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.

Online Real Estate Information

Real estate transactions are a part of life where  I don’t think too much information is ever really a bad thing, except when the information ends up being completely wrong.  Customers contact me completely confused due  to all of the online real estate information, good and bad,  they receive from websites.  Frankly, even I do not understand why a property can show as active when it really has a contract accepted on it.  Web sites have become polluted with bad information.  Yes, I know the reasons about why some distressed properties need to stay active so they can try to receive more than one contract, or if they need to advertise for backup contracts. If you see a property offered on my site as active and the true status is contingent, meaning it has a contract or it is even sold, I have no way of knowing that either until  I do the direct research work. Yes, that is a problem, but it is not within my ability to fix as the online real estate database information is only as good as the outside agents who enter it. It is important that a  person takes the time to contact me to ask questions and discuss their real estate goals since the website searches are really just for the general research of online real estate.

Years ago when the internet real estate research was new, companies could only show the properties online that they offered for sale with signed listing agreements from their clients. You could go from site to site of each good company and see the properties, just like the real estate sections of local newspaper used to be.  That has completely changed.  The majority of online real estate searches now offer all properties available from centralized database systems. This abundance of property information is made available for purchase by any agents regardless of qualifications and to anyone who is willing to pay for it, including companies who sell your personal information.  When you contact me on a property you found on my site it is not always my  personal clients home that I  have under a listing contract, but as a  broker, I  am very well trained to provide real services to property buyers and sellers who want to make an educated real estate transaction.  I think one of the greatest internet disservices has been the ability of practically anyone to display real estate listing information.  I am certainly in favor of maximum exposure for sellers and the federal government involvement in the matter has ensured that those online freedoms are legally upheld.  What has harmed the quality of service in the industry is the online real estate business model that involves websites showing property information, collecting the personal information of potential home buyers or sellers and then selling that person information to any agents and who knows who else. Sometimes it is claimed that they have screened the agents in the area you are interested in and will send you to the most qualified person. Those online companies actually have no interest in your quality of service or well-being at all. The truth is you will just be sold to the agent who needs to buy your information, no matter who they may be.  It is usually called a referral, but a  real referral is when legitimate,  licensed agents call me because they have personal clients in their  location who need my professional real estate service here in my location.  We make referral arrangements in writing between offices and their clients are now my clients who get my full attention, service, and duties. You can go to www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com for more information.

The fact is we are usually pretty smart as consumers. We are sometimes misled because we want to trust others, particularly in what should be regarded as a serious matter like real estate transactions. We look for the best value and efficiency for our money and the internet can often provide that. In a business as complex as real estate there are some corners that just can’t be cut such as the direct contact and interviewing of a good professional agent, regardless of how many pictures, prices and information some website developer creates online. Simply put, research heavily online real estate if you need to, but when it is time to do business you need to contact me and let me do my job. There is always going to be too much bad information on the internet, but it is a simple matter to have me sort out your online real estate search and help you achieve your Florida home buying or selling your goals.

CDPE Designation and Florida Real Estate Foreclosure

Now that I have completed the CDPE “Certified Distressed Property Expert” designation  I have a much better grasp of the enormous problem of the foreclosure property market.  I have found from several sources that here about  80% of short sale contracts written do not close. Considering the time and effort that goes into making a proper offer on a property, that seems to be a colossal waste of time for everyone. There are some factors influencing these numbers including: listing agents who have only a  general idea of what the bank is looking for when presenting a sellers “contract package” causing weeks of waiting while the bank representative moves on to the properly presented contracts, multiple contracts being accepted by a seller on a single property, new scams featuring option flippers  and get rich quick schemes  that  work the  temporarily grey areas of bank fraud and the  overwhelming scope of the problem. I am all for investors buying and selling properties and investing and flipping has never been a bad thing for me personally. Especially when it improves a home and community.  There are many legitimate investors working with full disclosure and proper licenses. A predator or con artist will feed off desperation and try to convince you to purchase ridiculous e-books and CD’s  or pay hundreds of dollars for a seminar to learn about their system/scam or even worse when you can’t even make your house payment. A legitimate investor could be a great resource  depending on your circumstances, but scammers create greater losses in a short sale for everyone involved (except for themselves of course) and they expose short sale home sellers to a potentially greater default judgment and higher promissory notes.  I don’t want to think of what the lenders may do legally as they absorb inflated short sale losses and address the option flipper “or whatever the scammer calls it”  problem. Some banks  restrict the  resale of short sale properties for a time period after the short sale closing and I know  the wording  in a sales contract or letter is probably not sufficient to keep a lenders legal and loss departments  from pursuing a judgement against the  seller during the five years they have in Florida to come after them,  particularly if they believe fraud may have been involved.  The get rich quick scams and Ponzi schemes taking advantage of people are prolific and any reader who really thinks those scams are a  smart move should stop reading now because I do not offer the type of professional help you will require.

