Showing posts from 2011

Listing Prices Up....So What?

I recently was sent a notification from a Trulia blogger that blindly and breathlessly proclaimed that listing prices in our area are up significantly over last year. Big deal. Listing prices are meaningless as a measurement of the health of a real estate market.  If 5 canal front homes went on the market on the same street this year, but there were only non-canal front homes for sale the year before, then yes, listing prices probably went up.  Zillow in particular loves to use listing price data scraped from public websites to misinform the public about the health or weakness of real estate markets. The Sarasota and Bradenton real estate market is thankfully healthier than our neighbors to the north and south, but regurgitating misleading or irrelevant information will only scare potential buyers away from our area if these buyers feel there are other options based solely on price.

New content on

I've provided some new content on my real estate website,, to further assist buyers looking for property in my service area of Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties FL. First, I've added a "Best Deals" page, where I select 4 properties in 4 different categories that are important to home buyers in today's market:  best luxury, best new home community, best condo, and best income producing: Secondly, I've added a separate page for Bradenton FL condos, based on Google analytics showing buyers were conducting searches for this: Third, again based on analytics, I've added a page for beachfront condos from Anna Maria Island south to Englewood: You can also Make an Offer and Schedule a Showing

Article: Better neighborhood lowers obesity risk

Today I received my daily email from Florida Realtors Association which highlights news headlines for our industry. I was a bit surprised to find a link to an article that says obesity is higher in "bad" neighborhoods: I'm not surprised at the data.  What I am surprised about is FAR sending it to members.  I always see agents violating Fair Housing Law by giving opinions about "good" and "bad" neighborhoods, especially on Trulia forums.  By law, Realtors cannot give out any kind of opinion on neighborhoods, to prevent steering based on perceived racial or cultural issues. So, for FAR to promulgate this article on the effect of "bad" neighborhoods seems contradictory at best, since we are supposed to be racially and culturally neutral in providing services.  What do you think?

Sign of a Recovering Market?

Today I received a lead from my website asking for foreclosure listings. I was pretty shocked to see only 35 single family, 3 BR homes between $50-90K in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, the pricing sweet spot for potential investors.  You can see those properties in this link: This is a very low number considering North Port was the epicenter of our local market's real estate downturn.  I had clients looking at properties in this area last year, and there were a lot of newer homes with pools under $100K.  Now, the same kinds of newer homes in this price range come without pools. Get ready for multiple offers on value-priced properties this season.  I've just been through two this week alone.  The market does seem to be recovering.

Should You Hire a Short Sale Negotiator?

More and more, I believe the answer is NO. If you are considering a short sale, you are likely already in financial stress.  You don't have to pay money to a title company or real estate attorney to handle your short sale for you. The short sale negotiation industry grew out of the need for real estate title companies and attorneys to increase their income as a result of the real estate downturn.  Sharply reduced sales meant sharply reduced revenue.  To make up for this, title companies and real estate attorneys marketed their services to homeowners and real estate agents. The services were marketed to include the mundane tasks most real estate agents can't or won't undertake, including collecting the seller's financial information, disclosures, and keeping constant contact (supposedly daily) with the seller's lender to push the transaction to the head of the line with the lender, who is likely overwhelmed with the volume of short sales and foreclosures. The

Showing Services

I've been showing a lot of properties to buyers this summer.  This is not an easy job, as it requires logistics, market knowledge, and planning, to satisfy the needs of your buyer and maximize the use of their time. There's one company, Centralized Showings, that makes this job even more difficult.  As a real estate agent, we are required to use so many passwords and security codes to log in to MLS, retrieve phone messages, emails, etc, that another code to remember is unnecessary and not customer focused. So why is Centralized Showings making us provide a "showing code" when we call to schedule an appointment?  Shouldn't they be able to look us up in their system, ask us for a license number (we all should know ours by heart), or something just a little more user friendly than making us jump through their hoop?  It's really to the point where if I have multiple options and limited time with a buyer, I will not show a property if I have to call Centralized

JD Power Survey 2011 Home Buyer/Home Seller Study

The release of this study was timed perfectly to dovetail with my last blog post, franchises versus independents. This study meaures customer satisfaction of only the largest national franchises.  What is interesting is that the most influential component of home buyer satisfaction in this study is satisfaction with the real estate agent/salesperson.  Among home seller, agent/salesperson and marketing factors declined.  The study cites that many real estate companies have made cutbacks in additional services and offices during recent years. This study directly supports my position that the key to a successful transaction for buyers or sellers is not necessarily connected to a large franchise, but through the choice of a competent agent who can skillfully manage the details in today's market to a successful close and sale. Read more about the study:

