Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'Tarpon Springs' Category

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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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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Five things that can be done right now to stimulate Pinellas County real estate sales (and real estate sales everywhere)

 

We’re around five years into the recession, and the real estate market has been suffering all of that time. There were a lot of reasons for the downturn, just as there are lots of reasons for the slow recovery.

balancing houseWhile I don’t have a magic bullet to right the ship and make everything okay real estate-wise, I think there are some things that could be done right now to stimulate sales and make things better, here in Pinellas County and really everywhere. Nothing is going to make up for nine percent unemployment or for the under-employment of millions more people, but I think we could do a lot for the national and the Pinellas County real estate markets to make home ownership more possible for thousands of would-be home owners by taking a few simple steps.

Here they are:

  1. MAKE CREDIT STANDARDS MORE REASONABLE: Much of the problem in the first place resulted from very easy-going credit standards when it came to home mortgages – things such as incomes that didn’t have to be verified or 100 percent (and even 110-percent) financing. Lenders have reacted to those transgressions by tightening credit requirements to a ridiculous level. So let’s find a happy medium that works for buyers while protecting the interests of lenders.
  2. BRING BACK THE 90 PERCENT MORTGAGE:  Where we once saw no-money-down mortgages, we now see lenders who want 20 or 25 percent down. There are many very qualified buyers with good incomes who should be able to buy homes with 10 percent down. Let’s make that possible for the right buyers.
  3. STREAMLINE THE UNDERWRITING PROCESS:  Underwriting has become extremely tight and difficult, and it is not unusual for lenders to come back repeatedly for additional documentation. That takes extra time, and deals can fall apart during those long waits. Good, effective underwriting shouldn’t have to take weeks or months.
  4. GENERATE MORE JOBS: Probably the biggest impediment to a housing market recovery is a lack of good-paying jobs. If people can’t earn adequate incomes, they can’t afford to buy new homes. This is something the government can help with by instituting encouraging policies; the private sector can contribute to it by investing in themselves in ways that encourage job creation.
  5. CLEAR OUT THE FORECLOSURE INVENTORY: Banks have been slow to clear out the inventory of foreclosed homes. Short sales can take forever, and lenders seem to be in no hurry to get their foreclosed-upon properties off their books. Some observers even say that banks have withheld significant numbers of foreclosed properties in order to keep home values from falling even further.  If banks want to get back to the business of lending money for home purchases, they have to do their part, take the hit, and get that inventory back into the hands of private owners.

Got any ideas of your own? Send them along and I’ll post them on the blog.

In many ways, this is a great time to buy Pinellas County real estate, especially in certain market segments. Give me a call and we’ll discuss: 727-643-7100, or e-mail me at [email protected] .

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200 posts about Pinellas County real estate

I started this blog about Pinellas County real estate a little over five years ago. Lots of things have changed since then — I started the blog under a different blog name, and I used a different blog platform back then.

I mention all this because we just reached an important milestone — 200 blog posts, all of which relate in some way or other to Pinellas County real estate. The blog entry about three entries back, entitled “What’s the outlook for first-time homebuyers in the Pienllas County real estate market?”, was our 200th entry.

Just for fun, I scrolled all the way back to the beginning and took a look at our first blog entry, back on May 4, 2006. It’s about Strachan’s Ice Cream. (I think I may have posted a few before that one, but I seem to remember that a handful of blog entries didn’t survive the transfer of content from one blog platform to the other.)

Anyway, that’s a lot of stories just about real estate in Pinellas County, even though a few of them have strayed a little bit from that single subject.

Feel free to page back through the old entries. Most of them are still informative about homes and real estate in Pinellas County, or more specifically real estate in Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Crystal Beach, Ozona, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor.

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Hurricanes don’t come ashore in Pinellas County very often, but if one does…

hurricane windsWe need to be prepared. So plan, plan, plan, and take measures that will minimize risk and damage.

 Below is a list of hurricane preparation tips. Have a tip of your own to share? Tell us below and help keep others safe.

