Dunedin Homes and Condos Deals – Buying While The Market is in Your Favor

Clearwater and Dunedin Florida homes, condos and townhouses are still good deals due to the continuing buyer’s market. The buyer’s market began back in about 2006-2007 and should continue through at least the first part of 2011.

To take advantage of this there are some things you should be aware of.

Before looking at buying you should begin by deciding if now is the right time for you to buy.

Buying a home, condo or townhouse because you are moving here or to use for a getaway or vacation home would be a good reason to buy now as long as you can really afford to do so.

Buying something as a long-term investment, if you can afford to do so, could also be the right thing for you to do at this time.

If you’ve decided that now is the right time for you, the first thing to address is making sure you’re financial preparations are lined up for your potential purchase. To best take advantage of the market you will need to come prepared with either proof you have the cash to purchase or approval for a loan as you will commonly need to present this with any offer you put in on a property.

The most fatal error for buyers in this market is not being prepared well enough to act quickly when they find the right property or a great deal.

Let me tell you about 2 of my clients’ experiences recently to emphasize this point.

One of my clients wanted an exceptional deal for a waterview condo that looked out over Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. I found the perfect deal for him and emailed him the listing within a few days of the condo coming on the market. It was just the next weekend when he got here and he liked what he saw so he had me call the listing agent about submitting an offer. The next morning when I called the listing agent I was told it had already gone under contract and that he had quite a few offers in during the 7 days since it had been listed.

The fact that my client wanted to come here to see the property before he bought it was not an issue that we could have done much about. However, even if that hadn’t been a problem there were two other issues that might have still gotten in the way for him. The first was not having his financing fully arranged. The second was not recognizing how good a deal it already was – he wanted to try to get it for much lower than it was listed for.

Then there was my client who had already decided he wanted to buy a vacation home in this area who came up here with his wife to look at some villas and townhouses.

We found one that they really liked and was very rare because it was not attached to any other villas and also had a big, fenced backyard.

My client went back home saying he wanted a few days to think about it. I warned him not to delay as there had already been an offer that was nearly accepted and the property had been on the market less than a month. The next day the listing agent called to let me know they were expecting an offer that day that would likely be acceptable and I called my client to let him know. This was on Saturday and he said that he would let me know Monday or Tuesday but that is was about an 80% chance he would be putting in an offer.

The next day I found out that the villa was now under contract and my client had missed out on the best deal for what they wanted. I found out that part of the reason for the delay was that he wanted to speak with his financial advisor about how he was going to make the purchase to work out the best tax consequences. His advisor didn’t work on weekends so he had to wait until the workweek began, and the fact that he didn’t handle this before coming resulted in his losing the property he wanted to buy.

I bring this one up to make it clear why you really need to have your financing worked out fully prior to looking at properties.

I bring these examples up because a lot of people have false information that because it’s a buyer’s market sellers have to negotiate down, or that properties don’t sell quickly and that you should take your time. Actually that is true sometimes BUT not for great properties that are priced well or for ones that are a great deal.

Let me summarize some key points if you want to make the most of the buyer’s market:

If you don’t recognize an exceptional deal, you will never get one.

If you don’t act quickly and give a strong offer when you find an exceptional deal, you will most likely lose it.

If you aren’t fully prepared with your financing lined up, including preapproval or proof of funds letters, you won’t be able to act quickly enough on an exceptional deal.

There are exceptions to this but in my recent experiences I’ve found that these hold true more often than not.

One point I want to emphasize which I briefly described in the first example. It also goes along with the second bulleted point above.

When you find an exceptional deal, don’t lose it because you think you can get it for a lot less since the sellers “are probably desperate” or “they’ll probably take less because of how the real estate market is doing”. There are times when you can negotiate a seller or bank down on a property and times when it is already priced so well that it will be snatched up very quickly at the listed price. You either need to know enough to recognize this or listen to your realtor when they tell you this (especially when they provide enough information to show this is the case).

Knowing this information can provide you with a foundation on which you can proceed successfully in your real estate purchase so that you don’t let the right time to buy slip away.

To see some of the exceptional deals that are out there you can go to the Deals page of my blog and while on the site you can also get access to the local MLS for your computer or cell phone.

