Clearwater Homes Real Estate Market Currently Outpaces A Lot Of Other Places

The upcoming few months will be pretty important for ascertaining the sturdiness and steadiness for the Clearwater homes and Pinellas County real estate market.

We have seen good sales the last few months but I’m beginning to see a minor slowdown and it is unclear at this point whether it’s simply the normal change which occurs when we start to enter summertime.. It isn’t uncommon to experience some decline this time of the year — Mar thru May are usually the strongest buying months.

I wasn’t confident that May was going to be as good as March and April were this year, having been the two best months of sales looking all the way back to January 2007, but despite the fact that there was clearly a visible decline from the range in March and Apr it was still above last May (and every May back through ’07) and was the 3rd highest month of residential real estate sales in Pinellas County and Clearwater homes in more than four years.

This is significant as this year there wasn’t any tax credit to elevate sales and the three Spring season months this year nevertheless ended up above the exact same months last year while the tax credit boost to the housing market was in fact having its peak.

Here’s what the graph looks like now (2011 is the orange lines):

I recognize I’ve said this for the last couple of months and ended up being incorrect, however organic beef potentially experience a slowing this next month. I’ve noticed some slowing in the market lately but can not tell yet whether or not it is the usual change while we head into summer time or perhaps an overall slowing. I watched something very similar in early February and one or even two of the other months this current year but it turned out that the total sales at the end of the month were still up.

So we will have to simply wait till June is over to see what the results are.

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Major Changes In Dunedin Real Estate Market

After I go over the statistics for last month I’m going to cover an important topic for anyone looking at buying a home, condo or townhouse in the area in the coming months.

I’ve learned some important things in the last few months about how our local market is behaving that can definitely affect how any purchases you attempt to make here will go.  I want everything to go smoothly for you and so you don’t have to experience some of the things my other clients have gone through.

One other bit of news – our MLS is changing this week and you may notice some slight differences.  If you have saved properties you are interested in you should note down the addresses or MLS #s since, unfortunately, those saved listings will get wiped out when the transition is fully done.  But the good news is that the MLS will now include listings for nearly all of central Florida including Orlando, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, etc in addition to Clearwater homes, Dunedin homes, etc.

But before I get into that, let’s see how April turned out.

In last month’s newsletter I wrote about how surprised I was to see that the local real estate sales here in March were the highest since back to before January 2007 and that I didn’t know whether the sales would be able to maintain that higher range.

The final sales numbers for April show that there were just slightly less sales in April than in March but more than during April of last year.  So other than March of this year, April sales were higher than all other months back through and including January 2007.

Here’s the graph so you can see for yourself (2011 is in orange):

I don’t know what May will bring I feel pretty confident that the overall positive trend will continue.

I’ll get into describing the market change in a moment but I did want to let you know that I came across two interesting articles this month and will have links to them at the end of the newsletter.  One is a list of the ‘Top 6 cities where buying beats renting’ and the other answers the question ‘How can you beat a cash bidder?’ so make sure to check those out after reading the rest of the newsletter.

So what’s the major change in the market?

Last month I wrote about some of the experiences of my clients since the beginning of the year.  The attempts by one client to buy a high-end condo on Clearwater Beach facing the Gulf and being beat out twice and missing out on 3 other possibilities all in a 2 week period; other clients seeing houses and condos they were interested in going under contract before they could act; an investor who bought 4 condos in December and has been beat out on 6 since the beginning of the year.  This was getting to be so consistent that I had to look into this further to determine what was really going on and my investor client came to the same conclusion about a day before me.

Last year the market was doing well, especially due to the tax credit and then slowed down for 3-4 months after the tax credit ended and, in part, due to the problems that came up foreclosure paperwork.  December showed a big increase and sales have been strong since.  What appears to have been going on last year was that sales were strong due to the tax credit but there was still overall concern about the economy and real estate that caused many buyers and investors to hesitate on buying.  Experienced investors and buyers, however, viewed this as an opportune time to buy and likely a bottoming of the market.

