Archives May, 2008

Performance Art

Promises don’t sell homes. It’s the performance behind every pledge that gets the job done. That’s important to remember when you’re planning to sell your home and are interviewing prospective listing agents from competing companies. You will likely be promised everything under the sun—from marketing superiority to a wealth of international connections—in exchange for the privilege of selling your home. Which is fine, so long as each promise is underscored by a proven ability to perform.


When faced with the final decision of which company to choose, ask yourself: Can they walk the walk? Is their record of performance enough to suggest they are the company most able to deliver on every promise while ultimately finding a buyer in the most reasonable timeframe?

When you interview an associate from Michael Saunders & Company, you have before you a professional whose efforts on your behalf will marshal the full service and support of a company that brought buyers to the closing table for nearly 40 percent of its own listings in 2007 and 2008 (year-to-date). Not surprising really. Once listed with Michael Saunders & Company, your property is immediately exposed to more than 500 of the area’s best networked real estate professionals—who blanket the region from 16 strategically located offices and gather weekly to exchange property information. Plus, in an era where 88% of today’s homebuyers begin their property searches on the Internet, your home will be featured on the most widely-viewed property Web site in Southwest Florida. That isn’t all. In the past year alone, has experienced a 51% increase in overall Web visits, a 109 percent increase in visitors from European countries and a 72% increase in visits from Asian countries. This on top of 45% more visitors from every state in the Union. (Source: Google Analytics, May 2008)

When you interview an associate from Michael Saunders & Company, you have before you a professional long fortified with just the sort of far-reaching international connections that many companies are only now beginning to cobble together. Cementing cross-border alliances doesn’t happen overnight. They require considerable time, effort and travel—not to mention major financial commitments. Almost from the moment she established the company, Michael Saunders began crisscrossing the globe to establish and nurture these vital relationships; not simply to help out in challenging times, but because she has a lifetime’s appreciation of the region’s global appeal. Well before year’s end, she will have sung the praises of Southwest Florida before international assemblies in Madrid and Milan (in July), Rome (in September) and London (in October).

Through long-established ties—including leadership roles at the very top—with such revered international brokerage networks as Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, Luxury Portfolio, EREN (The European Real Estate Network), Mayfair International Realty, and Christie’s Great Estates, Michael Saunders & Company can truly claim the widest and most direct pipeline to a world’s worth of qualified buyers.

Last but not least, when you interview an associate from Michael Saunders & Company, you have before you a professional whose company controlled one or both sides of the largest residential transactions in the Sarasota MLS for each of the past five years. In fact, in Sarasota County, it takes the combined market share of the next four leading competitors to equal the 35.1 share of market that Michael Saunders & Company achieved in volume sales of $1 million-plus properties. (Source: Trendgraphix, May 2008). Likewise, for $3 million-plus properties, the combined market share of the next four leading competitors (36.5%) fell significantly below the 43.6 share achieved by Michael Saunders & Company. Across all price ranges, Michael Saunders & Company has a market share of 24%, more than the combined share of the next two leading competitors.

Performance in real estate is an art best displayed by knowing how to price a property correctly, market it globally, and hasten its sale through skilled negotiations and the ancillary services of MSC Mortgage and MSC Title. Why settle for less? Why risk performance anxiety when you can relax and enjoy performance art?


Opportunity Knocks

Today’s unprecedented selection of homes is all the more extraordinary for being tagged with the best prices since late 2003/early 2004—just before housing prices would begin their wild, but wholly unsustainable climb. Which makes it very easy to understand why recent home sales in Sarasota-Bradenton took such a positive upturn in the first quarter of 2008, as restored confidence replaced waning hesitation among buyers whose previous stance was a solid "wait-and-see." They’ve pushed indecision overboard to take advantage of normalized pricing; before selections in their price ranges narrow and mortgage rates creep up to squelch whatever potential exists for incremental savings. For as large and varied as today’s inventory is, buyers in all price ranges are nothing if not value-conscious. They are buying the lowest priced homes in their preferred price ranges, while basically turning a cold shoulder to the rest.


Satisfied that pre-boom pricing has resurfaced in Southwest Florida, how do you sift through such a huge inventory of homes with any hope of finding great values that are also ideally suited to your needs? The answer is easy: Simply by visiting, then clicking on the newly launched "Best Opportunities" section of our home page. You will be instantly transported to a select grouping of today’s most aggressively priced homes.

Real estate companies don’t establish or control market prices. Economic forces, especially the law of supply and demand, do. How can you be certain that the homes found in Best Opportunities are among the most competitively priced? To vet their asking prices we have assembled an in-house roundtable of the region’s most seasoned real estate experts who painstakingly scrutinize each property vying for a Best Opportunities designation. Together they make certain that each home is priced within certain market-driven parameters which, when met, qualify it as one of the best values in its competitive set.

To be featured in Best Opportunities each home must adhere to at least one of the following established criteria. It must be:

1.) Priced below a recent certified appraisal, or…

2.) Priced below a CMA (Competitive Market Analysis), or…

3.) Priced below other homes in its competitive set.

