Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays - Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas Market Report

Happy Holidays,

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful year. I’m pleased to report that from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas, there have been more closings in 2011 than any year since 2005. There have already been 413 sales as people continue to buy up the heavily discounted properties. A large majority of these sales were either short sales or foreclosures that have currently accounted for 168 closings in 2011. (There were only 190 sales for all of 2008) There is also an additional 91 properties currently under contract.

Higher sales volume paired with many owners withdrawing their listings (until the market will allow them to sell for higher prices in the future) has decreased the number of properties on the market considerably. There were over 1,450 properties on the market in December of 2006 compared to less than 840 today. The beach properties remain the most active markets and below is the breakdown of where the closings have occurred as well as links to see the properties that have sold in 2011 through December 12th.

Mexico Beach/St. JoeBeach/WindMark-193 Closings-

Cape San Blas/C-30/IndianPass-143 Closings-

Port St. Joe/Highland View/Oak Grove- 75 Closings-

It’s not uncommon for interior vacant lots to sell for less than 10 cents on the dollar compared to their 2005 values, condos to sell for 1/3 of their former selling prices, and single family homes to be reduced hundreds of thousands of dollars. Below are the best deals currently on the market:

Mexico Beach/ St. Joe Beach/ WindMark Residences-

Mexico Beach/ St. Joe Beach/ WindMark Vacant lots-

Cape San Blas/Indian Pass Residences-

Cape San Blas/Indian PassVacant lot-

Port St. Joe Residences-

Port St. Joe Vacant Lots-

2011 was a banner year for tourism and lots of visitors came to spend time and enjoy this beautiful area. There was a great sense of fun and optimism this year compared to the worry and fear from the BP oil spill that dominated 2010. The fishing was great and the bay was full of scallops once again. It’s been a fun place to live and visit with many concerts, festivals, fishing tournaments, and great fireworks. Many business owners have reported 2011 as their best year ever. Gulf County tourism reported the highest bed tax revenues in history and is up 11% from last year. Mexico Beach reported similar increases. This is collected from local motels and vacation rental properties. This improved rental income is making owning a 2nd home or investment property much more attractive for many buyers. Buyers have many different intentions, but one of the most common types of buyers we deal with is people looking for a second home/future retirement property. Most of them want to use it for themselves and their families, and also rent it out enough to help with expenses and bring in extra income.

98 Real Estate Group has truly been blessed during our first year of business. We recently had the privilege of opening our 3rd office in September. We were selected by The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) to operate the sales office at WindMark Beach and exclusively list properties for The St. Joe Company in this area. This partnership has been a great combination of resources and knowledge. We have been able to close 88 transactions in 2011 with a number of additional properties scheduled to close before the end of the year. I’ve been very fortunate to continue to work with a number of great buyers and sellers. I’ve made lots of friends this year with people that have bought properties and I’ve personally sold 41 properties this year. I appreciate the opportunity to work together and have successful relationships with so many of you. Those of you not familiar with WindMark Beach will hear me mention it more and more in the future. Here’s a picture I took walking the beach there a few days ago.

My job becomes more enjoyable each year as I meet more great people that love this area. It’s hard for me to believe that I took my first job on the coast as a clueless intern at WindMark Beach 8 years ago. I’ve learned a lot along the way and am excited about continuing to improve helping buyers and sellers along with operating 98 Real Estate Group. I was again one of the top producing agents from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas. I have more plans for 2012 than I’ve ever had and hope it’s my best year yet. I’m proud of the service I provide and welcome you to read these testimonials written from buyers and sellers I have worked with in the past.

Not just tourism and real-estate sales were up in 2011. The local business climate has been improving and we’ve had some great additions in the area. This is most noticed in Port St. Joe. A new CVS, Dollar General Market, and remodeled McDonalds will greet you now as you enter town from Hwy 98. These updates along with the additions on Reid Avenue are greatly improving the Port St. Joe downtown shopping experience. We love the small town feel and these additions as well as the new hospital and number of other locally owned businesses make it more convenient to live in the area without having to rely on a trip to Panama City for products and services. We also saw the opening of Bailey’s Crab House in St. Joe Beach and Tripletails Oyster Bar in Simmons Bayou. I’ve enjoyed great meals at both of these places and am glad to have them as additional options for fresh seafood. Another place that I recommend trying (that many people haven't been to) is the beautiful Boondock’s Restaurant in WindMark Beach.

Not all businesses have fared well and the turmoil and transition in the banking world should be pointed out. Superior Bank, Coastal Community, and Bayside Savings were all taken over by the FDIC this year. Centennial Bank took over Coastal Community and Bayside. They also reached an agreement in November to purchase the struggling Vision Bank. Superior was taken over by a holding company out of Texas and merged with another bank that was taken over to form New Cadence. Capital City is the only bank still operating under the same ownership in the area that was here in 2005.

Despite all the hardships the local banks have faced, banks have the best appetite for lending that they have had in years. Mortgage rates are near 60 year lows, hovering around 4% for a 30 year mortgage. Banks seem most willing to loan to primary and 2nd home buyers looking to purchase single family homes and townhouses. There is some financing available for condos and vacant lots, but the terms aren’t nearly as attractive for these properties as they are for the single family homes and townhouses. Appraisals are one of the biggest concerns I have in moving forward. Appraisals coming in lower than the agreed contract price is hindering more deals for buyers and sellers than anything else. This can be very frustrating for buyers and sellers. It’s not uncommon for a deal to be cancelled and then the next buyer agrees to pay the same amount as the first buyer and has no problem getting an appraisal at contract price.

