Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for November, 2008

Dunedin’s green market

 dunedun-green-mkt1Having spent some time at the Clearwater Farmer’s Market on the day before Thanksgiving, I was fired up to seek out some other farmer’s markets in the area. I knew that Dunedin had an outside market as well, so I went on the internet to see if I could find it.

At first I didn’t have much luck. Turns out they don’t call it a farmer’s market in Dunedin – instead, they call it the Dunedin Green Market. Okay, fine.

Actually, that makes some sense because these markets usually have a great deal to offer beyond farmer’s produce. The Clearwater market had a photographer showing his prints as well as the waffle people I wrote about a couple of posts ago. Dunedin, as it turns out, has quite a lot of diversity as well – a British piemaker, a hemp dunedin-green-mkt-21products seller, a hot sauce booth, a bakery and a number of others.

So I had an enjoyable time here, too, and I even bought a couple of blueberry muffins to take home.

The Dunedin Green Market happens on Fridays in Pioneer Park (downtown) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It runs from October through April 24. So I had an enjoyable time here, too, and I even bought a couple of blueberry muffins to take home.

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Things you didn’t know about waffles

Alain Guillaume serves up some waffles

I thought I knew something about waffles until I met Alain Guillaume at the Clearwater Farmer’s Market. Alain and his wife Patricia are waffle experts.
Waffles are usually listed as “Belgian waffles” on American menus. But since Alain and Patricia are actual real Belgians, I listened carefully when Alain started talking about his own beloved waffles.
Here is what I learned:

  • There are actually several different kinds of waffles in Belgium.
  • Here, waffles are usually breakfast food; in Belgium, they are sold as snacks by street vendors and bakeries.
  • The waffles we often consume in the U.S. are known as Brussels waffles, just one of several kinds of Belgium waffles that vary in shape and taste according to the region of Belgium where they are made.
  • Since Alain and Patricia are from the city of Liege, they are partial to the Liege waffle — a small oblong waffle that is sweeter and denser than the more-familiar Brussels waffle.
  • Alain and Patricia’s Liege waffles can be served plain (that’s what I had), or they can be served with various toppings — fruit, whipped cream, or even chocolate.

Alain and Patricia are the owners of the Belgian Pearl, a Dunedin-based waffle company that markets products through farmers’ markets, special events of one kind or another and through their website,
They make their own waffle batter from a special recipe that they have developed. I had one of their Liege waffles with a cup of coffee, and it was GREAT!
The waffles from The Belgian Pearl are a find. Check them out!

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Clearwater farmers’ market

Clearwater farmers' market

Clearwater farmers' market


Not every community has a farmer’s market, but there seems to be more and more of them springing up. I enjoy them because they are good places to find locally grown, fresh produce, and there’s often several unique vendors who sell all kinds of food items or artsy-crafty products of one kind or another.

clw-fmrs-mkt-2222The city of Clearwater has been hosting a farmer’s market for a while now, on Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To tell the truth, I haven’t visited the market before because by the time I remember that it’s held on Wednesday mornings, it’s usually Wednesday afternoon.

This time, however, I remembered. I drove down to the location (right in front of City Hall in downtown Clearwater) and rambled around for the better part of an hour, and I had a great time chatting with some of the vendors and taking pictures. Yes, I bought a few things, too.

On this Wednesday (the one right before Thanksgiving) there were the usual fruit-and-vegetable sellers. But there was also a photographer selling some of his prints; a lemonade stand; a man selling honey; and a stand selling Belgian waffles (there will be more on this vendor in the clw-fmrs-mkt-3333next post). Papa Gino’s Pizza even had a stand which seemed to be hawking its catering services rather than actual pizza slices.

All in all it was a very enjoyable hour and I think you’d enjoy the visit, too. Remember, though, that this is a small farmer’s market; if you go expecting big crowds and scores of vendors, you’ll be disappointed.

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More results from the NAR survey

 Here are a few more findings from the big National Association of Realtors survey that I mentioned a few posts back:

  • Commuter costs were really important. Of all those surveyed, 41 percent said commuter costs were very important; another 39 percent said they were somewhat important.
  • Buyers spent an average of 10 weeks looking for new homes. They also viewed an average of 10 homes before buying.
  • Almost nine out of 10 buyers said their purchase was a good investment. Almost 50 per cent said they thought the investment was better than buying stocks. Remember that the survey was taken BEFORE the current stock market meltdown.
  • The typical repeat homebuyer was 47. The typical first-time homebuyer was 30.

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No lawn re-sodding until summer

Speaking of green, here’s some news about local lawns. This is either good news or bad news, depending on your point of view.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, known around these parts as SWIFTMUD, says homeowners won’t be able to re-sod their sick-looking lawns until next summer. The ban includes Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.

