Archives October, 2010

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Making Sense of the Mortgage Mess

The only news from the foreclosure fiasco that doesn’t seem to change by the minute is the word “mess” everyone is using to describe it.  Back when the news first captured the nation’s attention several days ago, it looked as if banks would back away from pursuing any new foreclosures for at least 30 to 90 days—perhaps longer—while they re-examined the efficacy of their paperwork and procedures.  But suddenly that timeframe dwindled to less than two weeks with Bank of America, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, boldly declaring it has thus far found no significant problems to justify a lengthier moratorium.  GMAC Mortgage and J.P. Morgan Chase immediately followed suit and other large lenders are expected to do the same in an aggressive response calculated to debunk the growing public perception that the mortgage market is fatally flawed.

So what initially looked like a two-to-three month window of opportunity for sellers of non-distressed properties to sell in an environment stripped of the most heavily-discounted properties—has turned into a surprising new opportunity for sellers of short-sale properties.

For the first time since the term “short sale” went from being an arcane transaction to a household word, banks finally have major incentives to streamline the process in order to move these properties quickly off their books and into the “sold” column.  Obviously the threat of legal and financial liability can move mountains.  What once took upwards of six months to complete—if you were incredibly patient and lucky—can now proceed from start to finish in as little as a two to three weeks.  So for now, at least, short sales are the most user-friendly transactions in the marketplace for buyers determined to purchase distressed properties with the least potential for deal-breaking title defects.  Sellers of non-distressed properties—provided they are aggressively priced—are also in a position to benefit, as are buyers with the ability to pay cash in this era of tightened credit.

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Boca Grande, FL – Neighborhood Video

Boca Grande is one of America’s classic Old Money resorts. Generations of millionaires – and presidents – have found peace and quiet in the discrete splendor of its beach and bay front mansions. Life here revolves around the timeless pleasures of boating, deep sea fishing, shelling, golf, tennis and socializing with family and friends.

Located at the southern tip (agent advised it is mid-way) of Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande is off the beaten track yet still easy to get to. Midway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, it’s but a few minutes drive from the mainland towns of Englewood and Punta Gorda. But once over the bridge, the rest of the world seems very far away indeed.

Patch Work – The Area’s Top Pumpkin Patches and Festivals

Signs of the season. Get out there and find your pumpkin today.

Halloween is just around the corner, so now is the time to find the perfect pumpkin to decorate your front door. With patches, hayrides and more, our area has a range of options for pumpkin hunters to pluck the ideal orange-colored squash and celebrate the holiday with jack-o-lanterns, delicious pie and seedy treats.

From Manatee to Charlotte, here are the area’s top pumpkin patches and festivals:

• Hunsader U-Pick Farms – No pumpkin patch list in our area would be complete without mentioning Hunsader Farms. With pumpkins, a corn maze, music, hayrides, pony rides, crafts, petting zoo and more, there is something for everyone. Join the Pumpkin Festival running October 16 & 17, 23 & 24, 30 & 31. 5500 C.R. 675, Bradenton, Florida. Phone: 941-322-2168. Email: dkhunsader@msn.com. Admission $7.00 PARKING $4:00.

• Hydro-Taste Farms – A follower of organic methods, pumpkins here are al ready already gathered from the field, as well as pre-picked produce, a gift shop, snacks and refreshment stand. Pumpkin Carving classes will be offered Saturday 10/27/07. 7308 Verna Bethany Road, Myakka City, FL 34251. Phone: 941-322-0429. Fax: 941-322-9604. Email: hydroman@hydrotaste.com. Open: Tuesday to Saturday 9 am – 5:00 pm. (more…)

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The Neighborhood Report – Bay Isles

A range of beautiful home options grace Bay Isles. Pictured: 510 Harbor Point Rd.

A unique gated community located near the south end of Longboat Key, Bay Isles boasts a blend of condominium complexes, villas and single-family homes ranging in price from the low $300,000s to several million dollars. Bordered on one side by Sarasota Bay, many of the homes have panoramic views of the bay and downtown Sarasota.

