Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer Recap-Sales Volume Up & 68 Properties Still Under Contract

It’s been a beautiful summer here at the beach. I hope it has been enjoyable to everyone and that you were able to spend some time in our beautiful area. We had a great MBARA Kingfish Tournament with 193 boats making it the biggest turnout in its 13 year history. We had a solid number of visitors for Labor Day who were enjoying one last summer vacation. The Scallop Festival held a few weekends ago in Port St. Joe, was also a huge success that brought 3,000 to 4,000 people to our shores. These big weekends are often first time visits for many people who fall in love with the area and eventually become property owners. Check out this picture taken on the 4th of July in Mexico Beach-definitely the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen.

The deals were good enough this “season” many buyers decided it was time to purchase. There were 81 sales from May 1st to September 15th in 2008 reported on MLS. This year, there were 105 sales for the same time period. I have had a great summer staying extremely busy closing deals and showing property. I have had 15 closings since May 1st. ( I have 3 more properties under contract set to close soon and have offers going back and forth on 4 of my listings. I’m currently the # 2 Realtor from on MLS in sales volume and transaction volume for the area covering Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, and Cape San Blas. Port St. Joe Realty has remained #1 on MLS for all of 2009 for the same area. They are not all big sexy deals, but we’ve been grinding away bringing buyers and sellers together.

The positive side of prices coming down is that the reductions are resulting in sales and attracting buyers. I couldn’t update my top picks enough with the best deals constantly selling quickly. Check out my Top 25 on MEXICOBEACHSALES.COM for the best deals on the market. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, tell me. I can probably find it and don't be afraid to make offers. I just had to add 15 new picks because of all of the ones that have sold. These new picks include my new #1 pick, a beachside home with dock access at $299,000. It’s been one of those properties that has shown almost daily and will sell quickly. There are other solid deals out there including these recently listed or reduced properties; including a builder's custom gulf view home for $319,000. I predict that at least 15 out of my top 25 picks will sell by spring. Don't forget that every week I update the "what's selling" link on my website and you can see the pictures and details for the last 50 properties that have sold. The majority of these buyers are people looking for a good deal on a vacation or future retirement property while the market is down. Most of these buyers seem to prefer the beach areas and a considerably higher number of sales are taking place at the beach areas of Mexico Beach and Cape San Blas vs. the “town area” of Port St. Joe.

Fall at the beach has become many property owners favorite time of year. I know numerous owners that place their properties on the summer rental program that block off and plan to come down and enjoy a month like October for themselves. There are obviously more people here in the summer and that’s when we have the most sales. However, many people feel that fall and winter are the times to get the best deal on coastal property. The logic is based on the fact that sellers are typically getting less showing activity and/or offers which will make them negotiate more than in summer. I believe the activity will slow down some, but there are still a lot of buyers on the fence and the best deals will continue to sell. Just look below at the number of properties under contract right now. One of my favorite weekend activities is The Art and Wine Festival, which is coming up on October 17th at the Driftwood Inn.

As a buyer, you’ve still got to be ready to move quickly on the very best deals that are receiving multiple offers as soon as they are listed. (While I was writing this, one of my agents sitting beside me has received multiple full price offers on 2 different new foreclosure listings.) This is rare, but a couple of deals a month are listed so aggressively that this is the case. If you’re going to need financing, a pre-qualification letter is becoming more important as more of the banks selling their foreclosures are requiring this or proof of funds if paying cash. Most of the banks selling their foreclosures will not even look at offers without one of these items. There have been very qualified buyers lose out to more prepared with what the banks want to see. Rates are looking good at 5.125% for a 30yr and 4.5% for a 15yr fixed rate mortgage. I highly recommend Amber Lowry at Vision Bank and Sam Tyus at Superior for any real estate financing. (Amber: 850-227-4492 ( Sam:850-509-2442

I know a lot of you like to follow the foreclosure activity. Don’t forget about my new websites that automatically updates daily to show every listed foreclosure, short- sale, and pre-foreclosure property listed. MEXICOBEACHFORECLOSURES.COM will show the listings from Mexico Beach to Port St. Joe and CAPESANBLASFORECLOSURES.COM will show Cape San Blas and Indian Pass.

