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Lee real estate experts say industry makes comeback

Slowly but surely, Southwest Florida’s home-building industry is coming back to life, experts told a sold-out crowd at the Lee Building Industry Association’s Market Trends 2011 symposium Wednesday.

“Oh, the smell of sawdust,” said Randy Thibaut, president and CEO of Land Solutions – a real estate company that specializes in handling sales of large amounts of undeveloped land.

After a tumultuous decade, the residential market is getting back to something approaching normalcy, he told the crowd of about 220 at Hodges University in Fort Myers.

Thibaut noted that in 2000, there were about 10,000 permits for single-family homes in Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. That number quadrupled to 40,000 by 2005 at the height of the real estate boom. In 2011, the area’s on track for 3,000 to 3,500 permits.

He drew his most enthusiastic applause when he pointed to BB&T bank senior vice president and area executive Bob Bassett and said, “He’s here to loan money today.”

Bassett said things are looking up in Southwest Florida but that events on the national stage have given pause to some potential borrowers.

He was referring to the fractious debate in Congress over the national debt ceiling, followed by a see-sawing stock market and the Federal Reserve’s uncharacteristically direct assurance that interest rates will stay low for another two years.

“If I go back prior to two weeks ago we had a modest uptick in our demand for loans, our pipeline, and it was the cautious optimism out there,” Bassett said. “But the events of the past week – I think that creates a little uncertainty and some people who were ready to do projects may wait on the sidelines for a bit longer.”

But in the longer term, the signs are there that a recovery is under way in the local industry, said Fort Myers-based Darin McMurray, regional vice president of Lennar Homes, a large national home builder.

via Lee real estate experts say industry makes comeback | The News-Press | news-press.com.

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