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Lynda Melnick
Wagner Realty
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Real Estate News

May 2015 sales continue record pace

 The residential real estate market in May 2015 in both Sarasota and Manatee counties continued to produce near-record sales, pointing toward another potential record-breaking year in 2015. Overall sales in Sarasota County hit 1,182, only 42 sales below last month's all-time monthly record, while Manatee County saw total sales of 827, higher than April's figure of 813 and last year's May total of 752.

Sales levels in both Sarasota and Manatee counties have been at historically high levels for several months, and median sale prices have also been trending upwards. The May 2015 median sale prices were up 20 percent for single family homes in Sarasota County, and 14.3 percent in Manatee County over last May. For condos, Sarasota County also recorded a 20 percent price rise, while Manatee County was up 1.5 percent.

"Perhaps the best news in all of these positive numbers is the overall economy and what is fueling this real estate market," explained Association President Stafford Starcher. "Many reports from experts across the nation point to the growth in employment as the leading fundamental behind this surge. Jonathan Smoke, the chief economist at the web site realtor.com, recently reported that there is no evidence of a housing bubble, and he noted more than three million jobs were created in the last year. He said we could experience the highest national sales since 2006."

In Manatee County, single family homes were selling at a median price of $257,111 in May, up over last year's May figure of $225,000. The condo market was selling at $160,000 - also up over last May's figure of $157,600. Median sale prices also trended upward in Sarasota County, with single family homes hitting $230,000, well above last May's figure of $191,500. Condo prices were at $210,000 in May, also well above last May's figure of $175,000.

"The existing inventory remains low in both counties, and that fundamental tends to push price appreciation in a desirable market like ours," explained Starcher. "We are seeing inventory levels down by double digit percentages this May compared to last year at this time."

The only number in the May report that was trending lower was the pending sales figure, which dropped to 949 from 1,127 in April. In Manatee County, new pending sales were at 667, down from last month's 770. This is a typical pattern in the two-county area, as our seasonal visitors return to their homes. A decline in pending sales usually translates to a decline in the number of closed sales in subsequent months, so it is likely that sales in the region will also be lower in the upcoming months - another pattern we are used to seeing.

The two-county area also saw the month's supply of inventory remain well below the 6 month level that defines a market in equilibrium between buyers or sellers. The figures now stand at between 3.8 and 4.3 months for both counties and for both property categories. This means sellers remain in command, based upon that market statistic, which is also reflected in the rising median sale prices and lower average days to closings.

Distressed sales, short sales and foreclosures, rose slightly in May 2015, but still represent only 15.9 percent of the Sarasota County sales and 15.7 percent of the Manatee County sales. In May 2014, over 20 percent of closed sales in Sarasota County and 23 percent in Manatee County were distressed properties.

Distressed property listings fell to only 8.6 percent of total inventory in Sarasota County and only 6.7 percent in Manatee County - a major drop from recent months when the figure hovered around 20 percent.

 "Once again, the market statistics are clearly showing the strength and vitality of Sarasota and Manatee counties," said Starcher. "We are living in a golden era for local real estate, and the future continues to look bright."


SMART SPENDING

10 cheap fixes to boost the value of your home

Looking for ways to spruce up your home without putting yourself in the poorhouse? Whether you're getting ready to sell your home or want to spiff it up inexpensively for your own enjoyment, we've got 10 good strategies for you to consider.

The actual cost and payback for each project can vary, depending on both your home's condition and overall real estate market values in your region of the country.

Boost your home's value
These simple upgrades can easily add thousands of dollars to your home's value.
10 cheap fixes
  1. Make your kitchen really cook.
  2. Give appliances a facelift.
  3. Buff up the bath.
  4. Step up your storage.
  5. Add a room in a week or less.
  6. Mind the mechanics.
  7. Look underfoot.
  8. Let there be light.
  9. Reframe your entry.
  10. Consider curb appeal.

1. Make your kitchen really cook.The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential home buyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated.

For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.

If you've got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. "Rather than spring for a whole new cabinet system, which can be expensive, look into hiring a refacing company," says serial remodeler Gwen Moran, co-author of "Build Your Own Home on a Shoestring."

"Many companies can remove cabinet doors and drawers, refinish the cabinet boxes, then add brand-new doors and drawers. With a fresh coat of paint over the whole set, your cabinets will look like new."

If you're handy, you can order your own replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe's Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself.