But after getting past the uncertainty of the elections and what was going to happen with taxes it seems that there were more buyers feeling more confident about getting into the market, especially investors and cash buyers.  So, as my investor described it, the end of last year was like “a party” for those who were buying and now the party is over (or at least it’s more crowded and the good appetizers are getting snatched up before you can get to them).

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t still good deals available but it does mean that a buyer’s approach to the market has to be different if they want to be successful in securing good deals.

Each of my clients that lost out on these good deals since January was approaching the market as if it were the same market as it was last year and that was the error that both they and I were making.  Knowing this makes it possible to approach these types of deals differently and in a way that can be more effective.

The key points will be 2 that I have brought up in other newsletters but can see are even more important now.

The first is being prepared.  If you have not worked out how you’re going to pay for the purchase or finance it and have to take time to get that done you can lose out.  This happened to one client that could have bought a condo for about 60% what the market value is for condos in that complex, but due to a delay in getting the documentation needed he lost out to another buyer who saw what a good deal this was and was able to act quickly.

That leads into the second key point – acting quickly once you find a good deal that you are interested in buying.  This is especially true with foreclosures because there can often be a delay of a few days before getting a response from the bank to your offer and if other offers come in the bank will then tell everyone to submit their “highest and best” offer and you will now have to hope you aren’t beat out by someone willing to pay more than you wanted to get it for.

That pretty well sums up how you need to adjust your approach to making a purchase in this current market.  Included in the first point, in addition to be prepared in the financial aspect, is getting any information you need to know before making any decisions.  Questions you have about taxes, association fees, how the buying process works in Florida or anything else you would need to know to be able to make a decision should be addressed right away – these are things that you can get sorted out easily and can cause unnecessary delays at a crucial time.

You should always make sure to make a decision based on what is right for you and with all the information you need but to be successful in this current market you should be well prepared so that you can act quickly when needed.

I hope this helps you to better understand our current market condition and look forward to seeing you in the near future.  Don’t forget about the links below to the articles I mentioned.




Top 6 cities where buying beats renting

How can you beat a cash bidder?

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Dunedin Florida Foreclosures – 5 Rules for Buyers

This month I’m going to dive into a topic that seems to be of interest to a lot of people lately:  Finding and buying, or investing in, foreclosed properties and short sales.  I’ll also tell you about an upcoming tool for those of you who are qualified buyers for these kinds of properties.  (This is a pretty long newsletter this month but I think you’ll find there is a wealth of valuable information here.)

First I’m going to give you my monthly review of the previous month’s sales statistics for our county including Dunedin homes and condos.

In last month’s newsletter I wrote that I was predicting at least one, if not all three, of the months from March to May would see a drop in sales as compared to last year. In 2010 the homebuyer tax credit had a deadline of April 30 for contracts and June 30 for closings.  This resulted in a spike in closings during Feb-May and gave us the 4 highest months for sales since before Jan 2007.

Immediately after the end of the tax credit (June was the last month for closings) the sales dropped noticeably and there were stories throughout the news about this drop and how it might mean the housing market had crashed.  True, July through November saw sales below the same month in the previous year which was something we hadn’t seen since November 2008, but with the artificially inflated numbers due to the tax credit you had to look at this in context.

Then in December of last year we saw another spike in sales.  this was not just the first month since the end of the tax credit where we saw sales higher than the same month in the previous year, December’s sales actually came in as the second highest month since January 2007 and this was without the tax credit.  The question was whether or not this would be a one-time thing or would be a trend that would continue.

January sales were higher than every January back through 2007 and the same held true for February.  But March had a higher hurdle to clear since the sales numbers in April 2010 were the highest since before January 2007.  So how did last month fare?

The final numbers are now in for March and the sales last month not only topped every other March sales figure going back through 2007, but last month was also the highest sales month since prior to 2007.

