Informational Articles

Listings Compete to make the “Must See” Property List

By | May 4, 2011

With a high inventory count in the Sarasota/Bradenton market place Realtors and Buyers can afford to be picky in which properties they would like to see when they go out with their Realtor. Often times the pictures and the way the home looks in the pictures can influence their choice. Now more than ever it is important to make your home standout above the rest. The Cleary Group has found an interior designer who can assist Sellers in staging their home so that it shows in tip-top shape Below is the the service Marsha Ritter and Associates can provide.

Expert advice on how to stage a home for sale doesn’t have to be expensive. Let Marsha Ritter Interiors help get your home ready for sale. In one hour we can come in and give helpful tips and ideas to make a home more appealing for a quick and easy sale. Below are some samples of our work…just click the first image to view the gallery of before and after photos:

Over 30 years in the Interior Design business gives us an edge up on the latest trends in the housing market. We use what is already in the house in different ways to give a fresh new look to the home. Whether it’s a quick paint color change or just editing your wall art we will guide you through the preparation process. Give us a call to schedule an appointment. (941) 993-7002 or e-mail: marsha@mrinteriors.net.

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May Events in and around Sarasota

By | April 29, 2011

Sarasota Skyline from City Island

Many of our seasonal residents have returned north so it’s a great time to get out and enjoy all that Sarasota has to offer. Here’s just a few of the activities happening in the Sarasota area during the month of May:

Date Event or Activity Location Click Link for More Information
May 1st 33rd Annual Siesta Fiesta Siesta Key Siesta Fiesta
May 1-31st Ringling School of Art & Design Adult Classes Sarasota Ringling School of Art
May 1st Spring Garden Tour Sarasota UF Extension Service
May 1st The Garden Music Series – Sarasota Brass Quintet Sarasota Selby Gardens
May 1st Annual Jazz on the Water Cruise on LeBarge Sarasota Jazz Club of Sarasota
May 4th Courthouse Square Concerts Bradenton Manatee County Courthouse
May 5th 2nd Annual Fiesta on Main Street Sarasota Fiesta on Main
May 5th Bluegrass Jam at Bee Ridge Park Sarasota Sarasota County Parks
May 6-21st New College Art Exhibition Sarasota New College
May 7th Downtown Bradenton Farmers Market Bradenton Farmers Market
May 7th Cruzin’ on Dearborn Englewood Englewood Village
May 7th Classic Corvettes on the Circle St. Armands St. Armands Circle
May 8th Annual Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest Siesta Key Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
May 9th “Driving Miss Daisy” Monday Night Movies at Ringling Sarasota Ringling Museum
May 13-14th Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Celebration Anna Maria Island SRQ Magazine
May 13th Paradise Found Tropical Dance Party Osprey Bentley’s Resort Hotel
May 14h 15th Annual Big Truck Day Sarasota Phillippi Estate Park
May 15th Drum Circle Siesta Key Drum Circle
May 18th Dialogues with Florida’s Past Sarasota New College Campus
May 19th Art After 5: Jazz on the Bay Sarasota Ringling Museum
May 19th Rennie Harris Puremovement Sarasota Asolo Theatre
May 20th Reels at Rossi Park “Rising Stars” Bradenton Realize Bradenton
May 20th May Art Walk at Towles Court Sarasota Towles Court
May 21st Party on the Plaza Bradenton Realize Bradenton
May 21st Pups at the Point: Pets Playtime at the Museum Osprey Spanish Point Museum
May 21-22nd 8th Annual Downtown Sarasota Craft Fair Sarasota Art Festival
May 25th Southeastern Guide Dogs Campus Tour Sarasota Southeastern Guide Dogs
May 25th Hurricane Preparedness Program Sarasota Twin Lakes Park
May 28th Native Plant Walk at Deer Prairie Creek Preserve Venice Native Plant Society
May 31st Afternoon at the Movies Venice Jacaranda Library

Call us when you are ready to make your move! To search for homes in the area go to Search for Sarasota Homes. We’re here to help you every step of the way…call us today!

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RE/MAX Alliance Group Still the Market Leader in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties!

