For the first time in six years, property values in Lee County overall are on the rise with Sanibel, Captiva and Upper Captiva estimates continuing to slide into the red.
For the first time since 2007, property values in Lee County are projected to show a nearly 2 percent increase with most 91 taxing districts seeing its numbers in the black.
Property Appraiser Kenneth Wilkinson released his preliminary valuation numbers for Lee County on Friday and overall, total valuation climbed at 1.99 percent.
The total taxable valuation was $52.90 billion in 2012. The estimated valuation countywide is $53.95 billion, with the official numbers due next month.
Sanibel is the only one of the five municipalities in the county to show a decrease in overall value by .54 percent. The city's total property value stood at $4.070 billion in 2012. The preliminary estimate for 2013 is projected at $4.048 billion, or down by $21,777,782.
"Comparing the preliminary numbers from 2012 to the preliminary numbers for 2013 there is an improvement," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "It's down a half percent, perhaps we will get to flatline yet. After talking to a prominent realtor on the island our oceanfront properties are moving quickly, but the inland properties are not."
Ruane pledges he will continue to work to keep the city's budget balanced and responsible whatever the numbers are.
"Sanibel is on the right trend," said Wilkinson. "It is so slight and we have another month to work on the numbers. They could get even or slightly positive."
Upper Captiva and Captiva fire districts are facing more severe decreases for 2013. Captiva property is estimated to sink by 5.44 percent from $1.231 billion in 2012 to $1.164 billion overall for 2013.
Upper Captiva shrinking by 12.4, is the largest percentage drop in the county. It also is the smallest taxing district in the county with its overall value expected to slip from $166 million in 2012 to $145 million in 2013.
"I am concerned for them," Wilkinson said. "But the only ones interested in the figures right now is the taxing district. The fire districts need their funding and there is no better process than the TRIM notices. It's a good process. The (tax district) could have more information that we are not privy to, so if they do we will take a look."
Real estate brokers on the islands are experiencing just the opposite.
"It is a strong market this year," said Royal Shell Real Estate vice president Michael Polly. "We are setting records over last year, which was better than the year before."
With the uniqueness of the properties on the island, it comes down to basic math.
"I wish there was a more magical answer," said Polly. "When you have a couple of acres on the Gulf and there are only a few others like it, it's a fishing expedition for buyers. You get what they are willing to pay.
"Upper Captiva is a unique beast. I don't have good insight on that area, but in statistics for small population numbers just one or two sales can move the index a lot the overall average can be low," added Polly.
Wilkinson is confident the trend for property values is heading up and staying there.
"We live in cycles in our lives, and when you talk about real estate, it's cyclical. I think we reached the bottom, we're on our way back up," Wilkinson said in a telephone interview. "I hope we don't go back to double-digit inflation. That's not good overall. I'd like to settle in on 5 percent."
Cape Coral saw the highest projected increase in overall valuation at 5.67 percent in 2013 with Lehigh Acres close behind at 5.66 percent. This is not unexpected when you consider Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral were ground zero for the housing bust in 2008-09, Wilkinson said.
As for the increase in the valuation and its affect, Wilkinson said it depends on your perspective.
"For city government it's a positive because it means there's more revenue. It also means the economy is better," Wilkinson said. "Is it a positive on the individual? If they want to sell their property, it's a positive. If they want to live there the rest of their lives, maybe not."
But with homesteading and the consumer price index up only 1.7 percent, that's as high as your tax can increase can be, and that is good news, Wilkinson said.
The official valuation numbers will come out July 1.
Island Reporter senior editor Jim Linette contributed to this report.