Here’s the chart so you can see for yourself:

It is definitely easier to see and understand what is going on by being able to look at a chart of statistics.  This is important because you have to look at what is going on in a specific local market – there may be a national trend but that doesn’t mean every area is the same.

Now there is something that this chart doesn’t show which is important to know.  In January one of my clients emailed me asking about the drop in prices in the area and I checked into this because throughout 2010 I had been seeing the average price staying nearly even with 2009.  When I checked into this in January I saw that there was a drop in December and when I checked again in February and March there was a drop again in both January and February (as compared to the same month in the previous year).  Since the trend through 2010 had been that the prices stayed nearly the same as in 2009 this seemed odd so I dug into this further.

What I found was that the percentage of foreclosure and short sales closings had jumped in December and that in January and February the number of short sales closings dropped to their previous levels but that the foreclosure sales closings had stayed up in the higher range.  Some of this has to do with the problems that began last October with bank paperwork on foreclosures that stopped a lot of foreclosure sales closings in November and December, and the percentage of foreclosure closings has been gradually drifting back down since the peak in January.  But they are still at a higher percentage that they were at before December, even last month.

You might think these are just very cheap, run-down condos and houses being bought by investors, and the majority are, but 10% of these foreclosures were properties that sold for over $200,000 and one was a house on Indian Rocks Beach that sold for nearly $2,000,000.

I can tell you from personal experience that there are a lot of investors right now looking for and quickly buying up bargain properties but even that doesn’t tell the whole story.

I have a client who has been interested in a beach front condo in a particular complex on Clearwater Beach and has been watching the market for several years.  A little over a month ago we noticed that there were some of the direct beachfront condos in this complex that were on the market as short sales and foreclosures which were priced $200,000 or more below what these condos had been selling for.  He had to arrange a trip here to see them but couldn’t come for 2 weeks and before he could even get out here the 1 foreclosure and 2 short sales he was interested in all went under contract with more than one buyer submitting an offer in at least one of these cases.  The next week one of the contracts fell through and he put in an offer and while we were negotiating with the bank on this foreclosure another buyer came in with an offer and beat him out on it.  Then another short sale came on the market in that same complex and within about a week that one was under contract.

I bring this up as an example of how the interest in our local market is not just about the really inexpensive properties but rather has to do with good deals no matter what the price is.

What you need to do if you are looking to find and buy really good deals here, whether as investments or as a second/vacation home or condo or as your main residence, is follow some important rules.

1.  Be prepared for the financial aspect of the purchase. In every foreclosure or short sale situation you must have proof that you are financially able to make the purchase.  If you are paying cash, you will need to have a bank statement or other proof that is no older than 30 days to show you have the funds to make the purchase.  If you plan to finance your purchase you must have preapproval for a loan to cover the purchase price.  Banks will not even look at an offer on a short sale or foreclosure without one of these.  And the first choice for a bank will always be a cash buyer.

2.  Be prepared to act quickly when you find what you’re looking for. There are a lot of people looking for the great deals now so when you find t hem you may be competing with other buyers so any delays bring about additional risk of another buyer getting there first.  This is especially true with foreclosures as sometimes it may take a few days to hear back from the bank on your offer and during that time other offers may come in that may be better than yours.  You also need to be aware of what happens when a bank gets more than one offer on a foreclosure property.  When that happens the bank will tell all potential buyers to submit their “highest and best” offer and they will then review all of these and take the best one as long as there are any that are acceptable to them.  I have seen this often on inexpensive, investment properties but this also happened on the Clearwater Beach condo deal and it can be quite frustrating to almost be there and then lose out.

3.  Get your research done right away so you know what a good price for a property is. When you find a property you’re interested in you should ask me right away for comparable sales to see what the property is worth and determine what you feel it is worth to you.  For investment properties that you will be buying and renting out, you should also get info on what the most recent rentals have rented for.  But when you have all the information you need, make sure you review it quickly and decide whether or not to proceed.

