After a few days of storms everything cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful day. The surf was a little rough, but it was bright and sunny all day long. This is the perfect way to start a weekend, so get out there and enjoy this wonderful weather!!!
Floridaâs existing home and existing condo sales rose in February, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors. Existing home sales increased 13 percent last month with a total of 13,701 homes sold statewide compared to 12,164 homes sold in February 2010, according to Florida Realtors. Februaryâs statewide sales of existing condos rose 29 percent compared to the previous yearâs sales figure.
Seventeen of Floridaâs metropolitan statistical areas reported increased existing home sales in February; 18 MSAs had higher condo sales. Itâs the third month in a row that Florida Realtors has reported higher year-over-year existing home and existing condo sales statewide.
âCurrent market conditions and very low mortgage rates continue to offer great opportunities to anyone looking to buy a home in Florida,â said 2011 Florida Realtors President Patricia Fitzgerald, manager/broker-associate with Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound and Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart. âEvery day, Realtors help people realize their dreams of home-ownership â they see the positive impact that home-ownership has on families and communities.â
She added, âTo showcase home-ownership opportunities across the state, Florida Realtors is sponsoring its second annual Florida Open House Weekend, March 26-27. Realtors will host open houses on behalf of home sellers in neighborhoods from the Panhandle to the Keys, giving buyers a chance to tour dozens of homes in a single weekend. Talk to a local Realtor about Florida Open House Weekend and look for participating open houses throughout your community.â
Floridaâs median sales price for existing homes last month was $121,900; a year ago, it was $124,500 for a 2 percent decrease. Analysts with the National Association of Realtors note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.
The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in January 2011 was $159,400, down 2.7 percent from a year ago, according to NAR. In Massachusetts, the statewide median resales price was $284,500 in January; in California, it was $278,900; in New York, it was $227,000; and in Maryland, it was $222,535.
NARâs latest outlook notes that continuing improvements in the economy is a positive sign for the housing sector. âThe housing market is healing with sales fluctuating at times, depending on the flow of distressed properties coming on the market,â said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. âThe broad fundamentals for a housing recovery are developing. Job growth, high housing affordability and rising apartment rent are conducive to bringing more buyers into the market.â
In Floridaâs year-to-year comparison for condos, 6,984 units sold statewide last month compared to 5,424 units in February 2010 for an increase of 29 percent. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $77,300; in February 2010 it was $90,400 for a 14 percent decrease. The national median existing condo price was $154,900 in January 2011, according to NAR.
The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.95 percent in February, down slightly from the 4.99 percent average during the same month a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac. Florida Realtorsâ sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.
Saturday, March 19, 2011 marked the largest full moon in the past 18 years. The full moon was 221,565 miles from earth, making it the biggest and brightest full moon since 1993. The Moon appeared about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the smallest full moons the Earth sees. It was a spectacular sight as it rose over Destin, FL. Here are a few pictures we snapped on over the weekend. We hope you enjoyed this wonderful sight.
Spring Break is in Full Swing. The Weather has been Great & the Water Beautiful!!! Business is Picking Up in Our Area and Everything Seems to be getting Back to Normal. Hopefully this Upturn Stays in Motion and the Weather & Beaches Stay as Beautiful as Ever. Have a Great Weekend and we will See You Next Week!!!
A QR code is a specific matrix barcode, readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square patter on a white background. The information encoded can be txt, URL or other data. QR stands for Quick Response and was created by Denso-Wave in 1994.
How to Use QR Codes on Your Mobile Device:
You will first need to download a program for your Mobile Phones Operating System. Below I have included a website with a search for your phone to find a QR Readers. I have also included links to the most common Iphone & Android Readers. These readers will use your camera on your cell phone to scan the QR Code and show you the information encoded in it.
How we at the Susie Kirkland Team will be using this Technology to Expand Our Marketing:
First we will be adding a QR Code to all our flyers. This code, when scanned, will direct you to the listing on our webpage or a virtual tour of the property. Second we will be adding two QR Codes to the back of Susieâs Business Card. One of these codes will direct you to Susieâs Webpage and the other to her Listing Presentation. We have many other ideas for these codes and how they can be used to turn print advertising into internet advertising. This will help push our marketing presence to potential buyer and sellers.
I have included a couple of samples below that you can scan directly from the screen with you phone once you have downloaded a QR Reader. We invite you to check it out and look forward to the way advertising and information is becoming interactive and more informational.
Scan this Code and See Where it Takes You!!!
Another QR Code for You to Try!!!
And Another QR Code to Try Out!!!
One Last QR Code to Try!
