Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'real estate' Category

Food truck wars come to Palm Harbor

I’m starting to turn into a fan of food trucks and, as such, should be able to have a pretty good time this evening in downtown Palm Harbor.

food truck rally posterA bunch of food trucks are expected starting at 5 p.m. today as the downtown’s First Friday event welcomes them. I’m not sure which trucks are showing up, but the Taco Bus and Jimmy Meatballs have been part of the food truck crown during past events in Downtown Palm Harbor.

You probably know the routine.  Different food trucks gather to offer their best delights, and you can move from truck to truck and sample different foods. We went to a food truck event in St. Petersburg recently, and there was everything from Asian food from Guam to seafood to barbecue to gourmet hot dogs to fancy desserts.

Live music will be on hand as well, and there will be games for young and old (how are you at spitting watermelon seeds?)

Sounds like fun! And kudos to old Palm Harbor Main Street for putting on another fun event that should attracts residents of Palm Harbor and beyond. And there’s a fun-raiser component, as well; money raised will be put toward new, decorative street lights for the downtown neighborhood.

A similar food truck wars event, this one in Safety Harbor a while back.

A similar food truck wars event, this one in Safety Harbor a while back.

Tags: , , ,

Things I love about Pinellas County, and Florida in general

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which season it is in Florida, because it’s always warm. The only difference is DEGREES of warm.

So I have learned to watch for seasonal cues – like the arrival of Plant City strawberries, which tells me it is February, and I get to consume luscious berries while folks in other parts of the country stoke their woodstoves.

And that brings me to the Jacaranda tree.

Jacaranda tree

Jacaranda tree

Spotting these violet beauties in the Tampa Bay area means it is spring, so it is likely April or May.

The Jacaranda is native to South America. But since it likes bright sunny conditions and sandy soil, it is  right at home in Florida.

And that, my friends, is another thing I like about Florida!

Improve your credit score before you buy that Pinellas County home

     What’s your credit score?
     You’re going to need to know the answer to that question if you are planning on buying a house anytime soon. The rules that govern mortgages and lenders have changed a lot in the past few years, and if you think getting a mortgage is going to be an easy process, you may end up disappointed.
     We all know that the relaxed lending practices during the middle of the last decade were a factor in the housing collapse. Lenders have tightened their procedures a great deal in response to that, and they are paying a lot more attention to the credit scores of prospective borrowers.
excellent credit      If you don’t have a credit score of 620 or better and at least a 10 percent down payment, you may be out of luck. A 720 credit score may not even be good enough.
     So, do these tighter rules make the Federal Reserve happier? You would think so, but that ain’t necessarily so. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently told bankers that  “current standards may be limiting or preventing lending to many creditworthy borrowers.”
     So let’s say you have a credit score of 720, which is pretty good but not great. If your loan application for a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage is approved, you can expect an interest rate of around 3.70 percent. But if your credit score is more like between 620 and 639, your rate may be more in the range of 5.07 percent rate. And that rate will mean a monthly payment that is $242 more than at the 3.70 rate.
     Those REALLY low interest rates that you see advertised are not going to be available to you unless your credit is really good.
     But don’t despair. There are things you can do to raise your credit score, as much as 100 points in just one year.
     The first thing you should do, if you haven’t done it already, is do a little research into your credit score. 
  all three   There are three major credit score reporting companies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can get your credit reports from all three from AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s free if you don’t request it more frequently than once a year.
     Study those credit reports for errors, or for things that may have been left out. Next, you may want to sign up for a first-time homeowners class that is recognized by HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     The two biggest factors in a credit score are payment history and the amount owed. Payment history accounts for 35 percent of the credit score, and amounts owed accounts for 30 percent.
     So raising credit card balances will raise your score. (NOTE: Don’t bother paying off credit cards that are already in collection – the notation that the account is in collection is what will lower your score.)
    HUD Late payments may stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But if you are apply for a mortgage, make sure there are no RECENT late payments – those can be killers.
     Also, you may get some of your creditors to report to credit bureaus. Landlords or utilities may have good things to say about your payment history, but they may not be reporting to credit bureaus. Make sure that they do.
      It may take anywhere from three months to 18 months to actually make improvements in your credit scores. But doing so can mean money in your pocket when you get your new mortgage.