There is also another auction coming up on October 10th. This auction is advertising to sell 3 condos on the canal with boat slips regardless of price. The West End development is thought to be a better and more solvent development than the Tranquil Harbor development that also held an auction a few months ago. Please let me know if you would like to register.

Closings May 1 to September 15, 2009

51 Closed Sales Windmark Beach to Mexico Beach
42 Closed Sales Indian Pass/Cape San Blas
13 Closed Sale PSJ Area

Currently Under Contract 68!!!
Mexico Beach to Windmark 26
Port St. Joe 9
Cape San Blas 33

Take Care,

There is also another auction coming up on October 10th. This auction is advertising to sell 3 condos on the canal with boat slips regardless of price. These units located at the West End Harbor development is thought to be a better and more solvent development than the Tranquil Harbor development that also held an auction a few months ago. Yhis may be a good opportunity for those of you that want a place to keep your boat. Please let me know if you would like to register or have me bid for you. I think you could see the 1100 sq ft 1 Br's with boat slips sell in the low $100's.( These started at $369,900 a few years ago and just the boat slips were worth $100,000)

68 Properties Currently Under Contract!!!!

26 Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach/Windmark 33 Cape San Blas/Indian Pass9 Port St. Joe

Properties Sold from May 1st to Sept 15th- 2009

51 Closed Sales Windmark to Mexico Beach

42 Closed Sales Cape San Blas/Indian Pass

13 Closed Sales Port St. Joe Area

Take care,

Zach ChildsBroker-Port St. Joe Realty
Cell: 850-819-0833

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy 4th of July- Market Update

Our quiet little area is at the peak of its tourist season. Every motel room and rental that I’m aware of is booked and we are all looking forward to fun filled holiday weekend. There haven't been any dramatic changes since the last update, but many of the best deals have sold. My number 1, 2, 3, and 4 picks on have all sold. June has been the busiest month of the year when it comes to both closings and people viewing properties. This is typical as we get into the summer season and the reason you need to have your property listed now if you're wanting to sell. Most of the buyers remain true end users looking for primary or second homes. There is some speculating on heavily discounted vacant lots. The best news I've had for you in a while is that there are a total of 60 properties under contract right now and inventory levels have come down substantially.

If you want to know what kind of deals people are getting, these are good examples to show how much the market has come down. In a subdivision where vacant lots were selling for $245 K, I sold a new 4 BR 2,000 sq ft home w/ garage in a subdivision with a pool for $235,000. The Windmark Beach foreclosure home that originally sold for $1.4M finally closed this week for $395,000, but the waterfront lot at $299,000 is still available. I also sold the newer townhouse that I told you about last month that was listed at $119,000. It went under contract in less than a week and closed last week for $111,500. I also sold the foreclosed lot right across the road from the beach in Beacon Hill that the previous buyers paid $460,000 for in 2004. On Tuesday it sold for $145,500. There was also a quality lot in a nice subdivision 2 blocks from the beach that sold for $30,000.
Click here to see these properties. I currently have a gulf front home, a bay front lot, a riverfront home, and an interior home under contract. People are looking at all kinds of property and want the deals.

There have been a solid number of both vacationers and interested buyers enjoying the area this summer. Spring Break seemed a little slow and I think that is partly to blame on the bad weather we had. The fishing and diving has been great and it's been good beach weather since June began. I’ve been lucky enough to go fishing and diving a few times and have had some great trips. My Dad and the MBARA recently dropped another $80 K in artificial reefs that will continue to provide everyone great places to fish and dive. Scallop season started July 1st and everyone has been finding plenty. Come enjoy yourself.

There are still some very good deals on the market. You never know how low these properties will sell for until you make an offer. If you are searching foreclosures, you can find them all on and
. You can always see what I think are the top 25 deals on the market for the Mexico Beach Area on (I updated these picks today). If you don't see what you're looking for, tell me what you want and I'll try to find it for you.

