Every Open House in SW Florida is its Own Unique Special Event. If you are planning for your own open house in SW Florida, you won’t have much trouble finding good advice. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll find:
• Don’t leave your pet behind
• Don’t forget the yard
• If you’re not confident in your house cleaning ability, trust that instinct (hire a pro)!
• It’s the kitchen, stupid (really: don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink)
• Clear out the medicine cabinet
• Fresh bath towels
These are all sound pieces of advice¬¬ (although the medicine cabinet one should be more comprehensive: any valuable items should also be packed away). It’s why you’ll find some variation of those pointers on just about everyone’s ‘Top Ten Tips for Holding an Open House.’
There are also some open house tips that may not apply to every SW Florida open house, but which deserve to be in the running anyway. One good idea syncs with the last bullet point: white-out the bathroom. Instead of just seeing that the towels are fresh, use fluffy white ones that you only bring out for your open house or other showing. White and fluffy = fresh and bright to most people. If your SW Florida home has a shower curtain, consider whether replacing it with a white one might be worth the effort as well.
Another tip is to turn on every lamp, flip every switch, check every faucet, flush every toilet. Picture a house visit that’s going really well—then is interrupted when a switch doesn’t work or a faucet leak can’t be stopped. Every agent knows what happens: they flip the switch back and forth three or four times (or use both hands trying to turn the faucet)—and the conversation is immediately derailed while they fiddle with the single tiny mishap. Those kinds of events plant doubt in anyone’s mind: it’s unreasonable, but human nature. As a side corollary, don’t run your facility check five minutes before the open house begins. A failed overhead light means hunting down a ladder, finding a replacement bulb, etc.; a faucet leak or running toilet, much longer to fix.
An extra tip is to give the floors special attention. If you have taken good care of beautiful floors by protecting them with throw and area rugs, unless they are themselves showpiece, you’ll probably do well to roll them up temporarily. Wide areas of open hardwood flooring can be a real selling point.
Every Open House in SW Florida is its Own Unique Special Event. Every SW Florida open house and showing appointment is its own special event—one that that calls for some preparations that are unique to your property. I can help with this: being able to call upon experienced ‘eyes on the target’ is one of the benefits my clients are able to rely on. Call me!
New Wrinkle in SW Florida Mortgage Interest Rate Guessing Game. When you are close to buying a new home in SW Florida, one news item that definitely becomes more interesting than usual is the status of current mortgage interest rates. All those little ads on the side of the screen that blink at you with Mortgage Interest Rate Alert! and Lock Lowest Home Interest Rate NOW! that you are accustomed to ignoring may also suddenly rate a second look—although you quickly learn that the promised SW Florida mortgage interest rate won’t be revealed unless you surrender a lot of personal info to the advertiser.
If you decide to avoid blabbing your email address to the internet (certain to put you onto yet another advertiser’s database), you probably do what I do—which is to check the legitimate news sources for their mortgage interest rate commentaries. When you do that, it’s reassuring when you find words and phrases like widely expected and as predicted (or even minor correction or following recent trends). When you are not quite ready to apply for your own mortgage, sudden interest rate lurches make budget projections less reliable.
So you would have expected it to have been reassuring when last week, as predicted, the Fed raised its Fed funds rate—the basic interest rate banks pay—by just a tense: a quarter of a point. Pretty much as had been widely expected. That may be an understatement; such a move had been thought eminent by many experts for years.
But last week’s Fed action didn’t quite follow through on the as predicted and widely expected fronts. Instead, we got words like ‘paradoxical’ (Mortgage News Daily); ‘fear mongering’ (CNN Money); ‘volatile’ (themortgagereports).
The good news for potential mortgage applicants was that the disarray the commentaries were describing had nothing to do with what homebuyers were likely to encounter. Instead, it described the problem the commentators were having explaining what the initial fed funds hike had caused: a slight fall in mortgage interest rates!
