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5 Ways to Find The Right Real Estate Agent in Your Price Range

A proper North Tampa real estate agent should be like a friend; someone you can communicate with, ask questions, and most of all, trust. Working with an agent who you do not resonate with will make the home buying process long, drawn out, and difficult, because you will not want to interact with them.

It’s common sense to look for trustworthy individuals when dealing with purchases, especially one as significant as a house. However, it is also important to find a real estate agent who is proficient at selling homes in your price range.

You don’t want an agent who has only sold lavish, million-dollar homes if you live in the middle-class suburbs. Conversely, you should not trust an agent who has only sold lower-end properties with your luxurious villa. Fortunately for you, however, there are five solid methods to find a real estate agent who will handle your property with care:

1. Look at Their Portfolio: It is important to view what types of homes your potential agent has sold, where the homes were located, and how much they were purchased for. Furthermore, look at what price range the bulk of their sales were in; selling one or two homes outside their typical range doesn’t make them experts.

Make sure your prospective agent not only has a portfolio to begin with, but also has one that is thoroughly informative. Agents who have solid portfolios are generally a good choice; just make sure they fit the other criteria you are looking for.

2. What is Their Area of Expertise? Where were most of the agent’s homes sold? An agent who has sold homes in your price range may not be the best fit for you if the Tampa real estate they sell are typically vintage, waterfront homes.

A qualified agent who operates in your region is the best choice. If you have to decide between an agent in your price range and one who is in your region, look at the types of properties both have sold. There are many factors that influence price, so a $250,000 home in one location may look nothing like a home listed at the same price in another area.

3. Ask for Referrals: If you are having trouble locating someone who can help sell your home, ask around. You can consult friends, family, coworkers, or even other real estate agents about who would be the best individual for you to work with.

You should be very clear about your criteria when inquiring about a potential real estate agent. You should also ask about that agent’s reliability, personality, and ability to communicate to ensure that he or she is someone you can work with comfortably.

4. Speak to Them Directly: Once you find an agent you may be interested in, seek out their contact information and try your best to get ahold of them. A brief phone interview, or even a consultation in person will allow you to make the executive decision about whether or not you would like to work with this individual.

Asking questions about their market experience, such as what type of homes they sell and how many they have sold in your price range, will be beneficial if you are on the fence with your decision.

Even if you are mostly sure that the agent is the one you want to sell your home, it is never a bad idea to communicate with them in order to build familiarity before you begin your business relationship.

5. Research Their Reputation: As is the case with any industry where a lot of money is involved with a single product or service, there are workers in the market who aim to con and deceive customers in order to put more cash in their own pockets.

Look into whom it is you are actually dealing with. Friends and family who have recently purchased homes, as well s other agents in the area, may be able to preemptively tell you whether or not the agent has your best interests in mind.

Selling a home can be one of the most stressful experiences that you ever go through, but it doesn’t have to be. Doing all you can to find a real estate agent who specializes in your home’s price range can make things run far more smoothly and ease the burden that selling your home can place on you.

Remember, No-One Works Harder to Sell your Home more than Joe Lewkowicz! Contact Joe today by visiting

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Northwest Tampa Waterfront Market Report | VLOG

In his latest vlog, Joe Lewkowicz discusses one of the most picturesque features of his niche Northwest Tampa market: its many spacious lakes. With so many diverse features, lakefront properties can pose an interesting challenge to buyers and sellers. But, with decades of real estate experience, Joe uses his expertise to clear the air and discuss lakefront property performance in 2015 and 2016 in Northwest Tampa.

Northwest Tampa is the lake district of Hillsborough county. There are more than 50 lakes that are larger than 25 acres in the area. The three largest lakes in the area are: Lake Carroll at 210 acres, Lake Magdalene at 252 acres, and Lake Keystone at 434 acres. Because of the nature of lakefront property it can be hard to get an idea of value of both properties and homes on the lakes. Valuations will differ by lake size, lake views from the house, total lot size, location into the business district, the area or neighborhood, and finally the house itself. The homes range in size from 1,118 sq. ft. to over 28,000 sq. ft., which makes comparisons by median price or cost per foot irrelevant. There are some factors however, that can shed light on the current lakefront market on this side of town.

Some people prefer to build their own homes on lakes. According to the MLS statistics, there were seven sales on lake lots priced between $200,000 and $400,000 and one that sold for $500,000. The lot sizes varied significantly, as did the locations and size of the lakes.

