Southwest Florida Home Watch

A service that has become much more important over the past few years is the Home Watch service. I know many people just count on their friends and neighbors to look after their homes while they are away. That is really not always the best plan especially with the busy lives we seem to lead and as we were all reminded this summer, the severity of some situations here in Florida such as hurricanes. When conditions get bad and life gets hectic, you want your friends and neighbors looking out for their own property and families instead of yours. Frankly, that will happen regardless. For a small fee, you can have a professional keep tabs on your assets and keep you informed of any problems or unsafe conditions. That gives you protection from greater losses and peace of mind.

In Lee, Charlotte and Collier County, a fine service we are proud to offer is Executive Home Services.

“What’s in a name?, International Real Estate”

I remembered those famous words spoken by Shakespeare’s Juliet when I returned to the Fort Myers / Cape Coral, Florida area to conduct international real estate after some extensive traveling.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I found myself with my license hanging in a fine small brokerage firm filled with good people and friends, but not an office focused on home sales opting for rentals instead. This arrangement was fine when I was selling properties by referral only and not focused on growing my real estate sales business as I am now. It was not an ideal situation for my business or my customers. I also couldn’t help but notice as I approached new clients, even with my credentials, it was more difficult to get my foot in the door mainly due to being someone unknown and working in an unknown real estate office. Driving down the streets in Southwest Florida I noticed a large number of new signs in yards from tiny independent real estate companies. As I looked into some of the properties listings, I found that the entire brokerage firm was mainly centered around a couple agents selling to their family and friends. I respect that willingness to take on the challenge and risk of running a brokerage firm. There was once a “Michael Nolan and Associates Inc.” out there in the past. We are all Realtors and “What’s in a name?” right? Romeo’s name was insignificant to Juliet, (granted he wasn’t trying to sell her home), but is a good agent working under a small, local office name just as effective as one committed to a well known international real estate organization? I have found by working both inside major real estate companies and as an independent agent that there is no substitute for the support and tools of an international real estate company. These companies offer an incredible amount of tools and benefits for the agent to offer their customers that will never be matched by a local real estate business. I know there are small companies with big advertising and technology just as mine was once and some of my friends in the business are now.  Even so, more times than not it is still another agent who will bring the buyer for your listing and that agent is typically from a major brand real estate company because of the global brand recognition and trust they have rightfully earned with the consumer. That which we call a house for sale is in itself more sweet to the buyer when it is listed with a real estate company that presents it to the market in the best possible fashion thanks to the trusted major name brand marketing tools utilized by a professional agent.

By now you’ve likely guessed I have switched to a major real estate organization. Recently as I was interviewing potential brokerage firms for myself. My real estate brokerage firm of choice is Royal Shell Real Estate. Make no mistake, most all real estate in Florida is a part of the global real estate market.  We are a growing destination for the world. Visit my website www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com to see just some of the benefits I can offer just by my affiliation with Royal Shell Real Estate. Contact me anytime to discuss how this affiliation along with my experience and knowledge makes me the best choice for your real estate transaction representation.

 

 

Around the World and Back to Fort Myers Florida

2013 was an amazing year for me personally and professionally in Florida real estate. Personally, I remarried, had a new baby girl, traveled by car the entire length of the United States from Fort Myers, Florida to Seattle, Washington and then lived in Asia for a few months. Professionally it was a fantastic experience to see more of the United States and visit some luxury real estate clients and corporate suppliers. I traveled to Asia, seeing Japan and Guam which opened my eyes to grand new business opportunities in both real estate and for my corporation.

One of the first things I noticed in my travels was that so many people from around the world love Florida. I know Southwest Florida is a beautiful place to live. I know from experience the boating is the best in the country and the beaches are ranked as some of the best in the world. The Southwest Florida lifestyle in general really is paradise by comparison to many places. I also just spent time in Indiana for one of their worst winters in decades, so I was seriously missing Fort Myers as I drove through the mountains of snow in the bitter cold. I am actually a fan of winter too. Our tranquility in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, yet proximity to Miami, Tampa and Orlando (Disney) by car and the entire midwest and east coast by short flight is perfect for the vacationer and resident. The yachting routes up the west coast of Florida or straight south to Key West; across the state to the Atlantic through Lake Okeechobee or by way of the Florida Keys is just unparalleled. If you don’t want the yacht, you can utilize a small boat through the countless islands and parks that line the Gulf coast and enjoy typically calm waters. Our cost of living is similar to the midwest and less expensive than most areas from what I can see. I always knew and loved these things about Southwest Florida real estate, but to have all of these things told to me by people all across this country and on the opposite side of the planet further bolstered my confidence in our beautiful community and makes me that much more proud to serve my luxury Florida real estate clients as they find their own piece of our paradise right here.