4.  Know what you can and can’t afford to do. Don’t rush into something that you will regret later because you couldn’t really afford it.  You should figure this out before you even start looking at property listings.  Know what the taxes will likely be, an insurance you may have to obtain, monthly fees or condo or homeowner associations, mortgage payments if you are financing your purchase, etc.  For investment properties, what repairs or improvements you’ll likely need to pay for, what you can make monthly above your expenses based on what the property should rent for and what it will cost you until you can get it rented out (holding costs).  I’ve stressed in the above points the need to act quickly and decisively but before you can do that you need to know what you can and can’t afford to do, so get this figured out first to give you something to measure against.

5.  Be realistic. If you aren’t realistic about what you’re trying to find you will never find it.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t get deals better than what properties are listed for or that you should pay more than what a property is worth or that you can afford, but if you think you’re going to find a 3 year old home with a pool on an acre of land in pristine condition for $50,000 you’ll be wasting your time.  You need to set realistic expectations.  I’ve had people asking me from time to time to find something that doesn’t exist.  I tell them that the price range they have set for what they are asking for will only get them properties which are either in areas they don’t want or in a condition that will require an almost complete gut and rebuild (neither of which is what they want).  You also need to be realistic about what it may take to face the type of competition on some of these really good deals.  If you think you can take your time and casually proceed, you may find that the speed with which you need to move and the stress of competing against other buyers may be more than you want to deal with.  You also need to be realistic when dealing with short sales as to the time involved.  It can take 3-6 months or more to get a reply from the bank on an offer you submit and you need to be prepared for this and I don’t recommend even pursuing one if you aren’t ready to go for months without hearing anything.  However, I do know how to find short sales that, in most cases, won’t have this problem.

Now that I’ve covered these rules I want to go over 2 tools that can help you if you feel you are ready for this.  One I have mentioned before and the other is something new I’ll be offering.

The first is the ability for you to do digital signatures on offers.  I’ve had several clients now that have utilized this service and they have all found it to be very helpful as it makes the process of submitting an offer (or several offers) much easier and faster.  You don’t need a printer, scanner and/or fax machine and you don’t have to wait until you get home or to your office.  This is especially helpful when you don’t live locally.  There are some lenders that won’t accept digital signatures, but in most cases I have found that this isn’t a problem.

The other tool is one that will provide you with listings of foreclosure and short sale properties the instant that they are entered into, come back onto or are changed in the MLS.  With all I have said above you can see why the ability to act quickly is important and being able to find out that a property has come on the market or has come back on the market or had a price drop within seconds after that has happened is something that will give you quite an advantage.

I’m making this available now to only a limited number of people and only to qualified buyers and investors who are looking to purchase now, not for buyers looking at buying ‘some time in the future’, and who will follow the 5 rules above including having their proof of funds or preapproval ready.  This doesn’t mean that I won’t provide listings to other buyers – I will and you can be set up to receive them the day after they are listed, come back on the market or have a price change.  But to get set up to receive listings instantly after they are listed or back on the market or having a price drop you need to be in the category I described above.  And you will also need to have specific criteria for what you want to find including type of property, price range, specific areas or cities, etc.

For anyone else who isn’t interested in all this, I’ll continue to work with you as I always have been and on your time frame and at your speed.  But to assist those who want to take advantage of the opportunities available currently like for Dunedin or Clearwater homes and condos, I felt I should offer you these additional tools and services.

I hope that wherever you are the Spring weather is will make this one a pleasant one for you and I look forward to seeing you when you are next in the area.



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Because You’re Worth It…

I was pretty surprised with how last month’s sales turned out and I’ll be covering that along with the most recent sales graph.