Franchises versus Independents

As you may know from previous posts, I am very skeptical about the value of NAR membership.  In the July issue of Realtor Magazine, they performed an analysis of Realtors from the May 2010 Membership Profile.  The NAR position is that franchise brands, such as Re/Max and Century 21, have branding power, and therefore a marketing edge over independent brokers and offices.  They also noted that in November of 2010, NAR proposed a change to MLS policy which would let franchise offices tie their MLS feeds together into a national MLS listing service.  Of course, NAR didn't anticipate that independent real estate companies would see this as favoritism. NAR leads us to believe that most Realtors belong to franchises, but the reality is that, in their own article 54% of Realtor members reported they worked for a franchise.  Hardly a landslide. The fact is, also supported by this article, that national franchises are losing offices and members due to high fees and low return on investm

Now Big Government Wants More Fingers in the Real Estate Pie

Just when we haven't recuperated from Big Government insisting private enterprise provide housing through low interest mortgages for unqualified home buyers back in 2005 and 2006, causing the real estate bust, we now have this article from the Wall Street Journal: "Government Considers Ways to Rent Foreclosed Homes": So what new bureaucracy is Big Government going to erect to administer this?  Aren't we paying enough dues to NAR lobbyists to have them nip this idea in the bud? The government needs to stay out of the real estate business and let market forces work for consumers.

New on

I've added more unique content to my real estate website, . I have personally rated over 50 areas and neighborhoods in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties on 5 separate categories:  beaches, boating, accessibility, value, and amenities.  This is a first for a Sarasota real estate website. I'm always looking to provide information that buyers search for when investigating Sarasota real estate.  After all, a well-informed customer is the best customer! See this new feature in action by visiting .

The Added Value of NAR?

I just received this month's Realtor Magazine.  Predictably, the letter from the Editor is a plea for support for NAR and it's efforts to increase dues to fend off the banks and to lobby to keep the mortgage deduction.  Supposedly, the NAR is providing us all this added value in the form of government activism,, and this fantastic resource, Realtor Magazine. I'll tackle another day, but the Realtor Magazine is a real gem. On page 18, under Sales and Marketing, the article titled "4 Ways to Perk Up the Open House" is a real winner.  One suggestion is to change the time and day.  One Realtor in California suggests "twilight" Open Houses, to attract buyers after work.  That's a great idea, I can't think of one other thing I'd rather do after a full day of work. Another is to pick a theme, like a block party with an open pit BBQ, popcorn and champagne according to a Realtor in Baltimore.  So the house is open to

Time to Boycott NAR

It's not just Obama wildly spending money and driving us off a cliff. Now the National Association of Realtors wants to raise our dues by 50% to fund lobbying for the Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative (RPPSI). I have two simple things to say about this. 1)  Get politics out of real estate.  You can't spend my money on candidates I don't support.  2)  Get big government out of real estate.  As NAR says, all real estate is local.  Let us handle our real estate issues at the local and state level. It's time to start thinking boycott of NAR if this continues.  Who else is in?

Woo Hoo! Florida Open House Weekend is Coming!

As a regular reader of this blog you know that I often like to poke at the status quo and old-school thinking that pervades so much of the real estate business. Nothing exhibits as much old-school thinking as the breathlessly touted Florida Open House Weekend coming up on March 26 and 27. According to the Sarasota Association of Realtors:  "More than 50,000 blue balloons featuring the Realtor logo will be flying over  mailboxes from Sarasota to Jacksonville.  The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is offering a special advertising package for the event". In this age of technology, is the best our realtor association can come up with is hanging balloons on mailboxes?  And to add insult to injury, the cash-strapped Herald-Tribune, which has seen real estate classified and display advertising shrink to all time lows, is seeking to find any way to tap Realtor's pockets for advertising dollars. Has anyone outside the business seen any advertising for this?  I haven't. It

