Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

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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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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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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Road trip! – Bok Tower

Road trip rules: There’s lots of interesting places to go and things to see within easy driving distance to North Pinellas County, so find some time in your busy schedule and take them in!  Here are the rules: Road trip locations have to be within a couple of hours of North Pinellas County, and no more than 100 miles (okay, we may stretch it a little if it’s REALLY great). If there’s good food in the vicinity, we’ll provide a recommendation or two.

 

bok tower 239Bok Tower is a great spot with beautiful gardens, a large Koi pond and a gorgeous singing tower, a 60-bell carillon (the bells were specially cast in England). The location is in Lake Wales in Polk County, about 90 miles east of North Pinellas. The tower is located on the highest point in Florida (don’t worry, it is less than 300 feet above sea level – you won’t be needing an oxygen tank).

Bok Tower was opened to the public in 1929. It is considered to be a contemplative garden, so please keep noise to a minimum.

Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for kids. There’s a good restaurant on the grounds that provides good light fare, such as salads and sandwiches.

Learn more at http://boktowergardens.org/

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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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North Anclote River Nature Park

One great benefit that we enjoy in Pinellas County is the large number of parks that are scattered around the county. Pinellas County is in charge of most of them, but there are also some local parks that are well worth visiting.
IMG_0173One of these locally-owned parks is the North Anclote River Nature Park, a slender 77-acre park that runs from a parking lot just of Old Dixie Highway to the banks of the Anclote River.
This park is located near our home and we visit there frequently. It’s a good place for a morning walk, and it’s dog-friendly. There is an observation deck that juts out over the Anclote River, and there is also a dandy fishing pier as well as a beach area that’s good for pulling your kayak or canoe ashore.
 IMG_0012    Also, there are rest room facilities as well as a playground for the kids near the parking lot.
The park has been in operation for nearly 20 years, having been purchased with grant money from the Florida Communities Trust. If you enjoy hiking or biking on the Pinellas Trail, you will find that the trail runs right through the middle of the park, and you can get off the trail and access the park’s trail system.
It’s open to the public from 7:30 a.m. until dusk.
I’m going to be writing on the blog about a number of the parks in the Pinellas County area, especially in North Pinellas County. This is the first in what I hope will be a series.

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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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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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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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