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to some of the new technology we will be using. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try my best to assist you in using QR Codes. Have fun and be sure to keep an eye out for them on all types of products…you never know what you might find!!!
As the snowbirds begin their migration north, another group of Destin tourists have flocked to the area.
The beaches of Destin are filling up with spring breakers in bikinis and swim trunks despite the cooler temperatures. There are even a few swimmers who are brave enough to test the cold waters.
Taylor Rause and his fellow spring breakers headed to the beach Monday afternoon with their cart packed full of beach chairs, an umbrella and a cooler.
Rause is among a group of 10 students renting a house in Destin on their vacation from homework and tests.
The Appalachian State University student traveled to the Emerald Coast from his college in the mountains of Boone, N.C.
âWeâre used to the snow and stuff so this feels good to us,â he said of the temps in the mid-50s. âItâs pretty nice out today, but we were hoping for warmer weather so we might be able to swim.â
However, the cold water didnât stop a few of Rauseâs friends from jumping in the water.
âThis is my first spring break trip,â he said. âI came here because of the white, sandy beaches.â
Although Rause has been to Florida a few times, this was his first time in the Destin area.
When The Log asked the group of spring breakers if they were worried about any effects of the oil spill, they said they werenât worried at all.
âAs far as I know, this area of the gulf wasnât affected by the spill,â Rause said.
After a long day at the beach, the group said they planned to just hang out at the house tonight, but before their week long adventure is over, they plan to go out to some of the bars and clubs.
Spring break will continue until the beginning of April.
Spring Break 2011
This list from the Okaloosa County Sheriffâs Office breaks down the spring break dates for schools that feed the areaâs annual beach party.
Whoâs here this week
Troy (AL), Florida State, Univ. of Florida, Georgia State, Indiana State, Kentucky State, Louisiana College, Louisiana Tech, Loyola Univ.(LA), Tulane Univ.(LA), Univ. of New Orleans, Univ. of Southern Mississippi, Missouri State, Appalachian State (NC), Duke University (NC), Univ. of North Carolina, Wake Forest (NC), Tennessee Tech, Univ. of Memphis (TN), Vanderbilt Univ.(TN), Eastern Tennessee Univ., Baylor Univ.(TX) *Holy Cross High School (LA).
Auburn (AL), Univ. of Alabama, Univ. of South Alabama, Univ. of Miami, Univ. of North Florida, Univ. of West Florida, Univ. of Georgia, Valdosta State (GA), Univ. of Kentucky, Univ. of Louisville (KY), Louisiana State Univ., Delta State Univ.(MS) Mississippi State, Univ. of Mississippi, Jackson State Univ. (MS), Southeastern Missouri State, Oklahoma State Univ., Univ. of Oklahoma, Univ. of Tennessee, Univ. of Houston (TX), Univ. of North Texas, Univ. of Texas, Texas Tech. *High Schools: Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery (AL) to include Hoover HS, Santa Rosa Co. (FL), Jackson (MS), Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville (TN)
Univ. of Arkansas, Arkansas Tech, Univ. of Central Florida, North West Florida State College, Columbus State (GA), Georgia IT, Georgia Tech, Univ. of W. Georgia, Georgia SW, Okaloosa Co. (FL) area High Schools
Biloxi (MS) area High Schools
Atlanta (GA) area High Schools to include Oconee HS, Marietta HS, Louisville (KY) area High Schools to include Lexington Catholic HS, Baton Rouge (LA) area High Schools
Dothan (AL), Huntsville (AL) area High Schools, New Orleans (LA) area High Schools
University of Louisiana, Meterie Park HS (LA), Jesuit HS (LA)
Southeastern Louisiana Univ., Lafayette (LA) area High Schools to include Saint Scholastica HS, Saint Paul HS, Catholic HS, Mandeville HS, Walton Co. (FL) area High Schools
Itâs Party Gras time at HarborWalk Village! An so the good times will roll at the 3rd Annual “Mardi Gras on the Harbor” on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m.
A festive Mardi Gras parade will make its way down the Destin harbor and through the crowds at HarborWalk Village.
Back by popular demand, the amazing Bill Wharton, âThe Sauce Boss,â will be performing on the main stage at HarborWalk Village right after the parade. Since 1990, the Sauce Boss has cooked gumbo for his audiences, while simultaneously playing his own swampy Florida blues. A Sauce Boss event transcends a musical performance. Itâs a soul-shouting picnic of rock ânâ roll brotherhood. At the end of the show, everyone eats a bowl of gumbo for free.
As a âprodigious purveyor of positive pirating,â Cajun swashbuckling Capt. Papillion from New Orleans will be on hand to entertain the kids.
