Buying and/or Selling a Home in the Beach Communities of Pinellas County--Comments and Considerations

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Aug. 2, 2017

20 Questions to Ask When Buying A Condo

1.       Condition?—What’s the condition of the unit you are considering—the building—the entire complex? (Perhaps the unit has been upgraded, but the building and entire complex has not.)

2.       Common Areas?—Are common areas well-maintained? (This will be a good clue as to the professionalism and attention to detail of the management company.)

3.       Units For Sale?—How many condos are for sale?  (A large percentage could be sign of problems?)

4.       Owner Occupied?—What percentage of the units are owner-occupied? (Lenders may be hesitant to lend if the majority are rented.)

5.       Condo Fees?—How much are the condo/association fees and what do they cover?

6.       Reserves?—Does the association have adequate reserves for renovations and emergencies?  Are projected renovations being funded on a scheduled basis and are the reserves meeting the scheduled targets?  (If not, you could face a special assessment.)

7.       Lawsuits?—Are there pending lawsuits against the association or judgements you might have to help pay?

8.       Insurance?—What does the association’s insurance cover?  (You may need supplemental insurance to protect everything else.)

9.       Debt?—How much outstanding debt does the association have?  Is debt service (if any) funded from the condo fees?

10.   Arrears?—What percentage of the units are in arrears on their condo fees?

11.   Assessments?—Does the seller owe back fees or assessments that may become your responsibility when you buy?

12.   Neighborhood?—What is the neighborhood like?  (You may want to walk the area at different times of the day and evenings and greet those you meet as you walk to determine if it fits your criteria of the neighborhood in which you want to live.)

13.   Parking?—Does the unit come with reserved parking?

14.   Guest Parking?—Is there adequate additional parking for guests?

15.   Storage?—Will you have extra storage space for seasonal decorations, bikes, paddleboards and the like?

16.   Management?—Is the association managed by a qualified professional company?

17.   Complaints?—Does management handle owners’ requests and complaints quickly?

18.   Rent?—What are the rules on your ability to rent the unit?  Minimum length of time? Maximum times per year?

19.   Restrictions?—Will restrictions prevent you from changing visible elements such as the color of the front door or your window coverings?

20.   Comparable Sales?—What are recent comparable sales?  For the unit you are considering, what have been the recent sale prices per square foot for units with comparable square footage, condition, view, etc?



Posted in Buying A Home
July 7, 2017

8 Things Real Estate Agents Should Do For Home Seller Clients

A real estate agent representing the home seller has an obligation to his client to do everything he can to smooth the process of selling their home.  He is their advocate; the professional they are looking to for help.  Most people want an agent they can not only trust but will do all they can to get the most money for their home, in the least amount of time with the fewest headaches along the way.

Smart home sellers understand there is a big difference from the “post and pray” real estate agents that do not do much more that put a sign in the yard, place it in the MLS and pray, and the professional real estate agents that take care of their clients.

There is a lot of opportunity for disappointment by picking the wrong real estate agent to represent your interests.  How can you increase the chances you will make a good choice in picking a real estate agent?  If you understand the things that a real estate agent should be doing for home sellers, you can increase your chances of making the right choice.

Following are 8 ways how real estate agents should represent their home seller clients.

1. Price the Home Correctly

Pricing a home properly is the most important thing your real estate agent can do.  The best real estate agents avoid giving in to the desire to say what will make sellers happy just to get the business.  Understanding how to price a home is one of an agent’s most valuable skills.  The best real estate agents have a reputation for pricing homes accurately and not telling a seller what they want to hear to get a listing. 

As a seller, you should be aware that pricing a home too high can, and most probably will, cause major issues in the selling process.  Buyers may avoid your home, and with the passage of time, it will develop a bad reputation.  Eventually you will recognize that the price will have to be reduced to be competitive in the marketplace, but by that point, the bad reputation may have already stuck with the property.  Ultimately, the house will sell, but probably at a lower price that what you would have received if the house had been appropriately priced when it was placed on the market.

