matthewsimmons1As Co-Chair of the Lee County Bar Association’s Land Use and Governmental Law Section, I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Matt Simmons, State-Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser and partner at Maxwell Hendry & Simmons, after he spoke at our group’s July luncheon. Matt shared so much valuable information with us (no pun intended) that I hoped to capture some of that knowledge to share here. Given the importance of the real estate market to our community, it is nearly impossible to distill the wealth of data Matt and his firm have in a short blog. But, it’s always fun to try!

Q: You have great data to share, and you mentioned that often the data can be skewed if viewed in isolation. What do you see as the most misunderstood information reflecting the SWFL market?

A:    Probably the most misunderstood statistic is the median home price indicator. Yet it’s the one that most of us refer to most frequently. If the median price increases 10% in a given year across the county, it’s easy for people to think that means their home increased in value 10% over the past year. But aside from the obvious location nuances, this assumption misses what a median price analysis measures. It’s simply a measure of the price trends for whatever happens to sell in a given period of time. In a seasonal market like SWFL, where a disproportionate number of higher priced properties sell in season, that measure can be dangerous if it’s not analyzed in context. The truest measure of changes in market conditions comes from measuring recurring sales on a property that sells more than once in a relatively short period of time. The percentage change on a recurring sale like that tells you much more than the median price analysis.

Q:   We’ve handled a lot of property tax appeals together, what in your view is the most important thing a taxpayer should consider when reviewing their TRIM notice?

A:    Probably the most overlooked element is simply the time sensitivity associated with making a decision on whether or not to appeal. A taxpayer has 25 days to file after the date the TRIM was mailed. Also, the TRIM has the deadline date published on it. However, if you set the notice aside after opening and think you’ll get back to it, the time can get away from you quickly. Also, it’s important to realize that it doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor to get some professional help. This year, the appeal deadline in Lee County is September 6, 2016. If you’re unsure of what to do, just call.

Q:   You received some great kudos for your recent work on a Lee County comprehensive plan amendment case, what aspect of those kinds of cases do you most enjoy?

A:    We really enjoy taking a deep dive on complex issues and strategizing how best to answer difficult questions relative to valuation, feasibility, and absorption. Frankly, Lee County is blessed with a tremendous Community Development department and probably the best property appraiser website in the country. The amount of data and level of detailed analysis that can be done is staggering. We really enjoy brainstorming through determining exactly what needs to be analyzed, how to measure it, and then how to present those findings. It’s also rewarding  since it’s consequential and impacts how our policy and planning decisions are made in SWFL.

Q:     What segment of the market do you think will see the most change in property valuation in the coming year?

A:    Residentially, we’re seeing a continued trend toward price stabilization. However, our island markets and second-home market can be very sensitive to macro-economic changes. Given the political season and the state of the economy, that sector of the market can change quickly if things become volatile. Commercially, there’s been a flight toward credit tenant net leased properties – think Starbucks, WaWa, Mattress Firm. Leased medical properties are also a hugely popular asset class at the moment. We’ll see an increased number of closings in that sector over the coming months.

Q:   Where can people go to get ahold of some of the data and analysis your office shares?

A:    We’re data collectors by nature and love to share the info we gather. We release monthly market snapshots that anyone can subscribe to at no cost. We also archive each of those snapshots on our website. Anyone can visit our website and go to the Market Analysis tab to see past snapshots. We try not to be proprietary about data. We want to disseminate actionable info as opposed to holding it to ourselves.

A big thanks to Matt for being a great sport to indulge me with these questions! As property tax appeal time is almost here (TRIM notices generally get mailed mid-to-late August), and our market is busy with transactions, land use cases, and property litigation, I certainly appreciate the demands on Matt’s time while he and his firm juggle all of these facets of their business!