Showing posts from 2012

Sarasota MLS Search on Mobile Devices

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I just created a stripped down Sarasota MLS search page on my site, designed for easier navigation on a tablet device or a mobile phone, which you can view here: I also have a mobile app for the iPad, which you can download here:

More News on Shrinking Home Inventory

As a follow up to my blog post yesterday, I received this article from Inman News in my inbox this morning. The indicators continue to show that demand will put price pressure on home prices nationally.  This is already the case here in the Sarasota area and the state of Florida as well. If you're serious about getting in the Sarasota real estate market, you can still take advantages of relatively low prices compared to the height of our market back in 2005 and 2006. This leads me to think about what Zillow and Trulia are telling buyers about prices in local markets.  Read my update on my debunking Zillow page on my website.

Florida Housing Shortage Holds True in Sarasota

I know this may come as a shock to many potential Sarasota real estate buyers, especially those from Canada.  Here's the bad news: we are experiencing the beginning of a shortage in real estate listings and available housing.  Read more here  about Tampa Bay and the Sarasota area, and here about South Florida and the Miami area. About a year and a half ago, we had well over 1500 bank owned foreclosure listings for sale in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties.  As of this writing, there are a total of 521. I could give a lot of statistics about how many months inventory of homes we have now versus a year ago, but in the real world, working with buyers, the situation is frustrating.  The hot properties are receiving multiple offers, from first time buyers and real estate investors looking to get into the market now.  Cash buyers are beating out those that are getting a mortgage. We haven't quite experienced the full swing to a seller's market.  Buyers seem

Appearing on the First Page of Google Search

My real estate website,, has been a popular destination for buyers and sellers of Sarasota real estate for over 10 years.  Unfortunately, because of this I get frequent calls from SEO sales people telling me I could be doing better with Google search results.  They say my site should appear in organic search (the unpaid links) more frequently on the first page of results. One of these recent calls, combined with an equally recent Google consultation, really distilled the issues facing individual real estate agents trying to promote their websites. Devoting resources to SEO is a mistake, in my humble opinion.  Google has recently implemented a lot of changes on how it ranks sites (search for "Google Panda update"), and a lot of SEO tactics are no longer effective.  Google's changes favor sites with original content (like that provide the information being searched for. The first page results on Google for real estate in any loc

New Listing: 6218 Coyote Ridge Ct in University Park FL

I've just listed 6218 Coyote Ridge Ct in University Park, FL for sale.  You can view it on This spacious home is listed for $429,900.  With 2,626 sq ft, it has 3BR plus a den/office or 4th bedroom, diagonal ceramic tile floors in the living areas, like new carpet, volume ceilings, a 3-car garage and a screened pool. The home was a seasonal residence for it's only owners.  Move in ready. Please contact me to schedule an appointment to view it in person.

Under Contract: 3505 45th W Ter in Bradenton

I've been really busy lately and unfortunately neglected my blog, but I wanted to post an update and relate some things about my real estate philosophy and services that most home sellers will find beneficial. I was contacted a while ago by a foreign seller in France to list and sell their condo in Lakeside Village Townhomes in Bradenton.  After coordinating a thorough cleaning of the unit to make it presentable to be shown, we successfully negotiated a contract and are in the final phases of satisfying the home inspection contingency. During the listing process, several agents called me to ask how negotiable the seller was, and "would they take a price of X amount?". This is sloppy practice for a buyer's agent.  First of all, a good agent knows when they are dealing with an unreasonable buyer and works to educate them on the market.  Second of all, a good listing agent knows the comparable sales as well as the comparable neighborhoods or condo communities.  I

New Content on Owner Financing

Inspired by a potential client, I just added a new page to my real estate website,, with listings for properties offering owner financing. This may well be the only Sarasota area real estate website with owner financing properties easily searchable in one place. The properties are listed in ascending order of price, and include single family, condo, and townhome styles.  You can search by specific area and price here:

Real Estate's Dirty Word

Yesterday I drove by a real estate office that had a sign in front that really struck me as being out of the Stone Age.  The sign said "We're open and selling like crazy". For some reason that sign really rubbed me the wrong way.  Were they selling homes or used cars? I've been in the sales (I prefer to call it marketing) profession in general for over 25 years.  But I've never ever introduced myself as a "salesperson" or as being "in sales".  In my opinion , variations of the word sell are words to avoid in real estate.  No matter the age of a potential consumer, no one wants to be sold. Consumers want to be educated, presented with options and potential outcomes, and then want to come to their own conclusions without the presssure that selling connotes.  This applies to both home owners and home buyers, when working with real estate professionals. Any licensed Realtor can call themselves a "top producer" (aka salesperson or