You can also register for MLS access on your computer or cell phone and find many other resources at http://www.searchdunedinhomes.com.

Posted in Clearwater Homes, Dunedin Florida Real Estate, Dunedin Homes, Dunedin Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clearwater Beach Homes – What to Watch Out For With Waterfront Homes.

Waterfront home in Clearwater BeachWhen you are looking at buying a waterfront home in Clearwater Beach or any of the surrounding areas in Florida, you need to be aware of some things that you will need to have looked at to make sure you won’t have problems in the future.

These are the areas where you can find waterfront houses for sale in what is known collectively as Clearwater Beach:  Sand Key (almost exclusively on canals or the Intracoastal Waterway and very upscale), the south Clearwater Beach area (mostly on the Intracoastal or canals), the north beach area (some are non-waterfront, others are on the Intracoastal and there are some on the Gulf of Mexico) and Island Estates (also some that are non-waterfront, some on the Intracoastal and others on canals).

I’m going to focus on the waterfront homes here so I can bring up the features with waterfront homes that are unique and need to be looked at when you are considering buying one of these houses.

With some waterfront homes you will need to know the condition of the seawall. A seawall keeps the water and the land separate and they are normally made out of reinforced concrete.  This is found in most houses that are on a canal or the Intracoastal.  (There are some seawalls made of material other than concrete but the ones I have seen so far in the Clearwater Beach areas have been only the concrete ones.Waterfront houses on the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater Beach do not generally need a seawall so that would not be an issue there.

Seawalls can be expensive to replace so you’ll want to know the age of the existing seawall (if the owner knows) and have it checked during the home inspection. Your inspector will want to look for any cracks in the seawall or cap and other indicators of problems. If the inspection shows that there is damage or that the seawall may need replacing in the next few years, you may want to get an estimate from a reputable company that does this type of work.

If the house has a dock, boat lift and/or davits (for raising and lowering a boat), you’ll need to have these checked out thoroughly by your inspector. Again, this is mostly for those houses on the Intracoastal or canals.

Probably the 2 most important of these, cost-wise, are the dock and lift. You should have these included in the inspection you have done to find out their condition and to make sure that any davits or lifts are functioning as they should. Make sure that any dock, boat lift or davit is checked during the home inspection to see if they are functioning as they should.  If anything other than minor issues are found, it would be smart to have them looked at by a qualified company that specializes in these items to find out what costs may be involved in repairing or replacing them.

Another important issue that you should be aware of is that you will likely have to get flood insurance in addition to your homeowners insurance when you buy a waterfront home. Since you will have both a homeowner’s insurance policy and a flood insurance policy to buy, you should try to get an estimate of what the annual premiums for each might be so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations of what your costs will be. You can reduce that cost some by having storm shutters on the windows and doors but you should talk with your insurance agent to find out exactly what you can do to reduce the costs and how much reduction there would be.

If you do buy a Clearwater Beach homes that is waterfront, you will also need to be more attentive to maintenance. The salt air is corrosive and any outside metal can rust more easily and quickly.

To learn more about Clearwater Beach homes, and those in and around the Clearwater or other beach areas, you can visit my Clearwater Beach Homes for Sale site and search the local MLS to see what is currently available.  You can now search local MLS listings on your computer and your cell phone and at http://searchclearwaterhomes.com there are links to give you access to both.

Posted in Clearwater Beach Homes, Waterfront Homes | 4 Comments

Mobile Real Estate App for Tampa Bay Listings

Tampa Real Estate App for Cell PhonesYou can now download for free a mobile app from my site that will let you use your cell phone to search for listings in the Tampa Bay area.

There is a free app (except for carrier charges for data usage) and you can either use your cell phone’s GPS to see a map showing all the properties for sale around you or you can search for properties for sale by city, zip code and/or price range, number of bedrooms, etc. or even a combination of the two.

This app is unique because it gets the listing info directly from the local MLS and is updated each day. Other apps are broader in the areas they cover and do not get their information right from the local listing service like this one does. This means that you won’t get as current listing information and in fact I’ve looked at some of the comments/ratings for these other mobile apps and noticed several people commented on seeing outdated information.