Best Deals on the Market
Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach/Windmark
Vacant Lots:
Cape San Blas/Indian Pass
Vacant Lots
Best Deals in Port St. Joe

I look forward to continuing to work hard for all of you. I appreciate everyone that has helped me lead the way for the first half of 2009 with the most closed transaction sides for any Realtor in our area. Port St. Joe Realty remains the top producing real estate company for the Mexico Beach/ Port St. Joe/Cape San Blas Area in 2009. Most of you know that I’ll be celebrating and helping Mr. Earl cook lunch for over 200 people on Saturday. The Bo Spring Band will be playing that evening around 6:00. I hope to see you there. Mexico Beach will be having a big fireworks show again this year starting around 8:20 CST.

All of 09 Sales (108 Total)
(Click Below to see Sold Properties)
Mexico Beach/St Joe Beach/ Windmark: 41 Sales

Port St. Joe: 17 Sales

Cape San Blas: 35 Sales
North Gulf County: 15 Sales
June Sales (24)
Mexico Beach
: 10 Sales
Port St. Joe: 4 Sales
Cape San Blas: 10 Sales
North Gulf County: 0 Sales

Currently Under Contract (60!!)
Click any of the links below to see the properties under contract
Mexico Beach: 20
Cape San Blas: 26
Port St. Joe: 9
North Gulf County: 5

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July,
Zach Childs
Broker- Port St. Joe Realty
Cell: 850-819-0833

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Early Summer Update, Foreclosure Websites, Auctions

Happy Memorial Day,

It’s always good when we get positive National press like last week when Cape San Blas was named by AOL Travel as one of the Top 10 American Beaches. Our market has taken a big hit over the last 4 years and articles like this from outsiders help to remind us all that we do have some of the best beaches anywhere. Regional infrastructure improvements like the new Sacred Heart Hospital, The Port, and the new International Airport will be combined with the beautiful area to build a solid foundation. This is in an amazing part of the country that has really not been discovered. Property is as affordable as it's been in the last 7 years.

It is the beginning of summer and calls and interest are picking up as they always do this time of year. This year we are probably seeing the largest number of people looking for these deals since the market began declining in 2005. These buyers are very well researched and hesitant to buy anything less than a tremendous deal. You can see in the statistics below that the market is becoming much more active. There are 44 properties under contract from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas. Port St. Joe Realty is continuing to produce and remains the #1 sales company for this area in 2009. We have over a 20% market share in an area covered by over 35 companies.

The vacation rental properties are seeing a slight reduction in demand due to the economy, but not very much. I have talked with many owners and managers that are booking at only about a 5%-10% lower rate than previous years. Not bad considering the economy, and there are some properties seeing their highest returns yet. We have gulf front homes that could now be bought in the $700 K range that are grossing $100 K/year in rental income. Articles like the one above talking about the family friendly beautiful beaches really help to bring in visitors. More and more vacant lots are selling this year, even though it is still taking a larger discount to sell a lot vs. a home. The mid-range and higher end properties seem to be selling better at the Cape San Blas Area and the lower end properties are selling in the Mexico Beach Area.

Best Deals Currently on the Market:
Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach/ Windmark Beach
Vacant Lots

Just added was this almost new townhouse at $119 K
Cape San Blas/ Indian Pass
Vacant Lots
Port St. Joe


2009 Closed Sales
26 Mexico Beach
23 Cape San Blas:
12 Port St. Joe

44 Properties Currently Under Contract
17 Mexico Beach
20 Cape San Blas 7 Port St. Joe

New Foreclosure Websites
Foreclosures continue to remain a hot topic in the market. Many prospective buyers are following these closely hoping to find a great deal. I have designed 2 new websites that make searching for short sales and foreclosures easy. I will continue to improve these websites, and they are now up and running. You can easily view every listed short sale and foreclosure. (There are not as many as you may think in some areas.)
( Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach, Windmark Beach, & Port St. Joe)
(Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, SR-30A, & CR-30A)make sure all of my foreclosure listings are listed as foreclosures

Several of you along with me are becoming frustrated with the auctions. They are advertising “absolute” selling no matter how low the price is, but then the auction is stopped once the sellers see they are not getting the high amounts they were hoping for. The absolute auction on the canal did not sell 10 units as promised, and it looks like only 3 of the units will actually sell. The Toucan’s deal has also fallen through from the previous auction. There are a few more auctions being advertised this summer, and it’s harder and harder to get excited and believe that they will be legitimate. I have been to all 4 or 5 of the auctions held here in the last 3 years. There have been about 60 properties advertised for auction and about 30 of them as absolute. I have only seen 4 out of these 60 actually sell at auction.

