SUMMERTIME IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Published 7.15.15

Naples, Bonita Springs and Estero are winter homes for many “snowbirds” who fly North each Spring.  The area is also home to many full time residents who enjoy the Florida climate and lifestyle all year long.  It seems that every year, more and more snowbirds opt for full time residency in Southwest Florida.

What is it like in July?  With the Gulf breezes and frequent afternoon showers, it is a lot cooler here than in many major U.S. cities, like:  Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Phoenix, etc.  The sun is a regular visitor.

Florida residents have learned to play golf, tennis, bike, jog, and walk fairly early in the day, when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s.  Afternoons are for chilling out in the pool, or enjoying the air conditioning.  Usually, evenings are pleasant for outdoor dining and activities.

Jan and I spent a few weeks in Indiana in June.  It was our annual trek to spend time with family and old friends.  It was rainy, cool, and golf courses were closed due to flooding.  We found ourselves yearning for the Bonita Springs sunshine and beautiful golf courses.

From May through October, with the exodus of snowbirds, private golf clubs in the area “reciprocate” with each other.  This gives club members an opportunity to play over 50 otherwise private area golf courses.  It is world class golf with affordable greens fees.  Many snowbirds would be amazed how much golf is played in the summer in Southwest Florida.

In addition, restaurants and retail outlets are relatively un-crowded during the summer months.  Reservations are rarely needed, and “twofer” dinner specials are everywhere.  Many Florida residents consider summer the “peak season”.

If you are considering making our area your full time residence, I encourage you to visit during the summer and see the Florida lifestyle for yourself.

DOING GOOD – THEN DOING WELL

Published 7.3.15

The American capitalistic system has spawned a great variety of business ventures.  Not all organizations follow the same business model.  Just like individual people, businesses take on characteristics and values (a culture) that make them unique.

We all know business organizations and professionals whose sole mission is to “make a pile of money”.  A slum landlord would be an extreme example of this business model, providing minimal services and cutting corners in order to maximize profit.  Typically, this entity will have a high turnover of disgruntled employees, dissatisfied customers, and a reputation that ultimately causes the business to tank.  Most people prefer to avoid this kind of business entirely.

We also know individuals and business organizations whose mission is to “do good”.  This model provides extraordinary service, treats its employees and customers with respect, reeks integrity, and in the long run it usually “makes a pile of money”.  It starts out “doing good”, and ends up “doing well”.

Jan and I were recently in Indiana for a family re-union.  While in Fort Wayne, we toured a business by the name of Sweetwater Sound.  The business originated in about 1979, with one individual with a VW Bus and some sound equipment.  He traveled to his customers, and recorded their music.  His reputation got around, and he expanded his business in the 1980s, using the latest technology then available.  His service and innovation got the attention of some well known musicians, who enlisted his help in adapting to the new technology.  Today, he has state-of-the art sound studios, 800 happy employees, and satisfied customers all over the world.  He started out doing good, and ended up doing very, very well.

As a biker and a golfer, I have been a customer of many bike stores and golf shops over the past 50 years.  Many of these places are no longer in business.  However, I continue to do business with 2 local companies who have followed the “do good” model.  Every time I go into Naples Cyclery or The Golf Guys, it is a positive experience.  They reek integrity and service, and I suspect they are both “doing well”.

Pulling the Trigger

Published 4.28.15

Buying a home is one of life’s major decisions.  It’s different than buying a television or even a car.  Every homebuyer approaches the decision with some mixed feelings and some trepidation.  Is this one the best choice?  Can we really afford it?  How much are we willing to pay?  Will a better option magically appear tomorrow?  What if market values go down in the future?  Will we be happy living here?  What are the people like around here?  Is this a safe neighborhood?

Buying a home requires knowledge, confidence, commitment, and willingness to take a risk!

Jan and I have been working with homebuyers in Southwest Florida since 2003.  Some of them have bought and sold several times during our tenure.  Many people have been vacationing here for years, and would really like to own a home in our area.  For some, it is a second home; for others, it is a permanent move from a colder climate.

