What’s Hot and What’s Not in Tampa Real Estate

Whether you are thinking about listing your home or considering the purchase of a foreclosure or condo while the prices are right, find out what’s hot and what’s not in the Tampa real estate market.

What’s Hot

Personal Spa’s & Big Bathrooms. As the economy tightens, people are spending less on spa treatment but still seeking stress relief. The solution is to create a personal retreat right in your very own home. Big bathrooms with personal spa accessories are in high demand but forget unsanitary water jets, today’s big soaking tubs use sanitary bubble jets combined with chroma-therapy for an unforgettable experience. Comfort toilets, LED lighting, towel warmers and dry saunas are also high demand luxuries that feel like a million but don’t necessarily cost a lot.

Eco-Friendly Yards. Fruit trees are back big-time as are low maintenance lawns. Xeriscaping with native shrubs and trees reduces water requirements and pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful chemicals. Large trees that help shade the house in summer (and reduce electric bills) are also in high demand…with the added benefit of making great natural compost. Outdoor sanctuaries that combine easy to maintain gardens with fire-pits, water and entertaining areas are rapidly displacing show-piece lawns.

Green Building Supplies. Tampa real estate has the advantage of year round wonderful weather so avoid toxic chemicals and expensive carpet replacement by purchasing bamboo wood flooring or ceramic tile instead. Low cost, incredibly easy to maintain and much easier on your health today’s green building materials are as beautiful as they are sustainable. Other popular supplies include non-toxic paint, low EMF lighting solutions and natural insulation.

What’s Not

Lawns. Pesticide, fertilizer, expensive water bills, costly lawn maintenance or machinery, pollution, noisy blowers and more are making lawns a thing of the past. As the nation turns toward environmentally friendly products, fewer people than ever are interested in pushing lawn mower or edger that causes 4 to 10 times the air pollution as an average family car! Blowers are a major source of noise pollution and also contribute to poor air quality. Pesticides, fertilizers and high water bills are not only bad for your health but terrible for the environment. Worst of all…homeowners are fed up with spending all their free time slaving to high maintenance lawns.

Carpet. More people than ever are switching to tile, wood, bamboo or other sustainable flooring solutions. Not only are they easier to maintain and durable but cost less in the long run since there is no need to replace every few years. Best of all, it is a fast way to improve the air quality in your home.

Incandescent Lighting. Even relatively newer homes may have been built with incandescent lighting fixtures – including recessing lighting. Not only are newer florescent and LED lighting alternatives more energy efficient but the bulbs last longer and look great.

Create a Sustainable Lifestyle with Tampa Foreclosures

With its warm weather, great year-round access to beaches and natural amenities plus an abundant supply of foreclosures available for purchase, real estate might be the perfect ticket to creating a long term sustainable lifestyle.

Whether you are committed to reducing your carbon footprint or simply want to lower your cost of living, foreclosures in Tampa Bay offer a low cost lifestyle that is simply impossible in other cold weather climates.  Save money, enjoy life in the fun and sun of Tampa Florida with these quick tips:

1. Convenience. Tampa is often considered a sprawling city but with a little advance planning it is possible to dramatically reduce the driving (and cost) required to commute across town. Simply search for neighborhoods near the bus route, major shopping/grocery plaza, schools and other amenities. Car pooling or taking public transportation just one day per week can make a big impact on your budget plus, living near everything means you spend less when you drive.

2. Go Green. Plant a garden and grow your own healthy organic foods year-round.  With its sub-tropical climate and mild winters, Tampa is a gardeners delight! Everything from fruit trees to traditional vegetables can be grown nearly year-round.  But the benefits don’t stop there. Cut your costs even more by tapping into environmentally friendly products for your home. Florida is known for sunshine so consider investing in alternative energy sources like solar power to heat your pool or back-up the house. Energy efficient appliances, weatherization and updated LED lights are also great way to save money. Investing in ceiling fans is another easy and inexpensive way to reduce utility costs.

3. Think Newer. Tampa foreclosures are a fantastic way to save money on the cost of a home and eliminate many common costs associated with older homes. For example, newer homes need fewer repairs, less maintenance, are often located in the most convenient areas and take advantage of the most up to date building codes, weatherization and energy efficient products available. In fact, newer homes may even cost less to insure especially compared to older homes with old wiring, plumbing or other problems.

Prices might be rising and the economic outlook appears downright dangerous but for those in the know, Tampa foreclosures are an affordable way to create a sustainable life you will love. No state incomes taxes, year-round sunshine, affordable housing and more choices than ever make the Tampa lifestyle on you can live with for years to come.

Existing Home Sales are Up…is this the Bottom?