New content on

I have now included a "Just Reduced" page on my real estate website, . The page ( see it here ) includes results from our MLS, sorted by lowest price first, on properties that have had a price change within the past day.  The results posted include properties from Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties.  I will be updating this daily. Everybody out there is looking for a great deal.  This is a useful way to identify properties that likely are the most motivated to sell. In addition to the " Just Reduced " content, I've beefed up my contact page as well.  Here I provide an array of easy to use options to connect to me from North America and the rest of the world, using Google Voice, Skype, a live chat feature, QR codes from your mobile phone, my own mobile real estate app, and good old fashioned email.  I will be adding Go To Meeting in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. Easy communication with buyers from around the world

Follow up to Pig/Lipstick post

Recently I posted my take on an overly optimistic read on the economy and real estate market from the area's "luxury leader". The Florida Association of Realtors posted an AP story about the latest market figures.   You can read it here: The AP story confirms my sense of where we are in the market cycle:  hovering near bottom and struggling to climb out. As I blogged earlier, putting an overly optimistic spin on apparent "seasonal visitors" out and about in our area is a less than scientific measure of future prices or activity.  This type of advice results in overpriced listings, which result in drastic price reductions in our MLS and increased time on the market. The buyer mentality is still "I want to buy, but only if I feel I'm getting the best deal".  When working with buyers, I show them the price history of properties.  In their current mind set, continual  price reductions means the seller is getting desperate

A Ridiculous Florida Association of Realtors Article

I always get a kick out of reading some of our industry publications and newsletters. Obviously, the Florida Association of Realtors is struggling to find material to feed it's members and the public when there's nothing to write about.  So they picked "curb appeal" as the topic of one email blast.  Usually these press releases are yawn-worthy at best, but this one made me chuckle. "Still, Marilou Buffum of Eichler & Moffly, Realtors in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, who concentrates on Northwest Philadelphia properties, cautioned that curb appeal “depends upon what a buyer is looking for.” " Pure gold. How about this quote: " "If you have an urban-oriented buyer, a house with a lovely lawn isn’t high on the list,” Buffum said."  I learned something with this one.  I guess I'm making a mistake showing a townhouse or condo with a lawn in an urban neighborhood.   Who knew?  And where are these condos with lawns?

Lakewood Ranch partners with Microsoft

I just ran across some interesting video on Fox News about Lakewood Ranch.  The story is about how Lakewood Ranch is employing color-coded tags on businesses to give smart-phone users more information, online coupons, etc.  Sounds nice, but as usual, there's more to the story. Smart tags are not new.  In fact, I've been using them on my website, , for months, as well as here on my blog.  They are called QR codes, which stands for Quick Response, and they are being used worldwide.  QR codes work with mobile phones on any operating system, Mac or Android.  Even better, the app to read the tags is free, and many websites provide free QR code generators. The QR codes are black and white, meaning you don't need a special printer to make them, and you can print them right in your existing laser printer to apply to outdoor signs, banners, and in my case, my car.  They also are faxable. I use QR codes on yard signs to direct potential buyers

Sarasota Real Estate: It's Still a Pig...

Sarasota Real Estate: It's Still a Pig...

It's Still a Pig...

...even if you put on the rosiest lipstick. That's what I recently was treated to in a recent email newsletter from our area's self-appointed luxury real estate leader. We are in high season here in Sarasota, as snowbirds flock south to escape arctic blasts.  "I've rarely seen more visitors out and about; happily soaking-up our sunshine by day and our culture and cuisine by night", gushes the broker.  They then further expound on the predicted boom times to come:  " After one of the worst recessions in history, consumers are finally noticing the first real signs of relief. Economic growth is accelerating, discretionary spending is up considerably; and consumer confidence is at an eight-month high as the outlook for jobs brightens." Really? Following another link in this same email newsletter, January 2011 versus January 2010 sales were trumpeted as further evidence of the market turn-around and happy times to come for the real estate business.  I

Taking on Zillow, Part 2

I've posted here earlier about Zillow and how they present misinformation to home buyers and sellers. This morning I was reading a real estate news article about the market nationally, and they quote Zillow as an "expert source".  So I started wondering, where exactly do they get their data? According to Zillow:  "Our data on and appreciation for these reports is based on the Zillow Home Value Index - a valuation index calculated as the median value (Zestimate) of all homes in a particular geographic area. At the national level , this data is then weighted according to population in each area".  That's interesting, since real estate is decidedly a factor of local economics and geographic specifics such as beaches and climate.  Ponder why, if Zillow's methodology is correct, Port Charlotte and Sarasota don't have the same housing prices, since we are geographically similar. In fact, Zillow contradicts themselves as you dig further into the FAQ

New content on

I just added a rental page to my website, . I included condo and single-family rental property in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties, listed from least to most expensive. If you have any questions about rental properties please contact me.