Attitudes of buyers run the entire spectrum from confident, positive and decisive to fearful and second-guessing their decisions.  A few “buyers” have been unable to “pull the trigger” by making a written offer on the home they think they want.  The agony of the decision is simply too great.  In effect, a non-decision is a decision.

We have been involved in more than 300 residential transactions ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $2,000,000.  The decision process is similar, no matter how many zeroes are involved.  It can be painful to observe the struggle that some potential homebuyers go through.  It can be satisfying to see someone work through their trepidation and proceed with the purchase of that dream home.

As Realtors we can only be informative and supportive of the decision process of each unique homebuyer.  Our role is not to push or cajole anyone into making a decision before it’s time.  It is simply too big a decision to be “talked into” by a sales person.

 

GRACEFUL AGING

Published 4.14.15

The aging process is something we all have in common.  Having had an Elder Law practice in Fort Wayne for many years, I was an interested observer of the aging process of my clients.  Today the Boeglin Team works with many clients who are faced with difficult decisions due to the inevitable factors of aging.  Decisions like downsizing, assisted living, moving close to family, and giving up the keys to the car, to name a few.  And, of course, we are not immune from some of the same issues as our clients. 

It is well known that not all people age at the same pace.  Chronologically, of course, we all age the same.  However, we know that some people age gracefully into their 70s and 80s and beyond; other people are not so fortunate. 

What is the difference?  Probably, medical science has some scholarly answers to this question.  However, I have observed some common characteristics of the people that I see aging well.  In addition to good genes, they tend to be physically and mentally active, with a positive attitude toward life.  They take care of themselves, lead a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.  Medical issues are dealt with and not ignored. 

As I was bicycling earlier today, dodging other bikers, walkers, and joggers, I was reminded how Florida is a wonderful place for people to age.  The climate and environment support an active, healthy lifestyle 12 months a year.  The medical community in Southwest Florida is pro-active with expertise in dealing with common problems of older patients. It is no coincidence that many of our Florida friends appear to be aging gracefully. 

That same Florida climate is not quite so easy on the aging process of homes.  In the Midwest and Northeast, it is not unusual for beautiful homes to be more than 100 years old.  Florida homes tend to age quickly, but not necessarily at the same pace.  Just like people, they tend to age based upon the initial quality of construction, regular repairs and maintenance, and periodic updating and replacement of parts. 

An interesting Florida phenomenon is that the best locations were taken first.  Many of the older neighborhoods are located closest to the beaches.  Newer developments are usually miles inland from the coastal breezes, and bounded by noisy expressways.  Many of the older homes are located on the best lots in the neighborhood, with favorable views and exposures.  And many of the homes built in the 80s and 90s have more individuality and character than the “cookie cutter” approach of later years. 

If a 20 to 35 year old home has been well maintained, updated, and vulnerable parts (e.g. roof) have been replaced, it may be aging more gracefully than a 10 year old home that has been ignored.  There is more to consider than the home’s “year of birth”.

It is not unusual for buyers to tell us that they only want to see homes built since 2000.  Interestingly, they often change their minds after seeing an older, updated, well maintained home in a desirable location.  Many older communities are loaded with these kinds of homes.

DUMP TRUCKS

Published 4.6.15

About 5 years ago I wrote a blog entitled “Leading Economic Indicators”.  Having an undergraduate degree in Economics from IU, I felt qualified to make an economic forecast.  Real economists look at statistics such as average weekly hours worked, new orders of consumer goods, building permits, and consumer confidence.  My Leading Economic Indicator was simply the number of dump trucks that I observed on the Southwest Florida roadways.  Based on the increased traffic, I predicted that an economic revival was imminent.

After the housing bubble burst in 2007, dump trucks had mysteriously disappeared from Southwest Florida.  Perhaps they were shipped to Asia, or just buried under the sand for safekeeping.  They made a comeback starting in 2010, as I witnessed from the seat of my bike while biking such corridors as Livingston, Imperial, Three Oaks, and Ben Hill Griffith Parkways.  Dump trucks tend to hug the bike lane, and are hard not to notice when they are bearing down on a lonely biker.

Dump truck traffic has been steadily building for the last 5 years, leading to renewed home, commercial, and highway construction all over Southwest Florida.  The economic recovery in our area is in full bloom, and there has been no let up in the number of trucks plying our roads.