As for the houses sold in 2016, there were 59 lakefront sales this last year, compared to 51 in 2015. On the larger lakes, Keystone had seven home sales in 2016 compared to 12 sales in 2015; but, prices in 2016 ranged from $600,000 to $2,645,000, while in 2015 the prices ranged from $380,000 to $1,750,000. Lake Magdalene had three sales in 2015, ranging in price from $275,000 to $481,000 and four sales in 2016, with prices from $365,000 to $975,000. Lake Carroll, which is the closest of the large lakes to the business district, had four sales from $590,000 to $1,122,500 in 2015, compared to six sales in 2016, with a price range of $455,000 to $805,000.

In 2016 there were 42 homes sold on smaller lakes in the area. The lakes I mention here range from 24 to 135 acres. Twenty-three of these were sold on lakes that are 24 to 50 acres, and 19 were sold on larger lakes of 50 to 135 acres. The median percentage of negotiation for all lakefront properties was 6.17%, however, eight of the homes negotiated by more than 15% off the final list price. The median days on the market was 75 days from listing to closing on contract. Of the homes that sold, 23 had reduced the list price before ultimately going under contract and closing. Thirty-six homes had no price reduction before being sold.

As mentioned earlier, the median time on the market according to statistics was 75 days and the median negotiation was 6.17%. This seemed a short time to me, considering I had known some of the homes to be for sale for a good period of time. In digging further into length of time on the market, I looked at the 16 lake front homes that sold for $1,000,000 or more in 2016. The attached chart will tell a different story from the basic statistics. Six of the homes sold took less than six months from listing date to closing date. These six homes also negotiated the least amount from final list price to sale price. Six of the homes were on the market a total of more than two years but not always with the same real estate agent or company. Four of the homes took more than four years to sell. Many of the homes had drastic price reductions from the first time they were on the market until they finally closed.

Original list price Sold Price Months on Market
$1.40M $1.00M 23
$1.06M $1.00M 5
$1.90M $1.10M 34
$1.20M $1.12M 2
$1.25M $1.14M 2
$1.25M $1.20M 2
$1.50M $1.32M 3
$2.20M $1.40M 33
$1.60M $1.42M 32
$3.20M $1.70M 53
$2.00M $1.75M 12
$3.77M $1.83M 79
$1.97M $1.92M 3
$3.50M $2.64M 50
$6.40M $2.80M 35
$14.00M $3.90M 82

Northwest Tampa has a vibrant lakefront community perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors and scenic views. If you would like more information about your property or are looking for lakefront property in the area, call Joe today at 813-908-7293. Remember, no-one works harder to sell your home!

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Talk to a Real Estate Agent’s Recent Clients

Nobody can review an agent’s services better than the people who most recently worked with them. So, talking to a prospective agent’s past clients is a great tool for deciding if they are the best fit for your North Tampa real estate transaction.

How can you find past clients? You can outright ask the agent for client references and begin by contacting them with your questions. If you’re uncomfortable asking the agent or would like a more unbiased opinion, try an Internet search for reviews on the agent or ask local friends and family if they know anyone who has worked with them in the past. The more people you are able to get in contact with, the better idea you will have about the agent’s work.

What questions should you ask? Real estate transactions can often be lengthy processes; this means that clients get to know their real estate agents fairly well, and have often interacted with them on both good and bad days.

You might begin by asking the past clients how flexible and patient the agent was. Whether you are buying or selling a property with a North Tampa realtor, a real estate transaction is a huge commitment involving important decision after important decision. The more reasonable and accessible an agent is, the more pleasant the buying or selling experience will be.

Next, ask past clients what type of property they enlisted the agent’s help for. Clients who worked with the agent to buy or sell the same type of property as yours will be most helpful. For residential properties, ask: what neighborhood is the home in? What condition was the home in before it was sold? What special features, if any, does the home have? These questions will help you determine how comparable your property is to the past clients’ and gain a better understanding of the realtor’s niche market.

You should also ask specific, open-ended questions about the transaction process itself. These should touch on the asking price versus selling price of a home, the time a home spent on the market, and how helpful the agent was in dealing with major issues with the home, such as inspections or legal paperwork. The answers to these types of questions will provide insight into how well the agent knows the market you are working in, and how much general real estate experience they have.