Sarasota Short Sales for Buyers

I have a full explanation of how short sales work for buyers of Sarasota real estate on my website, One of the finer points of short sales deserve a more in-depth analysis, namely, the presence of a short sale negotiator in the purchase process. A short sale negotiator can be either a licensed real estate attorney or a title agent, hired by the seller to work with their lender.  The property owner most often pays an upfront fee to their negotiator to begin the process of gathering necessary documentation to present to their lender.  They advocate on behalf of the seller by getting the lender to accept the sale of the property at current market value. Another key role of the short sale negotiator is obtaining a reduction in past due fees to a HOA or condo association is central to a successful short sale. Short sale negotiators do provide a valuable service.  However, in almost every case, the short sale negotiator will submit some k

New on my YouTube Channel: Parkridge

Parkridge is a newer gated townhome community located near the intersection of University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge in Sarasota, FL. Parkridge is a favorite of real estate investors. Full time and seasonal residents love the resort-like feel of Parkridge, with heated community pool, lush landscaping, and tranquil lake and preserve views. Take a video tour of the complex, and see what a typical bank foreclosure unit looks like here on my YouTube channel: If you are interested in investment real estate in the Sarasota area, please visit my website for specific recommendations.

New Palmer Ranch Content on!

I just added a new feature to my Palmer Ranch page on There's a new map identifying single family home neighborhoods within Palmer Ranch.  You can click the map markers and go directly to currently available property listings from the MLS. The map feature is in addition to all single family home listings in Palmer Ranch, a slideshow tour of homes, and my exclusive Palmer Ranch Beach Meter showing distance to the closest beach, and the shortest route. I look forward to helping you with all your Palmer Ranch real estate needs.

Multiple Offer? What's a Good Offer?

We're fast approaching our high season, when real estate activity in the Sarasota area traditionally increases from the summer months. The increasing buyer demand for property, combined with shrinking inventory, means many buyers will likely be faced with a multiple offer situation, especially on aggressively-priced short sales and foreclosures. When this occurs, the owner's agent (private owner or a bank) will advise me as your buyer representative to present your highest and best offer.  Some banks, such as Bank of America, will require that you sign an acknowledgement that multiple offers have been received, and give you a deadline date for making your best offer. But what's a good offer when competing with other interested buyers? A good offer (highest and best) in the eyes of a bank or a property owner consists of these items: Highest offer price :  Think of the list price as a guide and try to dismiss your initial reaction to paying at or above list price. 

Market Knowledge: Lessons from the Field

I was working with some buyers over the past weekend who illustrated that expert real estate representation means more than just showing properties. These buyers initially had very specific criteria which significantly narrowed their choices.  One of these criteria included finding a home in a community that had a lap pool. Rather than simply showing these buyers only the types of homes they thought they wanted to see, I asked them questions and got to know what other options might satisfy their goals.  Because of my local market knowledge, I pointed out the benefits of a local YMCA, as well as a fitness facility operated by Sarasota Memorial Hospital, both of which the buyers discovered more than met their needs.  This significantly increased the buyer's potential housing options, and maximized the use of their time during their visit. Home buyers: If you are looking for an agent who can present you with a range of opportunities that will fit your goals, please contact m

Focus On: Palmer Ranch

Palmer Ranch always ranks high on buyer's wish lists because of it's proximity to Siesta Key, manicured landscape, and attractive gated communities. Here's a quick snapshot of what is happening in the Palmer Ranch real estate market from January 1 to August 7th, 2011 versus the same period in 2012.  These figures are for single family homes only: Units sold:   134 in 2012         96 in 2011 Median sold price:   $337,500  2012        $339,500  2011 Median sold price per sq ft:   $149.53  2012        $148.47  2011 List price to sold price ratio:   95% in 2012 and 2011 Days to close:   111 in 2012        134 in 2011 It appears that the real estate market in Palmer Ranch has stabilized nicely and activity has picked up significantly in 2012. You can view Palmer Ranch single family home listings and condo listings on with no sign up required.