Take it for a test drive on your phone to see if you like it. Don’t hesitate to share it with someone else that you think might find it helpful.

Go to the Dunedin Mobile Real Estate App page to see the download link as well as the link to a video that shows how it works.

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What Are Some Things You Need to Know About Clearwater Florida Condos?

Clearwater Florida condos are popular with people around the U.S. and other parts of the world for several reasons.

One of the main reasons is where Clearwater is located. Not only is the weather good but you are near the Gulf and all the attractions in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Pinellas County, where Clearwater is located, is surrounded by water.  The Gulf of Mexico is along the west coast of the county and Tampa Bay is along its east coast with Tampa just a short drive away. Any part of Clearwater is no more than 30 minutes to a beach. And having the Gulf of Mexico so close means that the temperature is not as hot in the summer and a little warmer in the winter than it is for cities more inland, like Orlando.

The Tampa International Airport (which is one of the easier airports to travel in and out of) is only about 30 minutes away and attractions like Busch Gardens in Tampa or any of the sports and entertainment venues are also very close. There are also other attractions within driving distance, like Disney World and Epcot Center (about 90 minutes) and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (about 60 minutes).

The next reason that Clearwater Florida condos are so popular is that Clearwater and the surrounding cities have a smaller town feel while still being a short distance from a major city, Tampa. Yet you can still find lots to do in Clearwater and the surrounding areas including some great places to eat, malls and other attractions for adults or families and you won’t have to fight the heavy traffic that you’ll find in the larger cities like Orlando or Miami.

At the point you begin to look at listings for condos you’ll probably notice that they fall in 3 categories. I’ve found that in different areas these terms mean different things so I’d like to clarify for you what they mean here.

The distinction in this area between condos, townhouses and villas are:

Condos – are normally a one-story unit in a multi-story building with other condos on one or more sides and also above and/or below.

Townhouses – are normally 2 or more stories with other townhouses on one or more sides.

Villas – are normally one-story units with other villas attached on one or more sides but none above or below which distinguishes them from condos.

For condos you normally own the airspace of your unit (from the walls in) plus a portion of the common areas of the complex. In some cases the land the complex is on is not owned by the condo owners or association but is leased by the person or entity that owns in. In this case you will have to pay a monthly “land lease” fee. Most of the time these land leases are for very long periods of time (such as 75 years) but even so, some lenders will not give loans for a condo in a complex where there is a land lease involved.

There is more variation with villas and townhouse, but usually you own the whole structure and the land it sits on.  Often you will also have ownership of the common areas but that can vary.

For nearly all condo communities and many townhouse and villa communities the governing of the community is done by an association.  They often hire a management company to collect fees, work out a budget and make sure that any maintenance is done in the community and that the property insurance is purchased. One thing that is very important to do when considering a purchase of any of these types of property is to determine what your monthly fees will be and what they cover.

The association also can set and enforce the rules for that complex. These can include parking restrictions, pet regulations, how to authorize changes to your unit, etc.
When purchasing, your contract should include a Condominium Association Addendum that gives the right to get a copy of the condominium rules and association financial statements which you will have time to review with a right to cancel if you find something you don’t like (the period is 3 days for a resale unit and 15 days for a new unit).

One additional thing you should be mindful of is whether the complex has any legal or financial troubles that may later affect you. This is especially important for Clearwater Florida condo complexes that were built or were converted into condos during the last few years of the boom period. Due to a larger percentage of owners going into foreclosure in these newer complexes they can be riskier to buy in than more established, older complexes who are in a more stable financial condition.  You don’t want to be surprised with a large assessment after you’ve bought.

You can now search the local MLS for Clearwater Florida area condos and get access to numerous other buyer resources at Clearwater Condo Search and Resources.

Ron Nedd is an accredited Buyer’s Agent with the National Association of Realtors and provides information and online tools for buyers of condos and homes at his site http://searchclearwaterhomes.com.

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A Painful Client Loan Experience

I’ll try to make this somewhat brief so you don’t have to through all the gory details of what my client had to put up with but I think you’ll still be able to get a good idea of what happened.