2. Give appliances a facelift.If your kitchen appliances don't match, order new doors or face panels for them. When Nicole Persley, a Realtor in Boca Raton, Fla., was sprucing up her own home to sell, her mix-and-match kitchen bothered her. The room had a white dishwasher, microwave and wall oven mixed with other pieces that were stainless steel with black trim.

When Persley called the dishwasher manufacturer to see about ordering a new, black face panel, the customer service representative clued her in on a big secret: Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other.

"All I had to do was unscrew two screws, slide out the panel and flip it around. Sure enough -- it was black on the other side!"

Persley, who has remodeled numerous homes for resale, says that a more cohesive-looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer's mind -- and in the home's resale price.

3. Buff up the bath.Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. "Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference in the look of the bath," says Moran.

Moran also suggests replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. "You may not even need to take up the old floor. You can install the new floor right over the old one," she says.

If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.

4. Step up your storage.Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, Realtor Moe Viessi of Miami suggests adding do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.

Firms like ClosetMaid allow you to measure and redesign your closets online. You can also get design details and parts for these systems at many large home-improvement stores. Most closets can be updated in a weekend or less.

In the end, your closets will be more functional while you're living in the house and will make your home look more customized to potential buyers when you're ready to sell.

5. Add a room in a week or less."If you have a three-bedroom house with a den, the only reason the den can't be considered a bedroom may be because it doesn't have a closet," says Persley. "If you add a closet to that room, you've now got a four-bedroom house. That adds a lot of value."

Persley says it's usually possible to add a custom closet system and drywall it in for less than $1,500.

6. Mind the mechanics.Finley Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass., advocates spending a few bucks on nitty-gritty stuff. "It's often very worthwhile to hire an electrician and plumber for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks," Perry says. "Those details tell a buyer that someone has really taken care of the home and can really influence its price."

7. Look underfoot.Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors.

If your carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with inexpensive, strategically placed area rugs. Unless it is truly hideous, most real estate agents don't suggest replacing wall-to-wall carpeting right before you sell your house. The new homeowners may want to choose their own carpeting after they move in.

8. Let there be light.If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms, consider replacing one of the room's lights with an eye-catching chandelier. Home stores offer a wide range of inexpensive, but nice-looking, ceiling fixtures these days. If you have a ceiling fan and light, you can also buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture's look.

9. Reframe your entry.Do you have a flimsy little knob on your main entry door? If so, spring for a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set. "A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home," says Viessi.

Also, if you're stuck with a basic steel front door, Persley suggests painting or faux-finishing it for more eye appeal. "It's becoming a trend in Florida to add wood-grain doors to a home's entry or garage. The good news, though, is that you can easily paint existing metal doors with stain and paint," she says.

After using a good metal primer, Persley gives the door a base coat of paint (again, be sure to use one approved for use over metal). For a cherry wood look, Persley uses a burgundy base paint. After it dries, she brushes over the base coat with a cherry wood stain. "It really looks amazing, and it only takes a few hours," she says.

10. Consider curb appeal.Although it sounds obvious, a nicely mowed lawn, a few well-placed shrubs and a swept walkway makes a great first impression. "What buyers see when they first drive by your home is tremendously important," says Viessi.

If you don't have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. "These kinds of changes can instantly change people's perception of your home and, therefore, increase its value," says Viessi. And hey, your neighbors will love you for it, too.

 

 

Flood insurance refunds to begin Oct. 1

 

WASHINGTON – July 21, 2014 – Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) says that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is continuing to implement the Grimm-Cassidy Substitute Amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.

As a result, insurance companies will begin to issue refunds for applicable policyholders beginning Oct. 1, 2014, and all checks should be sent before Dec. 31, 2014. The refunds will go to homeowners that paid higher flood insurance rates before Congress passed the Act and Pres. Obama signed it.

The Grimm-Cassidy Substitute Amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370) effectively lowers many flood insurance premium rates. It reinstates grandfathered rates, repeals the home sale/new policy rate increase trigger, provides refunds for people who bought pre-FIRM subsidized homes without being informed of rate increases and caps flood insurance rate increases, among other things.

Most flood insurance rates will still increase but at a slower rate than before.