Real Estate Online Marketing

I recently had a conversation about marketing a listing with a potential home seller.  The pertinent questions:  How do I distinguish myself from the large brokerages and how do I match their exposure? There's a common misconception that large brokerages get more exposure for their listings.  This is highly debatable.  Every member of our local MLS has equal access to what is known as real estate syndication.  Syndication puts the information we enter in the MLS on over 60 real estate websites. How do I distinguish myself from the large brokers or other agents?  The first example I point to is my real estate website, .  Without boring you with a lot of statistics, my website gets as high if not higher percentage of audience searching for specific popular keywords for real estate in our area as the biggest brokerage websites. If you are selling real estate in Lakewood Ranch, does it matter that a large brokerage is getting hundreds of thousands of views

Focus On: Lakewood Ranch

Lakewood Ranch real estate represents an illustrative microcosm of what is happening in our local real estate market. I took a look at all sales (single family and condo) for Lakewood Ranch year to date, and compared with the same period last year.  Here are the results: Year      #Units Sold      Median Sales Price    LP/SP Ratio     Days to Close     Sold $/Sq Ft 2012            213                 $265,000                     96%                  189                 $130.06 2011            279                 $260,000                     96%                  149                 $124.28 Clearly, the real estate market in Lakewood Ranch is recovering nicely.  The lower number of units sold is a result of fewer foreclosure properties on the market, while the increased days to close in 2012 is an indication of more short sales.  For buyers interested in Lakewood Ranch real estate, now is the time to get in the market. While this information is key for buyers and home sellers

Focus on: Anna Maria Island

If real estate on Anna Maria Island hasn't been on your short list of places to search, you're missing out! Compared with Siesta Key and Longboat Key, Anna Maria is relatively unknown but no less of a desirable destination for vacationers, seasonal, or full time residents. Real estate on Anna Maria is diverse, ranging from affordable condos under $200,000 (and selling fast), to multi-million dollar beachfront homes.  Rather than bore you with statistics, it may help your decision-making process to learn that property on Anna Maria is generally priced lower than Longboat Key or Siesta Key.  One major difference is that Anna Maria does not have a wall of high-rise beachfront condos, and has more of a laid-back atmosphere.  There's plenty of quirky bars, restaurants, shops and attractions to satisfy most. Anna Maria real estate seems dominated by three or four local brokerages.  I recently received a report from Google, which showed that my website ranked highest among

Investing in Sarasota: An Update from the Field

More and more Canadian real estate investors are finding my website, , and the advice I provide there , a valuable source of information before their visit to view properties in my service area of Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties. A recent buyer presented an illustrative example of what is currently happening in the real estate market, particularly for condos at the entry level price points under $100,000. Six months to a year ago, the choice for condos under $100,000 was quite easy.  Pick the newest ones that needed no work, and a long-distance buyer had an investment property ready to go for a tenant.  Today, the landscape has changed.  Those newer condo communities now have a dwindling inventory of units for sale, and those prices are increasing.  Combine this with a growing inventory of units for rent, and the previously obvious condo choices no longer make sense for many investors. What remains for condo buyers looking at entry-level price po

Sarasota Short Sale 2012 Statistics

It goes without saying that short sales are a subject of frustration for home buyers, sellers, and the real estate agents that serve them. One of the most frequent issues I see with buyers is the question of what kind of offer should they make; specifically, can or should a buyer make a low offer on a short sale, hoping to negotiate a better price? Recently, an article came out about lowball offers and their consequences, which you can read here: . I decided to take this article a step further and research what is actually happening in my real estate service area of Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte Counties.  Using MLS sold data, I examined the list price to sales price ratio for short sales.  I took this even further by examining this data by price range.  The data includes all short sales (single family homes, condos, etc.) from January 1 to June 30, 2012. The local data supported the article referenced above.  The sales price was uniformly in a narrow

