Did you know? Duke Energy has an Energy Efficiency Program that allows homeowners to get rebates on improvements. A home assessment must be completed either online, via an in-home appointment or by phone. I completed the assessment online and am now getting new insulation put in my home with a $200 rebate from Duke Energy. The current insulation is only 6″ thick and does not come close to meeting the thickness standards. The total cost to me will be $462 and I will surely save on future electric bills.
After I completed the online assessment, Duke also sent me the pictured box of energy efficient items. The weatherstrip was easy to put around my door, and who can’t use light bulbs? To find out more, please visit Duke Energy’s website.
Here are some new Florida State laws that I find noteworthy:
SB 1400 allows property owners to trim or remove trees on their property without a permit as long as they have a letter from a certified arborist or landscape architect stating the tree is a danger.* This change should save homeowners time and money in the permit process.
Banning vegetable garden restrictions
Floridians, yes we can turn our front yards into vegetable gardens! A new law established in SB82 prevents local governments from prohibiting them. The issue has come up numerous times nationwide when local governments deemed that front yard vegetable gardens are not aesthetically attractive. In one instance, a Miami Shores couple had to uproot their vegetable garden. My review of the City of St. Petersburg’s ordinances leaves me unclear if there is anything that would prohibit them. This new law makes it clear. I know I have seen several front yard vegetable gardens in St. Pete, including my own neighborhood of Central Oak Park.
This article in the Tampa Bay Times elaborates on the subject. Homeowners associations may have their own rules. Also note that ordinances designed to allow access to the right-of-way and to allow clear road views may still apply.
HB 447 allows local governments to close a permit six years after its issuance as long as no apparent safety hazards exist. It also prevents local governments from penalizing property owners for an open permit that was applied for by a previous owner. This change goes into effect Oct. 1, 2019.
SB1552 establishes the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative – a partnership between the state and Mote Marine Laboratory to develop technologies that can control and mitigate red tide and its impact. This state bill sets aside $3 million a year for the next six years to fund the project. In addition, more than $625 million in environmental funding will be used for things like Everglades restoration, completion of the project that will raise Tamiami Trail, springs restoration, beach restoration projects, a red tide/blue green algae task force and a septic-to-sewer cost-share program.
As of now, tests show no signs of red tide in the Gulf. Testing is reported on the Florida Fish & Wildlife’s website “Red Tide Status.” Scientists are forecasting a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico this year due to high levels of rain. Read more about this dead zone here.
*Please consult with an arborist before cutting down trees.
Additional reference: Florida Realtors
When I am working with a buyer and an offer is being made, the buyer will ask, “What should I offer?” To respond to this question, my first step is to provide the buyer with comparable properties that have sold recently and collectively we form an opinion on what the home is worth. If the home needs some repairs or updating, that is taken into account on the price.
The next question from the buyer may be, “How much lower can we offer?” Let’s say for example that the home is priced at $250,000 and after reviewing the comparable sales it is determined that the home is in fact worth $250,00. The next consideration should be how long the home has been on the market (keeping in mind that we are in a seller’s market). If the home just went on the market, the chances are much lower that the seller will accept a lower offer. In addition, there is a chance that another buyer may submit an offer. In our current market, homes that are priced right sell quickly!
Say the house has been on the market for 60 days. How low of an offer is advised? In low-medium priced homes, anything that is 90% below asking price is considered a low-ball offer. Some may think it doesn’t hurt to try, but in fact it can. I have personally experienced sellers rejecting low-ball offers and declining to even counter. If the buyer truly is only willing to pay the lower price, than by all means make the offer with the awareness that it may be strongly rejected. In my role, whether I represent the buyer or the seller, I try to maintain amicable negotiations throughout the process. A low-ball offer, even if it leads to successful negotiations can start things off on the wrong foot.
I did an analysis of all the home sales in a specific area of St. Pete (Central Oak Park Neighborhood) for the last 60 days (mid-March – May). The average sale price for these homes was 96.5% of the asking price. That tells us that sellers are getting very close to asking price and they are not accepting low offers! The except is those homes that are overpriced and not selling at all!