Finally, ask the clients if they had any remarkably great or remarkably poor experiences while working with the realtor. Reports of exceptional service or working well under pressure and adversity could be exactly what you need to hear in order to work with the agent.

How much authority should you give client reviews? As with reviews of virtually any product or service, there will be outliers. These, such as reports of horrendous service or rave reviews with absolutely no issues found, should be taken with a grain of salt.
If ten people can tell you that a realtor provides great services and knows their market, but tends to be late to meetings, you can probably expect the agent to be late a few times in the transaction process.

So, what next? Once you have gathered what you consider sufficient information from past clients, decide if the benefits outweigh the risks. Remember, nobody is perfect, but a realtor with a several bad reviews is unlikely to give you the level of service you need to complete a stress-free, timely real estate transaction.

Remember, No-One Works Harder to Sell your Home more than Joe Lewkowicz! Contact Joe today by visiting

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Northwest Tampa Market Report by Neighborhood | VLOG

In his latest study, Northwest Tampa realtor Joe Lewkowicz uncovers the difference just two years made for the market’s top neighborhoods. Comparing periods in 2014 with the same in 2016, Joe delivers a detailed look at the improvements made in total sales, sales within certain price brackets, cost per square foot, and more.

Joe tracked several Northwest Tampa neighborhoods to give some idea of how the entire real estate market is doing. The neighborhoods included are Northdale, Villarosa, Heritage Harbor, Carrollwood Village, Original Carrollwood, and Westchase. For comparisons, a six-month period of March 1 to Sept. 1, which is usually the most active time for the real estate market on this side of town, was used.

In 2014 Northdale boasted 52 total sales, of which 16 were either a short sale or an REO sale. This equaled 30.8 percent of the market in that period. There were just two sales above $300,000. For comparison, in 2016 total sales increased to 68, lender-related sales decreased to just four, and there were eight sales above $300,000 in Northdale. Median cost per square foot in the 2016 period was $124. Northdale homes have an average age of 37 years.

For Villarosa in 2014, there were 25 total sales. The median cost was $131 per square foot, and there were 14 sales above $300,000. In 2016, total sales jumped to 36, cost per square foot increased to $137, and there were 21 sales above $300,000. Homes in Villarosa are, on average, 19-years-old.

In Heritage Harbor, where homes are an average 15-years-old, there were 21 total sales in 2014. In that same period, cost per square foot was $107 and there were five sales above $300,000. In 2016, all these values increased; total sales rose to 25, cost per square foot to $112, and sales above $300,000 to 14.

Original Carrollwood is the oldest area in Northwest Tampa. On average, homes in the area are 52-years-old. Neither 2014 nor 2016 had many bank-related sales, with just one in 2014 and none in 2016. In the 2014 period there were 17 total sales, median cost per foot was $140, and there were six sales above $300,000. In the 2016 period there were 27 total sales, median cost per square foot rose to $155, and there were 20 sales above $300,000.

In 2014, total sales for Carrollwood Village were at 40 and there were four bank-related sales. Median cost per square foot was $128 and there were 20 sales above $300,000. In 2016, the bank-related sales were at seven, a slight increase. However, total sales increased to 54, median cost rose to $142 per square foot, and there were 39 sales above $300,000. 2016 also saw five sales in the above $500,000 bracket, which compares to none in 2014. Carrollwood Village homes, on average, are 38-years-old.

In Westchase, where homes are an average 20-years-old, 2014 brought about 129 total sales. Sixteen of these were short or REO sales, accounting for 12.4 percent of the market. In 2016, this number decreased to five and was just four percent of the entire market. Median price per square foot in 2014 was $164, which increased to $174 in 2016. In 2014 there were 52 sales above $400,000; in 2016 there were 126 total sales and 63 above $400,000, with 28 of those above $500,000.

Every neighborhood studied seemed to produce the same results. There was a gain in total sales in every subdivision in 2016 compared to 2014. The median cost per square foot also increased in every area. The percentage of bank-owned or short sales, as compared to total sales, decreased significantly in every area. And lastly, the numbers of higher-end sales increased in every neighborhood. This trend looks to continue in 2017 and almost all areas of Northwest Tampa will follow these same trends.

With over 40+ years of experience in the real estate industry, Joe has learned the importance of studying market trends. Understanding how the market works is crucial information not just for realtors, but for clients aiming to buy or sell, too. To learn more about Northwest Tampa and the acclaimed services Joe delivers to clients in the area, visit or call 813-908-7293 today!