If for any reason a home listed in Best Opportunities ceases to meet at least one of these aforementioned qualifiers, an appropriate price adjustment is recommended to the seller in order to re-qualify for inclusion on the list. This way, when you purchase one of the carefully selected homes or condominiums featured in Best Opportunities, you are assured of owning one of the best values (and long-term investments) in today’s marketplace. It’s that simple.

The concept of multiple offers on a single property did not perish with the boom. They are still fielded daily in cases where the savviest sellers have priced their properties with equal measures of realism and aggression. The smartest sellers are meeting the market head-on rather than teeing-off from an overpriced position and having to endure the costly mistake of chasing the market down. By the time an overpriced listing is reduced repeatedly—until it finally reaches its true competitive range—the home has often been branded as undesirable (or overpriced) and is that much harder to sell.

Be sure to stop by this week’s to sample our latest selection of the market’s best buys, which await inspection on our Best Opportunities page. Be sure to visit often as new listings qualify daily and are posted even as others are sold. However, a word of caution is in order. If you aren’t in the market for a new home when you first visit Best Opportunities, you just may feel an irresistible pull before you leave. As Mark Twain was known to have famously said, "I deal with temptation by yielding to it."


Suncoast Business Forum – WEDU – Guest: Michael Saunders

Michael Saunders recently appeared on WEDU’s Suncoast Business Forum, a regular monthly business program on Tampa Bay’s PBS affiliate. The interview in its entirety may be seen here.





After Midnight: First Quarter Sales Reveal Positive Trends

Just as every ailing person must submit to the appropriate medical interventions to restore good health, so too must Florida’s overstressed real estate market. Wherever prices inflated radically during the real estate boom of 2004/2005, there must now be a meaningful correction before healthy appreciation can resume anew. That’s the sobering news facing every Florida market targeted by too many overconfident investors who bought at “high noon” during the boom.

There’s good news too. Sarasota-Bradenton is the toast of Florida, having been the first market in the state to take the painful but appropriate initiative of convincing sellers to lower prices—mainly by tempering unrealistic profit expectations born of the boom. In doing so, we have already accomplished what many Florida markets are just now realizing must be emulated. As a result, for the first quarter of 2008, Sarasota-Bradenton has enjoyed a sustained upturn in unit sales of both single-family homes and condominiums; a trend that appears to be gaining traction as today’s best opportunities become irresistible to previously uncommitted buyers.

Chart “A,” tracks monthly unit sales for the past year in Sarasota-Bradenton. Since bottoming in January ‘08—with 490 First Quarter 2008 Unit Sales - Sarasota and Manatee Areasingle-family units sold—there have been three successive months of solid gains. These statistics show that March sales of existing single-family homes broke the 700 barrier for the first time since July ‘07—finishing at 709. The same trend holds true for condominiums, whose unit sales bottomed in January; then started upwards again, breaking the 300 barrier in March for the first time since May ’07—finishing at 313. All of this in spite of the incessant drumbeat of doom and gloom surrounding mortgage defaults and foreclosures that has seized Wall Street and dominated coverage in the mainstream media during the same period. Clearly this increase in local sales, occurring as it has in defiance of persistently negative news regarding the broader market, speaks to a healthy resurgence of buyer confidence in our market.

In Sarasota, one of the continuing bright spots reflected by the March report was the strength in pending sales, which stood at 674—the highest level in the past year—and have been edging upwards since December 2007, when there were only 374. Pending sales represents the number of signed contracts in a month and are the leading indicator of closed sales to come. There is a direct correlation between pending sales and closed sales that are reported a month (or two) later.

Chart “B” tracks movement in the median price over the same period and its downward trend explains why unit sales are up. Median price represents the market’s midpoint; half the homes or condominiums sold for more, half for less. Having posted a First Quarter 2008 Median Price - Sarasota and Manatee Area6.5% decline in the fourth quarter of 2007, followed by a 3% decline in the first quarter of 2008, buyers are now confident that today’s best-priced properties present an acceptable threshold through which to re-enter the market and make long-deferred purchases while interest rates are still low.
Although these rates are still hovering at historic lows, the general home buying public has yet to see the benefits of fresh cuts in the Fed’s prime lending rate manifested in even lower mortgage rates. Indeed, rates of late have inched upward as the supply of available money has steadily dwindled since 2004/2005. This is especially true involving jumbo mortgages—any amount over $417,000—and loans for second homes. As well, some of the nation’s largest banks have shied away completely from offering loans for condominium purchases—although Wells-Fargo, our financially solid partner in lending through MSC Mortgage—still has loans available for creditworthy condominium buyers. With new and tighter restrictions cropping-up daily, it makes sense to borrow now and take advantage of today’s excellent buying opportunities rather than risk the possibility of slightly lower prices with greater restrictions on borrowing.

With tourism in Southwest Florida still humming along at record levels and local home prices back into realistic focus, buyers have rediscovered their confidence, are finding true value in the homes they want, and are ultimately succumbing to a lifestyle second to no other in Florida. Finally they’re starting to realize that the clock has ticked past midnight for the best buyers’ market in many years.

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