New Year’s Eve on the Coast has been attracting more and more people each year as people enjoy celebrating at the local restaurants and bars in Gulf County in the Eastern time zone and then riding a trolley to Mexico Beach and celebrating again in the Central time zone. It’s a fun experience known as “Celebrate Safe, Celebrate Twice” that I recommend everyone giving a try.

One of my favorite local events is the Mexico Beach Gumbo Festival that will be held on February 18th. This event raises money for the 4th of July fireworks show. Our cooking team has won the gumbo division twice and Brunswick stew division in 2010. We look forward to competing and helping out again.

I want everybody to know that I’m here for you to help with any of your buying and selling needs. If you’re just curious about your property’s value or looking for a specific type property, just let me know. 2012 looks like another great year for buyers. There are still a number of bank owned properties that will have to be sold and many other sellers attempting short sales and pricing their properties very aggressively. 98 Real Estate Group works hard for all of our sellers, and we were able to successfully close over 50 of our listings in 2011. Please enjoy this wonderful time of year and don't hesitate to let me know if I can help with anything.


Zach Childs
Broker/Owner 98 Real Estate Group
Cell: 850-819-0833
Fax: 888-382-9608

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Summer - Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas Market Update‏

It’s been a very active summer and I hope everyone was able to come down and enjoy some time in our wonderful area. The majority of business owners that I have talked to have had one of, if not, their best summers ever. I’ve heard over and over again from locals and visitors “I’ve never seen this many people at the beach”. As those of you that love this area know, we have a great place. Others are finding that out as I continue to work with a number of buyers that haven’t been to our area a year ago. Don’t worry that we have huge crowds, but we are slowly being discovered by more and more beach lovers. It’s reached that time of year that kids are back in school and many owners like to come down and enjoy September and October.

The real estate market continues to be full of buyers looking for good deals. 2011 is well on its way to having the highest number of closings out of any year since 2005. The coastal markets have been gaining momentum in regards to the number of closings steadily of the last 4 years. From January 1, 2008 to August 25, 2008, there had been 128 closings. For the same time period in 2009, there were 139 closings. Things have really heated up over the last two years with 223 closings from 1/1/10 to 8/25/10 and this year there have been 273 closings as of August 25th. These sold statistics are for the combined area from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas/Indian Pass. As of August 25th, there are an additional 102 properties currently under contract. That’s the highest number of properties under contract that I can remember ever seeing. This link will show the 102 properties under contract.

The Mexico Beach to Windmark market remains the most energetic market with 142 closings and the Cape San Blas to Indian Pass market has been steady with 91 closings as of August 25th. The majority of buyers still want to be close to the beach and the Port St. Joe market remains sluggish with only 40 sales. The vacation rental market in the beach areas had another good year that is helping to lead to additional sales. I sold a beach front home in July on the North End of the Cape was on track to do $100K this year in rental revenue. Some of the prices on potential rental properties are very attractive when looking at their rental returns. The stock market has been extremely volatile lately and I’ve gotten 3 new clients that have pulled money out of the stock market to invest in rental property.

Sales for 2011:

Port St. Joe (40)

Cape San Blas/Indian Pass (91)

Mexico Beach/St.Joe Beach/Windmark (142)

Prices aren’t racing back up, but single family homes continue to do well and some have sold for 3-7% more than comparable homes sold for last year. Even some vacant lots have gotten in on the action in a few areas. Casuna is a subdivision in Mexico Beach about 2 blocks from the beach. The lots are all very comparable. In early June there were 6 on the market priced from $34,000 to $39,900. Recent closing prices over the last 18 months had been closer to the $25K mark and a number of buyers were hoping to get one for $20K at the end of summer. Other buyers decided to make offers and the first one closed on June 15th for $26,500. Then two more closed in early July for $27,000 and then $27,500. That got the other buyers excited and nervous about missing out and one closed on the 25th for $32,500 and another that went under contract in June closed for $26,000. I know those aren’t huge increases, but it’s moving the right direction and most importantly, reducing the inventory. Now there is only one lot on the market in Casuna and it’s priced at $39,900.

The reduction in properties on the market is really a good sign for the overall health of the market and for prices to start going back up. It’s also making it easier for aggressively priced listings to get activity with less competition. I know there are still lots of “for sale” signs when you ride around. However, there is significantly less than there were a few years ago. From Mexico Beach to WindMark, there were 621 listings on the market in August of 2007. There is now less than half that amount on the market with 302 active listings.

For me, it’s been a busy and fun summer. We had terrific year fishing for red snapper. I’ve also been scalloping for the first time in years and I’d forgotten how fun and easy it is. We were able to get a limit in less than an hour in only 3-4 feet of water. I recommend everybody giving this a try. It’s a hopping place down here in the summer with “First Fridays”, Pub Crawls, multiple fishing tournaments, 4th of July Celebrations, Scallop Festival, Aloha Festival, and lots more. This Saturday is the MBARA Kingfish Tournament that my dad is the director of with a captain’s party on Friday at the El Governor. I’ll be there filming the yearly tournament video and giving out door prizes. This tournament consistently draws the largest crowds and had 135 boats last year with the oil scare and 196 in 2009.

POJO Festival is a free concert in St. Joe Beach set for September 16th & 17th. There are some big bands booked including ALO, Honey Island Swamp Band, and The Sheepdogs that are on the cover of the Rolling Stones this month. This should be a great free event and here is the website:

I haven’t just been having a lazy summer enjoying all of the fun activities and laying on the beach. I’ve had some fun, but also worked like crazy, which is a good thing. From June 1st to August 23rd, I’ve been the top agent on MLS and 98 Real Estate Group has been the #1 sales volume company on MLS from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas. I had an especially great July and personally outsold all of the other companies in the area, except 98 Real Estate Group. The momentum that 98 has had in our first year has been tremendous and I’m very grateful for all of the support that we have had. Our success has been noticed and we are currently in talks for some very exciting new opportunities.

