Housing sales in Lehigh Acres in 2016 were the best in several years, with all the inventory that was left over from the housing crash of years' earlier pretty much gone. Even building, which was virtually non-existent for years, finally saw an upsurge.
Lehigh Acres has become the most affordable area to buy a home, particularly for first-time buyers and retirees, in Lee County
Fred Elliott, a broker at Coldwell Banker, said the affordable market has picked up in the last few years after years of virtually no sales caused by the housing crash.
Housing sales in Lehigh Acres in 2016 were the best in several years.
"Going back to 2005-07, prices escalated faster than the market could bear. When it corrected, people got caught in that," Elliott said. "Until around 2014, there were foreclosures that could be purchased from banks. Those dried up in 2015."
That created more "arm's length buyers," as opposed to bank-owned properties or a corporate entity, where real buyers and sellers made transactions, stabilizing the market, Elliott said.
Elliott said prices have rebounded, increasing 15 to 18 percent annually over the past two years. The average sales price is about $150,000, where it was $130,000 a year ago, and about $98,000 in 2014.
Property values increase
According to numbers produced from the Lee County Property Assessor's Office, it was a banner year for property in Lehigh Acres. Assessed values jumped from $3,873,669,744 in 2015 to $4,489,077,484 last year, a 15.89 increase.
"It's brought resale homes to the point where builders can build and sell their product and make a profit. Before, the buyers had a choice because resale homes were so inexpensive," Elliott said. "With builders charging $180,000 to $200,000 for a new home, buyers weigh out the value of a new home or a resale."
Craig McClellan, broker at Aces of Real Estate, said improving prices are a double-edged sword.
"There's no inventory of homes and everything is at the same price point, between $140,000 and $180,000 is the extent of what's on the market," McClennan said. "We need more inventory, but we can't get people approved for mortgages for more than $150,000, so we're having difficulty selling houses."
McClellan said the housing prices have gone up faster than the economy, and while the stock market is at or near record levels, it's only the big corporations that have benefitted.
At issue are wages.
With rents averaging $1,100 per month, and people are making the same amount of money they did three years ago, that has made things difficult, McClennan said.
Still, in terms of property valuations, the numbers are strong.
According to numbers produced from the Lee County Property Assessor's Office, it was a banner year for Lehigh property. The assessed values jumped from $3,873,669,744 in 2015 to $4,489,077,484 last year, a 15.89 increase.
Lehigh fire district opted out of the county tax roll for 2016 by passing a Fire Service Assessment tax instead. Residents pay an annual fee of $292 per year.
As a result, McClellan said that he doesn't see Lehigh Acres falling backward though values may level off.
Rick Anglickis, another broker, dismisses any notion of a struggling market, saying he's sold over 2,000 homes in the market.
"The market is so good now that if I wanted, I could make more money now than I've made in my life." Anglickis said. "Today's market is middle-class America."
Anglickis said as far as construction, many of the houses being built aren't new product, but old product that is just as modern as it was 10 years ago.
Adams is still a major player in Lehigh, and there are lots available for building throughout the area, from Sun Lakes to Varsity Lakes. But the volume of new construction isn't near what it was 10 years ago, which Anglickis said is a good thing.
"When the investors are in the market, the market is down. When they send you letters wanting to buy your land, it means a turnaround has happened and investors want to package 100 lots and sell it to a builder," Anglickis said.