Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'General real estate news' Category

Pinellas County real estate: Demand UP, supply DOWN

If you are thinking about BUYING a home in Pinellas County, or if you are thinking about SELLING your home, here are a couple of very important things you need to know:

  • Sales are UP. A lot.
  • Listing inventory is DOWN.

Closed sales in April 2015 were 2,103, up almost 20 percent over April in 2014 (1756). At the same time, listing inventory for the same month was 7,566 units — DOWN 1.5 percent.

What does that mean? Well, it means a couple of things.  First, more buyers are chasing fewer available homes. And when demand exceeds supply like that, it pushes prices UP. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Pinellas County right now.

I have buyers right now who are frustrated because the houses they want to buy are simply not on the market.

So I have a couple of things to tell you: If you are a buyer, prices are going to be higher than they are right now. And if you are a seller, or a potential seller, this is a great time to get your home on the market. There’s a buyer out there right now who is ready to make you an offer.

 

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Mold. What should you do about it?

     I see it all the time – mold on bathroom ceilings, mold in shower enclosures, mold in kitchens and laundry rooms. It’s more than just an aesthetic problem; mold can cause serious health problems, especially for people with allergies or asthma.

But it’s not necessarily a reason to walk away from buying a home.

First, let’s look at what mold is and how it gets into houses:

Mold is a kind of fungus. Its purpose in nature is to help with the decomposition of dead organic material such as trees and plants.  Dig through a pile of dead leaves and you will usually find plenty of mold.

IMG_9706Mold travels through the air in the form of microscopic spores that you can’t see without a microscope. There’s plenty of those little spores around and you probably breathe them in every day.

But that black, dark blue or green mold that you may see on an interior wall results when mold spores find a wet or damp surface. Dampness on organic material is what mold spores love to find.

Mold is bad for humans because it can cause allergenic reactions – sneezing, rashes or even asthmatic attacks. Reactions to mold can run the gamut from a minor annoyance to a life-threatening asthma attack.

It’s possible to remove mold, but if you don’t deal with the moisture that attracted it, there’s a very good chance that the mold will reappear. So if you buy a home that has visible mold, you have to be concerned about removing the mold AND dealing with the source of the moisture that attracted those mold spores in the first place.

There are different kinds of mold, and there are tests available that can tell you what kind of mold you are dealing with. But mold testing can be costly, and mold in a home should be removed and dealt with no matter what kind of mold it is.

So, let’s say you find mold in your home and decide to deal with it. If the mold is on wood, tile or painted drywall, you should be able to use a good detergent and scrub it off with a sponge. You can use bleach or a commercial mold killer if you want, but remember what we said about those mold spores being everywhere; even if you kill all the visible mold, it may well come back if new mold spores come into contact with a damp surface.

If you are dealing with unpainted drywall, you should cut the drywall out and replace it, because drywall is porous and the mold will have penetrated it.

Also, remember that if mold is on one side of a wall, it’s likely to be on the inside surface as well. You could successfully get all the mold of a drywall surface, only to find that a similar mold outbreak is taking place on the inside drywall surface as well. So think seriously about replacing the moldy drywall.

A couple of cautions:

1. Wear gloves

2. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, get a friend (or hire someone) to do the work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a page on its website devoted to mold and how to get rid of it. Take a look.

And don’t forget – getting rid of the mold will be a useless exercise if you don’t deal with the dampness that attracted it. So deal with that dampness, whether it’s a leaky pipe, bad condensation or water seeping into the home from outside.

Also, some insurance companies may be leery about providing insurance on a home that has an active or recent mold problem, so check that out ahead of time. If you are planning on financing the home through FHA, be aware that FHA may refuse to guarantee a mortgage on a home that has, or has had, mold problems.

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Come out and have some fun at the Dunedin Orange Festival

If you are looking for something to do this weekend – AFTER the fourth of July celebrations – think about coming by the Dunedin Orange Festival Saturday, June 6 in Dunedin’s Edgewater Waterfront Park, which is right next door to the Dunedin Marina in downtown Dunedin.

dunedin orange festival This should be a fun day, with music and entertaining events of all kinds taking place from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Various musical acts will be on stage continuously, and there will be plenty of activities for kids. The mojo cookoff will begin at 11:30 a.m. and will feature pork dishes of all kinds. Dunedin is a restaurant mecca, and a bunch of the town’s best will take part in the competition – Flanagan’s, Kelly’s, SeaSea Riders, Serendipity Café, The Livingroom Smokehouse, Margueritte’s and Broadway Deli.

The public will be the judge of the cookoff, in exchange for a $10 ticket.