I’ve been asked quite a bit about what is being built on the West end of Port St. Joe on Hwy 98. It’s going to be a “market” Dollar General. According to this article less than 1% of the 9500 Dollar General Stores are market stores. The store is about twice the size of a regular Dollar General will carry fresh produce, dairy products, and meats. I look forward to continuing to work with so many wonderful people. Please let me know if there is anything that I can with any of your buying or selling needs.

I recieved this rate update from Amber Lowry at Vision Bank minutes before hitting send and wanted include this info.

Conventional/ FHA & VA / USDA - RD (loan amounts $417k and less):

30yr conventional = 4.375%

15yr conventional = 3.625%

Have a great weekend,

Zach Childs
Broker/Owner 98 Real Estate Group
Cell: 850-819-0833
Fax: 888-382-9608

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 4th of July is upon us!! 2011 has been a positive year for the coastal area and that trend has continued with tons of activity during our peak season. More and more people are coming to visit and are falling in love with the area. Articles like this one from Yahoo Travel calling Mexico Beach : “A Great American Beach Town” and comparing it to towns like Santa Cruz and areas like The Virgin Islands continue to bring in a steady stream of new visitors that have never heard of our area. I'm working with a number of buyers right now that hadn't heard of this area 6 months ago.

The 4th of July always brings the largest crowds of people to our area. With tourism way up in 2011, I’m expecting to see one of, if not the largest crowds we’ve ever seen in the area. The Mexico Beach CDC always do a great job with their fireworks show on the night of the 4th and have big plans again. Port St. Joe also has a nice fireworks show each year and individuals put good shows on the Cape, Indian Pass, and St. Joe Beach. It’s a great day to be in the area that’s full of fun events for the whole family. This year’s festivities start off with the Sandy Shoes 5K at 7am CST. I haven’t been staying in great shape and there’s a 50/50 chance (at best) that I run in the race this year. There are events going on throughout the day and Mexico Beach will be having the kid’s fishing tournament in the canal again this year. Still, the #1 activity will be sitting on that soft white sand and enjoying the beaches.

The only downside to an extremely active real estate market is that I’m not fishing or diving much these days. Here’s a description of the properties I personally have under contract: A high end beachfront on the North Cape listed at $789,000, a beach front foreclosure on Indian Pass listed at $590,000, beach front duplex in Mexico Beach listed at $449,000, a gulf view home in St. Joe Beach, an Indian Pass lot, two gulf view lots in St. Joe Beach, a Casuna lot, and FOUR condos in Mexico Beach. 98 Real Estate Group has a total of 24 properties currently under contract. That’s hopping for this little area and I’m proud of the success of our hard working agents. We opened in February and are getting more property sold right now than any of our competition. There are a total of 75 properties under contract from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas right now:

“Short sales” continue to have a number of the most attractive asking prices and can’t be ignored. They are usually everything but short and take months to work out, but the buyers often get great deals at the end of the day. Foreclosures are much easier to work with usually, but the better priced ones are getting multiple offers when they are listed. It’s certainly a myth that you can only get a good deal on a short sale or foreclosure. There have been 196 sales so far this year and only 77 have been foreclosures or short sales. Regular sellers know they have to price according to market conditions and often provide some of the best deals of the year. The best deals from Mexico Beach to Windmark were updated today on the TOP 25 and TOP 15 lots at

Here's link to show some of the best deals on houses from Port St. Joe to Cape San Blas:

Best Lot Deals from Port St. Joe to Cape San Blas:

This link will show the 70 closings that have occured since 5/1/11:

The interior subdivisions in the Mexico Beach/ St. Joe Beach/WindMark area have had a number of recent sales and there are a fair number of people looking to build. Casuna, Sunset Village, and WindMark have all had some life breathed into them this year and prices have started creeping up. In these subdivisions, the best deals have sold and others have been willing to pay a little more as they are more comfortable with others buying and starting to build.
Earlier this month, 3 of 98 Real Estate Group's agents participated in the Wounded Warrior Fishing Tournament. All of the wounded soldiers involved had a great time and so did we. This was a great event to be a part of. Below are a few pictures I took from our boat as we pulled out of Port St. Joe Marina.

Scallop season opened June 25th and there were tons of people out on the bay enjoying a wonderful day on the water. You will notice lots of extra activity in the Bay and on the Cape with people anxious to get out and snorkel around for some tasty scallops. This is really an easy and fun experience. Below is a picture taken by Debbie Hooper on opening day. I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe 4th of July.

Take Care,
Zach Childs
Broker/Owner- 98 Real Estate Group
Cell: 850-819-0833 Fax: 888-382-9608

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Summer and There's Lots to Do- Market Update‏

Happy Memorial Day weekend,

Summer is here and so are the people that love to visit. The sense of optimism continues and we’ve added a number of nice amenities and new businesses since last year. We’re still your small and quiet coastal area, but it’s nice to see the additional activities and services available to those that visit the area. As more people visit and like the area, a percentage of them will buy and help raise prices. I’m showing around a number of people now that fell in love with the area during their first visit this Spring. Don’t worry, there aren’t any huge changes and Mexico Beach and Cape San Blas still don’t have red lights. There have been 157 sales this year which is keeping 2011 on pace to have 10%-15% more sales in 2011 than any any year since 2005. There are an additional 70 properties currently under contract. More good news for those wanting prices to go up is that inventory is being reduced at steady rate. Today, there are almost 200 less properties listed than there were a year ago and over 500 less than there were 3 years ago.

