Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

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Dunedin Farmers Market coming to a close for the season

FullSizeRender (1)There’s a lot of farmers markets around Pinellas County, but my favorite is the one in Dunedin. I stopped by there this morning and I bought a couple of things — a small block of New York cheddar cheese (my husband is a BIG cheese fan) and a bottle of tart cherry concentrate which I’ll use in my morning protein shake.

IMG_0761The best thing about the farmer’s market, however, is just walking around and looking at the offerings — fresh baked bread, various pet products, Thai food products, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs from free range chickens, and a bunch of other things. It’s a great way to spend a little time on a Saturday morning. (They’re open on Fridays, too.) It’s in Pioneer Park in downtown Dunedin.

If you’ve been thinking about stopping by there, make sure you go next weekend, because its the last Farmers Market of the season.  It won’t be open again until November.

 

 

 

 

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Dog parks in Pinellas County

There are some great parks in Pinellas County, but did you know there are a number of parks where dogs are welcome? In fact, there are seven parks in the county that provide fenced areas where unleashed dogs can frolic to their heart’s content.


And it gets better; there are some parks in the county that are not run by Pinellas County, but which are managed by municipalities. And some of those parks are very welcoming of dogs, as well. An example: North Anclote River Nature Park in Tarpon Springs. This park is near my home, and it welcomes dogs. It even provides free poop bags (and really hopes that you’ll use them); free dog-level watering stations for thirsty doggies; and even showers for overheated dogs.

Here are the Pinellas County parks that have dog areas for unleashed dogs:

border collie playingAs you might expect, there are a number of rules that the county insists upon. Here they are:

  • All dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting the park.
  • Park closes at dusk.
  • Patrons use the dog park at their own risk.
  • Handlers are liable for any injury or damage caused by their dog (s).
  • Handlers are limited to three dogs.
  • Dogs shall be licensed and vaccinated with a tag on their collar at all times.
  • Dogs in heat are prohibited.
  • Handlers must be 16 years of age or older.
  • Children under 12 are not permitted without a responsible adult.
  • Handlers must control their dogs and attend to them at all times.
  • Handlers must carry a leash with them at all times while in the park.
  • Handlers are responsible for picking up and disposing of their dog’s waste in designated receptacles.
  • No dogs under four months of age. Check with your veterinarian before introducing a new puppy to the dog park.
  • No aggressive dogs.
  • Handlers must stop their dogs from digging and are responsible for filling any holes their dogs make.
  • No excessive barking.
  • No bathing of dogs within the park.
  • No food or smoking within the fenced area.

The county suggests that you not walk barefoot in the fenced dog areas. I think that is great advice.

 

 

 

 

 

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More pictures from Dunedin Farmers Market

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The downtown Dunedin farmer’s market runs from November until the end of June, which means it is about to wrap up for the year. Too bad, because it is a great way to fritter away an hour or two on Friday and/or Saturday mornings.

downtown dunedin logoThe farmer’s market runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on both days, which should be plenty of time to pick up some really fresh veggies for dinner, or some specialty food items that may be a little difficult to find elsewhere – lobster rolls and whoopee pies from a native Maine vendor, various hot sauces, some hand-made craft items, ID tags for your dog’s collar, central American coffees and other things.

There is often live music playing on the stage, as well, so if you tire of walking around shopping you can sit down on a bench and just enjoy the sounds for a while. And don’t forget that downtown Dunedin is always pet-friendly – bring your doggie for a nice outdoor excursion.

The farmer’s market is at John L. Lawrence Pioneer Park in downtown Dunedin, and there’s a couple more weekend dates to enjoy before the market shuts down for the hot summer months. And don’t be too upset about the end of the farmer’s market season — Dunedin has a whole menu of downtown-related events that should keep you entertained throughout the year.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.”

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birds 020As I’ve noted here before, there’s no lack of birds and wildlife in the area of Dunedin, FL where we live. We spotted this osprey perched in a pine tree near our house, enjoying a fish lunch.