a 17.2% increase in only 10 months.

“Higher but still low – Long-term mortgage interest rates bottomed out last May at 3.35% when the Fed announced it might taper its long-term bond-buying program. Rates have slowly increased, and many economists predict rates of 5% in 2014 – still low by historic standards.

“Cashing inInstitutional investors flush with cash fueled the recover in 2013, as they picked up blocks of distressed properties – condos and single-family homes. Last January more than 50% of Florida home sales were all-cash transactions. Economists cite the need for a loosening of lending standards and job certainty in order to lure first-time buyers into the market.

“World piece – International sales remained strong in Florida, with Miami a notable hotspot in 2013. Canada continued to be a major source of buyers – accounting for about 30% of international transactions. Buyers from Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Peru, and China also grew. At the same time, European buyers from the U.K., Germany, and France figures less prominently.

“Rules were made to be broken – A potential threat failed to materialize this year. To avoid another real estate market meltdown, lawmakers forced federal agencies to create minimum loan terms and a “qualified mortgage” (QM). Some experts feared the new rules might require a mandatory 20% down payment. However, the QM rule issued in February struck a balance that lowers risk yet still provides mortgage access for most consumers; a specific-yet-similar QRM rule issued in August did the same.

“Then the floodgates opened – Initially heralded as a long-overdue relief measure for homeowners at risk of flooding, 2012’s Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act extended the nation’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years and took steps to make the program financially self-sustaining. But initial relief turned to shock when insurance premium renewals arrived in the mail. For some homeowners, rates jumped as much as 800% making some homes unaffordable and short-circuiting some sales under contract. Lawmakers, Realtors and homeowners are working on a number of fixes to ease the unexpected burden on homeowners and sellers.

“When it’s not good to be No. 1 – Banks in Florida started aggressively clearing out the inventory of foreclosed homes, opening the door to a “normal” real estate market. Except for a brief drop to No. 2 status, Florida was the No. 1 U.S. foreclosure state in 2013. In the third quarter alone, the number of homes in some phase of foreclosure rose 22% over the previous quarter, with Florida hosting one in five U.S. foreclosure auctions. The trend is good for the state’s long-term real estate health but not for many Floridians losing a home.

“Property insurance casualties – The property insurance market shifted some in 2013. Florida-owned Citizens Property Insurance ramped up an aggressive push to cut its number of policies. Multiple changes raised some rates, bumped some owners to private carriers and nixed many hurricane mitigation insurance discounts.

“Grease that oils the mortgage market – How can the U.S. minimize the risk of another mortgage meltdown? Lawmakers and regulators wrestled with that question in 2013. FHA added fees and extended insurance on its mortgages, making those loans less desirable. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which free lenders to fund more homes by buying mortgages, are still government owned – but what should happen next? NAR (National Association of REALTORS®) wants continued government involvement; others, however say Fannie and Freddie should go completely private. The discussion continues.

“Just call me John.Doe.Realtor – The hottest new REALTOR® marketing tool announced in 2013: A domain name issued by NAR will allow members to use a new “.realtor” in the URL for their personal websites. Many first-to-sign-up REALTORS chose their name, giving them a powerful marketing tool, with a website URL customers can easily remember, such as “John.Doe.Realtor”.

“Giving back: We salute you – A proud moment for Florida Realtors: The gift of home ownership for a wounded warrior. The highlight of Great American Realtor Days 2013 was awarding a home to retired Army Sgt. Michael Burke of Port St. Lucie, his wife, Nicole, and children Bryce and Layla.

“100 and still going strong – Realtors’ proudest celebration in 2013: The Code of Ethics – the outline of positive business behavior and best practices that separates Realtors from other real estate licensees – turned 100 years old. The Code of Ethics added new language this year to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

3 Big Reasons Why Home Sales Are Falling 

wall street journalPosted on-line last Friday at “Daily Real Estate News” and sourced to REALTOR® Magazine Daily News and “What Fed Tapering Means to You,” The Wall Street Journal (Dec 19, 2013):

Existing-home sales dropped in Nov, falling 4.3% from Oct sales, and marking the first time in more than two years that home sales are below year ago levels, the National Association of REALTORS® reports. What’s behind the drop in sales? NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun pinpoints three main factors: Higher mortgage rates, constrained inventories, and continuing tight credit.

“1. Higher mortgage rates: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is up nearly a full percentage point in the past year, causing home buyers to face an increase in borrowing costs. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.26% in Nov compared to a 3.35% average in Nov 2012, Freddie Mac reports. The Federal Reserve announced this week that it would begin winding down its bond-buying stimulus program next month, which is expected to result in higher mortgage rates. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage could likely rise to 5% or 5.5% next year, Yun notes.

“2. Tight credit: New rules defining Qualified Mortgage will take effect soon, and could leave more borrowers on the sidelines. “New underwriting rules to protect borrowers, effective in Jan, will prohibit many loan features, set tighter limits on the amount of debt a borrower can have and still get a mortgage, and require that lenders accurately measure a borrower’s ability to repay,” says Steve Brown, NAR’s president. “This means that qualified borrowers are getting a loan that they are very likely to be able to repay, but some borrowers may wind up paying much more for their mortgage, or not get a loan at all due to the tougher standards. The new rules may tighten credit too much, but we’re hopeful regulators will make adjustments if this proves to be true.”