 If you are evacuating your home:

  •  Turn the pilot light off on your water heater and furnace, then turn off the gas line valve near the appliance. Finally, turn off your gas at the meter. This will reduce the probability that a tree falling on the roof will break an active gas line and create the chance for a spark to cause a fire. Turning off valves working from the appliance to the meter will make it easier to reignite on your return by reversing the process.
  • Turn off your master water supply
  • Hurricane supplies

    Hurricane supplies

     While some would recommend leaving your master breaker on for your alarm and refrigerator function, if you are leaving the property due to the severity of the weather, chances are the power may be lost anyway. It’s really safest to shut it off. The reason is that if the power surges, as it does when the power company is trying to restore the down service or with blowing transformers, it can damage electronics including HVAC systems. Homes equipped with a generator must turn off the main breaker to avoid shifting power back out to the street, as this can be dangerous for utility company workers or if a line has broken from the property with the generator. If you are not going to be leaving the property you can, and should, keep the main breaker on until the power goes out.

  •  Unplug all fixtures or small appliances that can be accessed.
  •  Bring into the garage, or otherwise secure, all movable exterior items such as small plants in pots, lawn furniture and pool equipment.
  •  Fill all vehicle fuel tanks.
  •  If you have time, trim all branches or heavy bushes that could damage windows.
  •  Use wind shutters: either pull down your professionally installed hurricane shutters or install your own plywood panels.*

Take with you:

  •  Food and snacks for two days
  • Two gallons of water per individual
  • Clothing for one week
  • First aid kit
  • Medications for 30 days
  • Flashlights and spare batteries
  • Cash
  • Important documents (wills, insurance, licenses, medical and bank records as needed)
  • Pet care items
  • Tell a neighbor who is staying where you are going and how to contact you. Exchange numbers.

 If you are staying: (Highly discouraged if you are in a storm surge area or near the immediate path of the storm):

  • hurricane plywood Increase food supplies to 3-7 days—preferably non-perishable food items.
  •  Fill up your propane tank for your grill or buy two sacks of charcoal.
  • Make sure you have a functional fire extinguisher. ABC type will work on any fire.
  • Remember, with down trees and no reliable phone service, 911 may not be an option.
  •  Increase water supplies to one gallon per person per day.
  •  Adequate toiletries, diapers and special items to last at least one week
  •  One flashlight per individual and one spare set of batteries per light
  •  Increase cash on hand.
  •  Battery operated radio
  •  Toys books and games
  •  Tools
  •  Clean and fill the tub the night before land fall. This water will be used for pets and flushing toilets.
  •  Do all of your laundry before land fall. You may not have a chance for a week or so.
  •  Take digital pictures of your home and each room. This will support future insurance claims.
  •  Store your valuable papers in a waterproof container or bank vault
  •  Fill bags with ice from your ice machine
  • Back up your computer data and store it in a safe place

 Additional steps for family safety:

  • Discuss hazards that could affect your family (storm surge, rising water, down power lines).
  • Determine a safe escape route and two meeting points if you have to evacuate your house unexpectedly. Have a contact person out of the area that each family member can contact if you are separated.
  • Locate the safest room in your home. Pre-stock with pillows and blankets if room allows.
  • Plan for taking care of your pets.

*According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), “In past hurricanes, many homeowners upon returning have noticed their temporary plywood shutters blown off because they were not adequately fastened. If you have a wood-frame house, use adequate fasteners to attach the panels over the openings when a hurricane approaches. Have these temporary shutters stored and ready to use since building supply stores generally sell out of these materials quickly during a hurricane warning. If your home is made with concrete blocks, however, you will have to install anchoring devices well in advance.”

A map showing evacuation routes, county shelters, and emergency numbers can be see here.

(Thanks to USInspect.com for this article)

 

 

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A visit to the Tarpon Springs farmer’s market

tatersIf you’ve spent any time reading this blog you know that I love farmer’s markets, and there’s plenthy of them around North Pinellas County.  I’ve been meaning to get up to the market in Tarpon Springs — in fact, I have driven up there only to find that my visits were on off weekends when the market wasn’t operating.

Anyway, today we headed up there and got there on the right weekend.  Everything was in full swing, and we made good use of it.