Focus On: Bird Key

Bird Key real estate has been quite active in 2012. Year to date, 22 single family homes (all properties on Bird Key are single family) have sold. Median sales price is $1,145,000, selling at 93% list price to sales price ratio, and closing within 144 days.  So far this year, only one property was a distressed sale. Bird Key and Bird Key Yacht Club What's contributing to the activity on Bird Key?  First of all, there's the unmatched value of the location between downtown and St. Armand's Circle, as well as Lido Key beaches.  If you could have a waterfront luxury home with easy access to these areas, would you buy a condo downtown at a similar price point? Secondly, Bird Key prices are recovering.  In 2009, the median Bird Key sales price was $689,000 with 35 properties sold, 7 of those distressed properties.  In 2010, it was $899,999 with 29 properties sold, 4 of those distressed. Something interesting to note, which I have mentioned in other Focus On blog Outperforms Major Sarasota Broker Sites

Google Analytics is a fascinating and highly useful tool for evaluating a website's  performance in the online advertising universe. I started using Google Adwords over 10 years ago for my real estate website, , and experienced excellent results.  My goal then, as it remains now, is to create a website and online presence that could take on the largest competitors in our area.  A new feature I've been examining on Analytics gives me some extremely positive results to share in this regard. Google's Auction Insights provides a revealing snapshot of how keywords are performing versus other online advertisers.  I was pleased to find out that my keywords targeting some of the most popular neighborhoods and areas in Sarasota and Manatee Counties garnered a higher share of impressions (people who saw my advertisement) than major brokers. To me, this proves that a lone real estate agent can successfully take on even the largest competitors online when it c

Focus On: Casey Key

Casey Key is arguably the preeminent real estate destination in the Sarasota area.  What makes Casey Key so desirable are the gulf to bay estate-sized lots, private beachfront, and it's off-the-beaten-trail location between Sarasota and Venice.  If you are looking for privacy and exclusivity, Casey Key fits the bill. Casey Key FL To date in 2012, just 9 single family homes have sold on Casey Key.  Sold properties were on the market an average of 271 days with a median sales price of exactly $1.7 million. What jumps out at me from the data, as I outlined in a previous Focus On blog about another luxury neighborhood, Harbor Acres, is the list price to sales price ratio.  This is a very good indicator not only of the strength of the real estate market for a neighborhood, but also a good indicator of the ability of the listing broker to correctly price for the market. As with Harbor Acres, listings on Casey Key are dominated by our area's "luxury" broker.  Thi

New content on

I've been making some additions to my real estate website, , that buyers interested in purchasing Sarasota real estate will find useful. It's frustrating enough finding homeowner's property insurance information on insurance websites, so I created a new page addressing the most common concerns in the Sarasota area, which you can read here: .  I cover a lot of topics from wind mitigation to flood insurance. Sarasota FL home buyers will also find my content on the buying process very informative.  My exclusive Beach Meter , included for the 39 neighborhoods and major areas I profile on, have been enhanced with links to Bing Maps, showing not only the driving time and distance to the nearest beach, but the actual route as well. Many home buyers may not be aware of what CDD fees are or how they impact your purchase and ownership of a home or condo.  You can read more about them on the CDD Fees

Herald Tribune: Early Stage Foreclosures

This morning I read an article from the Sarasota Herald Tribune about early state foreclosures. Has anyone held an issue of the H/T in their hands lately?  Things must be getting really bad for them.  I think this article is an example why. To summarize the article , early stage foreclosures (technical term: lis pendens) are up for the second month in Sarasota County.  The source?  RealtyTrac. RealtyTrac is part of what I call the unholy trinity of real estate websites (including Trulia and Zillow) who mislead the real estate buying public by posting lis pendens properties they scrape from public tax data websites as available for sale.  None of these companies are licensed real estate brokers, and none of these properties exist to sell real estate.  They exist to draw a large audience through deceptive marketing, and sell that audience to advertisers. I'm not sure why the Herald Tribune bothered publishing this article.  They pounded the drum about the strength of our ove

Zillow's "Make Me Move" Feature

As much as I hate to admit, I am a member of Zillow.  No, I don't pay them, as readers here and of my website know all too well.  I use my membership to help the confused consumers asking questions on their website. Today, someone asked what the "Make Me Move" feature was on Zillow.  Neil, a helpful Zillow employee, replied:  "It's the price that a seller might consider selling the house for". Really? You can read the thread and my responses here: Then I was pounced on in the thread by another Zillow Koolaid drinker who said when the seller "claims" their property on Zillow (why does Zillow have it on their site in the first place then if it's not for sale or a seller didn't place it there?), they offer a price they "might" sell it for.  In this particular case, the property had an inaccurate Zestimate and a ridiculously high Make Me Move price. I'll move out of my house for $750,000.  It's