The new sidewalk that now takes you from one end of Mexico Beach to the other has been a great addition. I’d like to thank the city council for sticking to their plan and bringing this to the community despite all of the objections over this project. Everyone I’ve talked to loves it and first time visitors can’t believe it hasn’t always been here. The City of Port St. Joe constructed a very nice gazebo next to City Hall. The construction of a very well laid out kayak park/volleyball court/recreational area at Salinas Park and a new fire station is also complete at Cape San Blas. These are all great additions that are making this area more attractive and visitor friendly.

Two of the biggest additions of new businesses that you will notice are the new beach version of Dollar General in St. Joe Beach and the relocated/expansion of CVS in Port St. Joe.

What are the best deals right now? As we are running out of foreclosures, more and more sellers are trying short sales and pricing their property at great prices. They are called “short” because the sellers owe more than their asking price and their proceeds will fall short of what their bank is owed. Sometimes the seller is required to pay part of the difference and sometimes the bank will take the whole loss. If a bank feels that a foreclosure is the only other option, they are usually more willing to work with a seller on a short sale. Short sales can be very tricky and often frustrating for both the buyer and seller. I’ve got a number of buyers that won’t look at short sales because of all the obstacles associated with them and how long it usually takes to get answers. I’ve got a number of other buyers that have jumped through all of the hoops and ended up purchasing awesome deals.

Once a seller decides to try a short sale, they really need an offer from a qualified buyer to see if the bank will work with them or not. One of my former #1 picks on was a short sale right across from the dedicated beach that was reduced from $429,000 to $220,000. This was not my listing and $220,000 was an awesome price. I had multiple people offering the asking price and more. There were near 10 offers in that I knew of and the seller ended up countering everyone way over asking price. It ended up closing 103 days later for $107,000 over the asking price. That was still a very good price. The banks that are working with the sellers will order an appraisal during the short sale process. They will give the buyers a good deal, but will not sale for substantially less than the current appraised value. I’ve never seen them take more that 15% less than the appraised value. That’s about as much as I’ve seen a foreclosure sell for under asking price as well. I wouldn’t say to pass on a short sale if it’s a great deal, just be prepared for some extra waiting and uncertainty. was just updated with the best deals for the Mexico Beach to WindMark Area and I’ve now starting adding the top 5 best deals in Port St. Joe on the Top 25. Remember that you can always find all of the foreclosures and short sales on including a page for my other site, Here are some of the other best deals for Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas.

Cape San Blas and Port St. Joe Residential Deals:

I’m excited about all of the new businesses that have opened this year and the others that have upgraded to larger locations. Two restaurants, not pictured, are also scheduled to open very soon. It’s nice to see the commercial market getting active and healthier again. Some of the new businesses opened include: a sunset tour boat, women’s clothing/bathing suit store, a dive store, golf cart sales, bike rentals, interior decorating, a shaved ice/hot dog stand, and an ice cream/frozen yogurt store. It will be nice to have all of these services and products available and give the area a more “beachy” feel.

98 Real Estate Group that opened this year is rolling along well and we’ve had 32 closings as of May 24th. I’ve closed 17 personally and have 7 more under contract. The “Ling Ding Fishing Tournament” that we hosted in April ended up with 61 boats. With the proceeds earned, the tournament was able to donate $1,500 to the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association and have a reef named after this year’s tournament. We also donated $1,000 to the Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend. This event is associated with another great fishing tournament called The Bluewater Outrigger Charity Classic. I’m very proud that we’ve teamed with Big Fish Construction and will be one of 10 teams taking a veteran that was wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq fishing out for a special tournament for the veterans on June 3rd. The whole weekend should be a lot of fun with a free concert featuring Julie Roberts on Saturday night. Below is a 70 plus lb wahoo caught by one of the veterans that had lost both legs in combat.
I’m here to help however I can. If you’re curious about what your property is worth or are thinking about selling, now is the time, as summer is upon us. If you’re looking to buy, I need to know what you’re looking for so that I can help you find it. This link will show you some remarks that people I have worked with in the past had about their experiences working with me.

Take care,

Zach Childs
Broker/Owner 98 Real Estate Group
Cell: 850-819-0833
Fax: 888-382-9608

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Late Spring Market Update-Mex​ico Beach to Cape San Blas-98

Things are going well at your favorite Coastal area. There’s a sense of optimism everywhere and there were some great crowds down enjoying the beach for Spring Break. I heard over and over again on the weekends from different business owners that it felt like the 4th of July did 10 years ago. I’ve seen rental companies cut their summer advertising, not because they are doing poorly, but because everything is almost completely booked. There are more and more people wanting to come to the area this year. We have had some new businesses open this year and others are under construction right now. The overwhelming majority of business owners I talk to tell me that they are up this year and that this may be their best year ever.

Real estate sales are definitely up as well. There have been 116 sales so far this year which puts us on pace to have the most closings of any year since 2005. Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach is having the most activity with 51 closings while Cape San Blas/ Indian Pass has had 32 sales and Port St. Joe is at 23 for the year. There’s also an astounding 78 properties under contract!! The higher end market remains a little slow. I have the 2 highest residential sales ($400,000) for the Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach area and also have the highest sale in the Port St. Joe area for the year at only $190,000. There has been a little more higher end activity for the Cape San Blas market with 6 sales of $400,000 or higher with the highest sale year to date at $525,000.