By | April 19, 2011

DID YOU KNOW……… A few weeks ago the Herald Tribune published a blog that said Coldwell Banker was the local real estate market leader siting sales transaction figures that were incorrect and incomplete as they were skewed toward only one Coldwell Banker franchise.  Luckily, somehow the Trib was made aware of their mistake and last week published an apology to RE/MAX Alliance Group, and a new article that announced that WE are the true market leaders in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties!
Click on this link to read the article:  http://insiderealestate.heraldtribune.com/2011/04/07/appologies-to-remax-alliance-and-coldwell-banker-remax-alliance-is-still-the-market-leader/

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Flipping Foreclosures Becomes New Game

By | April 19, 2011

More investors are finding a sweet spot in flipping foreclosures, but it’s not the same type of house flipping seen during the real estate boom.

During the housing boom, investors would take advantage of skyrocketing real estate prices and loose lending regulations by buying a property, remodeling, and then selling it for profit.

Today’s flippers are buying at ultra-low prices mostly in cash deals and are doing mostly only minor repairs, such as repainting, replacing appliances, and sprucing up the landscaping. Their profits aren’t as large when they sell, but they may sell more properties in a year, says Penny Boling, the broker-in-charge of Century 21 Boling and Associates in Myrtle Beach.

The ‘Street Sweepers’
Keith Gamble has made foreclosure flipping a full-time job. He purchases properties at a monthly foreclosure sale and usually has about four properties at any given time.

“Some people’s bad fortune is other people’s opportunity,” Gamble says. “I know that sounds callous — I know people doing what I’m doing at the courthouse each month are there to take advantage of that opportunity, but I also feel we provide a backstop to the market.”

The flippers are often taking the neighborhood’s blight and helping to fix up the homes that had been badly trashed from the previous owner. Boling says the investors’ abilities to also pay cash will help the market get through the abundant foreclosures that are plaguing sales.

“They’re kind of like the street sweepers,” Boling says of the property flippers. “They’re part of the cleanup committee of this marketplace.”

Source: “Foreclosures Offer New Twist on Old Game: Flipping Houses,” RISMedia (April 4, 2011)

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Fannie Offers Closing Cost Help for REOs

By | April 15, 2011

Fannie Mae is trying to lure more buyers to its foreclosure properties by offering to cover 3.5 percent in closing costs for home owners who close by June 30 on its HomePath properties.

Fannie’s HomePath program provides low down payment financing on REO property sales and has no requirements for mortgage insurance or appraisals.

During the fourth quarter of last year, Fannie offered closing cost assistance and was able to recoup 55 percent of unpaid principal balance on defaulted mortgages through the sales.

Source: “To Move REO, Fannie Offers Deals to Consumers,” National Mortgage News (April 12, 2011)

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Helpful Hints For Short Sale Purchases

By | April 1, 2011

First of all, let me say that short sales have come a long way. There was a time when banks were very hesitant to accept short sale offers and, as such, they were pretty unreasonable about the whole deal (wouldn’t you be, if it was you who was losing millions of dollars to bad debts?)

These days, acceptance rates are way up and processing time at the banks is way down. Lenders, sellers, and buyers alike have embraced the short sale as a legitimate way to do business.

It can still take a while.

Depending on who the bank is, the number of banks who are owed money, and the borrower’s personal financial situation, expect to wait 3-5 months for a response from the bank BEFORE the regular clauses of the contract kick in (those are the mortgage, the inspection, and the title clauses.) The bank needs to size up the specific situation, get a feel for the value of the property, determine the eligibility of the borrower for a short sale (if the seller has tons of liquid assets, the banks might hold them to their note) and exhaust all their options to try and get the highest payment for themselves that they can.
You have a contract with the seller, not with the bank.

Short sale contracts are regular real estate contracts.

Yep, you read that correctly – they’re absolutely normal in every way. Like every other real estate contract, there are certain contingencies that must be met for the contract to be finalized: the inspections have to be done to the buyer’s satisfaction, the financing has to go through, and the seller has to provide clear title to the buyer. Short sales just add another contingency – bank approval.

Banks aren’t bound to accept your contract.

They don’t have to accept your terms, they don’t have to accept your price, and they don’t have to accept you. If you have a solid offer, they still probably will – after all, banks can’t sell it over market value anyway, and they certainly don’t want to spend money they’re already losing just to maintain a property they own through foreclosure. If they can turn a profit (or reduced loss) through a short sale they’re likely to accept – but don’t be surprised if your lowball offer gets turned down outright.

