Friday, May 16, 2008

let's Talk!
Renowned Florida economist Hank Fishkind spoke
the words Naples Realtors and brokers wanted to hear.

The housing markets hit bottom in Collier County and home prices aren’t
going to drop anymore, he said Thursday in a talk organized by the Naples
Area Board of Realtors. “The markets are not eroding further,” said Fishkind,
principal of Orlando-based Fishkind & Associates.

Prices have flattened out and if they were going to fall any more that would
have happened in the last six months, he said. However, he said it will take
another six to 12 months for sales volumes to really start improving in the
Naples area.

In Lee and Charlotte counties, the recovery is going to take longer because
there are higher inventories of unsold homes, Fishkind said. In those counties,
there was more overbuilding because land prices were so much cheaper, he said.
While he described the condominium market in Florida as a “disaster” generally
because there has been so much overbuilding, he said it’s not as bad in the
Naples area because the scarcity of land and high land prices have limited new

He described the unsold inventory of new homes in Collier County as
“fairly small.” In February, a little more than 200 existing single-family
homes sold at an average price of $540,000 in Collier County, according
to deed records, Fishkind said. There were more than 100 new single-family
homes that sold for an average price of $375,000. About 50 new condominiums
sold for an average price of $350,000, and about 175 existing ones sold for an
average price of $425,000 in February, he said. “Basically prices are the same
as in 2006,” Fishkind said. He predicts that it will be “years” before prices go up

Fishkind also touched on job losses and foreclosures in Collier County.
As of March 8, the county had lost about 7,400 jobs year-over-year.
In Lee County, there were 11,000 jobs lost in the same 12 months.
Fishkind called it “ugly,” but said he believes the worst is over.
Statewide, more than 77,000 jobs have been lost in the last year.
Many were in construction. Builders have been forced to make cutbacks
with the slowdown in residential and commercial construction, and some
have gone bankrupt. Collier has been hard hit because its economy isn’t
diversified and its main drivers are construction and tourism, Fishkind said.
“Employment growth is going to be modest at best over the next few years,”
he said. On the foreclosure front, there have been 1,600 single-family
foreclosure filings in Collier since the beginning of the year. In all of 2007, there were 1,500, Fishkind said.

For condominiums, there have been 400 foreclosure filings so far this year,
almost as many as for last year. “I think ultimately we will start to see
that peak and then level off. It’s a reflection of all the adjustable rate
mortgages coming due,” said Russ Weyer, a senior associate with Fishkind &
Associates, in an interview after the talk.

Lee County filings have already showed signs of stabilizing, he said.
The decline in housing starts will bottom out in 2008, but don’t expect
them to skyrocket again like “Mount Everest,” Fishkind said.

The housing correction, high energy prices and federal cuts in interest
rates all point to a national recession, he said. He doesn’t expect a recovery
in Florida’s economy this year. He predicts that the population won’t start
growing again until next year. When people start spending more that will
make the difference, he said. That could happen in a few months when
millions of taxpayers receive economic stimulus checks from the federal

More than 200 people attended Fishkind’s presentation, held at
NABOR’s office off Pine Ridge Road. It was a record showing for a
NABOR quarterly luncheon.

John Zagar, president for Stock Realty in Naples, said
Fishkind reaffirmed his own thoughts about the turning market.
At Lely Resort, one of Stock Construction’s communities

off U.S. 41 East, there were 160 sales in the first three months
of this year, compared to about 100 for all of 2007, he said.

Arlene Carozza, NABOR’s president, said after the board’s
March report showed a sharp spike in pending sales the
members started feeling the worst was behind them.
Though the busy winter season traditionally ends at Easter,
local Realtors continue to be busy with more open houses,
showings and closings, she said.
“Usually by this time Naples is cleared out,”

Carozza said. “People are staying — and buying.”

Be sure to contact me with any questions you may have by e-mail at

To see Hank Fishkind’s full report, visit