Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for December, 2011

Ducks living happily in the middle of Dunedin real estate

One of the things I love most about Florida is all the birds. Some of them are pretty exotic, such as the cranes and flamingoes and the flocks of wild parrots that you see in some places. Others, like these two ducks, are commonplace just about anywhere, but still neat to watch and to photograph.

ducks 2These two ducks live in a marshy pond that is on the edge of a golf course right next to our Dunedin condo. Taking this picture involved stepping out the back door and walking maybe 20 steps to the end of the water. These guys must see enough golfers every day that they hardly took any note of my presence at all.

Usually the Christmas holidays bring the real estate business in Pinellas County to pretty much of a halt. That hasn’t really been the case this year. My phone has been ringing steadily — people were calling to look at property on Christmas Eve, and then again on the day after Christmas. Also, the entire month of December has been pretty busy. I’m not sure if that means anything in terms of trends, but I’m always happy to see an active Pinellas County real estate market, whatever the reason.

I do think we can expect a pretty active real estate period starting right after the New Year. Are you thinking about buying or selling a home in Pinellas County in the next few weeks or months? Now is a good time to get the ball rolling. Give me a call anytime at 727-643-7100, or e-mail me at [email protected].

Builders more confident about the future



If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know we have been cautiously reporting some positive factors that seem to be contributing to a slowly-emerging, or improving, real estate market.

None of these things have been dramatic, but all of them have been positive – things like an improving employment picture, continuing low interest rates, and increases in the number of pending home sales.

Here’s one more thing to add to the list – an optimistic report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB reported this week that confidence among home builders is on the upswing when it comes to the construction of single-family homes.  The NAHB says it is the third consecutive month that builders have reported increased confidence in the future of single-family home construction.

 “While builder confidence remains low, the consistent gains registered over the past several months are an indication that pockets of recovery are slowly starting to emerge in scattered housing markets,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen.

Nielsen had something else to say, also; he noted that new single-family home sales might be even better if lenders were a little freer with their money. Builders and home buyers are both being negatively impacted by tight credit restrictions, he said.

nahb logoNAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said buyers are still cautious because of the large inventories of foreclosed properties in many markets, and they also worry about continuing high unemployment ands the challenges of selling their existing homes.

Even so, Crowe said, “builders are reporting more inquiries and more interest among potential buyers than they have seen in previous months.”

The area of the country where builders are expressing the biggest boosts in confidence levels? Right here in the South.

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Christmas in Palm Harbor

Yes, we celebrate Christmas in Pinellas County. It may not be the cold, crisp, white Christmas we were used to in New England, but it’s stilla  beautiful season. Like anywhere else, the local residents do their best to decorate their homes in bright, seasonal splendor. I’ll try to post some more examples between now and Christmas Day. This house is in Palm lights 1 (800x533)

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Nature’s paradise in Cross Creek

woodstream pier 1I don’t usually broadcast individual homes that are for sale on this blog, but I’m offering an absolute gem in Cross Creek in Oldsmar that you really have to see. It’s immaculate and beautifully decorated, but the truly gorgeous feature is what’s out back — a dock that overlooks a small river, with an island nature reserve on the other side.

The pictures tell the story, so click below and take a look at the photo gallery on the website I put together for this outstanding property.

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Rates down, but down payments up for Pinellas County real estate (and real estate everywhere)

I’ve mentioned here a number of times how low mortgage interest rates are, and how they – along with the lowest home prices in at least a decade – make homes really affordable right now.

But to be fair, there is another side of the coin (isn’t there always?) which makes home-buying more of a challenge than it was in the rock-n-roll days.

down paymentI’m talking about down payments.

Home prices may be down, and interest rates may be at historic (or near-historic) levels, but the demand for more substantial down payments is up. It’s all part of the tougher underwriting standards; lenders want to see buyers begin the home buying process with a bigger personal stake in the transaction, and that means larger down payments.

Just a few years ago, it seemed like down payments were going to become a thing of the past. Nothing-down and little-down mortgages were all the rage, and you could buy expensive homes and finance them with big mortgages without having to come up with actual cash – or not much of it, anyway.