The seller’s mistakes don’t follow the property.

I’ve talked to tons of buyers about short sales, and to a one they’re concerned about the liens on the property – the mortgage, the equity line, the delinquent HOA fees. They don’t want to pay them after closing and they should never have to.

Most standard real estate contracts require the buyer receive clear title to a property. That means that banks have to either accept an agreed-upon price minus any other liens that they will have to pay (including back taxes and real estate commissions) or foreclose on the property, pay the liens anyway, and then try to sell it.

Also, title is easier to convey if the property hasn’t been foreclosed on (as in a short sale situation.) In a foreclosure suit, the bank forcibly takes title title from the borrower in default, then passes it on – in a short sale, they simply release the property from the note.

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What’s A Short Sale?

By | March 29, 2011

Once upon a time, short sales were among the rarest of transactions. Houses tended to appreciate (heavily) over time and mortgages used to come with heavy down payments, leading to lots of equity for sellers. People could wait a few years, get a few tax benefits, and then sell for a profit.

Not anymore.

These days, more and more homes are marketed as short sales (the first step a house takes toward foreclosure.) High loan-to-value mortgages and unsustainable price appreciation led to an unprecedented drop in home values. Here are some Sarasota, Florida market statistics for the last five years:

sarasota median sales prices

Homes prices have plummeted to unbelievable lows, but the market has stabilized substantially over the last year (as of March 29, 2011). Lots of homeowners remain upside down in their mortgages, however, and need to find a way to sell their property.

Enter the short sale.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is, simply put, a way for homeowners to sell their properties for less than what they owe. It’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ card; short sale sellers take big hits to their credit, lose any money they’ve invested in their properties, and in some cases are required to repay some or all of their mortgage after the property has been sold.

For a short sale to work, the bank that owns the note (the instrument that binds the seller to repay the mortgage) has to agree to take less than what they’re owed. In many cases, this can be hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the original amount.

Why Would a Bank Accept a Short Sale?

Money talks.

From a bank’s perspective, here’s the problem: borrowers owe lots more than their houses are worth and are unwilling or unable to make payments. Mortgage payments are the bank’s primary sources of income. When borrowers don’t make payments, banks don’t make money.

Once upon a time, banks would just foreclose on properties when the borrowers went into default. This didn’t happen often, and when it did, the income from other mortgages more than made up for the loss – and in any event, the newly foreclosed home could be sold at market value and the banks might even be able to turn a quick profit in the resale market.

These days, when banks foreclose, they’re up against heavy competition to get a house sold. The market values are so far below what the borrower originally paid that the banks will take a loss regardless of their actions. If they do foreclose on a home they have to sell it at a steep discount and they take over all kinds of other payments – lawn service, taxes, HOA fees, maintenance, pool guys, and more. These are all red marks on the bank’s balance statement.

On top of that, banks have to pay attorneys to foreclose. And lawyers ain’t cheap.

A short sale is a way for a bank to trump all of those payments – homeowners will generally maintain their own properties as long as they live in the home, the banks won’t have to pay the courts thousands of dollars in fees and costs, and at the end of the day, the banks will actually net much more by allowing a borrower to walk on their mortgage.
Enter the short sale.

 

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Florida Housing Bucks The National Trend (Again)

By | March 25, 2011

Bucking the national trend (yet again :) ), Florida’s housing market showed rising sales in February and stable housing prices.  This is indicative of where our market has been for the past 2 years.

Out here in the trenches, we can attest to the same – the market is really hot right now and buyers are facing stiff competition for the houses that are priced right and in good condition.  In addition, our inventory is now at a low not seen since the height of the bubble – leading to a LOT of pent up demand.