So what would I advise offering on that $250,000 house that has been on the market 2 days? If the buyer says they really want the house, then offer $250,000. If it has been on the market 2 weeks and the list agent says that no other offers are currently expected, then offer $240-245,000. If it has been on the market for 60 days, then an offer of $230,000 would not be unjustified in my opinion.
Buyers typically want to buy low and sellers want to sell high. Working with both buyers and sellers balances my perspective. In some cases I have been selling a client’s home while at the same time procuring a new one. I ponder their expectations for selling their home above market value and not accommodating their buyer’s repair requests while at the same time submitting a low offer on their new home and expecting the seller to make repairs!
How to value a pool comes up a lot in my work with buyers and sellers. Putting in a new pool averages about $80,000 but appraisers do not value pools based on their cost. Typically, if a buyer wants a home with a pool, it is more economical to buy a home that already has a pool rather than add one. Since we are in Florida, one might think that pool homes would be in abundance. However, finding homes with pools is not as easy as you might think in St. Pete.
Right now, there are 766 single family homes for sale in St. Pete priced under $500,000. 84 of these homes have an in-ground pool. Furthermore, only 33 of these homes are not in a flood zone. I had two different appraisers gave me their guide for making home valuation adjustments. For a home priced at $250,000, one appraiser gives $8,000 – $15,000. If the pool has a screened enclosure, they add another $5,000. Another appraiser’s guide stipulates a $12,000 – $25,000 adjustment and also another $5,000 for a screened enclosure.
Working with buyers and sellers, I have had a sense that pools are reflecting a higher value to buyers in the St. Pete market than just a $15,000 adjustment, so I took a closer look at the statistics.
In the last 6 months (October 2018 – March 2019), 111 single-family homes with pools that aren’t in a flood zone sold under $500,000.
Data calculated on all homes recently sold under $500,000 with an in-ground pool:
|Average sale price||Average sale price/SF|
|With pools – not in a flood zone||$299,000||$186.13|
|With pools – in a flood zone||$329,000||$198.13|
|Without pools – not in a flood zone||$204,798||$166.01|
|Without pool – in a flood zone||$248,500||$178.oo|
Pools homes definitely sell for more. Based on my analysis, in-ground pools add $50,000 – $80,000 to a home’s value.
This leads me to another point – homes in St. Pete that ARE in a flood zone sell for more. Obviously, waterfront property commands a higher price. However, many of the homes in a flood zone aren’t actually waterfront. Some of the nicer neighborhoods in St. Pete are close to the water. In those neighborhoods, you also find homes that were built later than their counterparts built in the 20s, 40s & 50s and these homes have larger square footage, garages and POOLS! The central parts of St. Pete tend to be older and were not built with pools.
Title insurance “insures” the title of the property. Title insurance makes the title marketable and insures the homeowner against claims to the title. Examples of title issues are claims from prior heirs, instances of bad foreclosures and prior liens such as construction or tax liens.
For example, a friend of mine bought a bank-owned house in Maryland that had been foreclosed on. After she did extensive renovations on the house, it was discovered that the prior foreclosure had been improper. The former owner was not provided with the due process that is required to foreclose a home. This occurred during the housing recession when large numbers of homes were being foreclosed on and there were many instances of process and paperwork errors. Luckily, my friend had title insurance that protected her, and the problem was resolved (and not at her expense).
Most buyers will not buy a house without title being insured. And, the vast majority of lenders require that both the buyer and seller have title insurance. The title policy purchased by the buyer protects the buyer and the lender while the seller’s policy protects the seller.
So for sellers – a seller’s policy is required unless you have a cash buyer, and even cash buyers often want title insurance. There’s nothing that makes it mandatory for the seller to pay for the owner’s policy, however, it is customary and requiring the buyer to pay it would be a disincentive to the buyer. After all, they are already paying for their own policy. I personally have not encountered a seller asking for a buyer to pay for both policies.
