The News-Press, June 2, 2015 - Building permits strong, foreclosures low in Lee

The News-Press, June 2, 2015 - Building permits strong, foreclosures low in Lee

Builders in Lee County pulled 277 single-family-home permits in May, more than February's 272 — even with numbers not available June 1 for Bonita Springs.

There were 343 in March and 361 in April, but those months' numbers were pumped up by a deluge of applications to beat the higher impact fees that went into effect after March 13.

Meanwhile, lenders filed 131 foreclosure lawsuits in the county courts in May, up from April's 101 but a far cry from the 2,665 filed in October 2008, the peak of the foreclosure deluge following the residential real estate implosion that began in early 2006, according to statistics released Monday by the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association.

Don Koogler, owner of custom homebuilder Koogler Homes in Cape Coral, said he's found people this year more willing to put their money in a home here because of the recent ramp-up of Southwest Florida home prices.

Besides being cheaper than most Northern markets, he said, "You can make more money than putting it in a bank" at today's low interest rates, he said.

Offshore buyers are also a significant part of the market, Koogler said - including some from South America, traditionally a sector that bought mainly in the Miami area.

"We're building for a guy from Venezuela right now," he said. "It took people from Venezuela and Colombia a little time to find us."

Jeff Tumbarello, who is director of the association and owner/broker of Steelbridge Realty in North Fort Myers, said a return to the high foreclosure rates of years past are unlikely to come again anytime soon.

For one thing, he said, buyers now are paying in cash. "All-cash percentages are going down but they're still 54 percent, almost twice the average in the state of Florida. We have so little leverage in the county now."

Bonita Springs home permit statistics weren't available Monday but here are the numbers for the rest of the county:

Unincorporated county, 90; Cape Coral, 89; Fort Myers, 96; and Sanibel, 2. No permits were pulled in Fort Myers Beach.