Great interest rates are available now, as I’ve written about in the past. But if you really want that rock-bottom rate, you’d better be ready to come up with a 20 percent down payment.  It’s still possible to get a mortgage and put less than 20 percent down, but the rates are going to be higher.

LendingTree came out with a report last week that listed state-by-state average down payments, and the average of all of them was 12.29 percent.

lendingtree(I know you’re wondering what the average rate is for Pinellas County real estate. Actually, LendingTree didn’t get that fine on rates, but the company DID say what the average down payment is for the state of Florida: 13.16 percent.)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac want at least 10 per cent down.  If you want the very best rate, you’re going to have to also pay for private mortgage insurance – not part of the down payment, but an upfront cost you can’t avoid.

A Lending Tree spokesperson said, “The reality is when you put less than 20 percent down, you have to pay for some kind of insurance to protect the lender from the higher risk that you’ll default…but private mortgage insurers these days aren’t always willing to do business with low down payments.”

There is some speculation out there that if we are going to continue to have record low interest rates, the mortgage industry may increasingly move toward that 20 per cent down payments.

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Joblessness down, but not enough to inspire the price of Pinellas County real estate sales

Here’s some good news: The national unemployment rate in November was down to 8.6 percent, a nice drop from the 9 percent registered in the previous month. So, does that mean that we may see a corresponding modest increase in home prices?

If you want a one-word answer to that question, here it is: No.

iStock_000016449443XSmallStill, it’s good news for the overall economy, and the strength of the economy (or lack of it) is what will ultimately drive home prices up and stimulate the market. It’s all about confidence, and no one has an awful lot of that right now when it comes to the economy, or visions of the future.

Nationally, the unemployment rate peaked in October of 2009, at 10.1 percent (according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s been settling back downward at a snail’s pace ever since, keeping pace with an agonizingly slow economic recovery.

If the economy was really starting to boom, a .4 percent single-month drop in the unemployment rate might be cause for celebration – and for a mini-stampede of home buyers wanting to take advantage of low home prices and historically low interest rates.

Instead, we have an economic recovery that is just creeping along. It doesn’t inspire much confidence about the future, and confidence about the future is what drives home sales.

Pending home sales are UP in Pinellas County and elsewhere

  Here’s some good real estate news: the National Association of Realtors says that pending home sales rose 10.4 percent during the month of October. Pending sales are contracts on home purchases that have not yet closed.

 Pending sales now are running 9.4 percent above last year’s levels.

Here in the South, those numbers are strong as well, if a bit behind the national average. Pending sales in the South for October were up 8.6 percent.

NAR doesn’t break down those figures beyond regions, but it’s safe to say that real estate trends in Pinellas County roughly track the NAR’s regional analysis. Some if you are thinking about a real estate purchase in Pinellas County, this information should be a real plus as you consider your options.

realtor logoLawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the increase may be due to the continuing affordability homes, and pent-up demand.

 “Home sales have been plodding along at a sub-par level while interest rates are hovering at record lows and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who normally would have entered the market in recent years,” he said. “We hope this is indicates more buyers are taking advantage of the excellent affordability conditions.”

 While the numbers are encouraging, there is a caution that must be remembered; not all contracts lead to closed transactions. In fact, these tough economic times have resulted in an increase in the number of contracts that never reach closing. Sometimes appraisals come in lower than agreed-upon sales prices and that can end deals; Also, buyers sometimes underestimate the new, more stringent credit score requirements.

 “Although contract signings are up, not all contracts lead to closings,” Yun said. “Many potential home buyers inadvertently hurt their credit scores and chances of getting a mortgage through easily averted actions, such as canceling an old credit line while taking on a new one. Such actions could unwittingly prevent buyers from obtaining a mortgage if their credit score is close to the margins of qualifying, or they might get a loan but with less favorable terms.”

 If you are wondering where you might stand in trying to buy a home in Pinellas County, you should give me a call. I have many years of experience in the mortgage field, both in Pinellas County and elsewhere, and I can offer you valuable advice about how to go forward in today’s real estate market.