Other closing fees fall under recording & transfer taxes and doc stamps and are government fees. The title company that handles the closing and conducts all the liens searches, obtains title policy and holds the escrow funds also has a closing fee of a few hundred dollars. A seller’s title policy is typically $5.75 per every $100,000 of the sale price plus $5.00 per every $1,000. Recording and transfer fees to the seller are typically .70 cents per every thousand dollars. When working with sellers, I provide an estimated closing statement that details these fees.
One of the things that makes St. Pete special are the unique neighborhoods, each with a unique feel and characteristics. They are diverse and many of them have active communities. Some are driven by voluntary neighborhood associations that promote neighborhood enhancement and community involvement. The sense of community is one of the things that drew me to St. Pete.
Some of the more active neighborhoods have regular social gatherings, events and meetings for residents. “Porch Parties” is the prevalent description for neighborhood parties held by neighborhoods where residents volunteer to open their homes and host gatherings. Porch Parties are predominantly outdoors which is fitting given our fabulous St. Pete weather that allows an outdoor lifestyle all year long. Party goers show up carrying a dish to share and a beverage of choice.
The neighborhoods range in architectural styles from bungalows, craftsman homes, mid-century modern, Victorian, Spanish and Florida style. Many of the homes in St. Pete were built in the 20’s, 40’s and 50’s. New construction is rare (except for the upscale condos downtown). Some neighborhoods are lined with brick streets flanked with mossy oak and palm trees. Many of the neighborhoods have a diverse makeup of styles – not cookie cutter neighborhoods.
The other thing I love about St. Pete is that you have the beach on one side and downtown on the other. Central Avenue runs straight across St. Pete from downtown, which sits on Tampa Bay, to our Gulf Coast Beaches. Heading west on Central Ave., once you leave the mainland, you cross the Treasure Island Causeway. The entire span is approximately 9 miles from downtown to the beach! We have neighborhoods with a beach vibe, a historic atmosphere, and a downtown vibe.
The City of St. Petersburg says it supports more than more than 110 neighborhood and business associations, and the City’s website says, “The city welcomes residents to take part in improving our neighborhoods and quality of life by voicing concerns and pinpointing priorities.” The City also gathers input from neighborhoods for future planning through neighborhood plans submitted by associations. For more information, visit the City’s page on neighborhoods.
Given there are so many neighborhoods in St. Pete, we also have a Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA). CONA’s website lists 86 neighborhoods! The full list below, and the following is a snapshot of just a few:
Historic Old Northeast
Nestled on the north side of downtown and Tampa Bay, development of Old Northeast started in 1911. The makeup of home styles includes Queen Anne, Victorian, Colonial Revival, Spanish Eclectic, Craftsman Bungalow, Prairie and even Italianate. The Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association’s website says, “Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 Old Northeast is characterized by waterfront green space, brick streets, granite curbs, hexagon block sidewalks, brick alleys, mature trees and lots of welcoming front porches. The neighborhood is an excellent example of preserving and restoring the best of the past while offering a high quality of living in the present where neighbors possess a strong sense of community identity and pride.” They have a busy event schedule filled with porch parties, parades, holiday events and meetings.
The neighborhood’s boundaries are 5th Avenue N/NE on the south and 30th Avenue N/NE on the north with Tampa Bay and Coffee Pot Bayou its eastern boundary and 4th Street N its western boundary. The neighborhood contains approximately 4,100 households and is home to some 10,000 residents.
Historic Kenwood calls itself “Neighborhood of the Arts.” Located just west of downtown, the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association describes the neighborhood as “is a charming neighborhood filled with historic bungalows and tree-lined brick streets. We enthusiastically embrace the arts, and we actively cultivate an authentic, friendly culture where people are welcoming, diverse, and engaged.
In addition to monthly porch parties, Kenwood events include “Pinot in the Park,” BungalowFest, Founder’s Day and Kenwood Kidz. The section of Central Avenue that borders Kenwood has seen great revitalization in recent years with the opening of trendy restaurants, bars, breweries, boutiques and antique shops.