More than 30 civic organizations, community groups, businesses and Mardi Gras Krewes will roll, float, pedal and push in the parade contest with awards, sponsored by HD Action Photography, going to the top three entries. The best overall float will receive a luxurious weekend getaway and spa treatments for two at the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, as well as two round trip tickets on Vision Airlines.
The finale is a post-parade party, zydeco jam, and award celebration featuring the Bourbon Street blues sounds of the Dents Brothers. Crowds can mix it up with a high octane Hurricane at Jesters, sample tasty Creole cooking at The Crazy Lobster, and enjoy live music playing throughout HarborWalk Village.
âThe crowds will experience Louisiana-like revelry at the largest and most vibrant celebration this side of Bourbon Street. Come and second line down the harbor,â said Jamie Hall, director of marketing for HarborWalk Village.
WASHINGTON â Feb. 1, 2011 â Borrowers with Fannie Mae-backed loans will face higher borrowing costs and interest rates, even if they have a perfect credit score, starting on April 1.
The agency is imposing a âloan-level price adjustmentâ on several mortgages, in which borrowers will be charged more in cost or higher interest rate based on the downpayment amount â or the amount of equity in their home if theyâre refinancing â as well as their credit score, explains mortgage expert Bill Gassett in the Massachusetts Real Estate News.
Prior to the adjustment, a buyer with a 700 credit score and a $160,000 mortgage who was purchasing a $200,000 home may pay an additional $800 in these fees. That cost would now be doubled: The loanâs risk-based pricing would equal $1,600, said Cameron Findlay, chief economist for LendingTree.
Borrowers who donât have large downpayments or who have low credit scores will see higher rates. But even borrowers with good credit scores will have to pay more too.
For example, Gassett explains that a buyer with a credit score over 740 who has a 25 percent or lower downpayment will now pay about 0.125 percent more in rate.
For any buyer or refinancers of a condo (excluding detached condos) who have less than a 25 percent downpayment will face an increase in rate of nearly 0.5 percent.
âIt certainly says that even with a great credit score, they still see some risk in you,â Findlay told The Wall Street Journal.
Some lenders have already started incorporating the higher fees.
Not all loans will be subjected to the fees, experts note. For example, not all lenders sell all mortgages to the secondary market and loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration also will be immune.
Source: âFannie Mae Mortgage Interest Rates & Costs Rising,â Massachusetts Real Estate News (Jan. 30, 2011) and âMortgage Fees on the Rise Again,â The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 25, 2011)
While beach cleanup crews may be patrolling the beaches of Walton County, Scott Robson says Destinâs beaches and waters are as beautiful as ever.
âNah, itâs been gorgeous out there,â said Robson, president of the Destin Charter Boat Association. âWe have been seeing tuna and blue marlin out there, and if there were oil, we wouldnât be seeing those fish.â
Just last week, a 60-man crew was spotted digging in the sand in South Walton along Scenic Hwy. 30-A near the Santa Rosa Beach Club. Workers on the scene refused to comment, other than saying âWe are looking for tar balls.â U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Patrick Coleman wouldn’t elaborate on the operation, but said “from an operational standpoint, they accomplished what they were trying to do.” Local emergency managers said it was ânormal operations.â
To see photos of the cleanup crews in Walton County, click here.
For Robson, the crews on Walton Countyâs beaches are just âBP making sure nothing has shown up.â
City Manager Greg Kisela told The Log Monday that Destin is still seeing the occasional tar ball or tar chip wash ashore, but overall, he said the city has been âvery fortunate.â
âWe are doing about as reasonably as can be expected,â he said. âYou are going to see them wash up sporadically for some time.â
As for whether crews are patrolling Destinâs beaches, Kisela said âno.â He said that the Florida branch responders do have resources staged, if needed.
âWe get daily electronic updates,â he said. âBasically, they are just letting us know what product they are seeing, if any.â
Itâs slow. Itâs uneven. But itâs there: the home sales recovery.
“There will be two steps forward, one step back, with sizable local market differences,” says NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSÂź Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, ” but the trend nevertheless will be a rise in home sale activity in the upcoming years.”
Yun is forecasting 5.2 million existing-home sales in 2011, up from 4.8 million last year. He also expects modest improvement in pricesâa rise of about 1 percent this year on a national basis. That would be the first in what Yun says will be a series of small but steady gains in the years ahead that will eventually bring home sales back to a period of normalcy.
At the root of these gains is continuing improvement in the overall economy. Yun is estimating modest 2.5 percent growth in the countryâs gross domestic product in each of the next two years, job gains of about 1.5 million in the same time frame, and a slowly improving jobless rate, which he projects will dip from a stubbornly high 9.6 percent in the latter part of 2010 to a better but still-high 8 percent in 2012.
