Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson is a bit surprised by his news that the value of real estate throughout Lee County continues its five-year trend of decline while also showing increases in Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
"Overall, countywide my gut feeling is property values will be down slightly," said Wilkinson. "This is the fifth year in a row in decline, though each year the decrease is less."
Property on Sanibel and Captiva islands continues a slowing downward trend. In the city of Sanibel, the value of property slipped 3.24 percent while those in the Sanibel Fire District decreased 3.27 percent. For those in the Captiva Fire District, estimated valuations for tax notices declined 6.33 percent from last year and down 11.64 percent for the Upper Captiva Fire District.
"Of course, we have another month of work to do," said Wilkinson.
The figures estimated by Wilkinson this week are subject to change with the final figures to be released in July.
"We try to anticipate and project what the values will be," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "The numbers are not a surprise to me and I expect 2012 to be lower as well. We will balance our budget just like the last five years and not raise taxes as long as I am on council."
Wilkinson happily informed Cape Coral that estimated property value there increased 3.53 percent, which represents the largest increase among all 91 taxing authorities in Lee County.
"For the first time in five years they'll be happy with me," he said. "The Cape leads the trend that we've bottomed out. We waited for it to hit bottom, and now it's there."
The city of Fort Myers property values show an increase of .25 percent. Only three other fire district taxing agencies in the county show increases ranging from .02 percent (Bonita Springs) to 2.61 percent (Boca Grande).
"The good news is we were not hit as hard as others," said Ruane. "The bad news is the market is still flat. Our population is older than other communities, so people are worried about putting their affairs in order, or move off the island or go to Shell Point. Time is not on their side.
"We will live within our means. No municipality has been more proactive than this one about that."
The estimated total value of property in the city of Sanibel is $4.024 billion, a decrease of almost $135 million from 2011. Sanibel Fire District property with a total value of $4.143 billion is down almost $140 million from the previous year.
"Property on the islands along the Gulf is up, but that doesn't make up for the rest of the island," said Wilkinson.
That follows the trend throughout most of Lee County. The overall value of county properties is $52.787 billion, down .90 percent from 2011, but it's a far cry from the double-digit downturns in past years. There are pockets of rising property values everywhere.
For Wilkinson, the numbers in the Cape send a message. Lee County, which was ground zero of the housing bust, is bouncing back.
"It sends a message to the economy, which is based on perception and good faith," Wilkinson said. "It may be time to get in the market."
Prospective homebuyers, who have been on the fence for years, can finally consider buying a home.