While some real estate agents may intentionally misrepresent a home’s value to get business, others lack the skill to price the home correctly.  Either way you lose.  Is the real estate agent up front with you as to how he is determining value?  Is he considering not only things like price per square foot of comparable nearby sales, but differences in amenities, upgrades, lot qualities, general condition of each comparable as compared to your home?

2. Market the Property Like There is No Tomorrow

Marketing is one area where your real estate agent should excel.  He should hire a professional photographer to take great pictures of your property.  Over 90% of home buyers first look at homes on the internet.  If your home’s pictures are lousy, you will lose out on a significant amount of potential traffic.

Your real estate agent should be an expert on getting the word out about your property using all available marketing channels.  Not just the MLS, but various websites, brokers opens, local pitch sessions to other real estate agents, social media, etc.

The marketing materials should be top-notch.  In addition to quality photographs, the brochures should be crisp and professional.  Does the agent’s brokerage also market their listings through their own website, brochures, catalogs, etc?  Selecting a real estate agent who understands and demonstrates how crucial the marketing is will provide substantial benefits.

3. Communicate Properly

A seller is entitled to know what is happening.  Many real estate agents communicate with their clients only when an offer is received.  The agent should communicate with their clients on a regular basis with feedback from showings and other items of interest.  If a prospective real estate agent is slow to return phone calls or emails during the interview process, then this should be clue that prompt communication may not be one of his priorities.

4. Make Sure the Buyer is Qualified

It is not uncommon for a potential buyer to develop interest in a property and make an offer, and then it is discovered that the potential buyer has not been pre-approved and cannot afford the property.  A good listing agent will make sure that potential buyers have been pre-approved by a lending institution (or has liquid assets sufficient to fund the purchase) before agreeing to show the property.

5. Negotiate the Best Terms

You want a real estate agent that will work hard for the best terms and conditions for their clients.  This is what they are paid to do.  A great real estate agent will not focus solely on getting their commission, but rather what is in their client’s best interest.  This is one of the reasons why you should never choose an agent that “needs” to make a sale.   An agent who isn’t worried about when they make their next sale is better positioned to advocate strongly for their clients and are always striving for the best possible terms for the transaction.

6. Attend the Home Inspection to Represent the Seller

Whether the seller expects their real estate agent to attend the home inspection, a good agent will attend regardless.  By being at the inspection, the agent hears the inspector’s feedback first-hand.  The agent can keep track of the issues noted, the inspector’s comments, and keep things in perspective should the buyer ask for concessions based on the inspection.  Some requests may be reasonable—others may not be.  If the seller’s agent is on site during the inspection and has a good understanding of the issues they can assist their client in dealing with unreasonable requests.

7. Attend the Home Appraisal

A good real estate agent will attend the home appraisal so they can answer the questions the appraiser has and make sure the appraiser understands the facts about the home.  Most appraisers want information regarding recent updates to the property and documented cost information.  If there have been major updates, these can significantly influence the value of the property.  The agent should be there to point out the updates and provide appropriate documentation related to the cost.

8. Finalize Loose Ends for Closing

Selling a house involves a lot of work.  There are many details that must be taken care of—a good real estate agent will provide organization of these tasks and assist in getting them done as the closing draws near. 

Selling a home can be very stressful, but having a good real estate agent by your side who is helping to take care of the details unique to the sale of a house will ease the burden.

Posted in Selling A Home
July 7, 2017

The Cost of Waiting to Buy

Ever wonder what the cost of waiting to buy may be?  If you have, you are probably most concerned and focused on the “Short Term Cost”—where home prices are headed over the next 6 to 12 months.  As a buyer, you should be concerned not only about price, but also about the “Long Term Cost” of the home.

“Long Term Cost” includes not only the expected increase in home prices, but also the anticipated increase in mortgage loan interest rates.

If home prices increase 6% over the next 12 months, and mortgage loan interest rates increase 1 percentage point (as projected by the Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), the “Long Term Cost” of waiting 1 year to buy a $500,000 home, 20% down (80% financed) is demonstrated below:

TODAY                                              NEXT YEAR

$500,000              Home Value         $530,000

$400,000              Mortgage             $424,000

       4.25%            Interest Rate             5.25%

$1,967.76             Payment (PI)        $2,341.34


Monthly  $373.58

Annually  $4,482.86

Over 30 Years  $134,486

Posted in Buying A Home
July 2, 2017

Why Have A Home Inspection Before Buying?

