Cape Coral was home to one of the largest real estate and building booms in the country. I remember back in 2005 where you could not visit a convenience store or barber shop and not hear stories about how the person working there had just bought another condo or was trying to flip a house. I always think of Warren Buffets immortal words, “Be Fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” Everyone should have known that the market could not sustain that amount of monumental growth but a whole lot of people got caught with their financial pants down.
In September the Florida Association of Realtors released official home and condo sales numbers for the month of August. Median sale prices were down 41% for single family homes in the Fort Myers Cape Coral area from last year. Median home sale prices in Cape Coral and Fort Myers have fallen 30.84% in three short months, from a median price of $212,400 in May to a median price of $146,900 in August. Home sales were up 31% over last year with 684 sales this year Vs. 520 last year, but home sales were down 11% from July 2008 numbers. Cape Coral is once again affordable, but with such a plunge in taxable value that the city of 170,000 is laying off dozens of employees and cutting park programs and other services.
And with nearly 11,000 homes in foreclosure – 1 in every 31 households – it could be two years before all the distressed properties find buyers.
Cape Coral is one of Florida’s youngest cities, the creation of brothers Jack and Leonard Rosen. In 1957, they paid $678,000 for Redfish Point, renamed it and began building their “affordable waterfront wonderland” across the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers.
What Cape Coral may lack in historical charm, it makes up for in size and location. At 115 square miles, it is the third biggest city geographically in Florida, trailing only Jacksonville and Tampa. Even today, 50 percent of the land is undeveloped, giving parts of Cape Coral the look of a windswept Kansas prairie.
Among the city’s selling points are 400 miles of canals, many with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. That, along with cheaper housing prices than those in the Tampa Bay area or South Florida, attracted hordes of speculators as loose lending standards and low “teaser” interest rates fueled a nationwide real estate boom starting in 2004.
If you ever wanted a bargain on waterfront property, Cape Coral may be the place to buy in 2008-2009.