Focus On: Harbor Acres

Harbor Acres is an upscale neighborhood, west of the Trail , close to downtown Sarasota , Lido Beach, and Siesta Key beaches.  Harbor Acres features a mix of new construction, waterfront homes and original ramblers and split level homes without water frontage. Harbor Acres, Sarasota FL map courtesy of Bing Maps The wide range of architecture and waterfront property versus non-waterfront property creates a wide range of prices in Harbor Acres.  As of this writing there are 3 homes in Harbor Acres actively listed for over $5 million.  However, since December 8, 2012, only 4 homes have sold in Harbor Acres, the most expensive being $1.1 million.  This property was at one time originally listed for sale for $1,885,000, a dramatic price reduction of 29%. See the report here by clicking here . Some interesting information comes out of this data.   One fact that jumps out is that a couple of brokerages control most of the listings.  The second is that the median list price to sal

Real Estate Advertising Online

The Facebook IPO got me thinking about their future, and how it will affect Google and online advertising as a whole. I don't get Facebook mania.  In my opinion, there's a lot better things to do in life.  GM recently cancelled plans to spend $10 million to advertise on Facebook because they got disappointing results.  I can't see Facebook users clicking on ads when they are chatting with friends or playing games. Does anyone feel like social marketing is being shoved down our throats?  Advertising on Facebook and Twitter has yet to produce impressive results for most companies.  However, social media does play a meaningful role, in my opinion, in driving traffic to a website. Here is a fascinating graphic comparison of advertising on Facebook versus Google, which you can read here: So why am I blogging about this? As much as many in the real estate industry in Sarasota want to deny it, the days of Open Houses, magazine ads, and newspaper cl

Bienvenue aux Francais!

The election of Francois Hollande, a Socialist, as President of France is sparking an anticipated exodus of the richest French residents. Hollande plans on taxing the wealth-makers of his country at a 75% rate. I wonder who will be left among the poor to provide jobs to the rest of the poor, but, I digress. I welcome the French to Sarasota, where you will find our warm waters, white beaches, and the highest number of Zagat 4-star rated and above independent restaurants in FL.  Not to mention some outstanding real estate deals.

Updated: Sarasota Real Estate Best Deals

I just updated my best deals page on and there's one in particular that has been languishing on the market for over a year. Check out the property on Hawk's Harbor Drive in Bradenton.  This is a waterfront home located just north of SRQ Airport and west of the Trail.  Many homes in this area are on small lots and do not have a pool, but this one does, along with a dock and a boat lift. Do you have a lot of toys?  This home has a 9-car garage.  Need room to spread out?  It has over 5700 of air conditioned living space. The last sale price was over $1.5 million in 2005 and it's listed as a short sale at $725,000.  What a great deal for so much house in such a great location. Interested buyers, contact me with any questions.

Unique Content on

A lot of visitors to my website have been commenting favorably on the unique Sarasota FL real estate content I provide on my website, . The real estate industry is not particularly innovative when it comes to marketing, and those real estate website templates so many agents use do not convey much local knowledge or individual agent expertise to potential buyers or sellers.  I continually tweak, expand, and improve on a daily basis to give visitors the best possible experience. I personally review each profiled neighborhood, town, and popular areas on my website with a personal neighborhood review .  I grade each on a 1-5 star basis for the most asked-about neighborhood characteristics.  This is not a generic website plug-in like Yelp, but my own personal observations based on my local knowledge. The most common question I get is "how far is the beach?".  Along with my personal neighborhood review, I have now added my exclusive

Trulia Posts Bogus Price Increase Blog

I just got an email from Trulia's "chief economist" for a blog post about rising real estate prices. The problem with Trulia's blog is that they are basing their assumption that prices are increasing on "asking price".  Yes, according to Trulia, listing prices are up so market prices are up.  What's even more galling are the real estate agent sheep that respond to Trulia's post with comments like "good news!" and "great blog!".  When was the last time these real estate professionals declared an improving market to their buyers or sellers by pointing only to list price? So many factors can contribute to "asking prices" increasing, even something as simple as more luxury homes coming on the market.  You also have to wonder where Trulia is getting their "asking price" data.  Unsurprisingly, their data is not sourced. The only thing that matters in determining real estate trends are actual sold property pr