There was a cheese booth, operated by a business called the Cheese Lodge in Elfers, Fla., and we bought some absolutely great brie, which we sampled as soon as we got home. Too bad, they don’t have a website.

We also bought a couple of kielbasa sandwiches, which we ate while we watched the beginning of the Rays-Yankees game on TV once we got back home.

sweet carolines 020We also stumbled across a Palm Harbor bakery which we didn’t know about.  Sweet Caroline’s had a booth at the farmer’s market, and the food on display was really eye-catching.  We bought two apple turnovers and a thick, crumbly chocolate cookie with powered sugar on top, and we took them home and ate them after those keilbasa sandwiches.

Sweet Caroline’s is in a strip mall at 3347 Tampa Rd, Palm Harbor, a few doors down from the Surf & Turf Market. Definitely worth a try!

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Owner financing on this great Tarpon Springs townhouse

I don’t make a habit of putting my listings on my blog (they are on my website at www.bethfrederick.com) but this is such a gorgeous townhouse that I thought I would share it with you.

norton outside SMALL 6Almost new (build in 2006 by Lennar Homes), this home has some dandy finishing touches (crown molding throughout, granite countertops), and there is plenty of room to stretch out in its 2,301 square feet of living space.

Many two-story town homes are concrete block construction on the first floor and wood construction on the second floor. Not this one, though — it is concrete block construction throughout.

And this may be the most attractive and compelling feature of all — the sellers are interested in providing owner financing — just 10 percent down and a very attractive interest rate, and a term of up to 30 years.

Selling price: $237,400. Give me a call and we’ll go take a look! See more at http://www.bethfrederick.com/Nav.aspx/Page=/ListNow/Default.aspx , and click on the picture.

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Tarpon Springs Thanksgiving Weekend Craft Fest

farmer mkt 125Tarpon Springs hosted a nice little craft fair over the weekend that followed Thanksgiving.

Billed as the 19th annual Tarpon Springs Thanksgiving Weekend Craft Fest, the event was held right in the downtown area about a block north of the Post Office. A street was closed down to make room for the white craft tents, and there were all kinds of vendors — artisans of all kinds, food vendors, event a booth for the St. Petersburg TIMES.  

I didn’t buy anything, but I enjoyed poking around. Of course, the REALLY big local arts and crafts fair is coming up this next weekend, Dec. 5-6, in downtown Olde Palm Harbor. That event has been going on for the past 35 years and is (I think) the biggest arts & crafts show in the Tampa Bay area.

Environmentally-friendly Sweetbay Market opens in Tarpon Springs

SweetBay's new LEED-certified supermarket in Tarpon Springs

SweetBay's new LEED-certified supermarket in Tarpon Springs

Sweetbay Supermarkets has opened a new store in Tarpon Springs, on South Pinellas Ave. (Alt. 19) just a short distance south of the Tarpon Springs downtown area.

What makes this more than just a grocery store opening is that this store is LEED-certified, meaning it is environmentally and energy sensitive in a number of different ways. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a designation of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the LEED designation makes note of the store’s energy efficiency and sustainable development practices.
 
veterans day 022We saw all sorts of different examples of those sustainable practices during our visit on Saturday, everything from special reserved parking spots for energy-efficient cars (and car pool cars) to reusable shopping bags.

Some of the features we did NOT see were the store’s low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures, the use of reclaimed water for toilets,  and free air for people who ride their bikes to the store.

The store also offers all kinds of special food displays, as well. One thing that really caught our eye was a major display in the produce section devoted solely to all kinds of fresh peppers. We saw peppers we had never seen before, and we were very taken by the eye appeal of so many of the displays.

veterans day 017Here’s how SweetBay describes the mission of its new market (as printed on a sign inside the store): “We thought why not create a store that is as committed to the planet as much as it is to delivering freshness to the people, a store that is environmentally-friendly and committed to conserving energy and water. A store that wastes less and recycles more, a store that puts planet, people and product first. So we did.”

If you get a chance, you should take a tour of the new SweetBay store. It may offer some insights into the way grocery stores will look in the future.

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