Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'Palm Harbor' 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.

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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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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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Vacation, investment home purchases way up in 2012

 Here’s some more evidence to support the notion that the real estate market – and the economy in general – is on the upswing.

PrintThe National Association of Realtors says that the sale of both investmnent homes and vacations home increased by quite a lot in 2011:

  • Investment home purchases rose 64.5 percent, from 749,000 in 2010 to 1,23 million in 2011.
  • Vacation home sales rose 7 percent, from 469,000 in 2010 to 502,000 in 2011.

(The NAR defines vacation homes as recreational properties purchased for the buyer’s personal use. It defines investment homes as residential properties  purchased with the intent to either rent to others or to keep as investments.)

The market share of vacation and investment homes purchased in 2011 is at its highest point since 2005, NAR reports. The information was contained in NAR’s 2012 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey.

Accortding to NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, investors used cash to take advantage of the favorable market conditions in 2011.

Lawrence Yun

Lawrence Yun

“During the past year, investors have been swooping into the market to take advantage of bargain home prices,” he said. “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks as an added inducement.”

Yun also said 41 percent of investor buyers purchased more than one property during the year.

The upswing in sales, Yun said, show that the market is able to absorb the foreclosures that are coming into the market.

“Small-time investors are helping the market heal since REO (bank real estate owned) inventory is not lingering for an extended period,” he said. “Any government program to sell REO inventory in bulk to large institutional companies should be limited to small geographic areas. Even where alternatives are needed, it’s best to rely on the expertise of local businesses, nonprofit organizations and government.”

Yun said 49 percent of investment buyers paid cash in 2011, as did 42 percent of vacation-home buyers. Half of all investment home purchases in 2011 were distressed homes, as were 39 percent of vacation homes. Of buyers who financed with mortgages, Yun said, large downpayments were typical.

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Want to talk about investing in Florida Gulf Coast real estate, or about purchasing the perfect winter vacation home? Get in Touch! 727-643-7100, or [email protected].

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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].

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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] .

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Interest rates are low, but they won’t always be. Remember that when you consider buying a home in Pinellas County

What single factor may splash cold water on the recovering housing market? According to a CNN/Fortune Magazine report, it could be interest rates.

“What’s that?” you say. “Interest rates are at historic lows. Interest rates seem to be the one single thing that we don’t have to worry about when we think about the housing market.”

Yup, you are correct.  But according to the report, rising interest rates could be looming. And if that comes true, it will retard the housing market recovery.

According to the report, there are a number of factors that should have favorable impacts on a better housing market – strong improvements in the rate of single-family housing starts, more construction permits being pulled, and an upward trend in home sales across the nation, to name just three.

And let’s not forget really, REALLY low interest rates.

balancing houseBut, according to the report, interest rates will inevitably rise. And when they do, mortgage costs will go up. And that will be an impediment to a market recovery.

Those historically low interest rates are around 4 percent right now. But the MEDIAN interest rate, looked at long-term, is more like 9 percent. The report says that when interest rates go up, as they inevitably will, the effect is likely to be like an anchor on the recovery of the housing market.

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Something else that is probably inevitable – people saying, “Wow, I wish I had purchased a home in Dunedin or Palm Harbor when the prices and interest rates were really low.”

That doesn’t have to be you. Call or e-mail me now and we’ll discuss what you want to accomplish home-wise. I’m always available! [email protected], or 727-643-7100.

 

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