This month, after going over the sales statistics, I want to cover a subject that will likely be important to you – the potential stress that goes along with buying a home or condo, how to reduce it and what that is worth to you. But first, let’s look at how February sales did…

In my last newsletter I wrote about the ups and downs in the local real estate market and how during the first part of the month it looked like February was going to be down, possibly breaking a long trend of recovery. I had noticed several signs during the first week or so of February that this was not only possibly, but likely.

Then, about the second week or so of February, there was a noticeable change. I don’t have an explanation for why this occurred. It could be that the bad winter storms up north delayed some people’s trips or any number of things but whatever it was that caused this is does not appear to be a permanent or long-term reversal of the recovery trend we have been seeing.

In fact, by the end of the month the sales were not only up from January and from last February – they were the highest for any February since 2007! This now makes 27 straight months where our local sales were higher than in the same month of the previous year, and the third straight month with sales higher than the same month in all of the last 4 years.

Will this continue? Well, not to be too much of a pessimist, I’m predicting that at least one (if not all three) of the next three months will have sales lower than the same month last year (but probably higher than than the same month in 2007-2009). The reason for this is that last March-May saw a dramatic spike in sales due to the ending of the tax credit. As I’ve written before, I feel that caused an artificial jump in sales during those months and that will be hard to beat. However, it does look like the steady increase in sales will continue through the next several months based on what I’ve been seeing in demand.

In fact, just in the last few weeks I had 2 clients that were interested in properties that had been on the market for 2 months or more see those properties all go under contract within a 1 week period. And these were not just lower-priced properties, some were Clearwater condos right on the beach in the $700,000 to $800,000 range! We’ll find out next month if I’m right about what will happen.

But for now, here’s the chart showing the local sales from 2007 through last month with the orange lines being 2011:

By the way, if you want to see the chart better and be able to read the numbers, just click on it and it will open in a new window full-sized. Just close the window when you’re done looking at it to get back to this newsletter.

Now onto the main topic for this month. What is it worth to you to be able to buy your home or condo or townhouse knowing that you don’t have to worry about most of the problems that can come up?

In previous newsletters I’ve shared some of the stressful situations my clients have had to go through; being a seller who needs to get the short sale deal on their house closed before a lender forecloses when they have an interested cash buyer under contract, or before the buyer won’t wait any longer, while watching their bank dragging their feet on approving the short sale; being a buyer who has to change their financing twice due to new rules being passed while waiting for short sale approval; being a buyer who finds out as they are driving to Florida for the closing that an error was made by the loan officer at their lender and their loan may now not get approved.

Fortunately in all these cases the clients were people who didn’t give up easily and who acted quickly when they were asked to provide information or documentation. Even so, they went through periods where they didn’t know whether the outcome would be positive or negative.

The advantage they did have was a good Realtor who doesn’t give up. You might think I’m just tooting my own horn here but the point I’m trying to make is how important it is to have a competent Realtor represent you as a seller and as a buyer.

There are dozens of step that have to be done correctly and in a timely manner for you to have a successful purchase or sale and finding the right house or condo for a buyer, or finding a qualified buyer for a seller, is just the beginning step. Getting from that point to a successful closing involves many actions that have to be done by sellers, buyers, inspectors, title companies, condo or homeowner associations, lenders, etc. More often than not someone along the way makes a mistake or doesn’t do what they are supposed to do correctly or in a timely manner. What your Realtor should do for you is make sure to watch that everyone is doing their job and doing it correctly, and getting involved quickly when they find out someone isn’t.

It may seem like it is all very simple and should just move along smoothly, and sometimes it does. But more often than not there are at least a few points along the way where things go off the road and have to be gotten back on it again. If you don’t know what to do about these things it can get to be very stressful and frustrating and can even mess up the whole deal. You have enough to do without having to become an expert in all these other fields to be able to sort out any of the many problems that can occur.