“Lenders easing up on home loans” and “Fed hike no biggie for mortgages” were stories from CNBC—and they were typical. “Mortgage Rates Slightly Lower Ahead of Holiday Week” was what Mortgage News Daily had found to be the paradoxical descent—eventually deciding it could be explained at the bond market level (traders had erred on the side of caution before the Fed’s announcement).
By Friday, loan originators were unanimous in suggesting that ‘today may be a good day to lock’ (but then again, to loan originators ‘today’ is always a good day to give them business). There was an underlying theme to most of the commentaries: expect a bounce in mortgage loan rates before too long. Probably, but not certainly—especially if you kept in mind Motley Fool’s “3 Predictions That Were Totally Wrong in 2015.” In addition to the Fed Funds rate and Treasury Note miscues, there was one we all would have shared: a barrel of crude oil ended the week priced at $40…about half of what the experts projected last January.
New Wrinkle in SW Florida Mortgage Interest Rate Guessing Game. One fact that doesn’t involve any guesswork: by historical standards, today’s SW Florida mortgage interest rates remain in the ‘very low’ range. That means it’s still a good time for buyers and seller to give me a call! Thank you for viewing.
In Search of the Most Accurate SW Florida Listings. Have you ever wondered about the way SW Florida listings appear on your screen when you search for houses for sale through one of the search engines? If you have already found a local REALTOR’s® website (like this one!), it’s easy to search the SW Florida listings right from that site without bothering further. You’ll come up with the most current accurate information because it represents direct updated information from SW Florida’s multiple listing service.
But whenever you go searching for SW Florida listings through Google, Bing, or any of the other search engines (there are scads of them), you will see that what comes up will be quite different. You may find individual house listings, alternating with real estate agency home pages, mixed in with aggregators like Zillow and real estate magazine ads. Depending upon which search engine and the way you phrase your inquiry, you might actually come up with an interesting listing…or one that’s peculiarly inappropriate—like a listing from another town or state—or one that’s been out of date for months.
There are reasons for such disorder. They have to do with a historical scramble that has been going on ever since computers and the web started making house-hunting something you could do from your own living room. The logical first stage came about rapidly, as local realtors everywhere started putting their listings on their websites, then working out the technical details to allow the whole area’s MLS listings to appear.
Then came the original aggregators: Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com—the deep-pocketed media companies that worked out ways to combine web data from all over to make listings into one gigantic national database. Except for house-hunters who weren’t set on moving to a particular area, the advantage to nationalizing the listings did not really go to the consumer—it went to the aggregators (also called ‘syndicators’). Since they could offer their information to a nation-sized audience, they could afford nation-sized advertising budgets to attract more views. Since they got more views, the search engines automatically found them to be ‘more popular’ than mere local agency sites, so their listings moved to the top of the search engine results pages.
It was a self-perpetuating cycle, especially once the aggregators started selling ‘spaces’ for local listings back to my colleagues, who were watching their own sites lose out in the race to attract web searchers. The aggregators were actually charging real estate agents to place their own listings on the aggregators’ pages! Realtors did not see the humor in this—and there are some ongoing legal challenges to illustrate their lack of appreciation.
The reason that this makes a difference to you, the, is that the original purpose of the big aggregators was to make searching easier for you, the SW Florida homeowner or listing searcher. One problem is that keeping listing data current and error-free has always been a problem for anyone with a nation-wide database to administer. Another is that data from other sources (like Craigslist ads) has been known to appear mixed in with verified listings. Since their authenticity is a sometimes thing, that can be downright misleading.
In Search of the Most Accurate SW Florida Listings. The upshot is that for serious house hunters, the best place to look for SW Florida listings is right here, on a site like mine—where I have a daily local connection with the properties that appear. Then, when you find the homes that look like they could be what you are looking for, all that’s left is to give me a call!