This is what Yun calls the “virtuous cycle” that residential real estate started entering a few months after the home buyer tax credit ended in the middle of 2010. At that time, home sales took a big hit, dropping 27 percent in July. But in August, sales picked up again, under their own steam, and have been gaining ever since without the aid of subsidy.
Will Businesses Pony Up?
Whether this virtuous cycle continues into 2011 or spins into a vicious cycle of stagnant sales and falling prices depends first and foremost on business spending. “This is the big difference between this economic recovery and those in the past,” Yun says.
In the past, as the economy emerged from recession, businesses poured money into growing their capacityâhiring workers, renting office space, replacing old equipmentâto position themselves for growth. But that hasnât happened this time.
The reluctance among business leaders to spend, despite sitting on money from strong profit growth during the recovery, stems from low consumer confidence.
With unemployment high and lingering concerns about whether home prices have really stabilized, consumers remain far from certain that the worst is behind them. The key confidence index that tracks their sentiment, the Conference Boardâs Consumer Confidence Index, remains far below what business leaders want to see before they start investing again. “Consumers think things are rotten in the country,” Yun says.
Weak business spending also stems from uncertainty over how much it will cost to comply with last yearâs Wall Street and health care reform laws. Within the thousands of pages of new legislation are rules that have yet to be written, says Yun. “Businesses donât know fully what the rules of the game are going to be down the line.”
But this reluctance isnât expected to last much longer. Yun and other analysts say business cash reserves have grown to the point where corporate leaders have to start deploying their money to get the kinds of returns their investors want to see. As Hugh Kelly of the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate told REALTORSÂź in early November when he spoke at the 2010 Conference & Expo in New Orleans, “Investors want to get back into riskier investments.”
Low Prices Will Spur Recovery
Once businesses do pick up spending, job gains will quicken and home salesâfueled by strong affordability and plenty of pent-up demandâwill rise.
Yun says all of the price excesses from the housing bubble have been squeezed out of the market and interest rates remain at historically low levels, making buying attractive now. In San Diego, for example, buyers at the end of 2010 would be paying $1,564 a month in mortgage payments for a median-priced house that at the height of the boom would have cost them $2,833 a month.
At the national level, the median home price at the end of 2010 was about $172,000, down roughly 30 percent from its $239,000 peak in early 2006 and, for the first time in a decade, less than its replacement cost.
“Home prices have overcorrected a bit,” Yun says. “The cost of duplicating an existing home, when you factor in the expense of buying bricks and mortar and putting it all together, is going to be more expensive.”
One reason that replacement costs are up is the large number of foreclosures that have to be worked through the market before existing-home prices can start to rise in any significant way. Yun expects foreclosed homes to account for a third of sales well into 2011, about the same as in 2010. “My best guess is that this year, people will be buying a lot of the foreclosed properties, but it will still take an additional one-and-a-half years to bring the inventory down to a more normal level.”
Another sign that excesses have been removed from the housing market: an attractive ratio of home prices to income levels. The cost of homes peaked at almost 3.5 times their annual income during the boom. That ratio now stands at 2.4 times income, just below the more historically normal level of about 2.5.
In addition, the number of home sales compared with the size of the workforce peaked in 2005 (one home sale for every 20 employed persons). Now the ratio stands at just below 4:1 (one home sale for every 25 employed persons), in line with historical norms.
The Threat of Inflation
One of the big remaining questions is whether inflation, long dormant, is poised to return in 2011 or 2012 as the recovery solidifies and businesses start to raise prices.
At the end of 2010, inflation remained a nonissue, with the Consumer Price Index up a low 1.1 percent from 2009. Indeed, some analysts have even been talking about the risks of entering a period of Japanese-style deflation in which the expectation for continuing price drops keeps people from spending.
But there are signs that prices could start heading up soon, a possibility that the Federal Reserve fueled in late 2010 when it announced it would flood the economy with money by buying $600 billion worth of Treasury bonds in the first three quarters of 2011 to stimulate growth.
Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said at the recent REALTORSÂź Conference in New Orleans, that keeping rates low might help the recovery in the short term, but the long-term consequences could be higher inflation thatâs difficult to manage. “We risk repeating past errors,” he said.
Yun says inflation was quiescent in late 2010 mainly because of low housing rent growth. When you look at producer prices, though, which in late 2010 were up 4 percent for finished products and more than 20 percent for early-stage products and commodities, the picture looks very different. These increases are likely to show up in consumer prices soon, and they will be hard to reverse. “High inflation is like toothpaste,” says Yun. “Once itâs out of the tube, itâs hard to put back in.”