I’m very happy to be back home now and I am enjoying working with my real estate partners again. The market is in fantastic shape and prices are rebounding. I will write more on this later, but it is safe to say that now is the time to buy real estate in Southwest Florida as property values and prices continue to rise. Contact me with your questions or thoughts and visit www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com for more information.

The Difference Between Home Mortgage Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval

A Fort Myers mortgage broker who is now working in my office emailed this to all of the agents today and  I thought it was great information. I have seen people in all price ranges speak to an ambitious mortgage broker who tells them they can get a loan and then they come  to me, pre-qual letter in hand,  wanting to go home shopping. Then they find out the pre-qual letter the broker wrote is meaningless because it is by no means an approval for a loan or acceptable to a seller as proof of real estate financing.

I made the mistake in the past once,  which I remember all too well, of taking the word of a very legitimate banker who wrote a glowing pre-qual letter for the owner of an enormous company and I wrote a $600k + home contract for that buyer based on the pre-qualification. The offer was accepted because of my strong reputation, not the letter. Then in the approval process for the loan there arose a mountain of tax and corporate legal issues that would have made it difficult for this guy to buy a Toyota. Needless to say, that  will never happen to me again, but I am still approached by buyers with pre-qual letters only. Here is a good explanation of the difference.

Pre-qualification is the first step in obtaining mortgage financing. A potential borrower answers a  few questions to provide the loan consultant with a quick snapshot of the borrower’s income, existing debt, accumulated savings and whether or not there is a co-borrower. Signature(s) allow the loan consultant to run a credit report and begin to determine what loans are good candidates for this particular client. However, there are literally thousands of loan programs available. It is important for the loan professional to know the long-term financial objectives of the prospective homeowner.

Pre-approval is a written documentation that proves the borrower has the full support of a lender. It means the form 1003 Uniform Residential Loan Application has been completed and reviewed by an underwriter. Based on the borrower’s income, debt ratio, and savings, the underwriter will provide a dollar amount this borrower is eligible for. Now the borrower has the convenience of shopping for a home in the price range agreed upon by the lender.Pre-approval allows potential homeowners to shop as cash buyers, and that means negotiating power. Sellers will take an offer from a pre-approved shopper much more seriously and may even accept a lower bid because they know the financing is in place and the deal is secure.

I am more than happy to put you in contact with several Cape Coral and Fort Myers Mortgage lenders if you do not have your own, but when we shop for properties you will need a pre-approval if you are financing the transaction. You need that prior to making an offer on a property. Preparation is the key to a successful transaction and I am here to assist you anytime. For additional information on a Fort Myers mortgage please go to www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com.

My review of the book “Activate Your Passion – Create Your Career” written by Madison Hildebrand

Like many real estate agents, the Bravo channels “Million Dollar Listing” show with Madison Hildebrand caught my eye while I was surfing the channels and I had to watch. I am not  a TV person. I do not mind knowing nothing about TV shows. I just don’t sit around long enough to watch any entire show. I am almost proud to say I have never seen an entire episode of American Idol; it makes me unique.  If it were not for my DVR I would never be able to  watch a complete program.  From a real estate agents perspective, the “Million Dollar Listing” show  is  very entertaining. The interaction and differences of the three personalities  are easy to relate to in our business and  the show just cracks me up constantly. Few of us ever get to see the luxury homes of the Los Angeles area and I  have considered that many of their clients are the type of people that buy properties and investments anywhere, especially in Southwest Florida  where I work.  The show  is actually useful market information  for me.  Not knowing anything  about how these reality type shows are put together, I first assumed the three characters on the show were  actors playing the roles of agents. Hollywood is right there after all. When I noticed the three guys were actually engaging in some serious and highly professional  real estate business practices I had to consider if they were being  heavily coached or maybe they were actual agents. I Googled the names and the first  I found was Madison Hildebrand who is a real  agent at Caldwell Banker in Malibu. I heard in an episode he had a book and I saw it for sale on his site. I was still skeptical of the whole idea of the  celebrity Realtor.  My wife and I  stood right next to Sylvester Stallone on the sidewalk  at South Beach in Miami once as he was waiting for his car to get brought around. I know he is a  real person because I saw him in the flesh, but I also know he is not actually Rambo or Rocky. Both characters who I enjoyed immensely. Out of curiosity and an appreciation  of the personality I see portrayed on TV, I purchased  Madison’s book. I fully expected to receive a Bravo channel promotional pack or something of the sort, but that is not what this book or what Madison Hildebrand is about at all.