The reason: new lawns require lots and lots of water. And we don’t have lots and lots of water right now, and probably won’t have until the summer rainy season.

This order is bad news if: you love green, green lawns, or if you are a homeowner’s association and you require your members to have green, green lawns. But it is good news if: you really, really hate spending a lot of money on lawn-watering, or if your lawn is already brown and you were waiting for a nasty letter from the president of your local homeowners association.


“Green” homes are a major priority for buyers

Yesterday I talked a little bit about some statistics and opinions that the National Association of Realtors gathered during a national survey of 133,000 home buyers and sellers.

Those people surveyed talked a lot about the current economic situation and about the state of the real estate market. But one thing that surprised me was how many people still have strong feelings about environmental considerations when they buy a home.

 A full 90 percent of those surveyed said they want their new home to be environmentally friendly. Those surveyed said they want (in this order) energy-efficient heating, cooling, appliances and lighting.

 So I would say it’s not all about price when people look now for new homes. They still want efficiency and new “green” technology, even in spite of the challenging market. And those green upgrades will still be paying dividends long after the economics of home buying returns to a more normal state.

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NAR says foreclosure sales way up from previous year

big-realtor The National Association of Realtors held its annual convention in Orlando earlier this month. One thing that’s always interesting to review is the statistics that NAR collects.

The statistics that they released at this convention were based on a massive survey that NAR conducted between July 2007 and June 2008. In all, NAR asked a number of questions of people who bought or sold property during that time frame. In all, 133,000 people were questioned.

One question asked of buyers was: Did you purchase a home that was in foreclosure? Six percent of the buyers responded affirmatively, and a whopping 38 percent said they considered buying a forclosure property but just couldn’t find the right one.

That six percent number is up from just one percent in the previous year.

It ought to be very interesting to see what that answer is next year.

I’ll be providing answers to more questions in the NAR survey in the coming days.


Columnist sees a better way to tax cuts

orange-county-registerA columnist for a newspaper in California says he thinks he has a better way to, in effect, cut taxes while stimulating the housing market.
Jonathan Lansner writes a column for the Orange County REGISTER. Here’s what he suggests: Double the mortgage interest payment deduction that you can claim on your income taxes.
Under the current tax law, you can deduct a dollar for every dollar you pay out in mortgage interest. Lansner says doubling that allowance to $2 would pay a number of benefits: It would lower the effective mortgage interest rate; it would lower the cost of borrowing no matter what the interest rate of one’s loan; and it would be a de facto tax cut for the middle class, giving them more spending power.
Lansner says the move might be enough to turn skitterish lookers into actual buyers, since home ownership would be the way to reap the benefits of the plan. Adding another benefit of home ownership over renting also might make more people think about finding ways to stay in their homes, rather than succumb to foreclosure.
According to Lansner, his idea ought to cost around $80 billion — a lot of money, but not so much when you compare it to some of the recent bailout numbers that have been bandied about.
Lansner also says that if you like his idea, you may want to consider re-instituting some of the interest deductions we used to enjoy — deductions for interest paid on auto loans, credit cards, student loans and the like that went away in the mid-1980s.
Want to learn more? Visit his column:
What do you think — are there benefits that would apply here in Pinellas County?

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Autoway Dodge closes

dayton-andrews-dodge1There I was, driving down US19 this morning just south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater, when I noticed something missing. Something big. In fact, a whole major-league-sized auto dealership had simply evaporated.

Autoway Dodge took up a pretty good chunk of expensive commercial real estate on the southbound side of US19 in a pretty big neighborhood of car dealerships. Monday, Autoway Dodge was still there; today, just two days later, the place was empty.

If you own a Dodge automobile and you have had your service done at Autoway Dodge, don’t dispair; the franchise has been purchased by Dayton Andrews Chrysler, which is just a couple of miles away on the north side of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, just west of US19. Dayton Andrews says it will take over the sales and service from Autoway Dodge, but won’t be buying that big chunk of expensive real estate.

Dayton Andrews has plenty of Dodge experience — it owns a Dodge dealership down in St. Petersburg. In fact, even though I live in Palm Harbor (in North Pinellas County ), I bought a Dodge from them a few years ago and had good luck with it and them.

Autoway Dodge is the second Autoway dealership in Tampa Bay to close down in recent weeks. Autoway Chevrolet of Tampa Bay, over in Tampa, closed a week ago.


Bay Pines gets award

Bay Pines Veterans Hospital

 Here are some things that you may not know about Bay Pines, our local Veterans Administration medical center:

  • It is the fourth-busiest veterans’ hospital in the country.
  • It serves almost 100,000 veterans who live in Southwest Florida.Recently, Bay Pines won the the Robert W. Carey Performance of Excellence award, the highest award that can be won from the U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs.


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