Homebuyers already benefit from the Act. Effective May 1, people who purchased new homes after Biggert-Waters became law, or who didn't have insurance before that date or whose insurance lapsed, were required to paid flood insurance premiums at the rate that was charged on Oct. 1, 2013.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Fla.’s Housing Market Continues Steady Course in 2Q 2014 Fla.’s Housing Market Continues Steady Course in 2Q 2014

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 12, 2014 – Florida’s housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings and gains in inventory during the second quarter of 2014, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 67,579 in 2Q 2014, up 7.3 percent over the 2Q 2013 figure. Read More »

Fla.’s Housing Market: More Sales, Rising Prices in June 2014

Fla.’s Housing Market: More Sales, Rising Prices in June 2014

ORLANDO, Fla., July 22, 2014 – Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices, increased new listings and a rise in inventory in June, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 23,181 last month, up 14.6 percent over the June 2013 figure. Read More »

 

Realtors® Applaud Speedy Senate Action on Bipartisan Flood Insurance Affordability Bill

Media Contact: Jenny Werwa / 202-383-1193

~~WASHINGTON (March 13, 2014) – The following is a statement by National Association of Realtors® President Steve Brown:

"Realtors® applaud the U.S. Senate for passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, H.R. 3370, to curb flood insurance rate hikes for homes and commercial properties.

"We appreciate the Senate’s swift action on the legislation, which is a responsible and balanced solution to the skyrocketing flood insurance premiums affecting residential and commercial properties that were unintentionally triggered by the Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.

"As the leading advocate for home and property owners, NAR applauds this bill for the relief and protection it will bring to businesses and families nationwide, who are experiencing financial hardship because of the extreme and sudden premium increases. We believe this legislation will bring relief to property owners by ensuring a slow and steady phase in of risk-based increases.

"Realtors® praise the Senate for their bipartisanship on this important issue and thank Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) for their leadership and advocacy for the bill. NAR urges President Obama to quickly sign the legislation into law."

The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.


 # # #

‘Hurricane tax’ on policies to end 18 months early

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – July 23, 2014 – An extra charge on property-insurance and auto-insurance policies to cover claims paid for the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons will end Jan. 1.

The Office of Insurance Regulation formally issued orders Tuesday for insurance companies to move up by 18 months the end of a 1.3 percent "emergency assessment" for the state-run Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides backup coverage to insurers.

The assessment has hit policyholders for $2.9 billion, which has gone to reimburse insurance companies for claims from the eight hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 and 2005, the last time a hurricane made landfall in Florida.

"It's been nine years since (Hurricane) Wilma," said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council. "If anything, the assessment helps us remember how devastating these storms may be."

Miller said the industry had been waiting for the orders so it could begin preparing for the new end date for the assessment, which previously had been set for July 1, 2016.

The orders make official a decision Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet made last month to end the assessment, Amy Bogner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said in an email.

The assessment, which first appeared at 1 percent in 2007 and was raised to the current rate in 2011, collectively hits policyholders for between $350 million and $500 million a year.

In addition to the state's near-decade luck at avoiding hurricanes, the early termination is due to claims for Hurricane Wilma coming in $498 million less than what had initially been thought. Wilma hit South Florida in October 2005. Also, the fund received more money than expected due to an increase in policies statewide.

The charge is imposed on most property and casualty policies other than medical malpractice and workers compensation.

The catastrophe fund, better known as the Cat Fund, currently has about $13 billion on hand and is expected to be able to raise an additional $4 billion, which is considered solid ground for covering most post-storm claims.

In addition to the Cat Fund assessment, the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. adds an extra 1 percent charge on most policies to cover losses from the 2005 storms. First imposed in 2007, the state expects that charge to be paid off in June 2017.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner

Flood insurance refunds to begin Oct. 1

 

WASHINGTON – July 21, 2014 – Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) says that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is continuing to implement the Grimm-Cassidy Substitute Amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.

As a result, insurance companies will begin to issue refunds for applicable policyholders beginning Oct. 1, 2014, and all checks should be sent before Dec. 31, 2014. The refunds will go to homeowners that paid higher flood insurance rates before Congress passed the Act and Pres. Obama signed it.

The Grimm-Cassidy Substitute Amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370) effectively lowers many flood insurance premium rates. It reinstates grandfathered rates, repeals the home sale/new policy rate increase trigger, provides refunds for people who bought pre-FIRM subsidized homes without being informed of rate increases and caps flood insurance rate increases, among other things.

Most flood insurance rates will still increase but at a slower rate than before.

Homebuyers already benefit from the Act. Effective May 1, people who purchased new homes after Biggert-Waters became law, or who didn't have insurance before that date or whose insurance lapsed, were required to paid flood insurance premiums at the rate that was charged on Oct. 1, 2013.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

 






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