Central Oak Park
Central Oak Park is where my home is, so I couldn’t leave it out! It is just a couple of miles west of downtown and only 5 miles from the beach. It is one of the largest neighborhoods in St. Pete with 3,900 residences including a few condominium and townhouse communities. The home prices in Central Oak Park are lower than average than other parts of St. Pete and I feel buying a home in Central Oak Park is a sound investment. The neighborhood has a diverse makeup of bungalows, a few craftsman and Spanish style homes and small cottages. There is a good deal of home renovation taking place and the Central Oak Park Neighborhood Association is becoming increasingly active. The neighborhood holds monthly porch parties, a Holiday Party on some of its blocked off brick streets, monthly membership meetings and has other events in the works like a spaghetti dinner and a neighborhood plant and seed swap. The neighborhood spans from 34th St N (US-19) to 49th St N and 13th Ave N to 5th Ave S.
Gulfport is technically its own City due to incorporation, but with approximately 12,000 residents it’s around the same size as other St. Pete neighborhoods. Gulfport homes are a mix of small cottages and bungalows. Gulfport has an appealing water front downtown with thriving restaurants and indecently owned shops. Gulfport holds regular artwalks. The annual GeckoFest is a costumed festival featuring themed live music, vendors, strolling and stationary street performers, a quirky walking parade, colorful costume contests, and the ever-popular end-of-the-day dueling street dances
This fabulous video best describes Crescent Lake.
List of St. Petersburg Neighborhood Associations as listed on the Council of Neighborhood Associations’ website:
1. 22nd St Business, Historical & Cultural District
2. Allendale Terrace Neighborhood Association
3. Americana Cove
4. Azalea Homes Community Association
5. Bahama Shores Homeowner’s Association
6. Barcley Estates Home Owner’s Association
7. Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association
8. Bayou Highlands Neighborhood Association
9. Bayway Isles Homeowners Club, Inc.
10. Brighton Bay Neighborhood
11. Broadwater Civic Association
12. Casler Heights Neighborhood Association
13. Causeway Isles Neighborhood Association
14. Central Oak Park Neighborhood Association
15. Clam Bayou Neighborhood Association
16. Childs Park Neighborhood Association
17. Coquina Key Property Owner’s Association
18. Crescent Heights Neighborhood Association
19. Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association, Inc.