Summer is here. Come on down and enjoy the beach. If you’re looking to buy, deals can be found, and I would like to help you. Let me know what you would like, and I will find it.

Zach ChildsBroker-Port St. Joe Realty850-819-0833WWW.MEXICOBEACHSALES.COM

Monday, March 30, 2009

Early Spring Market Update

I agree with the national news stating that real estate sales have picked up. They have picked up in our area because buyers are finding deals good enough to make them act. Seven of the properties on my Top 25 on have sold or gone under contract since my last newsletter. Port St. Joe Realty is currently the #1 company in 2009 for the combined areas of Mexico Beach/Cape San Blas/Port St. Joe/North Gulf County. We have an impressive market share with over 25% of total sales volume for these areas and 4 of the top 10 producing Realtors thus far in 2009. I am The Top Producing Realtor for sales volume on MLS from 10/1/08 until 3/18/09 for the combined Mexico Beach/Port St. Joe/Cape San Blas Area. It's been great to help sellers and buyers and more of my listings have sold this year than any other Realtor’s in this area. If you are thinking about selling, it’s time to get your property on the market. Every year, the most potential buyers are looking and purchasing property from March through August. I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about your situation if you are considering selling. Please feel welcome to call me on my cell anytime: 850-819-0833

While the foreclosure crisis is dragging property values down, more and more buyers feel that it’s time to cautiously enter the market to take advantage of the situation. Another interesting type of buyer is emerging in people that bought at the top of the market and were not able to get exactly what they wanted because of the high prices. I know of 4 people looking to move up into what they want, and they plan to put their other property on the healthy vacation rental market until the market recovers. It has been fun helping buyers close on some of the best deals seen in years. I enjoy doing everything I can to find potential buyers an even better deal than the one they were looking for. Click the new testimonials tab on my website to read what some of the people I have worked with say about working with me.

Ce rtain banks are listing their foreclosed properties at aggressive prices to sell them quickly. These are the prices setting today’s market that other sellers must compete with if they want to sell. On a positive note, rates are looking great this week with a 30 yr fixed in the 4.875% range. Vision Bank has only had a small handful of foreclosures in this area, but they’ve been extremely professional to work with due to the fact that they’ve brought in experts like Jim Haag to handle assessing their inventory and getting it sold. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Vision Bank. Fortunately, we were able to get our first listing with them under contract in 12 days and closed 3 weeks later.

There’s still no great sense of urgency making buyers get off the fence. The exception continues to be when they find what they think is such an awesome deal that somebody else will buy it if they don’t. There continues to be more of these deals on Cape San Blas. That market has more properties under contract than the Mexico Beach market even though there are more people looking to buy in the Mexico Beach Area. There are
12 properties under contract on Cape San Blas/Indian Pass
and 8 in the Mexico Beach Area . Between all of the Realtors working with people in the Mexico Beach area, I would say there are at least 50 serious potential buyers ready to buy. I’m working with about 12 myself, and it’s interesting to me that there are only 8 properties currently under contract. I put 1 more property under contract which was the newer $299 K house in Mexico Beach that I mentioned last month while writing this newsletter. I am very close to having 2 more properties under contract) If these work out, all 3 buyers will be getting very solid deals.