Another Broker Opts out of Trulia

Today I read a short post on another brokerage in Austin, TX who is pulling their real estate listings off of Trulia's website.   You can read the short article here: Congratulations to Good Life Realty in Austin!  It seems we share the belief that misleading customers is not a good business model. In the past few days I have canceled my Trulia Pro membership, but I can still answer questions from confused consumers who are getting misinformation on their site, just as I do with Zillow. As you can tell from previous blog posts, I am not a fan of Zillow and am rapidly becoming outspoken against Trulia as well.  Like Good Life Realty, I choose not to tarnish my reputation by associating my name with misleading data on websites more interested in selling advertising.

Another Confused Trulia Buyer

I've made it a personal mission to put out the word about Zillow's misleading "Zestimates" and how they do a disservice to the buying public.  After all, is it just a coincidence that Zillow came into prominence in 2006, at the same time the real estate bubble began to burst?  Anyway, I digress. Now another confused potential Sarasota area home buyer has apparently registered on Trulia for a user account, and gets updates on "new listings" from Trulia and their syndication partners like RealtyTrac.  View this buyer's confused plea for help on Trulia here: No wonder the public is confused. Does anyone think it's a good business practice to entice mass numbers of prospective buyers and sellers with misleading "listings" that aren't actually available?  Is it good business practice to then sell those so-called "hot leads"to local Realtors, whose job it will be to explain how Trulia and Zillow don'

Canadian Buyers: What You Need to Know about Florida Home Finders

Today I had a visitor to my website ask me about a Canadian-based company called Florida Home Finders.  I had not heard of them, but took the opportunity to visit their website and investigate. What they are doing may not be illegal, but it is highly misleading for their prospective clients. As a Canadian national, there are NO legal or contractual differences between a Canadian citizen and a US citizen buying property in Florida, with the exception of course, of currency exhange.  You can read more about this on my page for Canadian buyers on my website.    You absolutely do not need to go to a seminar in Canada to buy real estate in Florida!   You should not sign any kind of representation agreement in these seminars, nor should you pay a dime to attend.  You may lose your legal ability to purchase FL real estate without their involvement. My research shows that Florida Home Finders are licensed real estate brokers in Canada only, not in Florida.  In the state of Florida, y

Another Article on National Home Prices

My last two blogs focused on national housing price trends and how they affect the local Sarasota real estate market. Some brokerages seem to think that all the lovely people filling our restaurants, hotels, and beaches in season signals a return to healthier days for Sarasota's real estate market.  This overly simplistic analysis does not take buyer psychology into account, and results in sellers overpricing homes in the false expectation that values are going to be on the upswing. Yesterday there was another article on Yahoo Finance from CNN Money showing that potential homebuyers lack confidence in the market.  This is significant because the vast marjority of home buyers in the Sarasota are come from out of state or overseas.  They read these articles and see that values in markets like Tampa made new lows in 2011. These buyers do not have to buy, and as I blogged earlier, they are motivated by what they deem are the "best deals", whether those deals are in Sa

National Home Prices at 2003 Levels

I just read a short article with a very informative graph showing raw national housing prices are now fluctuating around 2003 levels.  You can read this article here: I recently did an analysis about Zillow's misrepresentation of Sarasota real estate values, where I contrasted their flawed data versus the actual 2010 vs 2011 median prices based on the MLS.  The end result was that median prices year over year in Sarasota are unchanged. When the national numbers seem to be fluctuating in a small range, and the local Sarasota numbers are stable, this means, in my opinion, the time has never been better to buy Sarasota real estate.

More Marketing Puffery About Median Sales Prices

More and more Sarasota real estate agents and brokers are getting their hands on data showing median sales prices in Sarasota may be starting to stabilize and even slightly increase, and writing blogs about it.  Since I am a bit of a contrarian, these types of blogs bug the you know what out of me. Blogging about a strengthening Sarasota real estate market might be a great enticement to get people to list their homes for sale, thinking the worst is behind us.  All indications, in my opinion, show we have another year or so before we are out of the woods. Overall median sales prices are a function of half of homes sold above or below a certain number.  But it doesn't take into account values in individual neighborhoods or subdivisions.  For example, in 2009 and 2010 we were flooded with bank foreclosures, the great majority under $100,000.  The luxury market was hit hard during those years, with properties above $400,000 being sold at deep discounts with a long market time. Sa

What Makes a Great Buyer's Agent?