According to data recently released by the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales have finally posted a gain for the first time in over a year thanks in large part due to the sale of foreclosure properties. Florida is listed as second in the nation for mortgage defaults and also experienced improved sales of single family homes and condos for September. In fact, it is estimated that short sales and foreclosures represented from 30 to 40 percent of sales through September in bubble regions such as California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona.

So, does this mean the worst is over? Maybe – but probably not. Although sales were up – prices were down as median sales prices fell an average of 9 percent in the past year nationwide but dropped 22 percent in Florida to a median price of $175,100…. not counting foreclosed home sold at auction which were not part of the data.  Further complicating the situation is the general financial crisis that worsened during the month of October; bank mergers, bankruptcies and the general uncertainty surrounding the economic melt-down is likely to impact real estate numbers for October if not the remainder of the year.

Other disturbing trends such a resetting adjustable rate mortgages are still not complete in many of the same areas most impacted by the downturn. As ARM’s begin to reset, an entire new wave of defaults and foreclosures could be in the works during a period when banks are less willing to refinance. Congress is actively discussing methods to guarantee or work with mortgage companies to refinance these loans to prevent further foreclosures but to date, little consensus has been reached.

There is currently a 9+ month supply of inventory with some homes in much higher demand than others and with tightening credit standards, economists are unsure what the 4th quarter will look like in the real estate market. Cautious optimism seems to be warranted as sales are expected to continue increasing even as prices stabilize. Unfortunately, rising interest rates are likely to offset further price reductions resulting for little incentive for buyers to wait before buying.

To recap; buyers searching for foreclosures in Tampa, Florida may find rising interest rates likely to offset potential price reductions. Homes are selling and prices for the local Tampa Bay and surrounding areas are at their lowest in years:

• Tampa: The median price of Tampa houses has dropped from over $200,000 last year (and over $220,000 prior to that) to $160,500 last month. Median condo prices in the Tampa area have fallen to $139,100.

• Fort Myers, Lakeland & Winter Haven: Median home prices have fallen to approx  $140,000

• Sarasota-Bradenton: Median home prices are down 29 percent to $200,000.

Tampa Foreclosures: Fixer-Upper Tips

real estate & forclosure tipsIf you have been considering the purchase of a foreclosure or other Tampa Bay home in need of repairs then here are a few money saving tips and ideas to help you decide if the price is right.

1. Find Out if it qualifies for free money. Depending upon the property, your personal income status, the type of real estate involved and the repair or upgrade being performed there may be free money or rebates available to offset the cost. Common examples include special energy assistance grants or rebates for installing energy efficient air handlers, water heaters or other upgrades.

2. Always get three quotes first. Even if you intend to perform the work yourself it is a good idea to get at least three quotes before starting. Not only does it help manage costs in the event you are unable to perform the work but it provides a good idea of the average cost (including labor). Remember, the lowest estimate isn’t always the best – find out what is truly involved by comparing all quotes.

3. Call insurance before starting. Don’t assume you can purchase insurance while performing major repairs. This is especially true if the home doesn’t have a current certificate of occupancy or if it will remain vacant for 30 days or more while repairs are taking place. You may need a different type of policy. Also, policies can be hard to come by until homes are brought up to date. Don’t risk your financial future by buying a home without proper insurance – especially if you intend to finance a portion of the price.

4. Understand building codes and update requirements. Major renovations to a Tampa home or property often result in the need to bring the home up to date on current building codes; common examples include updated wiring, plumbing or structural considerations.

5. Financing can be tricky. Make sure you have the cash reserves required to finish the job. It’s also a good idea to understand what is and isn’t possible when financing a fixer-upper; Tampa mortgage brokers are likely to require larger down payments on homes in need of extensive repairs.

6. Taxes, Taxes, Taxes. Capital Gains can take a big bite so understand your situation. Crunch the numbers to see what works best for your individual situation; some investors find holding a property for 1 year and 1 day makes more sense in the long run than selling right away while others find a 1031 exchange to be the best route. Each situation is different so do the math.

Whether you are looking for foreclosures or bank owned homes we can assist you with all your needs. Please give us a call today.

Top Ways to Automate Your Tampa Home Search

image of a computerSearching for Tampa, FL real estate but don’t want to spend hours driving around town looking for homes in all the wrong places? It’s easy to automate your home search with these simple steps:

1. Visit Tampa2Enjoy.com and sign-up for email notification of homes in the area and price range you are searching for – including specialized types of real estate like waterfront condos or foreclosures.

2. Take a Virtual Tour. Most homes have photos available for viewing but why stop there? It’s easier than ever to take a virtual tour of the local surroundings using Google Maps and other free resources.

3. Request More Information. Once you identify a property you are interested in simply request more information with a simple click of the mouse or via email. Ask for comp values, school district, amenities in the immediate area, property tax values and other pertinent information.