When you have the right Realtor working with you there is a certainty you will achieve that someone is watching out for you and that nearly every problem that comes up can be solved. This doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be situations where you will have concern or feel stress – but it does mean that you won’t be facing it alone and without the knowledge to fix it.

One thing that is needed in a good Realtor is a willingness to go beyond the normal expectations to find solutions. For my seller mentioned above, when the buyer was getting anxious and I couldn’t get anywhere with the people at the bank handling the short sale, I went online and found a forum where someone posted the email addresses of the top executives of the bank and then emailed them about the situation. I got a call back that same day from the bank’s executive offices and someone there helped me get the short sale department to actually start doing what needed to be done. It was this action (and several others that I won’t go into detail about again here) that lead to a successful closing with 1 day to spare before the date of the foreclosure.

The other thing that is needed in a good Realtor is a good level of communication. In all the situations above I made sure to keep my clients informed about what was going on so they weren’t getting overly worried because of not knowing what was happening. Even if I couldn’t get an answer I’d let them know that I had called or emailed to get an answer and that I’d let them know when I heard back. The only times I didn’t keep them in the loop was when there was a serious problem that would have worried them that they couldn’t do anything about and which I felt I could handle quickly. Then, I did what needed to be done and when I had the problem resolved I let them know about it.

I bring all this up because I have interactions with people from time to time that don’t understand why they need a Realtor to represent them or choose someone randomly or based on a recommendation of someone they know (but who hasn’t had personal experience with the Realtor themselves) and don’t feel there’s any problem with that. In some cases they get lucky. But is it worth it to take a risk on something as important as this?

There are many good Realtors out there and I have worked with a lot that I feel do put the same kind of effort into helping their clients as I do. When you’re ready to buy or sell Dunedin real estate make sure that you have a Realtor that will do a professional job and help take a lot of the burden off of you. And when you do have a good Realtor that is helping make things easier on you, you need to help make their job easier by doing what you are asked to do and in a timely manner. Sports teams that win championships are not the ones with the ‘stars’ that think it’s up to them to win – they are the ones where everyone on the team works together, doing their own jobs in the best way and in the way that helps their teammates do theirs. A real estate deal is a team effort and you need someone who can ‘coach’ all the team members to make sure they do their jobs in a way that the end result is success.

On a completely different note – I highly recommend the movie “Secretariat” if you haven’t seen it.

Hope to see you here soon.





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Ups and Downs in Clearwater and Dunedin Real Estate?

This month I’m mainly going to discuss where the local market stands and where it looks like it is going.

Last month was another surprise after December’s dramatic increase. Typically January and February are the lowest sales months of the year. I believe this is because many of the deals in the last quarter of the year close by December 31st and there aren’t as many contracts written in November or December due to the holidays – so that would mean less contracts closing in January and February.

So what was the surprise last month? Local sales increased at least as dramatically as the did in December. After the tax credit ended in June and sale dropped in July and August there were a lot of people pointing to that as a sign that the market had crashed and that the tax credit just covered up a bad market. It was to be expected that there would be a drop after the tax credit ended and there is some truth in the fact that it did artificially increase sales. However, the sales in December and January don’t fit with this assumption. In fact they show that there is some underlying strength building in this local market.

See for yourself in the chart below (blue is 2007, red is 2008, green is 2009, purple is 2010 and orange is 2011):

Now that we’ve seen the Ups, I’ll discuss the Downs.

Early indications for February are showing a noticeable slowing this month in sales. With the horrible weather in the Midwest and East Coast I can’t say for sure if this is related to the weather affecting flights and travel plans or not. I do know that I have a lot of clients coming here to look at homes and condos starting this next week through the rest of this month and next month so it may be that February starts slow and then picks up, but we’ll have to wait and see. In my next newsletter you’ll find out what happened.

Now that I’ve discussed the Downs I want to look at what the future may hold.

I don’t have a crystal ball so don’t assume that what I’m going to say here will come true. But I’m already seeing indications that this year the Clearwater real estate market and Dunedin real estate market will both continue to show strength.