This question came up on Trulia forums today, and it was a timely coincidence.  I was thinking about this just yesterday. I was watching Bravo TV's Million Dollar Listing.  What can I say?  I love seeing other people's houses, part of why I love being in the real estate business.  This show also happens to be a great example of what does NOT make a great buyer's agent. I recently blogged about the Realtor Code of Ethics and Florida real estate law, which says a Realtor may not convey a minimum price to either party without the express consent of the buyer or seller they represent.  This did not happen on this program. Cut to one scene with the two cooperating brokers negotiating price on a golf course, without consulting the buyer or seller.  Cut to another scene with one agent saying "I'll take $X....".  He'll take?  He is not the seller.  Cut to another scene with the agent concerned about a cut in compensation over a price reduction.  None of this

Follow Up: Media Disinformation about REO's Substantiated

A day after I blogged about an article predicting more doom and gloom because of increased foreclosures entering the market, a new article today seems to support my position.  Read the article here: The report from Clear Capital found that while the number of bank owned properties for sale did dramatically increase in the top 15 markets (not the Sarasota/Bradenton market), prices in those areas showed average gains or mostly stable home prices compared to the previous month.  The article I blogged about yesterday, using Realty Trac as a source, predicted dumping foreclosures in the market would further depress home prices. Any time anyone reads a real estate article relying on Realty Trac, Zillow, or Trulia, they should take the predictions with a grain of salt.

More Disinformation in the Media

This article was linked on the Drudge Report, so it likely got a lot of hits.  The dire headline:  Foreclosure Sales Flood Market. The basic problem with the article is that it relies on as a source.  Ugh. Realtytrac is the same thing as Zillow.  They are not a licensed real estate broker, and they do not have access to MLS data.  They scrape the same property tax assessor websites as Zillow.   As we all know, tax values have little to do with actual market values. Apparently, the doom and gloom for this article comes from the fact that local municipalities have recorded a higher number of foreclosures.  This does not mean these foreclosures are even on the real estate market, but the article says this increase is an indicator of a future glut of distressed properties. In the Sarasota and Bradenton real estate market, a year ago there were approximately 5500 short sale and bank owned properties available for sale the MLS.  Today, there are 1700 available short sa

Closing Costs in Sarasota

I get a lot of hits on my website about real estate closing costs in Sarasota. Are any costs negotiable? The state of Florida imposes taxes on both buyers (both US citizens and foreign nationals) and sellers of real estate.  For buyers, there is the intangible tax on mortgage and doc stamps on mortgage.  Along with the owner's title policy, these three items make up the largest portion of the overall buyer's closing costs. Buyers should be prepared for additional fees such as a home inspection, termite inspection, mold inspection, well or water testing, septic tank inspection, home or condo association application fee, and various recording and administrative fees. In our area, many of the large franchise real estate companies, like Coldwell Banker, charge the buyer a fee of $250-$350 at closing.  This is a junk fee, and goes straight to the bottom line of the brokerage.  Buyers should NOT have to pay any fee for a Realtor to represent them in a transaction.   Sellers

Sarasota Ranked Top Place to Retire

Find out what people who live here already know about why Sarasota is so great, according to a study by and an article on

More Zillow Backlash

Seems I am not the only person with a deep dislike of Zillow and how they misrepresent real estate values, particularly here in Sarasota. I've posted here about specific flaws in Sarasota real estate data on the Zillow site, but some brokers and even entire MLS systems are banning their data from being displayed on Zillow. Here's a great recent article from MSN Money: I have a list of more articles on my real estate website about Zillow: Sales reps from Zillow call me constantly to advertise on their site.  Sorry folks at Zillow, I refuse to tarnish my real estate expertise by being a sponsor of your garbage in/garbage out website.