So what can be done? Short sales are a real and viable option for property owners who are in true financial hardship.  I am told the government is helping to put together some guidelines to help the short sale process move more smoothly like, attempting to set a maximum bank response time (10 days I heard), incentives for sellers and lenders, a stipulation that releases sellers from future debt liability  and even moving allowances for the sellers. Having a true hardship is one of the keys to a short sale, not just being upset because your home is not worth what you borrowed, but a true hardship that can be demonstrated to the lender. A short sale can help save the credit of the financially distressed homeowner by avoiding a foreclosure which will help them get back on their feet sooner and usually saves the bank time and money compared to a foreclosure. Helping the homeowner is the goal which any good agent will tell you. There are certainly easier contracts for a real estate professional  to work with for greater profits based on the time and effort spent. Short sales listings are not to be done on a whim and can involve much more work than the typical real estate agent is readily able or sometimes qualified to perform. If you need to consider a short sale, you should speak to a licensed real estate agent, but just don’t call any  agent who may or may not have experience or training in handling a short sale transaction. You most likely will be one of the 80% wasting their time with an unsaleable short sale. There are about 15,000 CDPE agents in the country right now who have advanced training in this matter. That is probably a good place to begin looking for answers. If you would like to contact me, please keep in mind that short sale listings still involve advertising and property expertise so unless you have a luxury or higher value property I will not be able to take on your business. There are agents who specialize in listing numerous inexpensive short sales and those agents are very well equipped to provide you with outstanding service for your particular needs. Don’t think I do not appreciate the needs of the low priced home seller, it is just a matter of what fits into my particular business model. I will provide you with a well-qualified referral within my office if needed.

When you pick your real estate agent, be prepared to open your financial books and hardships wide as they prepare a complete bank package. The package is a very specific proposal to the lender demonstrating why it would be in the best business interest of everyone involved for them to allow a short sale. If this cannot be properly demonstrated or if you really do not qualify for a short sale but submit your package anyway, you will be wasting everyone’s time. Your real estate agent will help you determine if you are qualified for a short sale or if foreclosure in the only option.  If you lie or your motivations are other than a hardship, you will fail and may open yourself up to legal issues and foreclosure. For your own sake, give your short sale the serious attention it requires by using a qualified real estate agent. If you have a luxury or waterfront home and are in a  real financial hardship and you would like some options other than foreclosure, call me anytime at 239-878-0637 or find additional information at www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com.

New Specialty for the Foreclosure Market.

Time flies when you’re having fun. That is my only excuse for not posting in so long. I would like to thank the readers who continue to call me for their Fort Myers and Cape Coral real estate needs including the massive Fort Myers and Cape Coral foreclosure market. Like I have said before, my callers always get priority service because you can reach me right away and nearly all day,  excepting of course for food, sleep, family and workout times, but nearly all day.

During the past few months, I have been watching a sad but true fact in the Southwest Florida real estate market play out. While properties are selling, a vast majority are in fact the short sale and Fort Myers and Cape Coral foreclosure properties. Distressed properties are king here in the former land of speculators. Not only in the cheap, less than $100k market that I try to avoid, but also in the high-end properties. That can pose a problem to agents like myself who have always enjoyed that part of the market. Not so much for our ability to help a buyer purchase one of these great bargains, but to list a property as a short sale or even work with Bank of America or whoever requires some additional knowledge in the processes. There are forms to file, offers to submit here and there and additional wait times and general requirements. Combine that with the rightfully high expectations of the buyer and seller in a luxury home transaction and you can see how the agent had better know his business before taking on such an undertaking.

To be certain I am the broker who is at the forefront of distressed luxury home servicing, I am taking a few days out of my schedule this month to attend some rather costly course work to become a CDPE designated agent. CDPE is a national education designation agents can earn that stands for Certified Distressed Property Expert. Very few agents in the country have taken the time or paid the expense for this training. Many who are working in the short sale and foreclosure market have learned mainly through trial and error,  including myself, and most others are still struggling through their learning curve. I personally refuse to offer a service where I am not completely confident I know the entire process backward and forward and can guide my client like the professional I am in every other transaction. Now with the enormous amount of business coming my way in this specialized market of distressed luxury homes, I can’t avoid it any longer.