One factor that may have an impact on the rest of this year is the horrible winter weather throughout much of the midwest and east coast this year. I’m hearing from a lot of people in those areas that want to have a winter home or condo in Florida to escape to before next winter. With Florida being the only state in the country without snow the other week and temperatures in the 70s while much of the country was freezing, the appeal to buy a winter home or condo here is pretty high.

I’ve seen this occur in the past only to die down once the weather stabilized, but this year does seem different.

That, and the incredible prices on homes and condos right now, are likely to combine for a very strong year in sales in our local market. At least that’s what I see happening. We’ll know more as the year goes on.

I hope that you do get a chance to enjoy the weather and activities down here some time this year and I look forward to seeing you when you decide the time is right for you to buy.



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December Market Report, Digital Signing, Mobile Site

Boy do I have a lot of new stuff to tell you about this month including a real surprise in December’s sales.  An easier way for you to sign forms when you’re not here, a way to look at the exceptional deals I post on my site on your smartphone – but as usual I’m going to start out with a market report for December.

Typically December has an increase in sales over November which is what I expected last month but with the trend we’ve been seeing since July I expected the total sales to be lower than last December but higher than December 2007 and 2008.

The big surprise last month was that not only were the sale higher than the last 3 years in December but they were also the 2nd highest month from January 2007 onward except for April of this year (the month the tax credit ended for contracts).  This is a very good sign and reinforces what I’ve been saying about the market stabilizing and starting to trend back upward.  From what I’m experiencing, I attribute this increase to the fact that Dunedin homes, condos and townhouses and those in the surrounding areas have become so much more affordable that more buyers are coming back into the market.

Here’s the graph so you can see for yourself (blue is 2007, red is 2008, green is 2009 and purple is 2010):

That was quite a pleasant surprise and hopefully a good sign for 2011.  A lot of my clients have taken advantage of the market now and have been able to get some incredible deals and there are still more out there.

Since a lot of my clients are from out of town, it’s not uncommon to have to do some of the paperwork when they are back home.   I’ve found that doing this can be time-consuming and a waste of paper because I have to email the client contracts to sign, then have them print them out and sign and date them, then fax them back to me.  And sometimes this occurs a few times.  I have one client in particular that is purchasing several properties and I wanted to see if there was anyway to streamline this whole process.

I had heard a while ago about digital signatures and how they are accepted as valid, so I checked on the status of this currently and found that it is an acceptable method, very easy to do and that it greatly simplifies things for my clients and saves them on paper.  So I found a service that works with our local MLS and their forms and have now implemented this service.  It is called DocuSign.

So far I’ve had 2 clients who have been able to use it and it really is much easier.  Basically I prepare the paperwork and put ‘tags’ in all the places you would need to sign, date or initial.  I email the paperwork to you and then you do a few brief setup steps and then, after reviewing the paperwork, just click on the places you need to sign, date or initial and then send the paperwork back directly from your computer.  No paper to print out if you don’t want to, no need to have a fax or scanner and this works with most paperwork related to submitting an offer and going to contract.  Some banks have additional paperwork (especially with foreclosures) and some don’t accept digital signatures, but for the most part this can be used.

In addition to this, I’ve now set up my website ( so that you can access a lot of it on a smartphone.  It is mostly the blog portion that works on mobile phones but that is where you can read my monthly newsletter and see any new exceptional deals I post.  Unfortunately I can’t get the Search MLS or Personalized Search sections to work on mobile phones, but don’t forget that I have the mobile app you can use on your phone to search the MLS.

That’s all I have for right now but keep watching as the year goes on because I think it’s going to be a very interesting year and I will likely have more tools for you to make things even easier as we progress through 2011.

I hope we all have an even better year than 2010.



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Tips for Clearwater Home and Condo Buyers on Finding and Getting Great Deals

After looking at the sales statistics for last month, I’ll be going over what I’ve found recently about exceptional deals in this area.