In SW Florida Real Estate, “Property Values” Needs More Detail. Every SW Florida homeowner knows that the state of SW Florida property values is important. But regardless of how important property values are, it’s also true that the term itself is hard to pin down. It’s more elusive than most of us assume—it literally means different things to different people.
One of the odd things about the English language (or any language, I imagine) is how it can convey an impression of being more specific than is actually the case. For example, if you say, “This year there’s been more rain than usual” everyone thinks they know what you mean—which is probably not that since January 1, 2015 until today rainfall has totaled more than the annual average. What you mean is that since the end of summer (or perhaps since October) it’s been rainy. The difference in that example isn’t all that important. But when it comes to SW Florida “property values,” delving into what is meant is more worthwhile.
The term means subtly different things to different people (or even to the same person, depending on their intentions). To most homeowners, for instance, if you say that SW Florida property values have been on the rise, their first interpretation is likely to be that their home can now be sold for more than before—in other words, they equate ‘property values’ with ‘market values.’ They don’t mean that it has now become a better place for their family to live in: that would be its ‘use value’ or ‘utility value’—a different thing altogether.
On the other hand, to a lender, a home’s ‘property value’ usually means its current market value. To an investor, ‘property value’ could well mean its ‘future value’ or its ‘liquidation value’…which could be different numbers depending on whether the speaker is imagining a forced liquidation or an orderly liquidation. The upshot is that “property values” is one of those precise-sounding terms that’s a lot more slippery than it seems.
In SW Florida Real Estate, “Property Values” Needs More Detail. Especially when it comes to major transactions like the purchase and sale of SW Florida real estate, it’s a good idea to be as precise as possible. In that regard, more useful are terms like “asking price” or “selling price.” They describe actual numerical values in a particular currency at a specific time. Although it’s certainly not bad news if we hear that SW Florida property values are likely to keep rising in the new year, that needs a lot more detail to be very meaningful (give me some neighborhood comps, thank you very much). And since we’re on the subject: anytime you are ready to investigate the current state of our local real estate market, I hope you’ll decide to give me a call!
Mortgage Interest Rates in SW Florida are Just One of Many. It’s really as simple as this: when SW Florida mortgage interest rates are low, good things happen in SW Florida real estate. And last week, when The Washington Post commented on the news coming out of Washington, it indicated exactly that. “Mortgage rates fall for the third week in a row” was the headline summarizing the latest data from Freddie Mac. It was good news—but there were also new grounds to wonder how long it was going to last.
One of the key reasons for the strength of SW Florida’s residential market has been shown in the ‘affordability’ index, which gives a numerical answer to the question every prospective local home buyer understands: can I afford it? The index uses a number of economic factors to come up with the answer to whether typical families can afford the monthly cost of a typical home. Of course, it all revolves around what that monthly cost actually is. For local buyers, that cost rises and falls along with SW Florida interest rates.
So the latest figures once again signaled smooth sailing. Nationally, Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed-rate average had ‘slipped’ to 3.93%. Anything less than 4% is, in historical terms, really low. As homeowners who were around at the start of the 1980s will tell you, when mortgage interest rates climb into double digits, the monthly payment amounts grow so steep the whole market is hamstrung (in 1981 and 1982, mortgage interest rates averaged north of 16%!)
That’s the reason why anyone who is even beginning to lay plans to buy or sell knows their budget will be affected by the direction SW Florida interest rates head. Consulting expert opinion hasn’t helped much over past few years, either. Most seers have been predicting a rise in rates for quite a while. They’ve been consistent (in being wrong).
Nevertheless, at the end of last week it looked increasingly likely that their expectations might finally be met—and soon. Federal Reserve’s Chairman Yellin has been issuing statements that indicate a bias toward raising Fed rates, if the economy can sustain them. On Friday, the latest labor reports were widely hailed as indicating the kind of strength that she had been talking about. The year’s final Fed meeting will take place on December 15-16. If they do raise the benchmark federal funds rate, SW Florida mortgage interest rates will certainly follow. The real question on both fronts was how much…
Mortgage Interest Rates in SW Florida are Just One of Many. When you decide to buy or sell a home, SW Florida mortgage factors are important, yes—but they are only some of many considerations. One factor that won’t change is that I will be standing by, ready to help on all fronts!