There is lot’s more to see and do, so come on out! Check out all the details at http://dunedinorangefestival.com/festival-details-dunedin-orange-festival.htm

Pinellas County real estate becomes a sellers’ market

 

 

Here’s a recent development in real estate that I don’t think too many people would have predicted: In recent weeks, we’ve sort of quietly shifted from a buyers’ market to a seller’s market.

 That’s right, buyers are having to scramble to get good, solid, timely offers in on the homes they really want to buy. If they don’t, POOF! The house is gone to someone with quicker reflexes.

sold sign And this shift does not just apply to Pinellas County homes; it’s a phenomenon that’s being noticed across the country. The WALL STREET JOURNAL even wrote about it today.

 According to the JOURNAL, buyers are increasingly competing for homes, and even entering into bidding wars. I haven’t seen anything that I would describe as bidding wars locally, but I have had several buyers submitting offers above the asking price, knowing that the house of their dreams won’t stay on the market.

 According to the JOURNAL (and my own sense of what’s going on locally), this sellers’ market is not so much about increasing numbers of sales – it’s more about a lack of good, desirable properties on the market.

 It makes sense when you think about it. Sellers keep their homes off the market because of declining values. If someone owes $300,000 on a home that is now worth $200,000, why put it on the market if you don’t have to?

 And we are now about six years into the housing slump, which means a lot of homes that would have been sold in a more normal market have simply never been listed.

 And there’s another reason, too. Lenders have been extremely slow to put their foreclosed properties on the market. There’s plenty of foreclosed-upon, unoccupied homes out there, in this market and most others, but the lender-owners seem to fear more value declines if they put all those properties on the market.

 It’s a strange market, no doubt. But it is a market with many great opportunities, for buyers and sellers alike.

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Planning on buying a Pinellas County home? Check your credit

If you are planning on buying a home this spring, and you expect to finance the purchase with an FHA loan, here is something you need to know:

fha logoThe Federal Housing Administration has a new rule – if credit bureaus show unpaid collection accounts in your name that total more that $1,000, your loan application will not be approved.

Previously, the FHA was fairly lenient about such things, preferring to base your loan approval on your overall credit history and performance. Now, however, an unpaid account of more than $1,000 (or several smaller accounts that add up to $1,000) will shoot your application down.

What kind of unpaid accounts are we talking about here? Medical bills, overdue student loans, or any and all sorts of retail credit accounts that are delinquent are good examples.

What if a mistake was made and you don’t really owe the money that the credit bureau says you owe? Too bad – the FHA still won’t approve your loan. So the best advice about that is to check your credit bureau report and take steps to clean it up if it contains erroneous negative reports.

Critics blamed the FHA for too-lenient lending when the home finance market melted down. Obviously, the FHA is trying to address those criticisms.

The new policy went into effect April 1.

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If you are planning on buying a home anytime soon, we should talk about your home buying plans AS WELL AS your plans for financing your purchase. As a former mortgage loan officer, I can help you with both of those things. Get in touch — 727-643-7100 or [email protected].

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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.

July home index leaves little to smile about

 

Every month, real estate people, financing professionals, homebuilders and many others wait with great anticipation for release of the monthly Case-Schiller home price index from Standard & Poor. 

 The index keeps track, on a month-by-month basis, of home prices across the country.

standard & PoorThe most recent index report was released this week. And while everyone was hoping for a healthy uptick in home sales, what they got instead was more of the same.

Home prices in May (measured in 20 major cities) were down 4.5 percent from the same month a year ago. When compared to the previous month of this year, April, home prices were virtually unchanged.

 So what we have is a market that continues to sort of limp along at the same slow pace. No big drops to indicate additional troubles in the area of home prices; but no indications of additional market recovery, either.

Taken market-by-market, prices were up a bit in nine cities, and down a bit in 11 others. Unfortunately for those of us in this part of the country, homes prices were down 1.5 percent in Tampa Bay.

Why aren’t we seeing more recovery after such a long period of market weakness? Here’s a few possible reasons:

  • The battle in Washington over raising the debt ceiling, and the inability of lawmakers to come up with some sort of strategy or plan – any plan – doesn’t do anything to inspire confidence.
  • Because so many problems result from lax lending standards, the current lending standards are much tighter than before, and that keeps some buyers (even qualified buyers) out of the market.
  • High unemployment rates (9.2 percent nationally) means thousands of people don’t have the incomes necessary for home purchases.
  • The bad economy prevents the formation of new households. People forming new households are people in need of new housing.

 I posted a story a few days ago about the increase in cancelled real estate sales contracts. There are a number of reasons for cancelled contracts (tighter credit standards, tougher appraisals, general nervousness in the market), but whatever the reason, fewer executed contracts obviously means fewer sales.