Is an “AS-IS” contract, with the right to inspect, a good way to sell a house?

Contracts are one of the many confusing aspects of selling or buying a home. While many parties in a home transaction may feel uneasy about signing or entering into a contract, with proper guidance, this topic can be easily navigated. Veteran realtor Joe Lewkowicz breaks down the “AS-IS” and “Standard” contracts in his latest segment.

I analyzed 25 of my sales from 2016, to check what type of contract was more prevalent, and what was the outcome? Was it an “AS-IS” with the right to inspect, or was it a “Standard Contract” with repair limits attached? This is just a sampling of the completed sales I had for last year, but it did give an idea of the trends.

There are two types of pre-printed contract forms available to most Realtors, also known as the FAR-BAR contract. One is an “AS-IS” contract (with the right to inspect), which allows a certain amount of days after a contract has been accepted, to do any due diligence for a purchase, including home inspections, checking of deed restrictions, and confirming anything a buyer may wish to know.

The pre-printed time frame, unless changed in the blank contract, is 15 days. The buyer may cancel for any reason at all, in the allowed time frame. They do not even need to do a home inspection. The second pre-printed contract form is a “Standard Contract”, with limits for repair amounts and clearing of permits. The standard amount in the pre-printed form is 1.5% for each of 1) general repairs, 2) wood destroying organisms, and 3) clearing of permits. These values can be negotiated in any offer. The buyer does not have the right to cancel the contract if the required repairs are completed, as compared to the as-is contract.

Of the two types of contracts, the “AS-IS’ with the right to inspect was by far the most accepted form (of my sales last year), with 23 of the 25 homes using this clause.

Only two used the “Standard Contract”, with repair limit clauses. Of these two, both changed the limits from the actual contract. Both used the full repair limit amounts. In one case it was $750.00, in the other it was $5,000. Even though the majority were “AS-IS’ with the right to inspect, repairs or credits were often asked for. Eleven of the 23 homes sold “AS-IS,” either asked for repairs to be done, or received a credit, usually for loan closing costs. Five of these 11 gave a credit to loan closings costs instead of doing the repair work.

A credit for repairs cannot usually be given when a mortgage company is involved. The mortgage company will require the work to be done prior to closing. The maximum repair done on any of these “AS-IS” contracts was $2,000 for a roof repair, but the others were all less than $1,000 in repairs. Twelve of the homes sold with the “AS-IS” clause; they did not offer a credit and did no repairs.

Of the 25 homes analyzed, four didn’t sell due to the home inspections, all with the “AS-IS” clause, but consequently resold to someone else. There were an additional three homes that did not sell for this same reason and have not been resold. Two of these are back on the market. Of the four that resold and closed, three of them received more money (between 1%-1.5% more) without doing repairs, and one remained the same. The time frames for closing after the sale fell through, averaged an additional one to three months longer than originally planned for.

As can be seen, the majority of offers presented seem to be “AS-IS” with the right to inspect. Very few do not close due to the inspections, but some repairs or credits may need to be considered to allow the sale to continue (in lieu of the additional carrying costs by putting home back on market). While most of the sales that don’t close resell again, a decision will need to be made as to the timing of a move and cost of doing so.

To discuss further the complexities of real estate contracts, especially in the
North Tampa market, contact Joe Lewkowicz today! Remember, “no-one works harder to sell your home!”

The Sunshine State Shines Again: Northern Florida’s Best Real Estate Investment Opportunities

Now that the recession has been quelled and overbuilding is no longer an issue, there are some serious real estate growth opportunities in Florida. In South Florida, the prices have climbed back to their original values. In the north, however, particularly Gainesville, Ocala, and Deltona-Daytona Beach, houses are surprisingly underpriced. Those in Osceola, St. Johns, and Seminole can expect to see a sharp increase in demand for mortgages and construction loans. Osceola and Flagler counties are prime locations to convert single-family homes into rental properties.

Similar to Central Valley in California, northern Florida was first developed to be an area of agriculture, hence the abundance of fruit and potted plants. The mild climate brought an influx of residents to the area that initially settled on the coast, but moved inland when they found property and land was cheaper. Due to transportation across the region being relatively easy, many retirees from the Midwest moved to this area. The development of Disney World near Orlando laid the foundation for the state’s colossal tourism industry.

