A year and a half ago I sent an update with a warning that there were several factors that were potentially going to impact in SWFL real estate including immigration laws that have passed. A little less than a year ago I sent an update stating that a flood of inventory had hit the market and that it would impact sales prices and rental pricing in the future. And, 4 months ago I sent an update saying that the market has declined as predicted was predicted but we felt that it was starting to stabilize. Todays update is to let you know that it has not stabilized and is continuing to decline. Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, Lehigh, Naples, Punta Gorda

 

At Bartomeo we track several key indicators to not only assess the market but to help understand our internal operations. We understand that vacancy is a true killer to an investors portfolio and we track multiple metrics to keep abreast of any potential concerns. The indicators that I will be brining to your attention is total vacancies and total inquires.

An Explanation

Forgive me if this is elementary to some of you but it is necessary to explain to understand our concern. There is a direct correlation between the number of vacancies one has and the amount of inquires, showings, applications, and ultimately signed leases that one receives. As total vacancies go up so should inquires, showings, applications, and signed leases. For example, if you have zero vacancies then you will likely have zero inquiries, so, we would have to understand why we don’t have vacancies. Is it because the rent ready’s a too large, taking to long, or is it a hot market. Tracking these metrics is detrimental to understanding why a unit is not renting and what is broken in the system. We track these metrics and cover them in our weekly property management meetings in an effort have the minimium amount of vacancies AND to reduce the amount of time the units are vacant. There are multiple steps to filling an empty unit, each step builds on the other with the climax of having a signed lease. The first two steps are 1. having a  

The Problem

Below I incuded a chart and the raw data to help you understand our concern. As you can see from the chart, inquires have been steadily declining (there is fluctuation in the chart depending on how many vacancies we have). If we look at todays vacancies/inquires, we have had 9 vacancies for the month of May and have had 11 – 23 inquires per week. In contracts to Dec when we had 7 – 11 vacancies, we were having 60 – 81 inquires. This is extremely worrisome. There is a trickle effect that happens with lower inquiries, with lower inquires there are lower showings, applications, and leases. On average will need a minimum of 23 inquires to get 1 signed lease. Based on our current numbers the average vacancy will sit for 2+ months.

What Are We Doing

1.We put a big push on reducing turnover about 10 months ago which included:

  • Speeding up rent ready’s to have less down time and pushing owners to complete their large rehabs. Some of you have had vacancies for a year due to large rehabs.
  • Slowing down, stopping rent increases, and even lowering some rents. Some of our owners still have very low rents but the average rent increase right now is $0 - $50.
  • Improving the work order response time which is a factor of customer service. We have 3 maintenance technicians that have increased response time and have saved our owner tens of thousands every month.
    • In June of last year we were averaging 130 work orders every week. We are currently averaging 75. About a 40% reduction and this is with adding 30 units to our portfolio.
    • Last year we were averaging $150,000 in expenses every month. This year we are averaging $106,000/mon. About a 30% reduction in expenses for our owners. This is despite the higher turnover rate and adding 30 units to our portfolio.
  • Increased customer service - The office and phone are maned 9a – 5p, M – F to give our tenants the ability to text, email, call, or walk-in.

2.We will need to get even more aggressive with our pricing strategies

  • Not over pricing at the start.
  • Weekly price reductions based on traffic.

3.Aggressive marketing

  • We currently have a fairly aggressive marketing strategy but there is always room for improvement.
  • With the current NAR settlement we will no longer be able to market commissions to agents on the MLS. We are working on another form of communication with higher commissions.

 

The Future

All indications are showing that it will get worse before it will get better - sales inventory is still high, rental inventory is very high, more and more new construction apartment buildings are nearing and/or have been completed (at least 10 in Cape Coral that have hundreds of units are still being built), displaced home owners are returning to their homes, and a host of other concerns.

 

We have gone through years of rapid rent growth and a lack of inventory. The market had adjusted accordingly but than over adjusted with over building. The market is correcting itself again and it will reach equilibrium at some point. We are here to answer any of your questions.

 

The chart below help you visualize the concern that we are having.

  31-Oct 7-Nov 14-Nov 21-Nov 28-Nov 5-Dec 12-Dec 19-Dec 2-Jan 9-Jan 16-Jan 23-Jan 30-Jan 6-Feb 13-Feb
Listed 8 11 11 12 10 7 9 11 8 6 6 4 4 3 3
Inquiries 26 48 101 123 133 82 94 61 60 77 42 61 67 55 44
Showings 8 10 34 33 48 31 37 16 23 35 14 16 27 19 12
Applications 4 2 16 10 9 18 15 5 12 11 8 7 7 3 8
Signed Leases 1 0 3 2 5 7 0 4 3 4 2 3 1 0 3

 

  20-Feb 27-Feb 5-Mar 12-Mar 19-Mar 26-Mar 2-Apr 9-Apr 16-Apr 23-Apr 30-Apr 7-May 14-May 21-May
Listed 7 9 9 6 5 5 5 2 8 8 7 9 9 9
Inquiries 41 78 90 81 43 33 80 29 30 28 19 20 23 11
Showings 19 23 29 29 8 12 34 11 13 7 5 6 9 6
Applications 3 10 11 11 12 5 22 7 7 8 2 1 1 3
Signed Leases 1 2 4 4 4 1 3 3 3 5 2 0 1 2