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  • Good news for buyers in Southwest Florida

    Tuesday, February 12, 2019   /   by Hunter Habib

    Good news for buyers in Southwest Florida

    There's good news for buyers in the Naples-Fort Myers market. Home price increases have tapered off, according to Metrostudy, a national housing market research firm. The base sales price for a new home today averages 1 percent less than it did a year ago. Meanwhile, the annual price gain for resales — or homes that have already been lived in — has declined to between 2 percent and 3 percent a year, in line with the 50-year historical average.

    "We're in the mature stage of the housing recovery. I do think we're going to see a couple more good years in the housing market, but it's going to be less growth and less price appreciation than say in 2013 or in 2014," said David Cobb, a regional director for Metrostudy.


    Metrostudy's research is based on activity seen in master-planned communities, not on scattered lots in areas such as Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Golden Gate and Golden Gate Estates. The report includes single-family homes, as well as townhomes and duplexes, but not condominiums. The Naples-Fort Myers market saw 5,139 home starts in 2018 — up 12 percent from a year ago. Metrostudy defines a start as a poured slab.

    The upward trend in starts ended a relatively flat period of growth in 2016 and 2017.

    "I think overall the housing market has still got some legs to it, even though this economic recovery has been going on since 2009. It's the longest economic recovery we've ever had," Cobb said. In the Naples market, there were 2,115 starts last year, up 3 percent from 2017. The Fort Myers area had 3,024 starts, an increase of 18 percent over the year. Why the bigger increase in Lee County? It comes down to price, Cobb said.

    "It's more affordable. The average new home price in Lee is almost $200,000 less than in Collier," he said. "As you can imagine that makes a huge difference in terms of people's ability to buy a home." It starts on scattered lots were counted, Cobb said the total would have been closer to 8,000 or 9,000 new starts for the combined market. The annual pace of starts increased the most in the $200,000 to $299,000, $300,000 to $399,000 and $500,000 to $599,000 price ranges. Homes priced at more than $600,000 continued their downward trend, according to Metrostudy.

    There were 5,118 closings in the Naples-Fort Myers market last year, up 8 percent from 2017. In the Fort Myers area, there were 2,953 closings, while Naples had 2,165.

    Metrostudy's fourth-quarter survey showed there's a little over a month's supply of homes on the market. Three months is considered an equilibrium, Cobb said.

    "That means there are not a lot of finished homes out there just sitting unoccupied," he said.

    When the months of supply rises above three and stays there, builders are more likely to reduce prices or make other concessions, according to Metrostudy. The inventory of vacant lots ready to be developed in master planned communities has been on the decline. The number shrank by 13 percent over the year to 10,207 in the combined market.


    What is the most in-demand community in the Naples-Fort Myers market? Ave Maria, east of Naples, still ranks No. 1. Builders started 241 homes in the town last year and there were 256 closings.


    "Ave Maria is one of the few relatively affordable new home communities in Collier County and it's also one of the more affordable ones in all of Southwest Florida," Cobb said. "It has been the top starts leader — annual starts leader — for about three years now, maybe a little longer than that."


    By the Numbers

    Here are the top 10 communities in the Naples-Fort Myers market based on annual starts in 2018, according to Metrostudy:


    Community                         Location        Starts   Closings    Builder


    1) Ave Maria                        Collier           241       256           CC Homes/Del Webb/Pulte


    2) Valencia Bonita                Lee              234       156            GL Homes


    3) The Place at Corkscrew   Lee              220       187           Lennar/Pulte


    4) Naples Reserve                Collier         190        186          Multiple builders


    5) Plantation                          Lee             183       183           Pulte


    6) StoneCreek                       Collier          178       147         GL Homes


    7) Westbrook                         Lee              160        145        Pulte


    8) Portico                               Lee               157        114        Lennar


    9) Esplanade                         Collier           151        133       Taylor Morrison, Stock


    10) Entrada                           Lee                145         161       DR Horton  

      real estate, 2019