A home inspection is a comprehensive examination of the condition of a home.  A home is one of the most important and costly purchases one will ever make.  By having a home inspection done prior to finalizing the purchase of a home, you can determine the condition of the home and still have time to make relevant decisions.


A home inspection, which generally costs $300 to $500 may seem like a waste of money.  However, there may be costly problems which the average buyer may not notice.  Problems with wiring, plumbing, roof, structure, HVAC, etc. may not be visible during a tour of the home, but can be identified by a home inspector.


You and your agent negotiated with the seller the price of the home currently under contract.  Both sides worked hard but ultimately an agreement on the price was reached.  Done—right?  NO!  Now your home inspection has revealed problems that you did not know about.  Who is going to pay for the needed repairs?  When will the repairs be done?  Time to negotiate again.

We normally advise our clients to make an offer using an “as is” contract.  The buyer and seller agree to purchase and sell the home “as is” with the buyer having the right to inspect the house within a specified number of days (generally 15 days).  At any time within the inspection period, the buyer may cancel the contract based upon his or the home inspector’s findings.  Even if the seller agrees to repair everything noted, the buyer has the right to cancel during the inspection period.

The home inspector will generally provide a written report to the buyer describing any repairs or improvements necessary to bring the home up to current standards.  Some of the recommendations may be costly to implement.  Time for you and your agent to re-open the negotiations.  You will have several options:

·         The seller may agree to make the noted repairs.  If the work requires specialized knowledge, the buyer may specify that the repairs be done by a licensed contractor.

·         The seller may not want to undertake the responsibility of getting the repairs done but will provide a credit to the buyer at closing for the cost of the repairs.

·         Buyer and seller can not reach agreement as to how the repair work is to be performed and who will pay for it.  In this case, the buyer may cancel the contract as long as this right is exercised within the specified inspection period.



Posted in Buying A Home
July 2, 2017

What Is A Buyer's Agent?

You have been checking out properties on your favorite MLS website for several months.  Now you are ready to start looking at some homes.  But wait, how do I start this process?  What questions should I be asking?  If I find our dream home, how will I know how much to offer?  These and many other questions are real.  The process will present challenges—that is why you need a pro by your side. 

You may have heard of buyer’s agents, selling agents, listing agents, etc.  You are a buyer, so you need a buyer’s agent, right?  Yes, but not all buyer’s agents have the same training, knowledge and experience.  For example, an Accredited Buyer’s Agent has undergone extensive training in valuation of properties and negotiation techniques.  Their training, knowledge and experience will make a valuable contribution to your home buying experience.  They will be with you every step of the way and anticipate potential problems and solutions on your road to the closing table.

Talk to us about utilizing one of our Accredited Buyer's Agents to represent you in your search for a primary or secondary home in the gulf beach communities of Pinellas County.  We pride ourselves in listening to our clients and when you are ready for assistance from a Realtor, we will go above and beyond to exceed your expectations.


Posted in Buying A Home
June 2, 2017

4 Dangers of Using the Listing Agent as the Buyer's Agent

You, the potential homebuyer, are driving through a neighborhood and see a home for sale that looks great, with a realtor’s sign in the yard.  You want more information.  Should you contact the realtor and accept his offer to show you the house?  Your decision could cost you thousands of dollars!

The sign in the yard refers you to the listing agent (seller’s agent), a real estate professional who is legally obligated to protect the seller’s interest, including getting the highest possible price for the seller.

In today’s real estate market, most buyers and sellers have their own representation.  The buyer’s goal is to learn as much as possible about the house including its faults, and pay as little as possible.  The seller’s goal is to get the highest price possible.  A real estate agent, no matter how ethical, can not effectively represent each party in best achieving their objective. 

Let’s review 4 common situations that should be of concern to a potential homebuyer who decides to work directly with the listing agent, without being represented by a buyer’s agent.