20. Crossroads Area Homeowners Association
21. Disston Heights Civic Association
22. Downtown Neighborhood Association
23. Driftwood Property Owners Association
24. Eagle Crest Civic Association
25. Eden Isle Civic Association, Inc.
26. Edgemoor Neighborhood Association
27. Euclid Heights Neighborhood Association
28. Euclid-St. Paul Neighborhood Association
29. Fossil Park Neighborhood Association
30. Fruitland Heights Neighborhood Association
31. Gateway Neighborhood & Crime Watch Association
32. Grand Central District
33. Greater Grovemont Neighborhood Association
34. Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association
35. Greater Woodlawn Neighborhood Association
36. Harbordale Neighborhood Association
37. Harbor Isle Homeowners Association
38. Harris Park Neighborhood Association
39. Highland Oaks Neighborhood Association
40. Historic Kenwood Association
41. Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association
42. Historic Park Street Neighborhood Association
43. Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association
44. Historic Uptown Neighborhoods, Inc.
45. Holiday Park Home Owner’s Association
46. Isla Del Sol Owners Association
47. Jungle Prada Neighborhood Association
48. Jungle Terrace Civic Association
49. Lake Euclid Neighborhood Association
50. Lake Maggiore Park Neighborhood Association
51. Lake Maggiore Shores Neighborhood Association
52. Lakewood Estates Civic Association
53. Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association
54. Live Oak Neighborhood Association
55. Magnolia Heights Neighborhood Association
56. Maximo Civic Association
57. Meadowlawn Neighborhood Association
58. Mel-Tan Heights Neighborhood Association
59. Methodist Town Neighborhood Association
60. Northeast Park Neighborhood Association
61. Northeast Terraces Neighborhood Association
62. North Kenwood Neighborhood Association
63. Old Southeast Neighborhood Association
64. Pasadena Bear Creek Neighborhood Association
65. Palmetto Park Neighborhood Association
66. Pasadena Golf Club Estates
67. Perry Bayview Neighborhood Association
68. Point Brittany Community Association
69. Placido Bayou Community Association
70. Ponce De Leon Neighborhood Association
71. Renaissance Neighborhood Association
72. Riviera Bay Civic Association
73. Riviera Bay Subdivision Homeowners Association
74. Shore Acres Civic Association, Inc.
75. Snell Isle Property Owner’s Association, Inc.
76. Thirteenth Street Heights Neighborhood Association
77. Thirty-First Street Neighborhood Association
78. Tropical Shores Neighborhood Association
79. Venetian Isles Homeowner’s Association, Inc.
80. Westminster Heights Neighborhood Association
81. West Shore Village Neighborhood Association
82. Wildwood Heights Neighborhood Association
83. Winston Park Neighborhood Association
84. Caya Costa Neighborhood Association
85. Garden Manor Neighborhood Association
86. Grand Central District
87. Ling-A-Mor Neighborhood Association
88. St. Pete Heights
by Michelle L. Anderson, MBA, REALTOR, RE/MAX Metro
Most of the year, Florida enjoys an active real estate market. Unlike states to the north that are not active in cold winter months, Florida benefits from our fabulous winters and our snowbirds. The short answer to this question is that late winter – early summer are the BEST times to put a house on the market. But the only time I advise sellers to NOT list a house is the 2nd half of December through the first week of January. The reality is that real estate activity slows to a crawl during the holidays. However, at any given time there are lots of people who need to move and homes sell all year long. There are a few things to consider when defining what is the “best” time, because is it best to sell the fastest, or at the highest price or do these factors coincide?
I looked at the numbers for Pinellas County for 2014 – October 2018* to see exactly what the sales trend looks like by month. Below is a graph that shows the number of closed sales for each month. Keep in mind that homes that closed likely went on the market two months prior. The average days homes have been on the market in the past year is 26 days and on average, most contracts close in 30 days.
You will see that sales consistently spike in the spring and summer. They also consistently die down in the fall and have a short spike again right at the end of the year. I hypothesize the end of the year spike is due to people making purchases prior to the end of the year in order to qualify for homesteading or investors looking to acquire a tax deduction. Another factor may be people from up north looking to buy in time to enjoy their new home for the winter.
The absorption rate is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the rate that listings are selling and it is calculated by dividing the number of closed sales by the number of active listings. A lower rate means that homes are selling slower (buyer’s market) while a higher rate means that homes are selling quickly (seller’s market). One of the highest rates in recent years was 44% in June 2016 and I can attest to encountering numerous bidding wars for homes at that time.
When the absorption rate is going up, sellers can list their homes at a higher price. However, when the absorption rate is declining, homes shouldn’t be listed at a higher price. In other words, a declining rate indicates that it isn’t a time to “push the market higher,” and that demand is decreasing.
From 2014 – 2018, the absorption rate has been trending upward. The rate also seems to follow a similar pattern with the number of listings, the number of sales and the median sales price. Homes that are on the market over the holidays sit the longest and the absorption rate tends to peak for the year in the spring and summer.
Home appraisers do factor absorption rate into their valuations. This means that when the rate is climbing, they may add additional value to a home. However, when the absorption rate is declining, they are less likely to increase value for market factors.
While the median sales price has been trending upward at a high rate over the last few years, the trend is not a perfectly straight path. Below are some charts that show the median sale price by month. Interestingly, each year the highest median price for the year occurs in the spring/early summer and dips down in the fall with another small spike prior to the year end. This trend mirrors the trends of the number of closed sales, number of listings and days on market.
How much difference in price does it make? An article on CNBC says that on average, homes that sell at peak times sell for $1,500 more. The article also says that the best time to list homes in warm weather markets like Florida is March.
Days on Market / Median Time to Contract
The median number of days homes were on the market prior to going under contract follows a similar trend with the longest average time falling around the holidays and beginning of the year and then declining until reaching a low point in early summer.
Want to know what day of the week is best to put a house on the market? Visit my previous blog: Best Day to List a Home
*Numbers as reported from the Pinellas Realtor Organization. Statistical calcualations and analysis conducted by Michelle L. Anderson
Graziosi, Dean. “What Is Absorption Rate in Real Estate and Why Is It Important?” Huffington Post 12/6/17 0
Olick, Diana. “Homes sell fastest during these two weeks” CNBC. 3/2/2017
The day your home is listed on the market does matter.