South Florida is limited in its real estate opportunities due to the lack of land that is not near a coast. As the urban centers in the north expand, the best places to invest are in the surrounding semi-rural land that can be used for agricultural development. Services, healthcare, and retail stores comprise the bulk of the jobs in these areas, in addition to other jobs with modest pay. Subprime loans and foreclosures affected markets all across Florida, but the North felt less of the blow.

An analytics company called Local Market Monitor has used data it accrued to determine the top eight counties in major market areas that will prove to be worth investing in the next few years due to an increase in housing demand.

Alachua County – Gainesville
With above-average population growth and a job growth that is nearly twice as much as the national rate, Alachua County looks promising. Although healthcare is the largest segment of the economy, the majority of the job growth has been in business services and restaurants. The University of Florida is the main proponent of the increase in population. In close proximity to the university, there is a very favorable home price-to-rent ratio. A 17 percent increase in home prices over the next three years is predicted, coupled with an increase in home construction, which will include 3,000 single-family homes and 4,000 rentals. The 32605 zip code area, which has a higher average income than the rest of the county, has seen an especially sharp increase in renters.

Clay County – Jacksonville
Both the population and number of jobs have grown twice as fast as the national average. Business services and healthcare have seen most of the new jobs as a result of Jacksonville’s suburbs expanding to the south and southwest. The demographics of this area illustrate that there are many veterans living in the county, the average income is fairly high, and there is a low amount of rental property. The price-to-rent ratio favors single-family rentals. A 30 percent increase in home prices over the next three years is expected, alongside the creation of 2,500 single-family homes and 1,500 rental homes. The affluent 32065 zip code area has seen the greatest increase in renting and population.

Flagler County – Deltona-Daytona Beach
Both population and job growth have astoundingly grown at triple the rate as the rest of the country. Business services, restaurants, and retail are the industries where most of the growth has occurred, which is typical for suburban areas where many people commute to work. Despite the recent boom in work, healthcare providers and retail owners are still understaffed. Based on demographics, this area is home to a large elderly population with moderate income, and there are not many rental homes available. Single-family renters will find the home price-to-rent ratio very pleasing in this area. There is predicted to be a 34 percent growth in the price of homes over the next three years. There will also be a heavy amount of construction, with 2,000 new single-family homes and 1,000 new rental properties being built. The sharpest increase in total renters has been in the zip code 32137.

Leon County – Tallahassee
The county’s population has experienced only modest growth, but has experienced above-average job growth. The government sector, alongside Florida State University, dominates much of the local economy. The university draws an influx of renters to the area. Healthcare, business services, and construction have seen the largest increases in work. Home price-to-rent ratio is fair for single-family rentals, which will likely be taken advantage of by university staff. Over the next three-year block, home prices are expected to rise 22 percent. 1,500 single-family homes and 2,500 new rentals will also be built. Zip code areas 32311 and 32312 have seen the largest increase in demand for rentals, as these locations have a high income and are not inhabited by students.

Marion County – Ocala
Population has experienced an increase slightly greater than the rest of the country this past year, and jobs have increased at double the rate. Most new occupations are found in the area’s large healthcare sector. In Marion County, there is a large elderly population, many of whom are disabled. Furthermore, the average income is low, as is the home price-to-rent ratio, which benefits single-family rentals. There is an expected 14 percent rise in home prices over the next three years, with a large amount of construction; 5,500 single-family homes and 3,500 new rentals will be created. The largest population growth has been seen in the 34473 zip code area, where the income is moderate and the demand for rentals is increasing.

Leon County – Tallahassee
With more than triple the national average growth in population and double the growth in jobs, Leon County is quite promising for investors. Healthcare and retail have seen the largest increase in jobs, which is the norm for expanding suburban areas. The demographics in this area include many Latinos and immigrants who make an average income, and also have properties with very low home price-to-rent ratios. The cheap properties are ideal for single-family rentals. A price increase of 32 percent is expected by the end of the decade. 5,500 new single-family homes and 4,500 rental homes will be developed during this time. Population and rental demand have been the most prominent in 34746, a zip code west of Lake Tohopekaliga.