98 Real Estate Group started back the Ling Ding fishing tournament that was an old time favorite but hasn’t been held since the 80’s. We hoped to get 30 boats entered our first year and we currently have 61 boats. We have had wonderful response and participation from the community. Our finale will be held at the Mexico Beach Marina this Saturday afternoon. There will be live music and we will be smoking a pig and providing free BBQ and refreshments. Feel free to stop by and enjoy the company and see some big cobia weighed in. This link will show you all the pictures:

My parents are both retired teachers. They sold their home in Bainbridge Georgia last month and are now full time residents of Mexico Beach. They sold a smaller house here late last year and want to consolidate and have one large home at the beach. They are planning on buying a nice lot and build the house my mother has always wanted on it. They are looking for a lot in a nice area within easy walking distance of the beach that’s at least 70’ wide and surrounded by other single family homes. I took my dad around and showed him 4 lots that stood out as good deals last month. All 4 have sold since then or are under contract.

I’m telling their story to help to show that it is hard to be passively looking for a place at the beach and expect the properties you’ve looked at to still be on the market when you decide to purchase. He really liked 2 of the lots and now we can’t find anything at those prices that compare. It could realistically take us a few months now and they may still have to pay more. There are a few exceptions and some deals stay on a few weeks longer than expected, but most deals are moving pretty quickly. If you seriously want a place for Summer, you need to be a committed buyer that can act quickly. If I can help you in any way, please let me know and I need to know what you’re looking for. The best way for me to be able to help you is to spend some time looking around one day at properties and by listening to what you like and don’t like.

I updated the Top 25 today at and below are the deals that stand out for Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas.
Port St. Joe Residences:

If you're looking to sell, 98 Real Estate Group is leading the way getting properties sold. We have been extremely successful this year and are advertising and marketing extensively. We currently have 13 properties under contract and are in negotiations on numerous other properties. There are less people here right now, but many of them are negotiating on property that they saw over Spring Break. I expect May to remain steady and then have a very busy Summer. I've put a gulf front duplex, gulf view lot, gulf front condo, and and interior townhouse under contract in the last week and have closed on 8 other properties since March 1st.

I’ve partnered with a few friends and have purchased a home on the beach in Beacon Hill that sits across 2 beach front lots. We will be moving the house about 3 miles to a lot on 35th St. in Mexico Beach. There are not many gulf front lots left. There’s usually only one or two that sell each year as most owners want to hold on to them or either sell them at 2005 prices. The least expensive gulf front lot from St. Joe Beach to Mexico Beach is currently $449,000. These two lots will be available at $299,000 each. With building prices down, you could be in a very nice brand new beach front home for under $600,000. There are some good deals on existing gulf front homes as well, here is a link to see all of the gulf front single family homes on the market now.

Superior Bank was taken over by the FDIC on April 15th. Houston based Community Bancorp was set up to take them over and they never missed a beat and were open for business Monday morning. They will now operate as Superior N.A. Every single employee I talked to seems optimistic that this has happened and that they now have a much healthier bank. One of them told me they went from the worst capitalized bank in Florida to the best overnight. Rates are still looking good and a rate sheet I saw this week had 30 year conventional mortgages at 4.875% and 15 years at 4.375%. Vacant land loans aren’t as attractive, but more banks are starting to lend on land and there are many more options than there were 2 years ago.

I hope that you get to come and enjoy the beach soon.

Take care,
Zach Childs
Cell: 850-819-0833
Broker/Owner 98 Real Estate Group

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Market Update- 98 Real Estate Group

There have been some big changes since the January newsletter. To start with, the weather has gone from freezing to absolutely beautiful. There have been some nice crowds here enjoying the beach. I’ve heard multiple business owners make the comment that on a few of the weekends it’s looked like the 4th of July did 10 years ago. That’s a very good sign for “the season” and every rental company I’ve talked to has told me it’s looking like a great year for them. I hope you have been able to come and enjoy some of the awesome weather and beautiful beaches. The fish have shown up as well and lots of Spanish mackerel has been caught along with some huge cobia.

98 Real Estate Group is up and running and is by far more than a small startup company. I’d like to thank everyone that has helped us get off to such a great start. After being open barely a month, we have 82 properties ( either listed or under contract totaling over $17,000,000 in sales and 6 of the hardest working agents in the area with offices in Mexico Beach and Cape San Blas. We aren’t just listing property; last week we had 5 closings. The locations varied from a canal front home in Mexico Beach, a first tier lot on Indian Pass, a home in Port St. Joe on Long Avenue, and two lots in Park Point on Cape San Blas. Just yesterday, we closed a WindMark Beach waterfront lot yesterday so it’s clear that our momentum is strong. We have another 10 properties under contract scheduled to close by April 15th! I will be surprised if we don’t finish as the top company for the area in 2011, currently we’re #2. I’ve continued to be very fortunate and able to work with a number of great buyers and sellers. I love my job due to the people I work with are wonderful people and fun to get to know. I had the 2 highest sales from Mexico Beach to WindMark in 2010 and currently have the 2 highest sales in 2011; both of which were listed with 98 Real Estate Group. Come by and see us at one of our office locations, below is our Mexico Beach Office and a picture from last week of the beach.

It would be easier to tell you where we aren’t advertising than where we are. We launched a great website that features the easiest search features available with the ability to see the different beach camera views in Mexico Beach. You can learn even more about us and find out about some of the top deals first by checking us out on facebook. We are also the proud sponsors of the 2011 Ling Ding. This is a fishing tournament that hasn’t been held in years that was a favorite time for many people. The fishing is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in April and should be a lot of fun. There are a number of people and groups that have helped to bring the tournament back. It should be a lot of fun, starting with a kickoff party at Mango Marley’s on April 2nd, another get together at Reagan’s Oyster Bar on the 9th, and a final celebration on the last day of the weigh-in on April 30th at Marquardt’s/Mexico Beach Marina with free BBQ, smoked fish, and refreshments. I’m on the tournament committee so feel free to contact me for details and you can see more at our website and The Ling Ding’s Facebook page.
How’s the market? It’s busy. Remember more property sold in 2010 than any year since 2005 and that with the market stalling for a few months during the huge scare related to the oil spill. 2011 has started off even busier that 2010. There have been 86 sales this year vs. 67 for the same time period last year- One thing is certain, there are a lot of buyers looking for a great deal on houses/townhouses/condos. We’re really running low on “good” deals.