The Longboat Key Club and Resort share Bay Isles with its residents, many of whom are members of the club and enjoy its amenities right in their own backyard. The club has 27 holes of golf—Harbourside—that meander through the various communities of Bay Isles, with a beautiful clubhouse set among a lush landscape of large oaks and Spanish moss. The Grill restaurant offers golfers and diners a warm, traditional setting for lunch or dinner at various times of the year, along with outside dining if preferred. The new Tennis Club, with its many Har-Tru courts, is ranked among the top tennis facilities in the state of Florida. Court 21 is a contemporary restaurant overlooking the tennis courts, with a beautiful patio for lounging. One of the favorite pastimes of residents of Bay Isles is strolling the docks of the Longboat Key Moorings Marina with its beautiful yachts and extraordinary views of the Sarasota skyline. The Marina has its own pool, tennis court, bocce ball court and kayak launch, as well as the Longboat Key Club’s renowned Italian restaurant, Portofino. As a matter of convenience, Bay Isles is located adjacent to the Town of Longboat Key, where there is a post office, library, town hall and the Department of Building and Safety. Also found in the “Town’s Center” is a beautiful new public tennis center and a shopping center anchored by a Publix Supermarket and CVS pharmacy. There are also several bank branches, including Bank of America, SunTrust, and Northern Trust. (more…)

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An End to Skepticism

If the pundits are to be believed, the Great Recession ended in June 2009.  Yet the end of a recession doesn’t automatically imply a return to substantive economic growth, which is why most of us groaned with amused skepticism when we heard the news.  The recession may be officially over in the ivory towers of agencies that issue such proclamations; but no one on the ground will be officially convinced until we see laid-off friends and family back at work in secure jobs that befit their backgrounds and skills.

Here in Southwest Florida, extricating ourselves from this mother of all recessions is a tall order.  Ours is not only the task of re-creating thousands of vanished jobs, but we must also lure new categories of employment so as never to be held hostage again by an overdependence on building and development.  That’s why the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County is to be applauded for the strategic inroads it has made in diversifying the county’s economic base to include industries typically found in places where universities, cultural institutions, research facilities and an educated workforce all come together to create an irresistible environment for innovation-based businesses.

There is absolutely no reason why this can’t happen in Southwest Florida, where we have similar advantages neatly contained in a magnificent environment enhanced by climate and culture.  Indeed, these advantages form the core of EDC’s five-year strategic plan for promoting economic growth.  According to Kathy Baylis, EDC’s President and CEO, the plan distills down to three major areas of opportunity.

First, since 80% of new jobs typically originate in companies already in the community, it is vitally important to help existing businesses grow and prosper even as we leverage our unique cultural and educational assets to attract new ones.  “Of the more than 1,000 new jobs that have been recently announced for the region, most are within companies that already have roots in our community,” says Baylis.

No one appreciates this strategy better than Laura Spencer, president of Tervis Tumbler, a company that has manufactured in Sarasota County for over half a century.

“As the recession unfolded, EDC and the county stepped-up with strong financial incentives to help local businesses like ours weather the downturn,” says Spencer whose company now employs a workforce of nearly 300—with plans to steadily add more jobs as its product lines proliferate.  “We want to be appreciated as much as companies that are brand new to the area.”

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Back-To-School Sale – Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home in Fall

Use the seasonal colors and scents to your advantage when selling in fall.

While home sellers need to be prepared for any time of the year, selling your home during the fall season can present its own set of challenges. For one, many potential home buyers may start to become preoccupied with upcoming holiday celebrations. Also, the changes in weather and daylight that accompany the new season produce a landscape that may affect the curb appeal if not tended properly. While some sellers may think that fall is a bad time to put their home on the market, many real estate experts will tell you that’s simply not the case.

So, for those interested in selling before the chilly days of winter, here are our top 10 tips for selling your home in fall:

1.  Dress for the Season – Though they may be a family tradition, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations can cover up some of your home’s more beautiful features. Plus, they also have the potential to come off as tacky to potential buyers. Instead of putting out the full gamut of holiday decorations, consider using autumn colors in your tablecloths, bathroom towels and displays. Keep in mind that not everyone celebrates fall holidays such as Halloween.

2. Relocation Situation – Autumn is typically a popular time of year for corporations to relocate employees, which creates a pool of buyers who need to make quick decisions about housing. They’ll be serious about purchasing and with fewer houses on the market and less competition for sellers, your house may get more attention now than it would any other time of year.

3. Seasonal Appeal – In many parts of the country, autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year. By using the change in foliage to your advantage, your home can stand out from others in the neighborhood. Leaves turning shades of crimson and gold can add extra appeal to the total look of your home’s exterior, but they can also get out of hand. Make sure trees and shrubs are properly groomed and that fallen leaves don’t suffocate your front lawn.

4. Candlelight – Candles scented for the season are also appropriate, but be sure to use them sparingly—some people have allergies to various scents. Nothing says fall like the pleasing aromas of apples and cinnamon.