Seminole – Orlando
Although population has only grown marginally quicker than the national rate, jobs have grown twice as fast in this county, mainly in business services and construction. The demographics of the area portray residents with a fairly high income, and rental properties with a strong home price-to-rent ratio, which are good for single-family renters. There is an expected price increase of 26 percent over the next three-year period. A very high level of construction will also take place, including 9,000 new single-family homes and 6,000 rentals. Population and rental growth have occurred mainly in the 32703 zip code area, which can be found northeast of Lake Apopka. In this location, income is high and there is a large volume of immigrants.

St. Johns County – Jacksonville
Population has grown at an enormous 400 percent of the national rate, and jobs at more than 200 percent, with many of them in tourism and healthcare. The demographics are made up of an older population that has a high income, and there is a low amount of rentals to choose from. The home price-to-rent ratio is high, which implies there is more success at either the low or high segment of the market, but not much in the middle. A 37 percent increase in home prices is expected over the next three years. 6,500 single-family homes and 3,500 rentals will be built, as well. The zip code area 32086 will see the most success in single-family rentals due to its above-average income and rental demand. For more information regarding real estate investments, [Click Here].

The 5 Best Tampa Bay Locations to Purchase a New Home

Buying a home, especially your first, can prove to be a daunting task. Loan officers, interest rates, and the multitude of costs that come with home purchasing can be enough to make buyers feel helpless. To add to all of that, you might not even know where exactly you want to purchase your home, or even where to start looking.

North Tampa Bay has proven to be the premier location in South Florida for buyers to purchase a home. With its lush scenery and relaxed lifestyle, Tampa Bay is the perfect area to relocate to. Here are the five best locations in the region that are worth looking into if you are planning on buying a home:

Harbour Island
Nestled between the Seddon and Sparkman channels on its own patch of verdant land, Harbour Island is a haven in itself. Various attractions are within walking distance of the island, including Channelside, the Tampa Convention Center, and a variety of cafes/restaurants.

The residential property in Harbour Island features luxurious high-rise condos that overlook the surrounding channels and out onto the Hillsborough Bay. Near the coasts of the triangular isle lie the community’s most opulent homes, some of which come equipped with docks and direct access to the channels.

North Hyde Park
North Hyde Park sits near the center of West Tampa in between downtown and the West Shore district. Its location is unique in the fact that it provides residents with quick access to I-275 and I-4, both of which are common routes for commuters to take to work.

Like Harbour Island, the most expensive homes are located along the waterfront, which in North Hyde Park is the Hillsborough Bay. Due to its proximity to downtown, Channelside, and other appealing locations in the city of Tampa, North Hyde Park is a great residential area for buyers.

Tampa-Bayshore Gardens
Not to be confused with Bayshore Gardens, which is located in Manatee County, Tampa-Bayshore Gardens is a waterfront neighborhood along the Hillsborough Bay that sits adjacent to North Hyde Park.

Featuring serene, relaxed scenery and gorgeous, cozy homes, the neighborhood is perfect for those who are looking for a calm location with a scenic landscape to settle into. The neighborhood has the same ease of access to nearby attractions as North Hyde Park, although Tampa-Bayshore Gardens is slightly more affluent.

Tampa Palms
This neighborhood covers an expansive region that has over 13,000 residents. It lies just northeast of the University of South Florida, and is home to the renowned Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club. With so many homes to choose from, there is property for virtually every budget.

The southern end of the area is in very close proximity to the university community, while the central and northern segments have an older demographic.

Beach Park
Beach Park is a neighborhood that borders the edge of Old Tampa Bay and is located right between Stoney Point and West Shore Palms. The convoluted layout of the waterfront area of Beach Park results in many calm, secluded sections of the neighborhood that extend out into the bay.

The homes in the central region of Beach Park are modestly priced, while the most extravagant and expensive are located on the western end by the bay.

Tampa Bay has plenty to offer buyers of all types, whether they are looking for property to rent to others, or a home for themselves. The unique and beautiful atmosphere that the bay creates offers residents an environment that is unlike any other in the state of Florida. For more information regarding the best locations to purchase a new home, [Click Here].

New Year, New Market: Real Estate Tips for 2017

If a new year will mean a new living situation for you, it is important to start preparing now. Whether you’re planning to buy, sell, or rent a new place in the coming months, read the following tips to stay up-to-date on market conditions in the North Tampa area.