I had an investor come in this week wanting a list of all the single family houses/townhouses/condos etc that have been foreclosed on and are on the Market from Mexico Beach to WindMark Beach. It was a short list of 6 with nothing standing out as a steal. Then he wanted all the foreclosed residences on the market in Highland View, Port St. Joe, Oak Grove, and Jones Homestead. That list totaled only 4 listings. We next viewed the Cape San Blas/Indian Pass market which only resulted in 7 choices. Here’s a link to see them all:

I’m hearing more and more and starting to think myself that the majority of the best deals at least for single family homes may be in the past. The one thing that you can still find a good deal on pretty easily is an interior vacant lot. There are 55 vacant lots listed as foreclosures and many are selling for 10%-20% of what they were purchased for during the height of the market. There are also a number of good deals on non-foreclosures. It’s a very good time to look at vacant property and there are even some banks lending on lots again with only 25% down. Gulf front and gulf view foreclosures and short sales aren’t nearly as common though as the interior lots a few blocks from the beach. I can certainly find you a good deal on a house, but the average time it’s taking to find a buyer a deal they are happy with is getting to be over 3 months.

What are the best deals on the market? For the area from Mexico Beach to WindMark, check out I put 20 new listings on for the Top 25 and Top 15 Lots in the past 2 days. Here’s what’s standing out for Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas. PSJ Deals: Cape and Indian Pass Deals:

Do I have any concerns? Yes, appraisals have become a major problem. There are new appraisal guidelines and the banks can’t choose the specific appraiser that they use anymore. The local banks seem to only use local appraisers and these guys are very knowledgeable in the area and know what they are doing. The big problem is occurring when people are using banks from outside of the area. These banks are calling an appraisal management company that then assigns them an appraiser. The appraiser is usually someone that no local Realtor has heard of and may be from Panama City or Tallahassee. It seems they do their appraisal from the internet and they don’t seem to understand coastal property in this area very well. Recently, I had one appraisal report where there was only a $10,000 adjustment for land value when they used a sold property almost a mile from the beach and the one being purchased was 1 house off the beach. To give you an idea of the coastal knowledge these out of town appraisers posses, one thought Mexico Beach was in Gulf County. If you do need an appraisal and can choose who to use, Matt Terry, owner of North Florida Appraisal Group is great to work with. His cell is 850-227-6478.

It’s looking like another great weekend and I hope I’ll have enough free time to go and enjoy the Air Show at Tyndall. I hope that you are able to come and enjoy this beautiful place. I also hope FSU can win their game tonight. Here’s a couple pictures I got at the last air show.

Have a great weekend,
Zach Childs
Broker/Owner- 98 Real Estate Group
Cell: 850-819-0833

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Fortune 500- CNN Money Article about JOE- Windmark

This is an interested article about The St. Joe Company. One of their largest developments is Windmark Beach. There's a pretty cool slideshow about Windmark if you follow this link:

Berkowitz throws the gauntlet in the battle over St. Joe
Posted by Scott Cendrowski, reporter
February 7, 2011 12:38 pm

Bruce Berkowitz is proposing to become chairman of the Florida developer. That could spell trouble for short seller David Einhorn.

A St. Joe real estate development
Last week, the investor Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital was onstage at Columbia University's annual Investment Management Conference in New York when he got a question about St. Joe Company (JOE), one of the most debated stocks among certain moneyed circles. Ever since noted short seller David Einhorn publicly bashed the small Florida real estate developer last fall, the press and financial blogosphere have gleefully pitted Berkowitz, St. Joe's largest shareholder, against Einhorn in a battle of super investors.

So it didn't take long before someone in the Columbia audience asked Berkowitz if Einhorn might be wrong. "I don't have a lot to disagree with David about," Berkowitz answered, saying he was a long-term shareholder and since joining the St. Joe board earlier this year, he's been doing everything he can to boost St. Joe's value. The moderator quipped, "Assuming you guys have any real power on the board."

If he didn't before, Berkowitz may be about to get a lot more. According to a report that was confirmed today by Berkowitz, the fund manager is proposing to overhaul St. Joe's board. It's the latest in a string of moves to reverse three years of losses at the sleepy Florida company.
Berkowitz would become chairman of St. Joe under his proposal. His partner Charles Fernandez would assume the vice chairman role. In addition, Fairholme recruited Howard Frank, COO of Carnival Corporation (CCL), and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto to join the board. Berkowitz expects to discuss the proposal tomorrow at St. Joe's scheduled board meeting. A St. Joe spokesman did not immediately return a call Monday.

Berkowitz and Fernandez have been planning changes for weeks and said the St. Joe board had been notified before the news leaked Sunday. The report sent St. Joe shares soaring Monday, up as much as 11% to $30.

The proposed shakeup raises the question, what's in St. Joe's future? It's got 576,000 acres of land in Florida's panhandle, a large chunk of which is located within 15 miles of the coast, but it's bled money for the last three years after residential developments stalled during the housing bust. Its balance sheet is debt-free, but the company isn't generating cash or profits. Berkowitz has said it's "just sort of dead in the water."