5.  Squash the Competition – Use fall harvest foods such as corn, pumpkins and squash on your kitchen table to invoke the warm, cozy feelings of the season. This will make your home seem more inviting to buyers without detracting from the architectural elements and stylistic possibilities there. Add pumpkins, gourds or a fall display to your front porch to invite in potential buyers. (more…)

Ask Michael – Why Choose the Southwest Coast of Florida to Raise a Family

In this Ask Michael Video – Michael Saunders discusses why you should choose the southwest coast of Florida to raise a family.

The Neighborhood Report – Museum Area

The beautiful grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of art.

As you drive along the tree canopied bay front neighborhood in the northern section of Sarasota, you will experience a virtual step back in time. The historic community of the Museum Area boasts single-family homes nestled among Sarasota’s greatest artistic and educational institutions. This residential community is just a five-minute drive to vibrant downtown Sarasota and a quick trip over the Ringling Bridge to the Gulf of Mexico. The location and ambience mark this area as a golden thread in the Sarasota tapestry.

The Museum Area is the home of the Ringling Museum and the mansion that John and Mable Ringling built, the Ca d’Zan. Historic 1920s Mediterranean-style estates line the bay, cottage bungalows, Florida ranches, and a number of Sarasota School of Architecture homes reflect the eclectic mix of designs and personalities that reside here.

Market Activity – Museum Area

There are 47 homes on the market in the Museum Area at this time, with prices ranging from a $75,000 cottage to a $10,500,000 bayfront, 2.5-acre estate. Current pending sales range from $119,000 to $1,750,000, and there have been seven closed transactions in the past 30 days from $60,000 to $199,900. (more…)

New Record Established for Highest-Priced Home Sale of 2010 on Casey Key

Agents From Michael Saunders & Company Represent Both Sides Of Transaction

SARASOTA, Florida—(October 1, 2010)—A new record has been established for the highest priced home sale on Casey Key in 2010.  The Gulf-front property—located at 507 Casey Key Road—sold on September 28th for $5.127 million.  Built in the classic Mediterranean style and completed in 2008 the three-story home, which occupies a ¾-acre Gulf-front parcel, includes nearly 7,000 square feet of living space under air.  It has five bedrooms—including two master suites—seven-and-a-half baths, numerous patios and terraces and a Gulf-side pool and spa.

Albert and Annette Ayers, of the Palmer Ranch office of Michael Saunders & Company, represented the seller.  Diane Otis Stirling, of the firm’s St. Armands Office, represented the buyer. 

The previous record high for Casey Key in 2010 was set on March 26th.  That beachfront property, listed by Deborah Beacham of the Longboat Key South office of Michael Saunders & Company, was sold for $4.5 million. Albert and Annette Ayers represented the buyers in that transaction.

Best Place to Buy in the Western World

The case for purchasing a home in Southwest Florida is so compelling these days that the national media routinely singles out our area as one of the best places in the country to buy a home.  Twice in just over a year—but as recently as two weeks ago—real estate expert Barbara Corcoran, in her weekly segment for NBC’s Today Show, ranked Sarasota atop her list of the best places in the U.S. to buy a home for under $300,000.  Each time, Corcoran took great care to remind her viewers that above and beyond our region’s phenomenally low home prices, buyers of properties here also reap the priceless benefits of a lifestyle that includes 35 miles of the nation’s best beaches; alongside Florida’s most active and vibrant cultural setting.

GlobalEdge.co.uk.com, a web site for Europeans looking for properties overseas, went a step further.  It called Southwest Florida “the best place to buy in the Western World.”  Plus, it bears frequent repeating that not a single grain of our legendary white sand beaches—nor our seas, bays or estuaries—were in any way touched or tainted by this summer’s oil spill in the far-off northern Gulf of Mexico.

Still, with the media emitting wildly mixed signals about the actual pace of our economic recovery, many buyers remain understandably confused about whether now is the right time to buy.  However, if purchasing a home is part of a larger plan to retire and/or transfer your permanent residency to tax-friendly Florida within the coming year, the time is absolutely right now; as we are fast approaching the date when new property owners must claim their Homestead Exemption for 2011.   In order to meet the qualification deadline for the tax exemption you must become a Florida resident and own a primary residence here by January 1, 2010.  To meet the application deadline you must apply by March 1st, or wait a year for the next opportunity.  This, of course, means that you must close on the property of your choosing by the end of December.

A major financial benefit of living in Florida, the Homestead Exemption guarantees that permanent residents cannot be taxed on up to $50,000 of their primary home’s assessed value.  As a key provision of the law, every person who owns and resides on real property in Florida on January 1—and declares the property their permanent residence—is eligible to receive a homestead exemption of up to $50,000. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The additional exemption of up to $25,000, applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes.  Additionally, residents 65 and older—depending on their income circumstances— may be eligible for an additional $50,000 exemption.

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