Tax Break Possibilities Tempt SW Florida Real Estate Investors. There are two specific times each year when SW Florida real estate investors find their thoughts wandering in the general direction of impending tax bills. As we approach year’s end, this is one of them. The other, of course, will be coming up in April—but this is the time of year when steps can be taken that affect the bottom line of what will come due later on.
My expertise is in SW Florida real estate, so I don’t offer specific tax advice—as always, that’s best handled by your own financial advisor. But tax benefits (in the form of deductions) are always part of the picture when I’m helping clients find SW Florida real estate for investment purposes. In that connection, there was one recent article that ran on the REALTOR® web site that effectively summed up seven main tax advantages that SW Florida real estate may offer owners who rent out their property. There are specific provisions in the tax code that qualify a property for each (which is why the piece was titled “Seven Possible Tax Deductions for Rental Property Owners”), but I think listing all seven possibilities in one place is worth repeating, so here goes:
• Mortgage Interest Deduction (everyone already knows this one—the most obvious and potentially the most significant). What wasn’t mentioned in the REALTOR article is the added possibility of deducting the expense for points paid in the year of purchase. That’s an expense that brings down a loan’s mortgage interest rate over the long haul while being deductible over the short-haul.
• Repairs – they have to be ‘necessary and reasonable.’ Likewise, improvements may qualify if they meet the same standard
• Depreciation — this one is like other business assets that deteriorate over time due to wear and tear
• Insurance — the expense common to many businesses
• Professional and Legal — ditto
• Outside labor — when you hire employees or independent contractors to ‘perform services…related to the rental.’
• Travel — if your SW Florida real estate causes you to travel (for instance, if you live out-of-town), fuel expenses and meals may be deductible.
As usual, the caveat is the need to keep detailed records of every expense (your Uncle Sam isn’t the kind of uncle who takes your word for things).
Tax Break Possibilities Tempt SW Florida Real Estate Investors. When you list them all together, you have to agree these make quite an attractive handful of tax deduction possibilities. They really do account for a major appeal that a SW Florida real estate rental property can offer. To investigate the SW Florida properties with investment potential, give me a call anytime!
SW Florida Listing Author Reviews Listing Language Critique. Anyone who creates listings can’t help but be drawn to critiques of real estate writing. There aren’t a whole lot of those to be drawn to, so when a respected national media titan like The Wall Street Journal comes up with an essay on real estate listing language, this is one SW Florida listing writer who considers it a must-read.
The poetic analysis in question appeared just last week. From the outset, it presented itself as a less than flattering critique: “Real-Estate Pros Pen Purple Prose” was the headline—with an explanatory blurb to the effect that higher-priced real estate listing lingo tends to get a little bit flowery. Never mind that the Journal put a hyphen between ‘real’ and ‘estate’—this was clearly going to be an authoritative commentary!
Bottom line: astronomical listing prices get more poetic language. In some cases, extremely poetic:
“Majestically poised along the shimmering Gulf of Mexico” was the first example quoted, for an $11 million beach home listing. The critic didn’t bother pointing out that ‘poised’ indicates that there is at least a possibility that the beach home will eventually topple into the shimmering Gulf of Mexico. Instead, the point was that the example 222-word listing includes such lyrical descriptions as the ‘unique harmony’ of this ‘haven of serenity’ suitable for ‘undisturbed reflection’ (we are left to imagine how undisturbed the serenity will be once the place pitches into the Gulf).