Courtesy the St. Pete Times:
The performance, which was better than the national picture, builds on evidence of increased stability in the state’s troubled housing market.
Sales of previously occupied homes reached 13,701 statewide, up 13 percent from a year ago and nearly 13 percent from January. In the Tampa Bay area, sales were up 16 percent from a year ago and a whopping 24 percent over the month.
Here’s the full link:
http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/realestate/home-sales-rise-in-florida-in-february-flouting-national-trend/1158717

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Bonefish Grill

By | February 15, 2011

 

I lived in Chicago for half a decade, and I would have been mortified to bring a weekend guest to the Cheesecake Factory downtown.  Shortly after I moved here, a new friend suggested we go to Bonefish.  I said “sure!”all while turning up my inner nose at the idea.  Who would go to a chain restaurant with all these great seafood restaurants around?  Years later, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a regular.  The service is always great, the food is always excellent, and as odd as it may be, it’s actually quite the locals scene.  It’s so packed during Season that you have to hover and stalk seats at the bar and common tables, but it’s a fun energy.  We usually sit in the bar, but if you want a table expect to wait an hour and a half during season.  Don’t worry though, they pass tasty snacks around on trays while you wait!  The bartenders make it a point to know your name too, which is a nice touch.  I get the same thing almost every time: Jumbo Sea Scallops and Shrimp (except I ask for all Scallops, and they don’t charge me extra!), around $16.  They are never overcooked and are always properly cleaned so you don’t bite into that tough little morsel from hell that they’re supposed to cut off.   You can pick from among four sauces (Pan Asian, Lemon Butter, Chimichurri, or Warm Mango Salsa), but if you’re nice you can ask them to serve your fish grilled and sample several of the sauces!  I like the Lemon Butter and Chimichurri.  I was brave enough to try the Imperial Longfin the other day and it was TO DIE FOR.  Fresh, tender, flaky, and rich enough that I suspected Paula Deen might just come walzing out of the kitchen yelling “Hey y’all, surprise, it was me that cooked this!” (Sidebar: Just how cool would that have been?)  They also have a seasonal side, which right now seems to be some kind of spaghetti squash which is just ok, but for $1 you can substitute one of their other sides, which I will now be doing on a regular basis.  The Haricot Verts and Potatoes Au Gratin are the best, though the Garlic potatoes are excellent as well.  On Wednesdays bang bang shrimp are $5, so if you want a seat at the bar come early.  When there is a bargain Sarasota, the locals will pack it in!  Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to go when they have the chocolate crème brulee, get it, but plan on your bill being permanently more expensive because you will always feel incomplete without it.  I’m not one to turn down bread, but if you plan on getting dessert or an appetizer (AHI TUNA, don’t ask, just get it), do yourself a favor and skip it unless your ultimate plan for the evening is laying on your couch in misery.

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Tax Consequences Of Vacation Vs. Investment Homes

By | January 6, 2011

Investment HomesJanuary is once again upon us, and with it come our seasonal residents!

Our 2011 season is forecast to be one of the busiest seasons on record.  Buyers have picked up on the fact that prices stabilized over a year ago and, now that interest rates are creeping up again, have jumped back in the driver’s seat.

A good portion of those residents aren’t ready to move here (not even part-time) but are looking forward a couple of years and want to pick something up when prices are low and they can get positive cash-flow out of their units.  There are many ways homes can generate income, but for today, we’ll focus on vacation homes versus investment homes.

Vacation Vs. Investment: Definitions

A vacation home (aka a 2nd home) is a house or condo more than 50 miles away from your primary residence that you use for personal purposes the greater of 14 days or 10% of the total days it is rented to others at a fair rental price.

An investment home is a house or condo used almost entirely for income purposes in the tax year.  Although some personal days are allowed, the primary purpose of the condo must be to generate income or tax benefit.

A day of personal use is a day:

  • You or any other person who has an interest in it, unless you rent your interest to another owner as his or her main home under a shared equity financing agreement
  • A member of your family or of a family of any other person who has an interest in it, unless the family member uses it as his or her main home and pays a fair rental price
  • Anyone under an agreement that lets you use some other dwelling unit
  • Anyone at less than fair rental price

Tax Benefits For Investment Homes

When you own a bona fide investment property, you have the ability to deduct lots of big expenses relating to the maintenance of your home, including property taxes, mortgage interest, maintenance, utilities, insurance, casualties, and management expenses.  You also get to claim the depreciation on your home.  These deductions can be used to offset other types of income, creating a tax haven.

If you’re using the home as a vacation home then you can still deduct certain expenses (mortgage insurance, property taxes, and casualty losses) but you can’t claim in excess of your rental income.  You’ll also have to divide your total expenses between your days of personal and investment use.

There’s a lot of great, easy-to-read information about this – including some special rules – at the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc415.html.

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