Today, as I bike, I view the looming dump trucks in my rear-view mirror with mixed emotions:  I am grateful for their role in the housing and economic recovery; and I pray that the driver approaching from the rear is not focused on texting or a phone call.   My bike and I have never tangled with a dump truck, but I suspect it would not be a fair fight.

PRICING YOUR HOME FOR SALE

Published 3.18.15

The Boeglin Team has been involved in more than 300 home sales since 2004.  We have experienced the boom times, the bust times, and the recovery times.  The 2015 market is probably as close to “normal” as any period in the past 11 years.  Although the supply of homes for re-sale is relatively small in Southwest Florida, new home construction is filling the gap.  Buyer demand remains strong, and home prices have been appreciating at a steady pace.

There is no scientific formula for determining the fair market value of a home.  When a homeowner contacts us for a listing appointment, we prepare a market evaluation which is really a price range based on statistics of “comparable” homes under current market conditions.  After we have had an opportunity to see the home inside and out, we get a “feel” where the home fits within the range, based on such factors as:

  • The condition of the home;
  • The amount of updating that has been done to the property;
  • The age of major appliances including air conditioners;
  • The floor plan and attractiveness of the inside, based on current buyer expectations;
  • The age and condition of the roof;
  • Landscaping and curb appeal;
  • Direction of exposure from the rear of the home;
  • Location within the neighborhood or on a lake or golf course;
  • Noise levels from nearby roads or airports;
  • Amenities and club arrangements within the community;
  • Whether or not furnishings are included;
  • The view; and
  • The level of motivation to sell.

Determining the appropriate asking price for a home is critical for a successful sale.  The price the homeowner initially paid for the home under different market conditions is not a relevant factor.  Pricing it too high may result in no offers, or what the homeowner considers “insulting” low offers.  Pricing it too low may result in the homeowner receiving too little for the home, unless the low asking price draws multiple offers from more than one buyer.  Multiple offer situations are rare under normal market conditions.

Evaluating a home is more an art than a science.  There is no substitute for experience in all kinds of market conditions.  

 

IT AIN’T OVER YET!

Published 3.8.15

It has been a long and busy real estate season this Winter of 2014/2015.  With the exception of the week between Christmas and New Year, there has been no letup in activity.  It started during the Fall, and has continued unabated as we head toward Spring.  Buyers are scouring the limited inventory of homes available for sale.  Renters are facing a tight rental market, and determining that this may be the time to buy.

The Boeglin Team had just one open house this Sunday, but it was like Grand Central Station.  At one point, there were 10 people stumbling over each other at the same time.  In all, there were at least 50 buyers during the 3 hour window of the open house.  Needless to say, I did not finish a single crossword puzzle in between visitors.

There appears to be a sense of urgency among the potential buyers this season.  In recent years, there have been a lot of curious “tire kickers”.  This year I hear a lot of “we should have bought last year” comments.  This year prices are up, and supply of inventory is down.

Anyone spending the season in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Estero is well aware that everyone who could escape the harsh winter in the Midwest, Northeast and Canada is now in Southwest Florida.  Streets, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores are stretched beyond capacity.  Many of these visitors are looking for a home to buy.

When will this season end?  If last year is any indication, Realtors can look forward to being busy well into the Spring and early Summer.  It ain’t over yet!

Upsizing, Downsizing, etc.

Published 2.9.15

The housing market is in full recovery mode, and the level of buyer interest is extremely strong.  Our Sunday open houses of listed homes have been attracting anywhere from 40 to 60 buyers during a 3 hour window.  It is not unusual to have 8 or 10 people in the home at one time.  Our listed homes are being shown by Realtors on a daily basis.

Who are these people?  I have been asking a lot of questions, and based on their answers:

  • A significant number of folks want to take advantage of the active market to upsize to a single family home; or downsize to a smaller condo.  This confirms our experience.  Two of our most recent listings have been the condos of homeowners who have a contract on a single family home that we had previously listed.
  • Quite a few current renters are looking to buy, and kicking themselves for not buying last year when prices were lower.  Some of them will be selling their Northern home in order to take advantage of our area full time.  Many of these couples have been renting in our area for years, and have fallen in love with the Bonita, Estero, Naples climate and amenities.
  • I talked to several buyers who want to move from a second floor condo to a first floor condo; and a couple of people who live on the first floor and miss the spaciousness and views provided by second floor condos.
  • With the business activity strong in Southwest Florida, and new companies moving in, some employees are re-locating from the North to take advantage of job opportunities.

