Friday, February 28, 2014

Update: Florida Home Finders of Canada

I wrote a blog post about this company almost 2 years ago, so it's time for an update.

Their website still says they offer condos for sale in Florida.  This company is not a registered Florida real estate broker.  It is therefore impossible for them to list and sell real estate in Florida.

Their website lists "Value Properties" in different markets in Florida.  Since my original blog post about them, they are still marketing condos at Vintage Grand as "developer sell offs".  Vintage Grand was built in 1989.  The developer is long gone.

They list two other condo communities in my service area of Sarasota and Bradenton, both of which they say are "sold out".

One of these supposed "sold out" communities is Serenata.  Serenata had and may still have legal issues involving the original builder and the condition/warranty of the roofs and getting them to make repairs.  This is something you would never find out on the Florida Home Finders website.  As with Vintage Grand, there is no "developer sell off".  All the units are now re-sales from individual owners, and the community has 4 units for sale in the MLS as of this writing.

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Available for sale: 4 condos in Serenata $95-$155k as of 2/28/2014

How does Florida Home Finders do what they do?  My guess is they collect potential buyers in a large room, gather your personal information, and sell it to local agents in Florida.

It's not necessarily illegal, but don't you want to select your own real estate agent?  In the meantime, to learn about potential issues that affect you as a buyer (Canadian or not), here are some pages on my real estate website that will help:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Washer/Dryer in Sarasota Beach Front Condos

Is having a washer and dryer in your own vacation condo unit at one of the beaches in the Sarasota area an important criteria in your property search?

Most vacation condos for sale at our area beaches do not offer units with washer/dryer hook ups.  Some condo owners have taken over closet space to cram a stacked unit in, but there can be drawbacks to this.  You need an outside wall for ventilation, and proximity to a plumbing source.

You will likely have to get condo approval to make alterations to the outside of the building to put in the dryer vent, but the good news is that other unit owners may have already gone through the process, so it's not impossible.

There are ventless dryers, but that hot humid air has to go somewhere, and Florida already has a lot of hot humid air that your HVAC is continually working to remove.

Plan on a suitable space for a stacked system of at least 30" wide, 32" deep, and 75" high.  Think old pantry cabinet in a kitchen, or a linen closet in a hallway near a bathroom.

GE 26.8-in Electric Combination Washer and Dryer (White)
Stackable GE washer from Lowe's $1,259

These stacked units are not inexpensive, and neither is the labor cost.  You probably should plan on a total expenditure north of $5,000 if you want to add a washer/dryer to your vacation condo.

As with all things there are alternatives to this type of solution.  There are "all in one" washer/dryer combos that take up the space of a dishwasher, but they do not dry clothes like a typical full-size dryer.  

Whitney Design 5 Line Retractable Mini Dryer
Retractable clothes line from

A company called Panda makes all kinds of mini washers and dryers that fit on a countertop or a rolling utility table.  None require dedicated plumbing or ventilation.  They don't wash heavy loads, but since you're at the beach on vacation, all you really need to wash are t-shirts, shorts, etc.

Panda  Small Mini Dryer-5.5lbs/2.5kg Compact Apartment Dryer Pan725sf New
Panda mini clothes dryer

Your choices for vacation condos with washers and dryers just increased with these innovative clothing care solutions.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reduced Priced Homes in Sarasota

Every day I update my real estate website with the day's reduced priced homes, condos, townhomes and villas.

Price reductions are a good indication of a motivated seller, and many times, a home with a price reduction that may not have previously fit your budget may end up being the right home for you.  It may also mean an income producing property is a lot more attractive.

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Anna Maria Island duplex with pool reduced from $439,000 to $419,000

Bookmark my page for reduced price homes in the Sarasota area:!price-reduction-sarasota/c1h1

Monday, February 24, 2014

Update: Bradenton's Historic River District

A few weeks back I blogged about Bradenton's historic River District and some of the incredible homes to be found there.

In working with several home buyers to locate property in our low-inventory market, I have been relying more and more on the charm and proximity to Anna Maria Island beaches that the River District offers.