There is a condo project on the Mexico Beach canal called Tranquil Harbour that looks to have sold only one out of 36 units. 35 out of 36 units that the developer controlled have been foreclosed on. These units are brand new and come with the coveted private boat slip. The bank that owns them has them on the market well above market price, but banks usually reduce until they find the market. (The are now advertising an absolute auction for 10 of the units on May 2nd. If this is legitimate, these may get cheap) Click here to see the 35 on MLS.
Tranquil Harbour
Another Mexico Beach project with multiple foreclosures is Waterside Village . These units originally sold in the $649 K -$749 K range. These were almost all purchased at the top of the market by speculating individuals that are being foreclosed on. The banks selling these will have to compete with other banks by reducing to stay the best deal and attract buyers. There are currently almost identical 3-4 BR units listed on MLS with asking prices ranging from $324,900 to a very optimistic $789,900.

As many of you know Toucan’s, and three adjoining properties, went up for auction on March 12. Turn out was good, with three or four bidders biding over 3 million with a high bid of $3.45 million plus a 10% buyer’s premium. The deal has not closed yet, but the buyer and seller are working toward making that happen. The very nice gulf front house and additional vacant lot had a high bid of $780,000 accepted, which I think was an extremely good deal.
This link will show a pretty cool video taken at the auction.

What are some great deals on Cape San Blas? A gulf front lot similar to ones that sold for $1.6M for $399 K , a bay front lot purchased for $595 K on the market at $199 K , and a brand new 2nd tier pre-construction house for $317,500. The pre-construction packages are becoming more and more popular as buyers become more educated and cautious about the market. Instant satisfaction is great when you can buy a house and enjoy it that weekend. Most people don’t want to wait 6 months for a house to be built. However, buyers are starting to see that they can build exactly what they want and pay hundreds of thousands less than what the homes on the market are still selling for. Most of the homes that have sold on the Cape recently could have been built on comparable lots for much less. This trend should continue to increase in popularity as buyers demand more for their money. The best deals can be found when a builder owns the lot, and they will sell it at a great price and build at a discounted rate to get the deal done. Click here to see deals like this.

Windmark’s restaurant, School of Fish , has found new management and is scheduled to open in early April. “The Fuss”, a women’s clothing store, has now joined Joseph’s Cottage on the retail side in Windmark Beach . The two best deals, by far, in this development are located in Phase 1. The house that originally sold for $1.4 is now down to $494,900 and
the gulf front lot I listed hours ago for $299 K that originally sold for $1,000,000 is already receiving offers. Check out the sunset picture below taken from this lot Tuesday afternoon.

Port St. Joe is also seeing a little activity with four properties under contract. I still think that the Port St. Joe market has a chance to recover the quickest when the employees for the new hospital and port start moving to town and buying up the best deals. PSJ has the lowest inventory of properties, it has the most jobs, it has primarily full time residents, and it has the most affordable market with homes from $79 K to very nice homes in the $250’s, perhaps, because less speculation occurred during the boom. I think some of the people getting good newer homes in the $150 K range will have the opportunity to sell for a profit once the hospital opens. There are relatively few newer homes in Port St. Joe. I think that will be a product that many of the hospital employees and other new industry employees coming to PSJ will want and be able to afford in the low $200 K range. This link will show some of the best deals in Port St. Joe : listings.asp?ID=1206224000

Have a Great Weekend,

Zach ChildsBroker-Port St. Joe Realty850-819-0833WWW.MEXICOBEACHSALES.COMWWW.PSJREALTY.COM

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2008 Market Recap and Good Start to 2009

I planned to send out a detailed 2008 report last month. Fortunately, I’ve been surprisingly busy showing property and helping buyers and sellers negotiate deals. I have 8 properties currently under contract! There are a lot of people looking at property and making offers. There were as many Realtors showing property last weekend as there usually are during a typical weekend in July. I’ve already shown close to the number of people property in the last 3 months that I did the rest of last year. I think it’s a combination of the big price reductions and foreclosures hitting the market that is causing the increased buyer activity. The sellers are also realizing that they must compete with the foreclosures, and they are starting to take lower offers than they would have even a few months ago. The properties getting the most attention are the seriously discounted vacant lots and residences that have good rental potential. Not all of the people purchasing these properties with good rental potential are planning to rent them. It’s often just knowing that these properties could rent well if they need to be rented that’s helping them sell.