Last month’s sale were down about 10% from September and 20% from last October. The drop from last year is understandable since it was getting close to the end of the period for the initial tax credit. I don’t know why there was a drop from September to October this year, but one possibility is the problems with the foreclosure paperwork from banks which put a temporary halt to many foreclosure sales.

Even with this drop there has been a positive trend that didn’t stop in October. Even with October’s sales being down, they were from 8-15% above where they were in 2007 and 2008 which was prior to the tax credit going into effect. The downtrend in the local market began in December 2008 and since that time the sales have been showing a gradual, continuing recovery. Over the next several months it will be interesting to see if there is a continuation of this trend. Take a look for yourself at the chart below:

Now let’s talk about the exceptional deals. There are still some great deals out there but I’m not seeing as many as I used to. First let me cover the categories these fall into and then I’ll tell you about some I’ve noticed in the last several weeks.

Foreclosures, short sales and regular sales are the 3 main categories these deals are seen in.

The foreclosures have always had the lowest prices but have often been in the roughest condition. It’s riskier because the bank isn’t going to be disclosing any problems with the property, in most cases, and some can be a real mess. If you are a contractor or can get remodeling work done inexpensively, then they may be something to consider even if they are in rough shape. If you’re not a contractor or don’t have the skills or crew to handle big problems, then you will need to really watch out if you’re thinking about buying one of these.

You also need to be cautious when dealing with a foreclosed property because of all the problems that came to view this fall about the legal paperwork the banks have filed. This seems to be starting to straighten out but I still would advise you to consult with an attorney to make sure that you are not getting yourself into something that will be a problem down the road.

Short sales can either be great or horrible. The key is knowing which it is before you get too far.

The nightmare ones are the ones that take 6 months or more to hear back from the bank and then they either reject the short sale or reject your offer and want an unrealistic price; or you wait for months only to find out they accepted another offer.

The great ones are the ones where you’re getting a great value and the process moves quickly. Typically these are ones where the bank has already done a lot of the short sale process on a previous offer or, even better, where the bank very recently approved the short sale and the price but the buyer hadn’t waited and the property has just come back on the market.

Sometimes you can tell this from the information in the description but that is not always the case. Sometimes I can see information in the field with information just for realtors and sometimes I can look up the history for that property and tell from that, so if there isn’t anything in the description then you can always ask me to see if there is other information elsewhere.

The easiest of the three types is usually the regular sale. I call it regular sale even though there may be some unusual circumstances, like being an estate sale or a relocation, but basically this just means that it is not a foreclosure or a short sale requiring bank approval.

I’ve had many clients get very good deals because of some circumstances that motivate the sellers to want to sell quickly, making them more negotiable on pricing. Just this month I came across a house for sale in a very nice golf community in Dunedin with a view of the golf course out the back. The location of the house is great but the house needs a lot of updating and it seems that this is an estate sale which would explain the low pricing and need for updating. The listing agent has told me twice that the current owner wants to sell this quickly and there is no outstanding loans so I know about how much they want and based on what houses in that neighborhood sell for this is a very good deal for someone who is willing to do the updating needed.

I also came across a newer, 3 bedroom 3 bathroom townhouse for sale in Tarpon Springs that is in good condition and is a bank-owned sale at $100,000.

I also found a townhouse in good condition in Dunedin with a boat slip for under $180,000.

Now you’ll have a feel for the kind of exceptional deals that are still available. There’s also a special ‘deals’ section of my blog where I enter brief information on ones I find when I come across them in the MLS. I’ve also set it up so you can get email notifications any time I add any new deals and if you want to know how to do that let me know.

Posted in Clearwater Beach Homes, Clearwater Condos, Clearwater Homes, Dunedin Florida Real Estate, Dunedin Homes, Dunedin Real Estate, Foreclosure | 9 Comments