“3. Constrained inventories: Housing inventory in Nov fell 0.9% to 2.09 million existing homes available for sale. The total housing inventory represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, NAR notes. One factor is a shrinking number of distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales. Distressed homes accounted for 14% of Nov sales compared to 22% in November 2012, NAR notes. “There is a pent-up demand for both rental and owner-occupied housing as household formation will inevitably burst out, but the bottleneck is in limited housing supply, due to the slow recovery in new home construction,” Yun notes. “As such, rents are rising at the fastest pace in five years, while annual home prices are rising at the highest rate in eight years.” The national median home price for existing-homes was up 9.4% year-over-year in Nov, averaging $196,300 nationwide.”

Job Growth to Drive 2014 Housing Market

2014 goldIn the same vein, “Daily Real Estate News” on Monday sourced an “Investor’s Business Daily” report called “How Will Housing Recovery Fare In 2014?” as saying:

“”The housing recovery is expected to remain strong in the new year, driven by economic growth and an improving employment picture, economists say. In fact, job growth likely will be one key to driving housing growth in the new year. An estimated 2 million or more jobs will be created in 2014, predicts Lawrence Yun, National Association of REALTORS®’ chief economist.

“As employment picks up, greater demand for housing is expected to occur and a surge in homebuilding activity. Celia Chen, housing economist at Moody’s Analytic, predicts a “homebuilding boom” in 2014 that will spark even more jobs — from construction workers to manufacturers — and bring about greater demand for housing overall.  “The homebuilding boom in 2014 drives our strong economic forecast,” Chen said. “Homebuilding generates a lot of jobs.” The housing recovery is expected to continue on its path in the new year with home prices continuing to rise (although at a slower pace); sales to rise slightly; and the foreclosure crisis expected to finally draw to an end.

“”For the general consumer, the market will be good in 2014,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®. “Home values will continue to rise, but not sharply, but there won’t be a decline.” Yun notes 2014 will be the second consecutive year of a “very respectable recovery,” marked by a 20% cumulative rise in existing-home sales over the past two years and nearly a 20% increase in home values. However, he notes that existing-home sales will likely plateau in 2014. Sales have already been slowing in the latest reports. Yun says home prices rose 11% in 2013, but growth will likely be slower in 2014 at a pace of 5%. The reason for the slowing pace of home prices, he says, is mostly being driven by “less affordable conditions from higher prices and higher mortgage rates.” Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are expected to rise above 5% in the second half of 2014 (up from a current average of 4.47 percent this week).

“”While rates will be higher than what they were, they won’t be at a level that will discourage home purchases,” says Jay Brinkmann, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. MBA is predicting interest rates to also average about 5% in 2014. 

“Meanwhile, the distressed housing crisis is expected to fade away in 2014. Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, says that 2014 will likely be the year “we transition back to normal.” About 85,000 foreclosure filings a month nationwide are expected by the first quarter of 2015. “The market has worked through most of the bad loans that triggered the crisis to begin with,” Blomquist says. Still, some loans need to be “cleaned up.””

Sanibel & Captiva Islands Sales Stats for 2013 Compared to 2012

ASSOC LogoBringing these articles closer to home, below is a summary of the almost-end-of-2013 sales action compared to 2012 and inventory today (Dec 27, 2013). To put these statistics in perspective, also shown are the number of sales and average sale prices during “the peak” in 2006. The market rebound is slow.

                        CONDOS                 HOMES                        LOTS

                        #          Avg $             #          Avg $                #          Avg $


For sale           161      716,196         180      1,308,786         86        686,988

Sold 2013        157      574,511         194       908,986           25        423,162

Sold 2012        151      551,244         183       823,598           33        487,687

Sold 2006        143      866,972         156       1,143,682        18        523,917


For sale           35        804,663         35         3,254,083        4          2,388,750

Sold 2013        36        659,185         18         2,522,056        2          675,000

Sold 2012        35        836,129         26         1,536,019        3          1,221,667

Sold 2006        21        1,362,476      10         2,307,375        4          2,218,750

Sanibel & Captiva Islands Multiple Listing Service Activity December 20-27

2 new listings: Seashells #36 2/2 $335K, Coquina Beach #5B 2/2 $395K.
4 price changes: Spanish Cay #F6 1/1 now $285K, Coquina Beach #4F 2/2 now $429.9K, Mariner Pointe #812 2/2 now $459K (our listing), Loggerhead Cay #331 2/2 now $495K.
No new or closed sales.
No new listings.
2 price changes: 1809 Bowman’s Beach Rd 3/2 now $475K, 696 Durion Ct 3/2.5 now $599K.
1 new sale: 984 Sand Castle Rd 3/2.5 half-duplex listed for $355K.
2 closed sales: 1655 Sand Castle Rd 2/3 half-duplex $425K, 659 Donax St 2/2 $435K (our listing & sale).
3 new listings: 4626 Buck Key Rd $199K, 9277 Belding Dr $239.9K, 6217 Starling Way $1.495M.
No price changes.
1 new sale: 2403 Blue Crab Ct listed for $499K.
No closed sales.
No new listings, price changes, or new sales.
2 closed sales: Tennis Villas #3121 1/1 $194K, Bayside Villas #5102 1/2 $244K.
Nothing to report.
Nothing to report.

This representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors or its Multiple Listing Service.  Neither the association nor its MLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy.  Data maintained by the association or its MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.  The information provided represents the general real estate activity in the community and does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions.  If your property currently is listed with another broker, this is not intended as a solicitation of that listing.

NewYear BlogTopperHappy New Year from Susan & The SanibelSusan Team (David, Elise, & Lisa)