4. Get Directions. By this point you should have narrowed your search down to just a few of the most promising properties.

5. Virtual Consulting. Thanks to the latest in technology and innovation it is easier than ever to stay connected or have a virtual consultation via the Internet. From video mail to flexible scheduling, Tampa2Enjoy is dedicated to providing unsurpassed customer service.

6. One Point of Contact. See a listing from another agent or a home listed by owner that you would like more information about? Simply jot down the MLS number or address and get the same great service, information and assistance without the need to deal with multiple agents or buyers. No spam, no hard sales pitch and no inconvenient interruptions – just the information you need when you need it.

7. Make Offers. Whether you are a first-time buyer or savvy short sale investor, work with an agent that understands what it takes to close the deal. Something as simple as missing a deadline could cost thousands of dollars over the life of the loan – or worse – result in a lost deal. Take the time to find a Tampa area Realtor that gets the job done right and builds a relationship you can rely upon.

Most Annoying Hidden Home Defects

picture of a tool beltAlmost every Tampa home buyer knows how to keep an eye out for the most major defects when making an offer to purchase a home; roof repairs, electric problems and worn-out carpets can add thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses. Unfortunately, some of the most annoying hidden home defects are not the ones likely to show up on an inspection report. ..in fact, many have little to do with the house at all.

Find out the REAL reason many Tampa home sellers want out of their home then use it as a negotiation tool. Remember, value is in the eye of the beholder and what bugs one buyer may not be a problem for another whatsoever.

1. Noise. If a home sits adjacent to a rail-road track then chances are you have already noticed the noise but some sources of noise pollution are much more difficult to spot; from jet planes flying overhead en route to Tampa International to a bus stop in front of the house, find out what the noise level is likely to be in the new home before making a final offer. On the other hand, if you are relocating from New York or LA then the level of noise in most Tampa, FL neighborhoods is probably easy on the ears and might allow you to make a competitive offer on an otherwise higher priced home.

2. The Neighbors. Sometimes perfectly wonderful people just don’t see eye-to-eye. The NASCAR fan who likes to work on engines every weekend might have little in common with the elderly couple who want plenty of peace and quiet. Those little personality differences can lead to big price reductions.

3. Bad Schools. Retirees and others without children can easily save an average of ten percent or more by buying a home with less than stellar schools.

4. Homeowners Associations. The democratic nature of most HOA’s occasionally creates a situation where the majority vote for rules that conflict with the personal goals of specific condo or home owners. Finding a disgruntled owner is an easy way to find instant equity when buying your own condo in Tampa.

5. High Utilities, Taxes and Insurance. Despite a cap on owner-occupied homes, the rising rate of taxes, insurance and other utilities can create a burden on fixed-income Tampa homeowners.

6. Size Matters. Sometimes a home simply doesn’t fit any longer; Baby Boomers without children at home increasingly find a large home is more than they need while others just getting started with a new family might need more space to fit a growing family.

We are experts in the Tampa home buying process – whether you are looking at waterfront condos or homes for sale in Tampa.

Tampa Real Estate and Crime Rates

When it comes to Tampa property values, schools and crime rates tend to make a major impact on the desirability of a neighborhood. Good schools and low crime rates can increase the value of your home by 10 to 20 percent or more. While it’s relatively easy to find school related information, crime rates are another thing entirely.  Here is what you need to know about Tampa real estate and crime rates:

1. According to the Florida Gang Investigators Association, the greater Tampa Bay area has well over two dozen known gangs in the area including the “Black Hawks”, “W/B-Boys”, “Black Gangster Disciples” and others.

2. Most gang activity tends to be localized to the immediate neighborhood although gangs have been known to commit crimes outside of their “turf” areas.

3. Most Tampa area gangs engage in drug-related activities, theft, vandalism and interpersonal disputes. More serious gang related violence including murders or assault are frequently associated with drug or other activity.

To locate crime related data for any neighborhood in Tampa visit http://www.tampa2enjoy.com/tampa-bay-area/crime-in-tampa.html then simply input your search criteria. It’s a good idea to take time to carefully evaluate crime statistics prior to making an offer on any Tampa property. Not only does it impact your real estate values but crime impacts the lifestyle of your family for years to come.

Another excellent resource for families with young children is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sexual Offenders and Predators search tool. This free resource allows prospective home buyers to input an address or zip code to determine if a sexual predator reside in the local area.

Inflation & Tampa Real Estate

image of CPI measuresThe year was 1973. The Doobie Brothers were singing “Jesus is Just Alright” on the radio which was playing loudly as people cruised the boulevard in cars that got 15 mpg …but nobody cared because gasoline only cost 35 cents a gallon. You could buy a nice middle class home anywhere in the nation for $28,900 and stock it full of groceries for less than $20 a week.