Real Estate in the Museum Area of Sarasota FL

The Ringling Museum is one of the Sarasota area's most well known and recognizable landmarks.  What you may not know is that the neighborhoods surrounding the Ringling Museum are some of Sarasota's most eclectic places to live. The Museum Area is generally defined as west of Tamiami Trail, stretching from an enclave called The Uplands, south past New School to Whittaker Bayou, just north of downtown Sarasota. The Museum Area is home to a wide variety of properties.  Here you can find starter homes with old Florida charm and architectural detail starting in the mid $100's, ranging to bayfront estates with prices well over $1 million.  A popular area for investors, the housing inventory here offers opportunities for rental to nearby Ringling School of Art and New School students, especially as these schools increase enrollment.  Starter homes with old Florida charm like this home can be found in the Museum Area   Newer homes on Sarasota Bay can be fo

Siesta Key Real Estate

Siesta Key is one of the most popular areas in Sarasota to visit with it's world-famous white sugar sand beach and azure clear waters.  It also happens to be a great place to live or buy investment property. Investment Opportunities There are only a handful of hotels on Siesta Key.  Most vacationers opt to rent a fully furnished condo. The most popular rental condos have an on-site property manager, which handles reservations and unit cleaning and maintenance for guests, much like a hotel.  Investors can achieve positive cash flow with units with liberal rental restrictions.  The best investments are those that rent weekly or even daily.  Some will pay utility bills and condo fees out of rental revenue.  Expect a typical in-season beachside (not necessarily right on the beach) can rent for upwards of $5000 per month.  Off season during our summer and fall months, we get vacationers from the Tampa and Orlando areas, so the rental market remains active throughout the year.  Sa

West of Trail in Sarasota

It's easy to forget as a long-time Sarasota resident that terms like "West of Trail" may be foreign to out of towners, especially those looking for real estate. West of Trail technically is any area in Sarasota, Manatee, or Charlotte Counties that is west of Hwy 41 (Tamiami Trail).  In the Sarasota area, locals inside and outside the business, when referring to "West of Trail", usually are referring to the area south of Mound, stretching south to Field Road and the Oyster Bay Estates neighborhood.  The west of Trail area north of downtown Sarasota is better known locally as the Museum Area, since that area's most prominent landmark is the Ringling Museum. The West of Trail area I describe ranks among one of Sarasota's most prestigious areas for residential real estate.  Neighborhoods here include Harbor Acres, Cherokee Park, McClellan Park, San Remo, and the aforementioned Oyster Bay Estates. I have devoted a page on my website with MLS listings

When Agents Don't Disclose

A lot of Realtor Associations are good ol' boy clubs, and I think Sarasota Association of Realtors sometimes falls in this category.  In this type of atmosphere, the members, in my opinion, seek to go along to get along.  I don't subscribe to this philosophy, especially when less than scrupulous behavior is involved, whether legal or not. Here's a case in point.  Today, a Broker/Owner, a member of the Trulia online Realtor community, posted a question:  "What is your favorite Sarasota webcam?".  You can see the thread on their website with this link: . I won't get into the ins and outs and whims of how Trulia polices their online community. What irked me was that the Broker owns the Sarasota webcam website, and used the forum to seek to increase traffic to the website, where he also has a large banner ad for his real estate website, at his collegues' expense.  So what, you may ask? In our business, we are told to disclose, dis

Market Update: Foreclosure Inventory

I just updated my website, , with my exclusive market inventory meter.  It's starting to look like foreclosure inventory in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties is slowly but steadily shrinking, with only 1,052 single family and condo properties for sale, while the overall inventory is steadily increasing.  What's going on? We are in our busiest real estate season, as buyers take advantage of a warmer climate to vacation and buy property.  These buyers are snapping up foreclosure properties right now faster than the banks are releasing inventory into the market, hence the short term drop in inventory.  If you are planning a trip here to buy real estate in the coming weeks, more than ever you should be prepared with your financing documentation and expect to be in multiple-offer situations on foreclosures. Home sellers also know this is the best time of year to find a buyer, so we are seeing more traditional sales come on the market.  I

When the Emails Stop

I am no longer getting email updates from our "luxury leader" on price reductions.  I used to get several emails a day, which I never really understood.  It resulted in them showcasing in a shocking way, how wrong they were about their original listing price, and how much they have now lowered the price of their listings. At one point, I calculated they had reduced prices by $10 million dollars in a week, and that was just for the property emails I had received.  One particular property which sticks in my memory was on Siesta Key that underwent a $1 million price reduction, which still is not sold. Can you, or anyone in this market, afford to make a $1 million mistake?  "Biggest" isn't always best.  I guess someone over there figured out these emails didn't make them look especially expert at market analysis.