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Walking in Pinellas County is enjoyable, but not highly rated by some

It’s funny; before we moved to Florida we lived in Bath, Maine, a quaint and attractive small city on the Kennebec River. While Bath was scenic and pleasant, I almost never walked anywhere when I lived there.

There were two reasons: (1) Much of the time it was REALLY cold, and (2) it was very hilly. Walking down the hills wasn’t so bad, but walking back UP was no picnic.

walking shoesWhen we moved to Florida, I was delighted to be able to increase my walking. It was always warm (okay, maybe TOO warm in the summer, but you can always walk in the early mornings, before the toasty factor gets too high), and the nearly flat terrain means none of those challenging grades.

Since I find walking to be much more enjoyable here than up north, I was a bit surprised to find a website devoted to the “walkability” of various communities, and to note that our area of Florida, Pinellas County, and more specifically Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs, were rated pretty low on the walking scale.

Even more surprising was that cold, hilly Bath, Maine was rated very highly by this website, www.walkscore.com. Here are the scores:

Bath, Maine: 78 (out of a hundred), “very walkable”

Palm Harbor: 37, car-dependent

Dunedin: 45, car-dependent

Tarpon Springs: 38: Car-dependent

Okay, I actually get this. Our Florida communities are relatively young and they are spread out all over the place. Many lack a real central downtown, and you do need a car to get around and run errands. Bath, Maine (and other up-north older cities) are old, and many were established on the banks of rivers. They were centrally laid-out, as automobiles weren’t even around when they were founded.

Still, if you want my opinion, I’d rather walk right here in Florida. Walking in Maine? No, thanks — especially in January.

By the way, Walkscore.com says it “helps you find a walkable place to live. Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of any address.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Planning on buying a Pinellas County home? We may be seeing the end of historically low mortgage interest rates

 intderest rate artMortgage rates are still extremely attractive and at or near historic lows. But we may have seen the bottom; the economy is getting better on a number of fronts, and the low interest rates have been as reflection of the weak economy.

 If things get better economically, rates will rise.

 Here are a few factors that indicate the economic picture is starting to brighten:

 RETAIL SALES ARE GOING UP: Retail sales make up about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, so it is a very important factor when trying to predict the nation’s economic future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail sales went up to $335 billion in February, an all-time high and the 19th month out the last 20 to record an increase in retail sales.

 NEW JOBS ARE BEING CREATED: People have to have jobs if they are going to be able to make mortgage payments.  In the past five months, more than a million jobs have been created.

 MANUFACTURING, BUSINESS INVESTMENT, CONSUMER CONFIDENCE UP: All of these categories need to improve if an economic recovery is to take place. And all three of them are improving.

 THE FED IS CONFIDENT: The Fed takes steps to keep interest rates low when the economy is suffering. The Fed takes NO action when the economy is doing well or heading in the right direction. The Fed is saying that a recovery is underway and that it is happening faster than expected; that means that further Fed intervention in interest rates is unlikely. And THAT means that interest rates are likely to rise.

 Rates are still good. But they may not be REALLY good for very long if all these trends continue.

 Want to know the best steps for taking advantage of still-low interest rates? Get in touch and we’ll talk about what you want to accomplish – 727-643-7100 or [email protected].

Tags: , , , ,

Food truck fun in Safety Harbor

Food trucks line Main Street in Safety Harbor

Food trucks line Main Street in Safety Harbor

As I’ve said on this blog many times, there’s always something to do in North Pinellas County, or in all of Tampa Bay, for that matter.  Local residents love to get outside and enjoy the warm sunshine, and the local organizations and communities know that and plan all sorts of activities throughout the year.