Can a listing agent provide unbiased service to a buyer when representing both sides of a real estate transaction?

Let’s take a look at the way a typical relationship works.  The seller decides to sell his home.  A listing agent is contacted (sometimes several are interviewed).  Often the listing agent is a friend, acquaintance, past client, or referral from a friend or family member.  After the seller selects his listing agent, they spend a lot of time together getting the house prepared for market.  Most times a personal relationship and mutual trust is established between the listing agent and seller during several weeks of working together toward the common objective of selling the home.  This is a very important point—re-read the previous sentence.

Now a buyer sees the sign in the yard, calls the listing agent, arranges to meet to see the house, falls in love with the house and tells the listing agent he wants to make an offer.  How close is their relationship after being together for 2 or 3 hours?

If an offer is made, who will the listing agent be working the hardest for during the negotiating process?  The seller with which a strong relationship has been established over several weeks (or longer) or the buyer he met yesterday?  This is where the “Conflict of Interest” can be costly to the buyer.  Can the listing agent who has been in a fiduciary relationship with the seller, really remove himself from that relationship and advise the buyer and seller on an equal footing?  Is it possible and beneficial to each party?  It is a huge risk to trust that the listing agent can and that each party will benefit!


The buyer trusts that the listing agent can represent both parties as a dual agent (transaction broker in Florida).  The buyer shares the maximum amount they will pay for the home and it is greater than what the listing agent knows the seller will accept.  How aggressive will the listing agent be in obtaining the best deal for the buyer?


The contract to purchase and sell has been executed and it is time for an inspection.  The listing agent provides a list of 3 inspectors.  Which does he recommend to the buyer—the one who he believes will do the most thorough inspection or the one that sometimes is in a hurry and is not as thorough?

The buyer gets the inspection report after the inspection and there are several issues which concerns the buyer (which is common).  The buyer reviews the report and concerns with the listing agent.  Will the listing agent downplay the issues raised in the report with a “that is very common in homes built in that period” or does the listing agent aggressively address the buyer’s concerns with the seller?  Is the buyer getting the best guidance and advice?  It is a huge risk that the listing agent will put the buyer’s interest above the seller’s interest.  In fact it is illegal!


Dual Agency is legal in all 50 states.  Some states (including Florida) have changed the term to “Transaction Broker” and limits the fiduciary responsibilities of the listing agent to both parties.  In reality, a transaction broker is more of a referee for their clients rather than a coach and advocate for each of their clients.  Just because it is legal does not mean that it is beneficial for anyone, other than the listing agent being paid a dual commission.

Posted in Buying A Home
May 24, 2017

Ready to Move—Do You Buy or Sell First?

Homeowners who decide they're ready to become move-up buyers or those who decide it is time to downsize face the same dilemma.  Should they sell their current home first and then buy another, or buy a new one and then sell? Homeowners who decide they’re ready to become move-up buyers or those who decide it is time to downsize fa  The answer depends on a number of factors, but for most people this question is very important—What scares you most: selling first and having nowhere to live, or buying first and being stuck with two mortgage payments?


1.       You could get stuck making payments on two houses if your former home dosen’t sell before you close on the purchase of the new one.  Plus, you will have to come up with the cash for a down payment.

2.       Why not just make your offer to buy a new home contingent on selling your old one?  Because if sellers receive multiple offers they won’t even consider yours.  They won’t spend their time on an offer that may fall through.


1.       You enjoy knowing what’s ahead of you.  If you’re the type of person who feels nervous leaping into the unknown, you may find you’re more emotionally equipped to part with your current home when you know you’ve got your next place lined up.

2.      You have time to hold out for what you want. You won’t feel rushed into settling for a home that’s less than perfect just so you have somewhere to live.  You’ll be able to wait for the perfect house, whether it’s in the perfect neighborhood, has a perfect layout, or is the perfect price (or all three).

May 24, 2017

Touring A Home

Touring a home with a plan in mind is critical to your financial decision and will have an impact on your personal living situation for years to come.