When working with sellers, I always try to schedule the listing to go live during the middle of the week. So when I stumbled on this article that substantiates this practice, I decided to turn it into a post to reinforce this practice.
This article explains that listing a home in the middle of the week allows for optimal showings and statistics show that houses listed in the middle of the week actually sell for a higher price. The timing allows the home to be included in buyers scheduled showings over the weekend and allows for timely scheduling of open houses.
When a home is listed over the weekend or early in the week, it does not allow for buyers to schedule weekend showings. This equates to wasted days on market and statistics show that the longer a house is on the market, the lower the sales price is. When selling a home, it is ideal to hit the market running and make every day count.
Want to know what time of year is best to put a home on the market for sale? Read my blogpost – When is the Best Time of Year to List a House for Sale?
Many home buyers begin the home buying process with a mindset of wanting to find their “dream house.” They come with a long list of criteria that is often unattainable or is unattainable in their budget. The best approach is to prioritize needs and wants and determine what things aren’t necessary and what things can be done to the home after it becomes yours. Sometimes these priorities change during the process of looking at homes.
For example, a buyer may start with a list like: 3 bed, 2 bath, 2-car garage with a pool and an updated kitchen. Perhaps they find a house that meets all their requirements except it doesn’t have a pool, but it does have room to add one. Or, a buyer wants to be in a certain neighborhood and their list is similar – 3 bed, 2 bath with a garage, but they want a craftsman bungalow that doesn’t need a lot of work. Craftsman bungalows that don’t need a lot of work are not in abundance. Instead, they opt for one without a garage, that has a parking pad off the alley.
When I initially started my home search for my current home in St. Pete, I did not want to undertake extensive renovations. However, after looking for a while and not finding the right house, I opted to buy a home at a lower price point that needed an entire kitchen renovation. By doing it myself, I got to design the kitchen that I wanted, and that included the Spanish tiles that I wanted!
To read more on this subject, view this article Real estate Q&A: Looking for your dream house? Here’s help
This question actually has many layers, because the answer is different when you ask, “How do hurricanes effect the economy in the short-term,” “the long-term.” Or, “How do hurricanes effect the national economy,” or “how do they effect the area that was impacted?”
In the months following a storm, the local economy will initially see huge losses of wealth. But following that, thriving areas will actually see a bump when insurance checks are cut, and rebuilding takes place. Spending also gets shifted around regionally. People evacuate and spend money elsewhere. Hardware store, gas stations, grocery stores and hotels see increased business while local business are shuttered. The national economy sees a small dip in GDP.
LONG-TERM – NATIONAL ECONOMY
According to an article in Florida Realtor “On net, storms tend to subtract from gross domestic product in the early months and add to it in later months – leaving the economy, on balance, with few overall effects after a year.”
LONG-TERM – LOCAL/REGIONAL ECONOMY
“Hurricanes impose huge losses of wealth and initially slow regional economies, but over time they can be a tonic that creates more prosperous communities,” According to Florida Realtor.
What the data shows here is that thriving communities rebuild, and often in a way that enhances the area and results in a better community. New buildings improve the area and are often built to better withstand acts of nature. “Some areas see a bump in growth from the rebuilding,” according to an article in the New York Times.
However, in poorer areas, most damage falls on the uninsured and rebuilding doesn’t take place. These areas may never fully recover.
Each storm and area has its’ own nuances. Was the damage mainly for flooding or wind? What percentage of the effected had insurance? How much damage occurred to the local industry, such as were oil refineries impacted? My short answer to a complex question is that in most cases, areas hit by hurricanes come out stronger in the long-run and so does our national economy.
For more information on this topic, read my Blog Post, “The Florida Keys 1 Year After Hurricane Irma.”
“Hurricanes make us poorer but don’t slow the economy” Florida Realtor, 9/26/18.
“Hurricane to Cost Tens of Billions, but a Quick Recovery Is Expected,” New York Times, 8/28/17.