There are 2 obvious missing pieces to the buyer segment of the market.  With the U.S. Dollar so strong in relation to the Canadian Dollar and Euro, we are talking to a lot more sellers than buyers from Canada and Europe.  The Canadian Dollar has been impacted by lower energy prices; the Euro has dropped in relation to the U.S. Dollar due to a weak economy and political turmoil in Europe.

RENEWED SENSE OF URGENCY

Published 1.13.15

We often have 2 or 3 open houses on Sunday afternoons.  During the “bleak” market years, it would not be unusual to have only 2 or 3 “lookers” check out the homes.  Last year traffic picked up significantly, with as many as 15 to 20 buyers for each open house.  The pace is accelerating this year.  So far, we have had 5 of our listed homes open during the first 2 Sundays of 2015.  We have averaged close to 30 buyers through each of these open houses.  Folks are spending more time in the homes, carefully considering the possibilities.  A comment I have heard more than once is:  “We should have bought last year when prices were lower and there was a larger selection of homes for sale.”

Our listed homes are receiving a steady stream of showings as a result of MLS.  This indicates that other Realtors in the area are also experiencing a large number of buyers, poring over a small inventory of available homes.

Foreign buyers are bemoaning the strong U.S. dollar–especially in relation to the Canadian dollar and the Euro.  The strong U.S. dollar makes our homes more expensive from their perspective.  However, it is not preventing them from “taking the plunge”.  Home prices in Southwest Florida still appear to be inexpensive compared to homes in many other countries.   

So far I have not detected a panic, or anything like the buying hysteria of 2005 and 2006.  Home prices have been relatively stable, with gradual but steady upward pressure on prices.  Sales have been strong.  Except for a few foreclosed properties that have been cleaned up, repaired, updated, and re-sold, we have not seen “flippers” in the market.  Most people are buying nice homes to live in themselves.  It feels like a strong, active, healthy housing market.

 

MARKET CYCLES

Published 1.5.15

It is human nature to want to buy low and sell high, whether investing in the stock market, precious metals, commodities, or real estate.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way for most of us.  Many markets move in cycles, and the direction is only clear in the rear view mirror.  If we could see the future as clearly as the past, life would be simple—maybe even boring.

In retrospect, it is easy to see where the stock market has moved, nearly tripling in the past 6 years.  Does that mean it is at or near the end of its run?  It’s hard to say.  Corporate earnings are strong, the economy is in recovery mode, employment statistics are encouraging, and consumer confidence is rising.  Maybe the stock market has a long way to go before hitting its peak—or not.

Likewise, the residential real estate market that boomed and then burst during the first decade of the 21st Century, has come a long way from the bottom.  In the last couple of years, home prices have recovered nicely but are still well below the levels of the boom years.  Are we nearing the top of the current cycle?  Or, does the housing market have a long run ahead of it?  No one knows for sure, but there are some signs that indicate the market in Southwest Florida is not slowing down anytime soon.  Signs like:

  • The supply of homes for sale remains extremely low by historic standards, in spite of an incredible building spree all over our area;
  • If our recent open houses and listing appointments are any indication, demand is strong with many buyers actively searching for homes this season;
  • For the first time in years we are seeing homeowners who want to upsize or downsize, and are finally able to do so as a result of recovering home prices;
  • Banks are lending again and at extremely attractive mortgage rates, although a very high percentage of buyers in our market are paying cash for their new homes;
  • Florida is growing at a remarkable pace, with lots of people moving into our area and needing housing; and
  • New companies are locating or expanding here to take advantage of our climate and amenities.

Is this a good time to buy a home in Southwest Florida?  It is if you want to live here, either seasonally or all year around.  Is this a good time to sell your home?  It is if you want to receive a fair price for your home and move on to the next stage of your life.