The impact will fall hardest on first-time buyers; as interest rates rise along with inflation, home ownership will become increasingly out of reach.
“Some inflation isnât a bad thing, but high inflation isnât optimal,” Yun says. “So as long as inflation can be kept in checkâand business and consumer confidence restoredâlook for a slow return to normalcy in the months ahead.”
Whatâs Going on in Your Market?
Real estate practitioners from around the country chime in on what theyâre seeing in their geographic area and business niche.
Chetek, Wis. “Weâve had more closings in the last six months than we had in all of 2008 and 2009. Whatâs helping us is that the Minneapolis market is coming back. That’s our main source of business for second homes. As long as people feel more confident in the economyâand they are feeling more confidentâtheyâre looking to venture out into second homes. Thereâs a lot of cash; one out of three buyers pays cash today.”
G.C. (“Butch”) Flor, GRI, SRES, Six Lakes Realty
Jacksonville, N.C. “Our market is going to stay fairly stable in 2011 and could even enter a little growth mode. Camp Lejeune, the big Marine base, has provided us with a very stable economy. The new-home market and the first-time market have been strong. The upper-end market has been a little slower because people coming from other parts of the country probably havenât been able to sell their houses. Thereâs also been a lot of commercial development going on to support the military base.”
Sheila Pierce, CCIM, Commercial Brokers Unlimited
Marietta, Ga. “Our market is slightly better this year at this time [November 2010] than it was a year ago. We have an overhang of distressed properties thatâs been a real damper on the market. If we get this overhang handled, weâre going to see more improvement. There has to be some pent-up demand thatâs built up during this lull period.”
Paul Brower, ABR, GRI, Harry Norman, REALTORSÂź
South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “Sales are actually increasing now and have been for the past nine months. Weâre about 25 percent up from last year, and weâre about six to nine months into stable pricing. A lot of the fence-sitters who were waiting to see what the market was going to do are now coming into the market. Their caution is paying off, because houses are so much more affordable and interest rates are great.”
Debra Howard, CRS, RSPS, D. Howard & Co.
Whatâs Going on in Related Industries?
Professionals who work in affiliated industries tell us where they see the market heading.
The Home Builder:
“Financing will loosen, but small builders will still have a tough time.”
New-home sales will pick up and financing to home builders for developing new projects will loosen, although for smaller builders without a strong track record of obtaining financing, it will continue to be hard, says Dave Erickson, president of Gray Hawk Homes Inc., in Columbus, Ga. “For the average, day-to-day builder, itâll probably get better in the sense that banks will start talking to them, not that theyâll start lending to them.” Construction costs, particularly labor, have dropped over the last two years and will remain down for the first half of the year, but prices will head up in the second half. The costs of commodities such as concrete, copper, and Sheetrock are expected to rise, eventually leading to upward pressure on home prices or downward pressure on home sizes.
“Sellers want their house staged because they saw it on TV.”
Activity in the staging industry has been growing “bit by bit” during the downturn as listing agents look for an edge in the bad economy and as banks show an increasing interest in staging to boost the selling price of REOs, says Barb Schwarz, CEO of Stagedhomes.com in Seattle. Also playing a role: Sellersâ exposure to staging in the popular media. “Sellers are coming to agents and saying, âWe want this house staged because we saw on TV that homes sell faster and for more money when theyâre staged.â” The number of training classes hosted by her company remains the same as it was in the boom: between 80 and 120 a year. But attendance is down. “Instead of 90 students, we might see 50.” Staging fees are also down, from a national average of about $2,800 to about $1,800, as sellers take more moderate approaches to staging their home, especially since theyâre often strapped for money.
The Home Inspector:
“Presale inspections are on the rise.”
The improved housing market in 2011 will increase “transaction-based” inspections, which are the standard inspections ordered by buyers before finalizing their purchase, says Bill Redfern, CEO of A Buyerâs Choice Home Inspections in Milwaukee. Those took a big hit during the downturn. But the industry could see business coming back even stronger than before the downturn because of the way inspectors have branched out into other types of activities when business was slow. Sellers, and particularly banks, have become far more interested than in the past in having presale inspections conducted to help attract buyers. This business, which helped sustain inspectors during the downturn, is expected to grow in 2011 even as regular inspections come back. “I might be optimistic, but I think in five to 10 years every listing coming to market will have a presale inspection done.” Banks, entering into volume agreements with inspectors to get a handle on the extent of neglect or vandalism to a property before they put it on the market, are driving this new business. “Banks are seeing it as wise money spent to have a better idea in forecasting what theyâre ultimately going to get out of the property at sale or even if itâs truly salable.”