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Riverview Blvd home for sale $525,000

I have now added a special page on my real estate website for homes for sale in the River District:!bradenton-river-district/ca0a 

If you are looking for unique homes in a mature tropical setting, close to downtown amenities and local beaches, Bradenton's River District is a perfect option.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sarasota Real Estate Best Deals

I periodically update my real estate website with a best deals page.

I personally pick homes that are good values for owner occupants or for investors looking for a combination of cash flow and future appreciation potential.

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Newer home in Bradenton minutes to Anna Maria Island

The current group of best deal picks includes a starter home near Stickney Point bridge, a spacious home in Bradenton minutes to Anna Maria Island beaches, a canal front pool home listed for half what it sold for in 2005, and a single family home within walking distance to Manasota Key beach in Englewood.

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Canal-front home in Englewood
View my picks on my website:!best-deals-sarasota/c142p

Monday, February 17, 2014

For Sale by Owner Sarasota

The topic of for sale by owner, of FSBO, deserves an update in terms of how owners who try to sell their homes themselves in today's market face a lot of issues they may not be able to handle themselves.

1) Property valuation:  A lot of people think Zillow and Trulia are the authoritative word when it comes to real estate values.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In Sarasota, Zillow overvalues the median sales price of single family homes, compared to the MLS.  Read more here on my real estate website:

2) Showings:  In the Sarasota area, most buyers come from out of town and those buyers select a local agent to represent them.  Are you willing to work with a real estate agent representing a buyer?  Will you be available to show the home when the buyer is available?  If you want to sell your home on your own, you have to be flexible to accommodate the buyer's schedule, who often has limited time to tour properties during their visit.

3) Inspections:  Do you know what a 4-point insurance inspection is?  Did you know that if any of the systems inspected does not pass insurance requirements, a buyer cannot get a mortgage?  What happens to your contract if the buyer can't get insurance?

4) Insurance:  Are you in a flood zone?  Are you aware of the increases in flood insurance premiums and how they affect a buyer getting a mortgage?  Do you have contacts in the insurance industry that offer flood insurance for less than federally-backed programs?  What happens to your contract if the mortgage, homeowner's insurance, and flood insurance expense puts the buyer's debt to income ratio above what their lender will approve?

5) Results:  According to NAR, homes sold by owner sell at an average of 10% less than homes sold by Realtors.  90% of FSBO's said they would hire a Realtor the next time they sold a home.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Buyer's Agent is Indispensable

Touring several properties today in Sarasota with out of town buyers presented a perfect case study in how an experienced buyer's agent is indispensable.

Despite the variety of real estate sites and online tools to assist buyers, nothing replaces the local knowledge of a Realtor.  The buyers I was with today had a good general knowledge of the area and selected a few properties to tour.  I threw in a few suggestions, based on experience, to the tour list for properties in communities the buyers were not aware of.

It's one thing to look at photos, square footage, and price, from a website, but this alone does not convey the "feel" of the community.  The customers I was with today were very satisfied that the property suggestions I had made resulted in an afternoon well spent.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving Real Estate on Valentine's Day

I read a rather frivolous article in the Manatee Herald about how adding the word "love" in real estate advertising copy helps to sell homes by creating an emotional response in the potential buyer.  The article actually ended up making another point about the difference in marketing philosophy between real estate brokers.

You can read the article here:

For example, a description in a listing in the MLS remarks, such as "you'll love the gourmet kitchen" always makes me think from the buyer's perspective that kitchens are such a personal statement about the home owner, many buyers may not actually love all that mosaic tile or particular coloring of the granite countertops.  I try to avoid using the term all together.

The NAR survey of home buyers and sellers shows that buyers first and foremost want pictures of the property online.  They are comparing features and prices and neighborhoods.  They aren't "in love" with a property until they see it in person.

But the real nugget I pulled out of this article is that a major broker has hired marketing minions to write advertising copy for homes they have never set foot in.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Sarasota Neighborhood "Specialist"

The topic of the neighborhood specialist is always a cause for debate on real estate websites and blogs.

Old school thinking holds that a Realtor who is a neighborhood specialist is the best choice for home buyers and sellers when selecting an agent. I couldn't disagree more.

I act primarily as a buyer's agent and I cover a 3-county area on the Gulf Coast of Florida, including Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties.