My client wanted to get a retirement home here and had sold their home in Toledo.  Their finances were very solid and they had excellent credit so there would be no trouble getting a loan.

We got through various bumps along the way and were down to the week of the closing and were just waiting to hear the loan got final approval.  At that point the you-know-what started to hit the fan.  The first thing that came up was there was a mistake made in the early calculations which changed what my client would need to have for closing.

The next thing that came up was that the lender wanted to reverify my client’s employment.  Usually that wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that my client was a teacher and schools aren’t open in the summer.  We did get that resolved but it wasn’t a welcome surprise.

What made these things a real problem was that my client had left Toledo on Monday to drive down for the closing on Friday and was part way here and had to go back home to deal with some of these issues.

Because of the last minute change in the funds my client had to bring they had to do a transfer from their retirement account.  Unfortunately this took 2-3 days which meant we could not close on time and so we had to extend the closing date.

To add insult to injury, the bank then started nit-picking on where every penny came from that was in my client’s account for their closing funds.  Even though they had many times what they needed for closing in their retirement account, the bank said those were not liquid funds and didn’t count and wanted documentation of where all the money came from that was to be used for closing.

It even got to the point where they wanted proof of $1200 cash my client deposited into their account (which was money their son repaid on a loan).  For someone who had more than enough money in their various accounts and has always kept everything in relation to their finances very clean, it was frustrating to be dealt with like someone guilty who has to prove their innocence.

After a lot of work we finally got the bank approval for the loan 2 days before the closing and my client had to really move to get here in time.

The ultimate outcome, the deal did close.

Looking this over again I can see that you’re not really getting to see even a small part of everything that happened during those last 2 weeks.  Take what I wrote about here and multiply it by about 5.  Let’s just say that it was very upsetting to my client.

I won’t say which lender they were using but it is one of the big ones that recently had their foreclosure filings halted due to improper paperwork.

From my experience in dealing with some of the larger banks I can’t say this is all that unusual (although maybe more extreme than most cases).  It is because of this fact and because of the fact that with some of the larger lenders it is harder to get a hold of someone to find out what is happening that I suggest working with a mortgage lender or smaller bank to get financing.

I highly recommend that you take this advice to avoid having to go through this kind of nightmare.

Make sure you know as much as you can about buying so that you don’t make any major errors and experience the least amount of stress as possible. Visit the resources section of my site, Clearwater Real Estate Resources.

Ron Nedd has a comprehensive site for buyers of homes, condos and townhomes with extensive information and tools for buyers, such as MLS access, at www.searchdunedinhomes.com

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Are Foreclosures and Short Sales in Florida Still a Good Deal?

There are many properties in some stage of foreclosure or taken back by lenders at this time and a lot of buyers ask about these because they’ve heard that this is where you can get an incredible deal. I’ve found that many buyers don’t really understand the downsides to these types of deals and will do my best to give you some basic information to help you make better decisions.

Many buyers have heard so much about what a good deal that short sales and foreclosures are but in most cases aren’t even aware of the problems that come with them.

You can find some really good deals still, in foreclosures and short sales and regular sales. BUT – there are some things you’ll need to understand because the process can be quite different from the normal.

Recent news reports about major banks halting foreclosures in several states due to problems with paperwork has shaken the foreclosure market and creates uncertainty about the future of many current and even past foreclosure deals.  Because of this I’m not recommending anyone purchase a property that has been foreclosed on, unless they get an attorney involved who will review all of the foreclosure paperwork.

With that out of the way, we can start by clearing up the different terms used for properties in various stages of foreclosure.

There is a ‘pre-foreclosure’. This is a property where the owner has fallen behind on their payments to a point where the bank has begun the foreclosure proceedings (usually, in Florida, by filing a notice of pending legal action).

The next on is the ‘short sale’. This generally means a pre-foreclosure property where the property is being listed at a price that is less than what is owed on the outstanding loans.  One word of caution though, some realtors will list a property as a short sale or “possible” short sale without even having their client complete a “short sale package” (the paperwork that will have to be submitted to the bank with any contract) – avoid these as in most cases they end up going nowhere or take months to hear anything back.