Among the possibilities, Berkowitz says: "Outsourcing the entire operations of the company, merging with another company, being acquired by another company. Acquiring another company."

The "possibilities are vast. But before you can do any of this, the first thing you have to do is stop the bleeding," he says.

Berkowitz declined to answer specific questions about St. Joe's future projects, citing his role as a director. However, he's said in the past that outside developers could help rework St. Joe land. And he's still bullish on the stock. He bought St. Joe shares valuing its land between $3,000 and $4,000 an acre. He thinks some of its beachfront properties will fetch $1 million an acre.

Interestingly, Berkowitz and Fernandez won't accept compensation for their work on St. Joe's board, nor will they accept reimbursement for flying from Miami to St. Joe's west Florida headquarters, until the company is profitable.

Coming up short

As investors cheered the news, those selling St. Joe stock short took a hit. Einhorn, known for his deep research and patience after successfully betting against Allied Capital and Lehman Brothers, among others, in Greenlight Capital's 15-year history, is fighting some heavy hitters in St. Joe.

Berkowitz's $22 billion Fairholme Capital owns nearly 30% of the company, and six other institutional investors, including BlackRock (BLK) and T. Rowe Price (TROW), control nearly 40% of its shares. If the board rejects Berkowitz's proposal to become chairman tomorrow, it's a safe bet that the proposal would go to a shareholder vote. And with Berkowitz's investment track record and reputation, it's also likely that other large St. Joe shareholders would side with his proposal.

Another strike against Einhorn: When he gave his 139-slide presentation on St. Joe in October, arguing that its stock should trade between $7 to $10 instead of $25, Berkowitz was restricted by a standstill agreement he signed with the company. It prevented him from adding to his stake, or from voting Fairholme's full share position in certain situations, including proposals to sell the company.

Just to show how serious Berkowitz is about St. Joe, which is a relatively small position in Fairholme's $22 billion portfolio, take a look at the slideshow below. In October he sent a photographer to tour St. Joe's properties after Einhorn's speech featured several unsightly photos of St. Joe developments. Even though Berkowitz had toured the properties before, he wanted to see what St. Joe's residential properties looked like compared to Einhorn's photos. See for yourself. (And to be clear: all the slides and commentary were compiled by the photographer, not Berkowitz.) Einhorn did not respond to a request for comment.

The news might be heating up. St. Joe's board is meeting tomorrow, and with the news leaking out that Berkowitz wants to replace almost half them, emotions could fly. Another reason to keep up with one of the hottest stocks around.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy New Year-Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas Market Update & More

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had a wonderful 2010 and is looking forward to a joyous and prosperous 2011. I’d like to thank everyone for another great year. I was able to help get over 30 pieces of property sold and invite you to click here to see what some of my customers had to say about their experiences. I work very hard to give the best service possible. I appreciate the opportunity to work together and have successful relationships with so many of you. I sold a wide range of different properties including the 2 highest sales and the lowest sale in the Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach Area. I also sold more vacant lots than anyone for the Cape San Blas Area. I enjoy what I do and am especially excited about 2011. I’ve worked with a number of the top companies over the last 6 years and have big plans to open a new company next month. 98 Real Estate Group will be able to offer the highest level of customer service and professionalism. Our agents have been top producers from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas for years and provide unmatched hands on experience and knowledge of the local market.

I’ve decided to send out an update by answering a few of the questions that I am most frequently asked. Hopefully, some of this information is interesting and helpful to you.

The #1 most asked question is, what are prices doing? It depends on what type of property. I’ve seen some reports out of Panama City saying that prices were up 1% last year. I don’t know if our overall market went up or not. It is clear though that single family homes are doing much better than anything else. Townhouses aren’t far behind holding their values. The prices that did fall last year were condos and residential lots which both sold for new lows in most areas. During the boom there were hundreds of vacant lots and condos that hit the market and were purchased at peak prices. The combination of these vacant lots and condos going into foreclosure combined with the very limited financing that is available for these, limits the number of buyers and causes prices to fall. There are going to be and are some awesome prices on both condos and vacant lots. 2011 might end of up being the year of the condo in Mexico Beach due to banks and struggling developers holding so many units that are finally liquidated.

The 2nd most asked question I get from people looking at property is, what are the taxes, insurance, and HOA fees? This obviously depends on the property, but taxes and insurance have come way down since 2005. A good “guestimate” on what to expect to pay on taxes is 1.2% per year of the purchase price/value. Insurance is getting very reasonable, especially for anything built after 2001, which means it’s built to current building codes. I’m listing a single family home in Windmark Beach on Monday that is paying less than $1,200/year. Remember when it comes to flood zones that X is by far the best and will have the least expensive insurance. HOA fees average $1100/quarter for 2BR condos and usually include insurance, management, trash, water, sewer, and cable. It’s much less for townhouses, but the owners pay individually for the above mentioned items.

Is anything selling? Yes, more property sold in 2010 than any other year since 2005. I’d mentioned in previous newsletters that despite the oil spill threat, 2010 still looked like it would have the most sales since 2005, and it did. 392 properties sold in Gulf County and Mexico Beach in 2010 which is 79 more properties than have sold in any of the last five years.
Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach/Windmark- 168 Sales
Cape San Blas and Indian Pass- 112 Sales
Port St. Joe-64 Sales
North Gulf County- 48 Sales

How many sales were either short sales or foreclosures? 36% or 143 out of the 392 sales in 2010 were listed as either short sales or foreclosures.