By 1979 things were already beginning to change. The cost of a home had nearly doubled to just under $56,000 even while interest rates crept up from 8 percent to 11 percent. Five years later homes were well into the $70,000 range and mortgage interest lingered between 13 to 15 percent. By 1990 homes were approaching the $100k level for the first time in history. Real estate would never be the same as the price increases continued to rise each and every year until 2007 at which point Tampa Bay properties experienced its first decline.

The decision to purchase a Tampa home, condo or other forms of real estate is one of the best methods available to build wealth during times of inflation. Just as home prices continued to rise year after year so have the cost of groceries, gasoline, healthcare and college. In fact, nearly everything seems to cost more than ever before. By now you should be asking what Tampa homes will cost in the future especially since inflation rates are rising rapidly. Here is a quick way to estimate the cost of a home in the future:

1. Determine the rate of inflation. A reliable indicator of inflation is provided by ShadowStats which tracks actual inflation based upon money supply and costs in the economy rather than the dubious new model used by the government. The official CPI is estimated to be 5.5 percent while the alternative measure indicates something closer to 9 percent.

2. Use the rule of 72. Simply divide 72 by the inflation rate (for example 9 percent). For example,  72/9 = 8. This means at the current rate of inflation Tampa real estate prices will double in 8 years.

3. Extended Time. If you want to calculate for longer periods of time then double again. For example, if you purchased a Tampa home today for 200k then held it for 24 years with a constant rate of inflation at 9 percent then the price of the home would go from 200k to 400k in the first eight years, from 400k to 800k by year 16 and from 800k to 1.6 million in 24 years.  Of course, this is all an approximation and some years inflation goes up more rapidly or more slowly than other years but it does demonstrate the power of real estate to build wealth during rising rates of inflation.

Remodeling of Older Homes and Asbestos Exposure

Since many are under the impression that asbestos exposure is a concern of the past, few are aware that the remodeling of older homes can lead to hazardous asbestos exposure. With the recent decline in the national housing market, citizens nationwide are opting to remodel homes rather than move, and this could lead to an increase of unnecessary exposures. Although the Industrial Revolution inspired numerous positive, economic, and deceivingly “safe” uses for asbestos, this naturally occurring mineral is unfortunately toxic and considered a veritable carcinogen.  According to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, approximately 10,000 Americans are claimed annually from asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. The latter is an aggressive form of cancer that is highly resistant to mesothelioma treatments and a cure has yet to be discovered. Knowing where to find potential asbestos-laden materials in the home is the key to avoiding exposure. It is best to avoid these products and to contact a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to have any potential threats professionally assessed. To learn more, please visit Asbestos.com, the Web’s most comprehensive resource on the dangers of asbestos and the diseases caused by the toxic mineral.

If you are looking for an older or historic home you may want to look at our South Tampa homes for sale.

Focus on the Best Foreclosures

Tampa, Fla foreclosures represent a major buying opportunity but a low price along doesn’t justify every purchase. Take time to do your homework to find the best foreclosures and leave the higher risk ones to others with these great tips:

1. Out of Date. Older homes in the Hyde Park or other historic areas of Tampa remain highly desirable while others are simply out of date. The major difference is upkeep, maintenance and appreciation. Older homes may have hidden health risks, huge maintenance and repair costs or other considerations that should be carefully weighed before making a final offer. Changes in lifestyle choices also make some homes more desirable than others; avoid homes with small bedrooms, high energy cost or other out of date amenities that make it hard to insure and harder to sell.

2. High Crime Rate. Some foreclosures are the victims of growing crime problems that plunge property values worse than any known storm or building code violation. Plain and simple; crime doesn’t pay – especially when it comes to buying real estate. Avoid areas associated with high crime rates; vandalism, decreased property values and high vacancy rates can easily erode any potential profits.

3. Structural Problems. Even new homes in Tampa Bay can fall victim to sink-holes, shoddy construction or other structural problems that make a home hard to insure or sell. Get at least three objective appraisals then assume a worst case scenario before making an offer on homes with structural problems.

4. Declining Areas. Although Tampa is growing rapidly and other areas are experiencing a renewed and revitalized interest, other areas are slowly decaying. Store closings, road problems, noise and blight are creating small segments of less than desirable areas where future appreciation is limited at least for the time being. If you decide to purchase a property in a declining area use conservative appreciation models and focus on cash flow instead.

5. Death By Taxes. The last thing many would-be investors are prepared to face is death by taxes but it is actually more of a risk than you may realize. Rapidly rising real estate values, heavy growth areas, school projects and other costs can eat away at profits especially on income product properties. The price of success is often increased taxation – be prepared by running the numbers and taking tax increases into account.