I was amazed and inspired by this  relevant,  empowering  and concise book. Plus, it often had me smiling and laughing as I read which  kept it genuinely entertaining. I own stacks of books on professional sales, corporate training manuals,  motivation, even the how to  books. As a professional in  marketing and sales it  has always been important to me to stay well informed.  I have a  couple books on the shelf half finished because they just bored me too much.  They really do just  sound alike sometimes.  I received Madison’s book in the mail and  had the time right then  to open it up  and begin reading. The next thing I knew I had read the entire book. It is not a very long book which is perfect for  busy people and it was just enjoyable to read. I felt like I was reading a long letter from a friend giving me some great advice. Some of the topics covered  include goal setting, effective business  planning,  tips on making good choices personally and in your career and sound business building practices. He also makes  outstanding points on ethics, professional presentation, and  for anyone starting a new  position working with the public. To me, what makes this book different than the stack of books  on the shelf is that it is written in a way that is not preaching or from an  overly egocentric point of view.  Madison Hildebrand writes a cleaver and engaging narrative  from a real world perspective and without even realizing it, you receive the fundamentals for a great career. What I appreciate most  from the book personally  is how it reminded me about the importance of attitude and passion not only  in my professional life, but in all important endeavors. I am 43 years old, I own companies and manage people and  sometimes  see myself  too deep in  the business end of it all.  This week after I read this book by Madison Hildebrand I  re-evaluated  how I  was interacting with my clients, especially some of my past clients and  I was able to identify and open  several outstanding new  business opportunities.  If you have been around a while, this book will remind you why you got in business and how to stay on top, if you are new it will show you a clear path to success. The book has a focus on the real estate industry, but is relevant to  most any career path especially any entrepreneur. I am hardly a professional book reviewer or critic, but I enjoyed this book and got something important out of it. I recommend this book and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You can buy the book on Amazon at the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/Activate-YOUR-Passion-Create-Career/dp/1419697676/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261178726&sr=1-1

New Listings In The Real Estate Industry

A large part of the real estate business for agents has always been about getting the listing. Sending the postcards, making the presentation even making cold calls if need be. As I built my real estate business that was an important part of my work as well. When  I began to specialize my real estate work into luxury homes, listings became more than just a piece of inventory to be placed in a file and on the Internet like most home listings are handled. Luxury homes need to be presented and advertised in the correct fashion to the right clientele. Advertising a million dollar home in a book that is only found in the discount store exit or a web site that no one sees is not usually going to put the information in the right hands. The right real estate marketing is a skill developed over years of practice,  media contacts and web site positioning. It is also a very large monetary investment to advertise a luxury home properly  which is another reason many agents should not attempt it for their clients sake.

As the real estate market changed over the past few years my business adapted. Why would I want to take on a listing that was dropping in value on a daily basis which drove off most all buyers. I consider every real estate listing into my business as an investment which I expect to make a return on. I only market a property the right way, so if I expect I will  spend $20k to $30k  in marketing for a luxury property, I will also expect a sale in a reasonable amount of time at or close to the price we set. For quite a while that has been a very difficult formula to justify when making this investment.

This year real estate buyers from around the world have realized the housing market in Fort Myers and Cape Coral has reached a price point that makes sense again and have slowly begun investing again in our properties. Many sellers have also realized they can sell their home at a fair market price and still be in great financial shape because their next home they buy, no matter where it is, can now also be purchased at a very good price. There are still the real estate sellers  holding out and  wishing for that extra  few hundred thousand  dollars or more that we just cannot justify with the facts.  Those people will have to wait until the next market peak to sell their property at that price. The sellers with realistic expectations and who are willing to work with facts for the purpose of actually selling a property are who I am willing to work with now.