Unlike most literary commentators, the Journal’s critic relied on science and mathematics to underscore the evaluation. The Gulf house listing, for instance, registers at the “12th-grade reading level based on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.” (Who ever heard of that?) Mathematically, an analysis of recent samples of 1,000 listings found that the language used differed greatly depending on the listing price. For homes priced below $750,000, there were 13 words in an average sentence. Above $10 million: 18 words per sentence. Average syllables per word? $750,000 and below: 1.55. High end? 1.7 syllables. Average characters per word? –well, you get the idea!
As someone who is more than peripherally involved (there’s a 5-syllable one right there!) in creating SW Florida listing prose, I feel I really should point out that the number of words per sentence, characters per word, etc., really isn’t what makes an effective listing. It needs to be attention-getting, quick and easy to read (prospects don’t dawdle over listing language, most of them scan quickly), positive—and accurate! When a buyer is attracted enough to request a property showing, it better live up to the prose (purple or not).
SW Florida Listing Author Reviews Listing Language Critique. In case you were wondering, this blog registers a solid 8.9 on the Flesch-Kincaid. But in case you are soon to need a level-headed real estate agent to create an appealing SW Florida listing that describes your own home in a way that pulls in buyers, you can call anytime!
Advantages to Selling Your SW Florida Home over the Holidays. Selling your SW Florida home during the holiday season may sound like a less than ideal game plan, but there are some advantages now present only at this time of year. It’s true that some extra effort may be called for, but it can be worth the endeavor: there are several factors that make showings at this time of year particularly promising.
The first advantage is the flip side of the greatest disadvantage: the slowdown in real estate activity we usually expect over the holidays. That relative paucity of active prospects means fewer showings, so the number of times you’ll be called upon to put your SW Florida property in peak condition will be smaller. The other side of that disadvantage? The showings we do expect will be to particularly motivated buyers. If they are interrupting their own Christmas and New Year’s activities to go house hunting, they probably mean business. And it’s also likely that they are motivated by a timing deadline. This makes those showings especially promising.
Another positive aspect to selling a SW Florida home at this time of year is how appealing the staging possibilities become—and with little extra effort. Your regular holiday decorations make the place festive and cheerful every year, anyway—usually little else will be needed to bring those enhancements into play for prospective buyers. Yuletide décor is automatically a kind of natural staging that brings out the cheeriest side of any home…and who doesn’t respond favorably to the scent of cookies in the oven or cider bubbling on the stove?
Along with those automatic holiday positives, owners selling their home in SW Florida do need to be careful to avoid some built-in potential downsides. Right now the sun stays lower—even at noon—than at other times of the year, so it’s important to make the most of the light that is available. Keep rooms well-lit and window drapes pulled back to allow as much sunlight as possible. Even during daylight hours, most rooms show their best with all lamps and ceiling fixtures turned on. Fireplaces are sought-after features—and this is the best time of year to make the most of yours by keeping a cheery fire blazing.
When you are selling your home during the holiday season you should also make the effort to keep your own schedule as flexible as you can—even more so than would ordinarily be called for. Potential buyers will have their own holiday obligations to attend to, and are often forced to jam showings into tight spaces. It can be worth it, though, when you keep in mind that holiday home shoppers are motivated prospects.
Advantages to Selling Your SW Florida Home over the Holidays. If this December and January look like opportune times to be selling your own home in SW Florida, it’s not too late to give me a call. I will be active throughout the season, helping SW Florida prospects find the home of their dreams—the home they will be making holiday memories in for many years to come!
Homing in On SW Florida Rental Investment Opportunities. It’s a good thing that the human body is constructed the way it is, which is to make it difficult to do any real damage by kicking yourself. Particularly after many of us recall quite clearly how incredibly low SW Florida prices dived during the last decade’s real estate meltdown. When you see the bounce back the intervening years have brought, if you are at all investment-minded, you want to at least smack your forehead…
The good news isn’t just that the rebound looks to be progressing still, but that in the realm of SW Florida rental investments, the wished-for growth in underlying value of any investment property may be only half the goal. There is also the ongoing cash-generation to consider.