Realtors Need a Back to Basics Refresher

I represent a lot of buyers, and a recent conversation I had with a short sale listing agent about a possible offer raised a major red flag. My client wanted to make an offer on a short sale listing.  The attachments on the MLS listing directed me to contact the short sale negotiator, who told me they would put together the paperwork for me to send to the buyer to sign with the information I provided.  That sure would would save me a lot of work.  So far, so good! I verbally provided the buyer's offer price and purchase terms.  The short sale negotiator then told me (in writing) the listing agent had to "review the offer and if he was 'comfortable' with it, would then submit to the seller".  Whoa nelly!  The listing agent would not even accept a written offer below a certain amount, which the listing agent set himself. Under FL real estate law, and the Realtor Code of Ethics, it is the responsibility of the listing agent to submit ANY and ALL offers to the s

Real Estate Commissions

Well, Trulia strikes again! I like Trulia because it really is a forum for real estate consumers to evaluate real estate agent competency.  But sometimes, the answers from other agents are really surprising. A potential buyer from out of state asked on the Trulia Voices forum about "typical" real estate commissions in Sarasota.  The problem with that premise is that by law, there cannot be a "typical" or "common" real estate commission.  If there was, that could be determined as price fixing, subject to Federal Anti-Trust Law. I offer a variable rate commission for all my clients depending in their situation, for example, if they are selling and then buying a replacement property.  Luckily, I am not restricted by an inflexible central office who does not allow their individual agents to negotiate outside a strict set of company guidelines. You can see the thread on Trulia here ( as well as some of the answers from my competitor

Another Example of Government Intervention in Real Estate

A new article is out regarding FHA certification of condo buildings for buyers trying to obtain low down payment FHA insured mortgages. These types of mortgages attract mostly first time home buyers.  While the Sarasota area is not a mecca for first-time buyers, and our housing market is healthier than most, it's yet another example of supposedly well-intentioned government regulation putting a damper on the housing market. The FHA "certifies" a condo building for approval for FHA financing based on financial health of the condo association and a raft of other analyses of condo ownership and legal issues.  Of course, the burden of providing paperwork to the FHA falls on the condo association management, many of whom are already scrambling with owners in short sale or foreclosure.  To make matters even worse, the goverment apparently has not made rules and regulations for condo managers easily available.  Like the good public servants they are, the FHA hopes to actua

Sarasota Ranked Top 5 Florida School Districts 2011

I just read an article on Yahoo News about Florida school district rankings. Sarasota County is in the top 5 in 2011.  Read the article here: You can also view the rankings here: Top ranked beaches, top ranked place to retire, and now the top schools in Florida make Sarasota the best place to buy real estate in 2012.

Are Cash Buyers Driving Down Home Prices?

I saw another real estate article in my daily update from Florida Realtors that made me roll my eyes. In the article ( link here ), cash buyers are blamed for forcing down home prices, because a recent survey showed 1 in 3 buyers were cash investors. Since when does having cash translate into a bank or a private seller dropping their sales price?  Yes, it's a great tool to have in a negotiation to leverage terms or in a multiple offer situation (in which case, the property price is usually bid UP), but it's a bit of a stretch to blame the continued soft real estate market on investors. As Realtors we should be watching unwanted government intervention as the cause of unhealthy real estate markets to help speed recovery and rebuild confidence in the buying public.

Save Money on Foreign Exchange

Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange – Save Money on Currency Exchange In an effort to save save my real estate clients more money and provide value, I have negotiated special deals with Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange when you need to purchase US dollars with Canadian dollars.  Simply put, using them will allow you to get better exchange rates than the banks, and better exchange rates means more savings for you. Many Canadians don’t know that banks include a currency exchange margin hidden within the exchange rate they see when they purchase US dollars. This margin can be up to 2-4%. Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange guarantees to beat your bank’s exchange rate. The process is fast, easy, secure, and will save you money. I invite you to contact Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange at and mention David Barr as the referral code to receive preferred pricing and free wire transfers.

2011, adios!

Is anyone else out there glad 2011 is over?  Yes, it was a huge improvement over 2010, as we began to see the real estate market recover in the last part of the year.  It didn't kill me, so as the saying goes, it made me stronger. I get the impression that buyers in the market now are working with a mindset that's about a year old.  While other agents are touting our recovering market, I think this could discourage potential buyers from considering the Sarasota area if they think they can get better "deals" in cities like Tampa or Ft. Myers. Real estate in soft markets like Tampa is like buying stock in Netflix.  It's bound to go lower.  Is that a good investment? We are better off in our local real estate industry promoting the past and current demand for the Sarasota lifestyle.  There are plenty of recent articles and statistics to back this up.  As one recent client said to me, "Tampa prices looked good on paper, until I saw Sarasota and figured ou