How can I see the best deals on the market? Check the recently updated Top 25 on

Where do people want to buy? We still have a steady stream of buyers wanting second homes, future retirement homes, or investment properties. They key is that these people want to be near the beach. A good rule is that people are buying where the tourists/vacationers want to be. There is a direct correlation between the areas with the whitest beaches and prettiest water to the highest number of sales.
What are the most common properties people are looking to buy in the Mexico Beach/St. Joe Beach Area? There are three types of property that the majority of people contact me to help them find. Beachfront is always close to the top of the list. These properties are most desired and still bring a significant amount more than gulf view and interior properties. Believe it or not, I get more calls from people looking for a lot to put an RV on than anything else. I’m not alone in this and most colleagues say the same. (Mexico Beach does not allow RV’s.) The other popular property type that a lot of people are looking for is a really good deal on a condo or townhouse close to the beach that they can use and/or rent out. Next on the list are gulf view single family homes with rental potential. Close to that are interior single family homes where you can get a lot of bang for your buck. It seems like the least amount of people are looking for interior lots in subdivisions. The majority of buyers these days don’t like the HOA fees and usually more expensive building restrictions. You can find the biggest discount on these, and I’ve sold lots that once went for $250,000 for less than $20,000.

What’s selling on Cape San Blas? There were a total of 112 sales. For the first time that I can remember, there were more vacant lots sold (61) than residences (50). I’m not surprised at this as there were and are some huge discounts on vacant lots on The Cape. There were many lots offered as foreclose/short sales, and buyers couldn’t resist the deals. I led the way for this area on MLS, listing or selling 14 vacant lots. Very attractive listing prices often attracted multiple buyers and raised selling prices. 5 of my 14 sales sold for over asking price. 38 of the 50 residential sales were single family homes. The high sale for the year was a nice gulf front home in Jubilation that brought $950,000. The lone commercial sale was “The Trading Post” which brought $599,000. The North End of the Cape remained by far the most popular area with buyers purchasing 69 properties . The next most popular area was CR-30 with 16 sales. Indian Pass and Cape San Blas South only recorded 11 sales each. There are plenty of buyers waiting for deals on the North End, but it’s much less of a frenzy for the other areas.

What’s selling in Port St. Joe? The St. Joe or “town” market remains slower than the beach markets. Out of 64 sales, 21 were vacant lots, and only 2 were commercial sales. Not one residential lot sold for over $60,000, and most sold for $30,000 or less. 38 out of 41 residences that sold were single family homes. 35 of the 41 sold for $200,000 or less. The highest sale price of the year in PSJ was $350,000.

When should I place my property on the market? The highest number of sales take place during the spring and summer. There are lots of buyers who plan to look at property while they are here on vacation. It’s time to get your property ready and on the market. 98 Real Estate Group is going to be doing about 3 times the advertising I’ve done in years past. I want to get our name out there and help us off to a great start. If you want a lot of exposure for your listing, list it with 98 Real Estate Group. Whether you’re looking to sell now or just curious about your current value, I’m here to help.

Are there many foreclosures left? That answer varies depending on the area and property type you’re asking about. It seems that areas where values are down the most have the most potential for other owners to go into foreclosure. Many are making strategic defaults when they watch banks sell properties almost identical to theirs for as little as 10%-30% of what they owe. I monitor services that give me a heads up on foreclosures usually 3-6 months before they are actually foreclosed on. I’d like to think the foreclosures are behind us, but there will be a significant number in 2011. There are certainly areas that are more stable than others. There has still only been one single family gulf front home from Mexico Beach to Windmark Beach that has been foreclosed on in the last 4 years.

What’s going on with the fishing? The big change this year is that grouper season has been shut down for at least 6 months. 98 Real Estate Group is proud to announce that we are starting back a cobia tournament this year much like the once beloved "Ling Ding". Fishing will be open for the tournament every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from April 1st to the 29th. An award’s party will follow on the 30th. It’s only $150 per boat to enter with an unlimited # of anglers allowed. Weekly winners will be paid along with $2,000 for the biggest fish winner. There’s also a bonus $500 Spanish mackerel division. Feel free to contact me for more information. Halfhitch Tackle and Marquardt’s Marina will both have registration forms and are our official weigh stations.

Did you ever get any oil? Thankfully, there was never any oil that hit our beaches. Are some of these crazy stories about BP claims true? Yes, I have heard of multiple waiters that have received over $100,000 and other small businesses that have received much more than that. Unfortunately, the only profession with a maximum claim amount is real estate sales, with a cap of $12,000. Not everyone is being paid and identical claims from workers from the same places are being denied while others are paid. One reason I am mentioning this is for those of you with rental properties. There's no cap on rental income losses and I've seen some big checks go out to owners that were effected and could document cancellations and/or reduced GRI. I hope the oil spill is behind us, and that those that are paid make good use of the money.

I'm thinking about renting my property this year, who should I use? That depends on your goals and what type of property you would like to rent. My friends at No Worries Vacation Rentals specialize in maximizing rental income for their owners. They produced some great results last year. For example, one home I'm helping a nice couple purchase this week is listed at $425,000, and bringing in over $60,000/year. No Worries handles a limited number of properties and markets them heavily. I'd especially consider them if you are beach front or have a pool.

2011 will offer buyer’s incredible opportunities with some selling prices at over 10 year lows. There are plenty of buyers out there for those sellers willing sell at market prices. It's awful cold right now, but the warm days of relaxing on the beach will be here before you know it. The Gumbo Festival is just around the corner and my team is the defending champion of both the gumbo and Brunswick stew divisions. I hope to see you there and please remember that I am hear to help you. Please feel welcome to drop by my office located in The Villas next to Marquardt's Marina and just past the pier anytime.

Best Wishes,

Zach Childs