Before beginning to select houses or condos to see, determine your criteria including price and amenities.  First, decide exactly what your price range is.  List the amenities that are deal breakers—must haves.  Then list your 2 to 4 top “wants”.  Make sure you provide this information to your Realtor.

If your Realtor shows you homes that are outside of the price range provided and/or don’t have the amenities that are “must haves”, remind your Realtor of your requirements.  If you are still not seeing homes that meet your criteria, it is time to retain a Realtor that actually listens and is responsive to your requirements.

After you and your Realtor are on the same page and you are seeing homes that meet your requirements, take lots of notes and pictures.  Allow the home to “speak to you”—perhaps the kitchen, view, living area, master bedroom, etc.  If nothing about the home “speaks to you”, even if it meets your primary requirements, you probably don’t want to put it on your “possibility” list.



Posted in Buying A Home
March 18, 2017

Area Activities

On any given day, there are many activities throughout Pinellas County inviting residents and visitors alike to participate and enjoy.

Starting with over 35 miles of sandy white beaches along the west coast of Florida, inter-coastal waterway, and Tampa Bay on the east side, there is an abundance of recreational water and all of the water related activities, including world class off shore fishing adventures.  

Not as well known are the nature preserves and trails within Pinellas County.  In the northern end of the county is Brooker Creek Reserve comprised of approximately 8700 acres, and the largest natural area in Pinellas County.  It consists primarily of forested wetlands and pine flatwoods.  The Preserve provides both a unique refuge for native flora and fauna as well as an opportunity for residents and visitors to explore the natural beauty of wild Florida through a complex of hiking and equestrian trails.  Extending from Tarpon Springs to St Petersburg is the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, created along an abandoned railroad corridor, providing a unique, protected greenspace for walking, jogging, skating and biking.

Throughout the year, there are events and festivals somewhere in the county.  The sponge docks in Tarpon Springs are always an adventure, seafood festivals in the beach communities, don’t miss the open air (warm air and sea-salty air) Clearwater Jazz Festival and Clearwater Blues Festival.  Ribfest in St Petersburg provides music and food throughout the week-end.

In March, downtown St Petersburg is transformed into an Indy Car racetrack for a few adrenaline pumping days when the Firestone GrandPrix comes to town—speeds in excess of 170 mph on a 14-turn course through the streets of downtown St Petersburg.

In addition to being the home of the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball team, the spring training facilities of the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays teams are located in Pinellas County.

With two major entertainment venues—Ruth Eckerd Hall and Mahaffey Theatre--there are an abundance of choices for musical and stage entertainment.  Plus numerous local intimate venues provide a broad range of music and theatre arts.

And don’t forget the wide range of dining experiences throughout Pinellas County.  From great beach bars offering grouper sandwiches and local IPA’s, to well-known white table cloth restaurants, you will quickly find your favorite.

If we may assist you in obtaining more information about any of these activities (or any other questions you may have about living in Pinellas County), please contact us by any of the ways listed below.  It will be our pleasure to respond to your inquiries at no cost or obligation.

Posted in Area Activities
Feb. 20, 2017

Establishment of a Price Range

One of the initial questions that has to be addressed is "How much can I afford to pay for this home". If you will be financing a portion of the purchase price, it is time to talk with a mortgage lender or mortgage originator.  They will explore your financial capability to buy a house or condo, and most importantly, the maximum loan for which you may qualify.

Now you can seriously consider your price range.  The maximum loan for which you qualify and available financial resources you have for housing will enable you to establish your maximum price.  However, based on your own budget analysis and/or your wants and needs for housing you may establish a lower maximum price you will pay for a house or condo. Once you have established the maximum price you will pay, a range should be established--perhaps 80% to 105% of your maximum price.
Why establish the upper end of the range 5% more than you are willing to pay?  Many times a seller, especially a motivated seller, will accept an offer of 95% (sometimes less) of the list (offering) price.  Not always the case, but worth making the effort.

Once you have  established your price range and the areas for which you have interest, you are ready to start your search of your new home.  If we may assist you in your search, we will go above and beyond to exceed your expectations.

Posted in Buying A Home