While few agents have become a CDPE, even fewer and devoted their work to the luxury home buyer and seller in the Ft. Myers and Cape Coral foreclosure market.  Agents think it is not a priority considering the huge number of little homes there are to sell comparatively. For me, real estate is not my first or even now the only industry I  work in. I own a national company named Propane Outfitters Inc. that is a supplier of a specific industrial materials handling product to major companies and the government from coast to coast in the USA.  I have the privilege of speaking to and conducting business with corporate executives and business owners nearly every day while providing a product that is an outstanding gauge of overall business productivity. That being the increasing or decreasing need for the storage capacity of their forklift fuel for their plants and warehouses for example. I can plainly see a decrease in productivity over the past few years and the unwillingness to spend on the higher end products we offer in favor of the least expensive. When the business owners don’t make the money, first the employees don’t keep their jobs, which has happened, then the executives start to downsize as well. That is about to hit us here now. We already see the real estate developers, construction company owners and not surprisingly many real estate agents downsizing their luxury homes. Unfortunately, it is not always a smooth transition with the property values dropping as quickly as they have here. With the continuing economic turmoil and a misled recovery that puts the boss in the dunk tank thinking that will help grow jobs, many of our luxury home owners are becoming Fort Myers and Cape Coral foreclosure victims. As everything, each property situation is just relative to another person’s perspective. One person’s distressed property at $1 mil. is a downsize bargain for someone else. If the property is not represented or sold properly, that distressed property becomes a million a dollar headache for the buyer and seller regardless of the price.

It is difficult to sell a luxury Fort Myers or Cape Coral foreclosure home where the asking price is several hundreds of thousands of dollars or more and the property is weeded over, moldy, smelly,  rotten or infested with all creation: this is South Florida after all. Banks and seller have been turning these properties over to out of town Brokers or local agents who only provide basic services and many times the properties become ruined from just sitting in Florida. Then the properties eventually get auctioned off at an even larger loss than was ever expected, worsening the situation for the sellers and further destroying local property values. While I am happy for the eventual buyer because purchase price, even they would have been happier if they did not have to now remodel or gut the once beautiful home because of simply neglect. I will be posting my new business services for this market segment in roughly a week but please contact me for additional information on these new services anytime. Find more information at www.FloridaLuxuryBroker.com.

My Personal Real Estate Investment Picks

The press has said yesterday home prices are flattening or leveling. Sales have been picking up and inventory has been thinning, economics 101 tells us the prices will level. There is still room to move downward in some areas like north Cape Coral, Florida where the city continues with a water and sewer project that will attach an assessment of somewhere between ten and twenty thousand dollars to every property as it puts in a new water and sewer system. Considering Cape Coral is at the top of the national list for foreclosures and the well and septic systems work very well in that less populated area, that does not sound like a welcome action to the property owners. I own a property in that area and while the assessment does not affect me, especially since I already know it will mean my investment value will increase by the assessed amount or more and I will get a new road installed as well, there are those who are not so fortunate and cannot afford this assessment. While I feel bad for those people,  the best and only thing I can do is help them sell if they must, which is why I recommend that area as a great place to watch for upcoming investment deals.

My personal favorite investment now and over the next 24 months are the homes in the far southern end of Cape Coral with Gulf of Mexico access. Those homes generally peaked at over half a million dollars for basically tear downs and can now be bought for just over 100k. Not that I expect the old prices anytime soon, but consider the benefits of these investment properties: minimum 80 foot wide deep water canals with a standard lot size of 80ft water frontage and  120 to 150 foot lot depth, typical home is three bedroom two bath with a garage, usually just minutes out to the open water of the Gulf for fishing or pleasure boating, minutes away from Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach by water or land, direct access to the Atlantic directly across the State of Florida via the Caloosahatchee River which connects to Lake Okeechobee and exits near West Palm Beach. I hear people asking, “Where can I invest?” Buying an investment property at the bottom of the market in a location like this is hard to beat.

Here is my disclaimer, you need to do your homework before making any real estate investment. What is right for one person may not be right for another and if you buy a property without consulting a professional Realtor (see earlier article) and you pay too much or buy a lemon, don’t blame me. If you contact me and we get you a great property, then you are welcome to blame that on me to all of your friends.

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.