As I mentioned in another article, I put together a business plan to sell your property. We will meet and discuss your property and your expectations. I will tell you what I will do for you and my expectations as well. We will decide on a sale price that will make you competitive in the marketplace, come to terms on a listing contract and then the fun begins. I do mean fun too; I enjoy bringing a property to the real estate market. I  use some of the most unique and high exposure real estate marketing tools on a local,  national and international level. The property will be exposed to all Realtors as there is a great possibility one of them will bring  our buyer, but our marketing is targeted to the right  clientele where ever they may be whether it is Miami, the Northeast, Lake of the Ozarks or California.  I also have contacts in Canada, Germany, the UK and other locations across the planet where our clients come from.

To find out more and  to contact me about listing your property, go to my web site www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com or call 239-878-0637.

Approved Home Financing and Cash Home Buyers

I am a broker who is well positioned in the local marketplace. Because of that  I am usually contacted several times a day by people wanting me to make appointments to  show them properties and make  offers  before they even talk to a lender about home financing or  verify they have the cash to buy any property.  That is not the way the professional real estate business works.  You can easily find  other  agents who’s experience leads them to think real estate transactions are supposed to be a  series of  hazards,  headaches, and obstacles or you can work with me  and follow  simple steps to  create a professional transaction. Making sure you have the money in place is the first step, but one that is too often blundered.

Before we set up any showing appointments:

  1. If you do not need home financing and are paying cash, you will need your bank to prepare an evidence of funds letter to accompany our offer on the property and to show me you actually have the funds as well. Banks are happy to print those up for good customers like you. People have tried to lie to me about their finances in the past just to get the luxury home or investment tour. Some sellers will not let a buyer on the  grounds of  a luxury home without first  proof they can afford it.  Don’t be offended,  we will do the same thing when you have me sell it someday. Be sure you have the cash available to pay closing costs as well which I can  help you determine. If you are writing a check from a line of credit, fund or something similar, that is still cash and we would need a letter showing your line is open, sufficiently large  and available to you.
  2. If you are going to use home financing, you will need to talk to your lender before we schedule  on site showings  and have them approve you for the  general loan amount. That means you will need to tell them what you have in mind, show them some of the price figures and properties if needed which you and I  will discuss before  you approach them.  You must then provide them with all of the information they need to submit to underwriting so you can get the loan commitment  very soon after we have an accepted contract on a property. That means you give them your tax records, asset documents, whatever they need. You do not give that information to me, I do not want or need it. The lender will then give you a very professional letter on their letterhead which you will give to me that states you have submitted all of the information required to obtain a loan for “X” amount  and  your information  has been completely submitted to and approved by their institution with certain exceptions like the appraisal, survey, insurance,  inspection results, sales contract and such items related to the actual home and transaction that we can not provide yet. That letter will accompany the offer when I present it to the sellers. You can provide all the information and ask the lender how much you are approved to borrow and they  may give you an upper price  limit, but the more specific information you can provide the lender, the better the information you will get in return. Without working closely with your lender your answer from home financing underwriting may not qualify as an actual approval but instead just a pre-qualification which will not work for us. If there is any additional issue that comes up in underwriting your lender should be able to resolve it quickly with you if everything else has been done properly. If you are only home financing a small part of a purchase you need to show evidence of the funds to close as mentioned in the “cash” section above for the cash portion. Don’t even think about  asking to make a contract contingent upon the sale of your current home unless you have enormously overwhelming evidence that the other transaction is about to successfully close.

Why is this all so important? Because most sellers now will not look at an offer without this evidence or home financing approval from the bank. I don’t blame them considering how difficult it can be for even well qualified people to be financed. Even if it is not difficult, it can be time consuming and time is always of the essence in a real estate contract. Sellers do not want to take a property of the market unless they know the person can actually buy it. In the past, anyone could get quick, easy financing. There are still people out there who do not realize those days are gone and  go shopping for  a home when they can  not even  finance a car. This is the reason I can not physically show homes before we address home financing and one of the two above conditions are met. It is completely unfair to the sellers and my busy schedule if you are not qualified.  If you need advise on a good lender, I will recommend several excellent professionals who you can speak with and will take good care of you. I do not pretend to be a lender myself, I already have a good job. If you have the cash, you have the easy job. The bank can fax or email me what we need in minutes. Many banks are in trouble and I have had fully approved buyers have their loans denied in underwriting for no fault of their own. Chase Bank just recently did that to a very well qualified buyer of mine. We changed lenders and  closed, but the closing delay was  over a month. Just another very important reason to have the right agent like me to smooth over these types of contract difficulties.