Port St. Joe Realty is starting the year off very well, and one of my favorite weekends is coming up next weekend. The Mexico Beach Gumbo Festival being held on February 14th is always a lot of fun. I can’t take any of the credit for Port St. Joe Realty being the defending champion in the amateur division. I don’t know if we will be able to enter a team this year because everyone is so busy. I’m showing property to a different potential buyer the day before, day of, and possibly the day after the Gumbo Festival. The El Governor is offering rooms for $50/night that weekend and you need to hurry to make your reservation as they are almost completely booked: Another great lodging offer for that weekend is the discovery packages that Windmark Beach is offering.

In 2008, there were more sales than most people realize, especially in the Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach/Windmark Market. It looked like sellers were done reducing and then came the unforeseen number foreclosures hitting the market. I was looking back over an old newsletter that I sent out at the end 2006, and I was still not aware of a foreclosure in the Mexico Beach Area at that time. Now there are enough foreclosures and short sales that their sales prices are setting the market. (Short sales are much different and often misleading, more on that later) For the most part, the banks are pricing foreclosures aggressively, and they are selling relatively quickly. This process isn’t entirely negative and is actually helping the local economy in a way. For example, in one community there were 2 spec houses that were foreclosed on. Now, these homes are occupied by happy new owners who are spending money and paying taxes in the local economy. I recently listed a 3rd foreclosure, and it’s the best deal yet in the Sea-grass Community. Most of the people buying the lots that have been foreclosed on are planning to build on them in the near future and that will also help the local economy.

2008 Sales Totals on MLS
(Our MLS Service only Shows 50 properties per link, the most recent 50 are displayed)
Mexico Beach Area: 105 Sales (72 Residences and 32 Vacant Lots)
Port St. Joe Area: 27 Sales (18 Residences, 6 Vacant lots, and 3 Commercial Properties)
Cape San Blas/Indian Pass: 59 Sales (40 Residences and 19 Vacant Lots)
St. George Island: 55 Sales (45 Residences and 10 Vacant Lots)

Not all sales are foreclosures or short-sales and some sellers are offering better prices than the banks. I have 3 bank owned properties under contract, 1 short sale, and 4 “regular” properties under contract. All types of properties are not being foreclosed on as well. For example, I have still not seen a single family gulf front home or vacant lot foreclosed on in Mexico Beach or St. Joe Beach. (The first possible foreclosure of this type may be in the auction mentioned below) I know of around 15 potential gulf front single family home buyers between my clients and buyers that other Realtors are working with. They all know the best deals are 2 homes built in the 90’s that are at $749K and $750K. Both of these homes could be very nice and just need the standard updating a beach house built 10 years ago typically needs. (Replace the infamous green carpet, paint, etc) Because of foreclosures bringing prices down on Cape San Blas, it is the first time I am aware of that you could now actually get a better deal on a new Gulf front home on Cape San Blas for less than the Mexico Beach Area.

“I am not comfortable buying on the Cape because of flood zone issues”. I have heard that 1000 times and completely understand. Here’s a cheat sheet for the Cape. The best flood zone for the Cape, Mexico Beach, or anywhere in Florida is “X”. If you are not in zone “X” on Cape San Blas, you will be required to carry private flood insurance if you have a mortgage on a home, which is usually pretty expensive. Private flood insurance for a nice gulf front home on the Cape can easily be $10,000-$20,000. That’s a whole lot extra vs. $0 for a home in the “X” Flood zone. The private flood insurance is not required on vacant lots and I’m afraid a lot of people did not realize the huge difference when they bought lots in flood zones. When they tried to resale to end users, these people found out what a discount it takes to sell a lot in a flood zone and many of these are in foreclosure. The last gulf front lots in the “X” flood zone sold a few months ago for $550K and $575K. These sold at the top of the market for as high as $1,600,000. There was an “X” flood zone just listed for $399K. With the cost of building as low as it is, you could have an incredible gulf front house with $100K/year rental potential for around $700K. The best deal by far for a gulf front home in a flood zone is this one at $599K which actually has reasonably priced flood insurance.