If you were to set out to search for a property to become one of the SW Florida rental investment income producers, one place to start out is to think about a two-part qualifying question:
Part 1: will you be actively managing the rental investment property? Realistically, do you have the time and inclination to do so? As a true investment rather than a sideline avocation, the answer to that question should take into account what your time is worth elsewhere. Whether you are a fully engaged professional or a massively overstressed soccer mom (or, heaven forbid, both!), the cost of hiring a professional management firm might be the better choice. Zillow notes a starting point for estimating management services at around 6%-8% of the rent number (which may or may not include services like re-leasing services).
The answer to that Part 1 consideration will give you a firm basis for estimating the answer to Part 2: What is the price range of the properties you should consider. Managing the rental yourself will increase the bottom line, but that’s only one of your rental’s operating expenses. The complete operating budget will include maintenance (generally ballpark at 1% per year of the property’s value), insurance, taxes, and any HOA and gardening fees.
The next step is to investigate what the income stream is likely to be. The local classifieds will show what comparable SW Florida rentals are going for. There are also a number of online information sources like Rentometer, craigslist, Zillow and Trulia that should supply a good approximation of today’s market. Once you find where those rates stand, you’ll be able to pencil out the cash-generating potential of candidate property.
Homing in On SW Florida Rental Investment Opportunities. At every step of the way—from first looks at the many promising SW Florida rental investment properties, to introductions to the kind of reliable local tradespeople who make a landlord’s life easier—I offer my clients fully engaged service and advice. Give me a call!
One Reason there is No New SW Florida Real Estate Bubble. The possibility that a SW Florida real estate bubble might be forming again is a subject that draws everybody’s attention. For all of us who went through the subprime mortgage mess and drop-off in SW Florida real estate prices, the possibility that the current ongoing rebound might be evidence of another price bubble is a matter of serious concern. For anyone who bought their home near the 2006 peak—then had to wait for a decade before its nominal market value returned—it was an unpleasant interlude. Even if any ‘loss’ was actually only a paper abstraction, “My nerves!” could have been rattled aplenty.
Whether you are a first-time home buyer or someone who is plotting out the move to a next house, the main deciding factor will probably be simple necessity. First-timers will do the math and deduce that it’s simply too costly to continue renting. Existing homeowners will be motivated by the need for more living space (or less)—or see a financial path that makes possible a move to a more desirable neighborhood or school district. But hanging over such major factors are the uncontrollable surrounding conditions, like the national and world economies. And the presence—or absence—of a real estate bubble.
Last week came an examination of the real estate rebound that at first looked like bad news, but actually convincingly scotched any SW Florida real estate bubble concerns…at least for the next 17 years. It appeared as an entry in The Wall Street Journal’s economics blog, wherein the author examined national measures of home prices (the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, NAR existing home sales report, CoreLogic’s Home Price Index) all of which pointed to the fact that “Home prices have been growing at a rate that some see as alarming…”
Why any such alarm bells needn’t be sounding for a while is due to a simple fact. Yes, home prices may indeed be nearing or surpassing peak levels touched in early 2007; but, No—that does not a bubble make.
The reason: those steadily rising price numbers don’t take inflation into account.
Now, most everyone would agree that although inflation is an ever-present fact of life, lately it has been so tame as to be barely perceptible. The rise in supermarket prices may have been noticeable on some aisles, but lately, more than offset by falling energy prices. However, the cumulative effect of 10 years of inflation, tame or not, can make a big difference. Today’s dollars aren’t what they used to be. In fact, when inflation is taken into account, at the current rate of residential price appreciation, it will be 17 years before the old real estate ‘bubble’ levels equaled.
One Reason there is No New SW Florida Real Estate Bubble. So as a practical matter, fears that a new SW Florida real estate bubble is being inflated seem to be over inflated… because they aren’t inflated…(well, you know what I mean)! As prices continue to strengthen at sustainable rates, the truth is, you can find a lot of good values on the SW Florida market. Give me a call to discuss investigating what’s out there!