Right now I am working with buyers from out of state who have vacationed on a certain barrier island and are ready to purchase a vacation condo.  The market is very active and the shrinking inventory of condos is rapidly pricing these buyers out of the market based on their budget.  After showing these buyers the available options, they are uncomfortable with the compromises they would have to make.

Would a typical "neighborhood specialist" have the experience or knowledge to compare different areas and suggest alternatives?  Not likely.  I have found the "neighborhood specialist" rarely ventures outside their own comfortable geographic area.  Because I have experience serving buyers and sellers in a wide area, I will be showing these buyers some better options in areas they had not considered.

Stay tuned for an update later this week.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Is it a "Good" Neighborhood?

I'm a member of the Trulia Voices community, where home buyers and sellers go to ask local real estate agents for advice.

One question that always comes up is the "good neighborhood" question.

Home buyers from out of town understandably want to know about neighborhood crime and safety.  Unfortunately, Realtors cannot answer these types of questions.

It is a violation of Federal real estate law to give opinions on neighborhood crime, safety, demographic composition, etc.  Take note of the word "opinion".  Everyone has a different opinion of what is good and bad, safe or unsafe.  The law prohibits agents from giving opinions that would steer home buyers into or away from a particular neighborhood.

If you are with an agent and they tell you a subdivision is great for families, they are violating this law.  They could be perceived as steering only families into a certain area, at the exclusion of singles or older empty nesters.

The best agents practice the basics of real estate every single day with every customer.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sarasota's Celery Fields

If you've ever driven on I-75 and wondered what that huge pile of dirt is just to the east of the interstate, now you know.  It's the Celery Fields.

The Celery Fields just east of I-75 and Fruitville Rd.

The area has an agricultural history dating back to the 1920's, when the rich soil accommodated all kinds of vegetables, most noticeably celery.  It was actively farmed until the mid 90's, when Sarasota County acquired the last remaining individual farm parcels.  The County has completed the restoration of this wetlands area and it's now home to over 200 native bird species.

A view from the top of Sarasota's Celery Fields park

Walkways and bike paths ring the site, and hiking and walking trails to the top of the landmark hill make for an excellent hike.  Read more about the history of the Celery Fields on Sarasota's Audubon website: 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Discover Anna Maria Island

Popular with Europeans and well known by the locals, it's surprising that many home buyers who ask me about beach homes in the Sarasota area are not very familiar with Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria Island (locally referred to as AMI) is a barrier island north of Longboat Key in Manatee County.  There are three towns on the island:  the town of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.

Anna Maria Island beaches rival those of Siesta Key in color and texture.  Unlike Siesta Key, however, Anna Maria is not lined with mid and high rise condo buildings.  Anna Maria and Holmes Beach have quaint shopping districts that give these communities a laid back vibe.  You can even ride the free trolley to get around without a car.  Even better, the island is fairly narrow. The beaches are just a short walk from the bay side of the island.
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Renovated home in Holmes Beach for sale $669,000
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Anna Maria cottage for sale $364,500
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New home in Holmes Beach for sale $1,195,000

Demand on Anna Maria is very high and the inventory of homes and condos is the smallest it's been for years.  You can view AMI homes for sale on my website:!anna-maria/c7hl

If you're interested in the Anna Maria lifestyle, please contact me to arrange a home tour.

Selling Your Home? You Need Worldwide Reach

I had a listing appointment over the weekend.  The home owner asked me how buyers would find his home online.  The misconception is that only large brokerages have the ability to reach potential buyers online.

The fact is that all brokerages that belong to the Mid Florida MLS have the ability to post homes for sale on over 60 real estate related websites.  In our business it's called listing syndication.  When your home goes for sale on the MLS, it is automatically listed on other major sites like Zillow, Trulia, Yahoo Real Estate, and more.

But there's more to the story.  Individual agents can compete effectively online.

I showed the homeowner how my real estate website,, was visited by people from 70 countries in the past month.  Here's the map: was visited by potential Sarasota home buyers in 70 countries in the last 30 days

Part of my success in generating online interest in properties includes real video walk-throughs of homes for sale, posted on YouTube, as well as full featured photo slide shows.  When you're ready to sell, put my online marketing expertise to work.