In a bit of good news for the housing industry, sales of existing single-family homes in greater Fort Myers, Fla., have been up for six straight months. According to statistics released by the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, sales in June 2008 were up 53.2 percent over the same month in 2007.

Pending sales are up 80.1 percent, with 1,379 single-family pending sales compared to 762 a year ago. Plus, the absorption rate – the number of months it would take to absorb the inventory on the market at the current sales pace – has dropped from a high of 22 months at the end of 2007, to 8.9 months.

The median price of a single-family home in the greater Fort Myers market fell from $239,500 a year ago to $158,000, a 34 percent drop.

That reduction in pricing is the leading reason for the increase in sales, says Ron Carpenter, president of the Realtor Association.

“It’s now affordable for everybody to get involved,” Carpenter says. “It’s like (Ft. Myers-based Realtor) Denny Grimes said a long time ago, the buyers didn’t leave. The sellers did. Now they’re both back.”

For local builders, the market is still very difficult, but survivable.

“There are signs of life,” says Bob Knight, vice president of Cape Coral-based Paul Homes  and president of the Lee Building Industry Association. “There is a lot of absorption. The foreclosures are still increasing, but it’s clearing out the inventory. … It’s still going to take another 12 months, but it’s not as dreaded as it was six to eight months ago. It’s also clearing out the competition. The people who want to survive are working very hard, and the ones who don’t are getting out.”

Pat Curry is senior editor, sales and marketing, at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Cape Coral, FL.