This past weekend, Bill and I drove over the Safety Harbor to check out that town’s first-ever Food Truck Rally. About a dozen different food trucks were on hand, offering everything from barbecue to doughnuts to Korean food items.

truck lunches 1

Ordering up snacks at the Korean food truck

The city blocked off a couple of blocks on Main Street so folks could enjoy strolling from truck to truck without the danger of passing cars.

We sampled a number of items and really enjoyed it. We also enjoyed some live music.

This food truck idea has been held in a number of different local communities and they are pretty popular. There has been a little friction about some of these events – some local restauranteurs have objected to food trucks coming in and allegedly stealing away some business from local restaurants. But in this case, local Safety Harbor businesses were “in the loop” and helped with the planning of the events. If there were any objections, I didn’t hear about them.
“The idea is not to compete with our local restaurants, but to enhance our active community and get them downtown on a Saturday afternoon,” Joe Cooper, Special Events Supervisor for the city, said before the event. “We also hope to bring in new faces to the city that will come out and enjoy our shops, restaurants and pubs.”

These food truck events are becoming more popular. We’re looking forward to the next one.

x

Don't know the story of this bike, but its color brightens up Main Street
Don’t know the story of this bike, but its color brightens up Main Street

x

That new Pinellas County home just got more affordable, thanks to historically low interest rates

     What is it with interest rates? They just seem to get lower and lower. Today’s rates are at historic lows. Is that stimulating home sales? It doesn’t seem so – not that much, anyway.
 intderest rate art    How low are interest rates? Right now they are as low as 3.90 percent, or even a bit lower. Last year at this time the average rates for a conventional 30-year mortgage loan were a little over 5 percent, and we thought that was breathtakingly low.
     It is the lowest that interest rates have ever been in this country.
     Just for comparison, rates four years ago were around 7 percent, and we thought that was pretty darn good.
     So, should you actually consider refinancing if you bought your house a year ago? Maybe so.
     Let’s say you bought your house last February, and you financed $200,000 at 5.05 percent. That would make your principal and interest payment $1,079.76.
     Refinance that same $200,000 amount now at 3.87 percent, and your principal and interest payment would drop to $939.90. That’s a monthly saving of $139.86, or 13 percent. Not bad.
     I spent many years in the mortgage business, before I returned to my first love, real estate sales. I know a lot about the ins and outs of home financing. If you have questions about your plans for buying and financing a home, get in touch and we’ll talk – 727-643-7100, or [email protected] .

Tags: , , , , , ,

You otter live in Dunedin!

You probably know by now that I like Florida’s birds, and I can’t help taking pictures of birds of all types when I come across them in my travels throughout Pinellas County.

But birds aren’t the only wildlife you are apt to see when you drive through Palm Harbor, Oldsmar, Dunedin or other parts of Pinellas County.

otters SMALL 1

This morning I was in a Dunedin neighborhood, and I noticed some loud splashing in a creek that ran behind some houses near the Dunedin Community Center. I walked over to investigate, and saw two otters frolicking in the water.

After I watched them for a few minutes, I realized there were more than just two — there were four in all, splashing in the creek and then chasing each other around one of the backyards.

There’s all kinds of wildlife in Pinellas County, and you usually don’t have to travel very far to find them.

Tags: , , , , ,

Waterfowl love living in Dunedin

As I’ve said before here, I love Florida’s birds — they are one of things that make living here so interesting.

crane in pondThere’s a pond a few steps from my back door, and it attracts all sorts of different birds. There’s a family of ducks that live there, and they are there every day, but other waterfowl pop in for vistits pretty regularly.

I was outside the other day when this big guy dropped in. I think it’s a heron of some sort, but I’m no expert and I couldn’t find a picture on the internet of a bird that exactly matched this fellow, so I’m not really sure what he is. If you recognize it, please post what you know.

What’s the point of bird pictures on a blog that specializes in Pinellas County real estate? Good question. But it’s my blog, and I like birds, so you can expect to see some photos of birds that I come across in Pinellas County. This particular guy is in Dunedin, a little south of Palm Harbor.

Tags: , , , , ,