There haven’t been as many foreclosures in the Mexico Beach Area as there have been on Cape San Blas. When comparing apples to apples the best we can, the Cape market was higher than the MB market and now it’s a little lower because of the foreclosures being priced for quick sales. There have been and are a few of the really good deals on Cape San Blas. These really good deals are what buyers are looking for and consequently I’m spending more and more time on the Cape. The beach re-nourishment project is complete and the beach ranked # 1 in America by Dr. Beach in 2002 has some positive momentum going into spring. Check out these pictures of the beautiful beach taken from the $399K lot. This link will show a cool video of Cape San Blas and Gulf County. I am working on a new Cape San Blas search website that I hope is complete by next month.

Now back to Mexico Beach. There are a lot of people looking for the “deals” in the Mexico Beach area. Two of my listings went under contract last week, and another is being shown regularly after taking a big price reduction. This home originally listed at $649K is now listed at $299,000! This bank owned lot listed for $179,000 was purchased in November of 2004 for $460,000. Casuna lots were originally released prior to the boom for $50K and quickly went up over the next 4 years to over $200K. Now you can buy one again for $50K.

Financing terms are varying substantially for homes vs. vacant lots. Buyers are finding lenders eager to lend on personal and second homes and are finding solid 30-year fixed mortgages with 10% down in the 5% interest range. Finding financing for vacant lots is much harder to obtain and I am seeing strong borrowers having difficulty finding anyone requiring less than 35% down! If you know of someone offering better terms on lot loans, please let me know. It’s driving me crazy how much easier it is for someone to borrow $350K for a home than it is for the same person to try and get $100K for a lot. There are some exceptions that make lending on lots less stringent if the borrower plans to start building within the next 6-12 months. It’s far different from a few years ago when you could “state” your income and receive 100% interest only financing on vacant lots.

What is the difference between a short sale and a foreclosure? There is a huge difference. A short sale is when someone is trying to sell for less than they owe, and they are trying to get the bank to forgive the difference. These can be very frustrating to deal with and often take months to get some kind of an answer from the lender, which is often “no”. Many times the sellers need an offer before the lender will negotiate so they reduce the price until they get an offer. This price is usually not yet approved by the lender and often buyers will make full price offers that the banks won’t accept. This is very frustrating for buyers and myself. A buyer that’s only here once every three months will come down and focus on a property and then leave and make a full price offer and be told no. There are great deals occasionally on short sales, but it’s a process that needs to be understood.

Bank Owned Foreclosures are a totally different story. I enjoy working with both the banks and the buyers on purchasing foreclosures. Once the bank has foreclosed on a property, they are in 100% control of the property. For example, a bank in New York is not in the business of owning a lot in St. Joe Beach. Once they are in possession, they then assign it to an asset manager that usually assigns it to an Realtor that is told to price it aggressively enough to sell it within 90 days. The whole process is handled by professionals with the job of getting the property sold quickly. It is usually much easier to purchase a foreclosure than a short sale.

Windmark Beach and The St. Joe Company are being forced to make some tough decisions. I don’t know when that community will finally take off and start getting “rooftops” as they like to say. What is certain is that they have built an incredible development that will one day be the most prestigious community in this area. Keep an eye on their progress and you should drive through there if you haven’t done so in a while to see all of their improvements and additions. I like the leadership of Joe Rentfro. He and the other customer-oriented employees like Kristy Grove have that community going in the right direction. They are now offering a price guarantee on lots that’s pretty interesting. Phase I is active with foreclosures, but St. Joe controls over 99% of the inventory in phase 2 and there hasn’t been a foreclosure in phase 2. Their momentum will temporarily be slowed down if Brennan’s Restaurant does not reopen in the spring. I hope they are able to resolve that and/or find a better solution for the community at least by this summer. They have opened a first class gym in Windmark and I believe that a new women’s clothing store called “The Fuss” will be opening later this year.

Another exciting date could be auction of Toucan’s Restaurant being held on March 12th. I am skeptical of these auctions because no property has actually sold at the last 4 that I have attended, but who knows, this may be the one where you get a great deal. There are neighboring property owners adding their property to the auction including a very nice gulf front home. Here’s a link with more info:

Take Care,