Buying  or selling  property can be a lot of fun and a great experience, if you do it right. Otherwise it can be a very costly, hectic and even legal nightmare. These home financing requirements are important steps in handling your transaction properly. They are not the only steps, they are your first priority.

Ok, I’ll talk about the real estate market.

I was hounded to write my opinion about the real estate market. This is a new blog and I was avoiding that because everybody talks about the market. I would rather have an open exchange of relevant real estate ideas and thoughts. My take on the market in general is similar to everyone else. Low priced properties like the foreclosures and short sales are moving very well and giving the  Realtors something positive to talk about. Those properties  are not really my area of expertise, but I watch what is happening and the sales numbers are impressive. It can be difficult for the small investor to buy the best deals because we are seeing a different class of investors in the market now who are buying these homes like the pros they are. Multiple offers, multiple closings, some for rentals and some for fix and maybe flip.  I hope they keep it up because they are fixing up a lot of ugly homes and messed up neighborhoods created by the previous owners and investors owning homes they never should have been able to buy and destroying them.

Homes off water are a great buy and you can find many foreclosures and builder inventory at bargain prices. Homes on a Gulf access canal can even be an older and ugly house, but still a great investment for the future. Think long term or maybe boat house.

You can expect to get a beautiful foreclosure luxury home in the half million dollar price arena and of course up.  I found that there are many people who are still holding out for hope and change in this price range, particularly in some of the higher prices on the golf courses in south Lee County and waterfront homes in Cape Coral. I truly wish I could get you that million dollars or more the appraiser told you  it was worth  back in the real estate market of yesteryear.  I know some of you took out those equity lines and used your home like an ATM machine. You are fully entitled to your own opinion about your home value, but not to your own facts about the real estate market. Your buyers are educated  and they don’t really care why the very comparable home down the street sold for two hundred thousand less than you are asking, they just know that it did and the bank will know it as well when they get the appraisal and they will not lend money on a home that is overpriced for the market.  I would like to sell your home for the old prices, I would make more money that way as well, but that is not the way the world works.

In the true luxury home market it is more difficult to determine a real trend in the real estate market because if you want the best, it still has great value in any sales environment. The undeniable fact is that those prices are deflated across the board as well compared to the peak of the market and bargains are most certainly to be found. I have seen some multi-million dollar foreclosures that are stunning deals. Comparable sales and comparable homes in general can be hard to find when pricing or making an offer on many of these homes so be certain to call me.

If you are financing, the interest rates are still great. I think it would be foolish to think that will remain true. I am not a professional economist, but I hear many of those who are saying rates will be rising in the near future.

The lines I hate to say, but can’t avoid  are ” Now is a great time to buy!” and “You should really buy now!” It is true, especially right now as summer is here in Florida and the real estate market is slower.

Each home, neighborhood and circumstance  is different, especially in this crazy real estate market. If you want to buy or sell we will need to speak and prepare a business plan of sorts to get you to your goal successfully. That is what I do. Go to www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com for more information.

Beware of the amazing internet house deal.

Every day I am contacted by  people who have seen a house on some web site that just looks amazing, incredible, unbelievable whatever. Every day I have to  let them  down  by telling them, “No that condo is not for sale for $3500. That is the weekly rent.” or “No that home for $100,000 is is not really on a Gulf of Mexico access canal” or “Sorry that house shows active on that site, but it is really under contract.”

The point is the information you see in the automated property search sites is not accurate sometimes due to  the lag time between the information update between the real Multiple Listing Systems, the IDX systems and the sites themselves or just because of human error in typing info and updates into the system. It has also been a trend by lesser agents  in this competitive market to pad a listing with attractive, but inaccurate info just to  lure potential buyers to contact  them. That is the same principle as the phishing email scam. The MLS administrators and good brokers try hard to weed out that garbage, but there is a lot of information to cover.

The bottom line: if the house looks too good to be true it probably is. Don’t get hooked by a scammer or con person and if you want real, current information on properties in Southwest Florida just ask me. I  will look at the real MLS which is the first hand information from our Board of Realtors and send the information right to you. On my website www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com I have a search page that is different that anyone else. It is actually the map search directly from the Realtor MLS. Its is not flashy, but you can zoom into the exact area you want to see properties and see what is available in real time with the raw data from the Realtor. When it is time to get serious about looking at a house to buy, call or email me to get all of the information you need and the professional service that come with a professional real estate Broker.