Were you hoping for a little more optimism in this month’s Case-Schiller home price index? Okay, here are a couple of bright spots: 

  • The inventory of homes for sale was 164,000 units, a little more than a six-month supply. That’s the lowest that home inventories have been in a long time. Once we fight through all this stagnant inventory of homes for sale, we’ll see a re-ignition of the new-home construction business, and that will mean new jobs and some good stimulation for the economy.
  • The median home sales price for the month of June was up 7.2% for new single-family homes. That could be an indication that homes in the higher price ranges are starting to sell.

If you are a glass-half-full kind of person, the new monthly index figures are a little encouraging. If you are more of a glass-half-empty sort, then the index just means more of the same.

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Colorful murals adorn New Port Richey real estate

If you’ve spent any time at all on this blog, you know that I like murals.  There’s quite a few of them to be found throughout Tampa Bay, and especially in the various communities of Pinellas County. I’ve written about them before.

Dancers in the Haienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by Mura artist Chad Leninger

Dancers in the Hacienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by mural artist Chad Leininger

Today, I found several of them in an unexpected place.

I live and work in North Pinellas County, and that’s where I do most of my real estate work — Palm Harbor real estate, Tarpon Springs real estate, Dunedin real estate, Clearwater real estate. I also list and sell Pasco County real estate, but I spend less time there than in North Pinellas County.

This morning, however, I had to go north to New Port Richey in Pasco County to look over a house that I may be listing for sale.  After that, I drove a few blocks to downtown New Port Richey, a place I haven’t visited for awhile.

Wha surprise — it was a treasure trove of murals.

One of them featured the Hacienda Hotel, a 1920s-era hotel that was very popular in its day but which has not served any guests for more than the past decade. I need to do a little research on the Hacienda, and when I do I’ll post a story. I like old hotels almost as much as I like murals.

This particular mural was painted on a side exterior wall of Juan’s Black Bean Cafe by a young artist named Chad Leininger. According to an old newspaper article, there are a total of six murals painted on various walls in downtown New Port Richey.

Most of the characters in the mural are local folk. But the artist included himself and some of his family members as well as actress Greta Garbo and baseball legend Babe Ruth. Can you spot them?

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Farmers’ Market in Palm Harbor

Fruit and veggie vendor's stand at the Palm Harbor Farmers' market

Fruit and veggie vendor's stand at the Palm Harbor Farmers' market

If you are a fan of local farmers’ markets, you should know that Palm Harbor hosts a very nice little farmers’ market on the grounds of the  North Pinellas Historical Museum at the corner of Belcher and Curlew Road.

This area has a number of good farmers’ markets that are fun to attend.  The one in Dunedin is a good-sized market, and Clearwater has a somewhat smaller one.  I haven’t been to the farmers’ market in St. Petersburg, but it’s supposed to be terrific.

But anyway, back to the Palm Harbor market; it happens every Sunday at the museum, and vendors are on hand from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This past Sunday there farmer mkt 113was a fruit and vegetable stand, a fellow selling very good-looking fresh fish, a woman selling handmade hats, a could of sandwich vendors and several others.  I mostly just nosed around, but I did buy some bananas and some really nice-looking red grapes.

I’ve written about the Dunedin and Clearwater farmers’ markets in the past — you may want to scroll back a few pages and look those over.  It’s nice to have one in Palm Harbor, and you can combine your visit with a tour of the North Pinellas Historical Museum.

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First-time homebuyer programs in other countries

 

Scottish row house

Scottish row houses

If you are a first-time homebuyer, you know how hard it can be to get that initial investment together, even in times like these, when home prices are dropping and interest rates are low.

 Yes, there are first-time-homebuyer programs of various types available through different agencies. But have you ever wondered what other countries do to help people who are buying their first homes?

 If you lived in Scotland, you could get some special assistance through a government program that is just now being expanded for people trying to buy their own homes.

 

 Here’s how it works:

 

First-time home buyers find the homes they want, but then only pay between 60 and 80 percent of the purchase price. The government picks up the rest, and holds on to its portion as an equity stake.

 

When the house gets sold sometime in the future, some of the sale proceeds go to the government to pay off that equity stake. If the homebuyers decide they want to pay off the government before they sell, they are free to do so. The whole arrangement is interest-free.

 

The Scottish government has been experimenting with the plan, called LIFT, and has made it available in limited areas, funding it with 24 million pounds. It has been so successful that the government is now expanding it to all of Scotland, and upping the fund to 60 million pounds.

 

Government officials hope the shared-equity idea will help not only first-time homebuyers, but home sellers as well. It is primarily aimed at low-to-moderate-income buyers.

 

To learn more click on http://www.cml.org.uk/cml/policy/issues/758

 

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