There are also “bank-owned” properties. Basically the term ‘bank-owned’ means the same thing as a foreclosed property because the bank has completed the foreclosure proceedings and has taken back ownership of the property.

Right now you should avoid buying these unless you have a very good attorney review all the appropriate paperwork.

That gives you a basic overview of the types of “foreclosure” properties you may run into. Now let’s look at what you need to know about them if you’re thinking about venturing into this area.

Short sales can be the hardest deals to go through. For the most part you should not even think about putting an offer in on most short sales unless you have the patience to wait 3-6 months or more to find out if it is accepted.

As an example, I spoke with another realtor a few months ago whose client not only put in a full list price offer but also offered to pay for the title insurance that would normally be paid by the seller. It still took 3 weeks to get an answer and what came back from the bank was that they wouldn’t consider the offer until they had a special disclosure signed by the buyer that is required on houses built before 1978. Only problem is that the house was built in the last 5 years and this disclosure isn’t required. But the bank didn’t care and wanted the disclosure before considering the offer. And it took weeks to even get this ridiculous request from the lender!

Not too long a client one of my clients tried to get a contract on a short sale which recently came back on the market.  The lender did not accept a contract that had been put in over 5 months prior and the buyer didn’t want to pursue it anymore. The offer was lower than they wanted but they rejected even doing a short sale because the owner had been continuing to pay their monthly loan payment – and it took them 6 months to let the owner’s realtor know this.The good news is that the other Realtor and I were able to somehow get the deal closed.

I’ve found that the best short sales to work with are the ones that have already gone through the approval process and have just come back on the market.  The advantage here is that the lender has already done all of their work in processing the short sale and has approved it as a short sale and has normally stated what they will accept for a price. In addition, they often give a time period of about 30 days that this approval is good for so if you jump in at that point you will usually get a fast reply and can have the whole process take a much shorter time.

Other than recently approved short sales, the easiest of all foreclosure properties to work with are bank-owned properties, at least up until recently. When these aren’t as much as risk, at some point in the future, you need to be aware that one of the biggest problems with bank-owned properties is that they can be in pretty bad condition.

I had a client that was interested in buying a bank-owned property in a nice neighborhood.  They did their own inspection of the property and found that termites had caused some damage in a couple areas and there was some mold in an area where a roof leak had caused the ceiling to cave in.  We provided a list of all these problems when we submitted their offer. The lender did not accept their offer.

The next year we saw that the property was still on the market but at a lower price.  We went to see it again. The hole in the ceiling over the dining room where my client found some of the mold and termite damage was repaired and with no attic there would be no way for anyone to know what we had seen up there and I have found that some banks do not disclose these things (even when provided the information) and try to get away with that by stating they “never occupied the property”. By the way, even if they did not occupy the property, if they are made aware of any problems or their realtor is they do need to disclose it.

Another client put in an offer on a foreclosed house but after we had an inspection done and found the house needed a new roof, new A/C system, new ducting, new appliances and there were settlement issues (possible sinkhole) she cancelled the contract. This was with Fannie Mae and it took 2 months to get them to send her deposit back. We checked the listing after she cancelled and noticed that nothing about the settlement issues was noted. So with foreclosed properties you must have a thorough inspection done because that is your only way to find out the true condition of the property.

So when bank-owned properties are ‘safe’ to buy again, keep in mind that they are still risky due to possible unknown property condition problems.

If you ever do decide to pursue a short sale or bank-owned property, be sure to have your financing in place before you even start to view any. In all cases that I have seen so far, an offer won’t even be accepted in a short sale or bank-owned situation unless you submit a preapproval letter for financing or proof that you have the cash to buy it.

In most cases, your best bet is finding a property that suits your needs and is a good value where the owner can sell for a good price without being in a short sale situation.

I hope you’ve made it this far – I realize now how long this article got to be. I realize that this may seem like a lot to take in but I really feel that it is important to be well-armed with enough knowledge whenever you are going to do something that may put your hard-earned money at risk.

Keep yourself updated as a buyer with the tools and resources at Dunedin Florida Real Estate.

Posted in Dunedin Florida Real Estate, Dunedin Real Estate, Foreclosure | Leave a comment