Just as a background, 3 generations of my family live here. I love Lehigh Acres and contribute to the community page here on Trulia. My family has been buying and selling properties in Lehigh Acres since the 1960's. I currently buy and sell preforeclosures (short sales) here, fighting the foreclosure crisis and what it's doing to my neighbors & friends.
Be careful when you see "bargains" listed. Curently, the local MLS is dominated (at least 2-to-1) with REO's (Lender owned after they foreclosed) that are sold "as-is" and may not be suitable for occupancy without costly repairs. Have a professional inspection done that includes checks for termites and mold, and get an estimate for the repairs. Factor that into your "bargain" price.
Be careful when you select a location. Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. is finalizing a growth plan that separates the platted community into 3 "tiers". The first tier is where immediate growth is encouraged. The second tier is where future growth is encouraged. The third tier is where future growth is discouraged.
So the first tier may be the best place to invest, but again, be careful. Some homes within the first tier that are on well and septic will soon be forced by State Law to connect to water and sewer. Estimated costs are 5-15 thousand per household. This is a good thing for long term sustainability of our local water supply, while costly to individual homeowners.
To avoid crime, use the available stats, but also talk to your potential future neighbors. A formal or informal Neighborhood Watch is the best defense against crimes. Avoid wooded, isolated areas without neighbors.
I believe Lehigh Acres is the best place to live and in 2009 you will find the best bargains on homes. I'd love to have you as a neighbor. Find a good Realtor who lives and works in Lehigh Acres as a neighborhood specialist. Good luck.
Best regards, Tom
If you wish to know the crime statistics in this area please contact the Lee County Sherrifs web-site. Please look up the statistics for this and other areas for you to make your own balanced decision. Taxes are actually less, and services and cost of living are the same as most areas in Southewest Florida.
The reason there are so many foreclosures is, that when the housing boom fell over this area, it was way too easy for investors to buy multiple homes. It was also easy for some unscrupulous loan officers to transact mortgage loans for those people desperate for a home, but could not really afford it. Then there are those who were in the housing industry that were victims of a collaped marke whose income went from 6 figures annually to one figure and had to lose their home. Some people are afraid to dive into this market because they do not want to take someone else's home, but trust me when I say, there are people who want you to buy those homes, so they can be relieved of the burden to move on and start over. In this respect you will be doing them a favor.
Lee county as a whole led the nation in sales, so it stands to reason that we now lead the nation in foreclosures until the market corrects itself. This is why there are so many good deals. Financing? Now that's another thing...
If you are financing a second home, the reality is, you must have a down payment of 10%. Most realtors in this market require you to be pre-qualified or they will not speak with you. (Unless you are paying cash) The reason is not arrogance, rather, the properties go fast, time is limited to close a deal and pre-qualification is necessary to speed up the process so your offer is valid to the sellers. (Some sellers will not bother with your offer if you are not pre-qualified.)
If you need to be pre-qualified, I work with a local lender and I work with many realtors in this area. I am a full time Mortgage Broker and it would be my pleasure to help you.
First Capital Lending
Lehigh like many other areas has been hit by the foreclosure wave. Lehigh does have a higher crime rate then some other areas. You may want to look into Cape Coral as well. I would be happy to provide you with information on both. If you are not working with an agent I would be happy to help you in your search. I could give you a listingbook account that allows you to search all homes available in both areas.
Best of Luck,