Herald Tribune Puffery Again?

I've heard a lot of people complain that the Herald Tribune was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the real estate boom and bust.   The real estate market, much like the stock market, reacts to consumer moods. So this weekend the H/T posts a story about Lakewood Ranch's seeming real estate revival.   According to their real estate "expert" Harold Bubil, there were 250 contracts signed to build new construction in LWR in 2010.  Really?  I don't buy it. What's really going on in Lakewood Ranch?  On my website, I have posted real estate sales data for Lakewood Ranch for the past 4 years.  The number of sold units (both single family and condo) was flat, and while the average sales price increased, the average sold price per square foot decreased in 2010 versus 2009.  Average days on market went from 217 in 2009 to 203 in 2010, not exactly an indication of a reviving market.  Price per square foot likely dropped because there were more high-end properties s

Marketable Title vs Insurable Title

Title claims in the current foreclosure market, such as the Bank of America/Countrywide issue, make this topic interesting for both Realtors and real estate consumers.  Lenders are more frequently looking for marketable title on properties, especially foreclosures, prior to closing. Sales contracts generally require the seller to convey a marketable title to the purchaser. A lender will generally require the title to the property securing the loan to be marketable.  Insurable title may come with a host of defects.  However, despite these defects, a title insurance underwriter weighs the risks involved and allows the title agent to issue a title policy even though there may be blemishes and potential problems down the road.  Ironically, should the value of the property increase dramatically, the buyer is only protected to the extent of the original purchase price. In contrast, marketable title is a title that is clean, has no defects that will come up again in a future title exami

Sarasota Real Estate Statistics

Have you ever seen real estate statistics on Zillow, Trulia, Realty Trac, or our area's "luxury leader", and wondered, "What the hell does all that gibberish mean?". I decided it was time to put together meaningful data that real estate consumers can understand, and that relates to their needs when searching for and evaluating property. I put together real estate statistics for the past four years for areas in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Manatee Counties that correspond to my neighborhood maps .  There you can see average sales prices, price per square foot, number of units sold, average time on the market, and list price to sales price ratio.  These are for single family homes only. Why did I pick these metrics?  I approached this as I would a CMA, or as a real estate or mortgage appraiser would, by looking at values to determine trends and prices.  Time on the market and LP/SP ratio are excellent indicators of a firm or soft market, and the data I compile

Serving long distance clients

I love using technology to provide services to my clients.  Today is a good example.  I worked with a couple from out of state during their visit to our area over the Christmas holidays.  Unfortunately, we did not get a home under contract during their time here, but we developed an excellent rapport and I gained a thorough understanding of their real estate needs. Today, I'll be heading to North Port to do a Virtual Walk-Through of a home that is newly listed for sale.  The buyers already know and like this area quite well thanks to their visit.  By providing them a video of a home for sale, they don't have to physically be here to see a property.  I post raw video of the home, filmed as I'm walking through it, and post a link to the video on my web domain, which I can email to my clients.  All they have to do is click the link and watch the video. According to a NAR study, 74% of buyers look for real estate video, but less than 1% of Realtors provide it (and I think i

New feature on

I recently added some new information to my real estate website, , that I hope buyers and sellers will find useful. On my home page, MLS search page , and foreclosure search page , you will find an inventory meter showing the total number of available listings in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties.  You will see actual numbers of units available, with a trend indicator showing if the inventory has grown or shrunk appreciably since the last update.  I plan on updating this weekly. An educated consumer is the best consumer, and it's important to let show how available property inventory levels can affect pricing and buying strategies in the current market.  I believe this is a one-of-a-kind feature among real estate agents in my market area. This, combined with my Just Listed and Open House pages, and numerous interactive maps, make one of the Sarasota area's most informative and innovative real estate websites.