Don’t wait to buy your starter home.
Real estate experts expect that of the total home purchases made nationwide in 2017, close to 50 percent will be by first-time buyers, made up mostly of millennials. As this group of buyers transitions from renting urban spaces to owning in the country’s most desirable areas, like the upscale North Tampa neighborhoods, competition for “starter” homes could become intense.

Loans are no longer hard to come by.
During the downturn, without a 20 percent down payment, mortgage loans were near impossible to obtain; but, things have changed in recent years. Right now, buyers with credit scores in the 690 range are being approved for loans.

A clean, modern home moves faster.
Even modest makeovers, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms, will help your home to look more modern and more appealing to modern buyers. In addition to updating certain aspects of your home, remember to keep your home clean and tidy, with personal items and family photos tucked away for any showings to potential buyers.

Renters: consider buying.
Across the country, buying is beginning to appeal to renters, as owning a home has become more affordable, especially in large metro areas with low mortgage rates. Tampa is no exception. Ranked as the eighth most affordable market in the country by the National Association of Realtors, Tampa is a great market for renters to make the transition to homeowner and now is the prime time to do so.

The house isn’t yours until you settle and close.
Unfortunately, growing competition in favorable markets means that agents are using decent offers on homes to bid up prices for preferred buyers, who the agent believes can pay more and close quickly. No matter how friendly and reassuring an agent is, don’t assume the house is yours too early in the buying process, because you may end up sorely disappointed.

Know the market.
Do you know what distinguishes a buyer’s market from a seller’s market? Is competition high or low in your area? Knowing these things and understanding the state of the market helps buyers and sellers make informed decisions on important matters like, listing prices, bids, and throw-ins. For more information regarding the new market, [Click Here].

Four Families with Chinese Drywall Could Receive Assistance from Hillsborough County

Four Tampa families could soon see government funds to help rehab their homes, equipped with hazardous Chinese drywall.

Thousands of homes built during the real estate boom of the early 2000s were tainted with Chinese drywall, a building material made in China that emits sulfurous fumes. The drywall is both costly to replace and hazardous to the health of those living in the homes.

In early November, Hillsborough County commissioners announced that affordable housing funds could be dedicated the four families who have lived in government subsidized housing built with Chinese Drywall for nearly nine years. But, that offer is contingent on a similar agreement from both the Tampa Housing Authority and the City of Tampa; both helped the families purchase the Belmont Heights homes years ago.

Ken Hagan, county commissioner, said the Housing Authority feels a responsibility to help these families.

“I’m disappointed in the reluctance of the Housing Authority to step up and do the right thing,” Hagan said. “Not only are these folks living through a financial nightmare, but their health is in jeopardy.”

The commissioners did not reveal the amount of money the county would provide to the four families, but did say the funds would come from the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, which is used to build and preserve affordable housing. The three parties are set to form an agreement by the end of December.

An October Tampa Bay Times report revealed the struggles a dozen Tampa area families were facing with Chinese drywall. Most of the families live in public housing and were originally unaware that the homes, purchased through a Housing Authority home ownership program, were built with the toxic material.

The drywall is known to release sulfurous gases that eat at copper wire and coils and can damage electrical wiring. People living in homes with Chinese drywall report chronic headaches, nosebleeds, and breathing difficulties.

When the Housing Authority and Michaels Development Co., the principal developer of the Belmont Heights housing project, claimed it was not their responsibility to help the residents, eight of the families walked away from their homes.

In deserting the houses, these families jeopardized their credit ratings and at least one filed for bankruptcy. The remaining four are currently left with high mortgage payments, serious health issues, and nearly worthless homes.

The class-action lawsuit filed against the drywall manufacturer has been held up in the courts for quite some time.

To rehabilitate the four homes, the drywall will need replaced, a project expected to cost around $70,000 per home; the wiring must be stripped and inspected for corrosion; and many of the air conditioners will also need replaced. For more information regarding families receiving assistance, [Click Here].

Home Sales in Northwest Tampa Continue to Increase

In welcoming the new year, real estate veteran and Northwest Tampa market expert, Joe Lewkowicz, reflects on the positives 2016 brought to the Tampa Bay area. This year’s continued increase in the number of sales and home prices, coupled with a significant decrease in the number of bank-owned homes, puts Northwest Tampa in position for another great year.

Comparing sales in all price ranges for the last two months of 2016 to the same time period in 2015, there was a 5 percent increase in sales, with 401 homes sold in 2016 compared to 384 in 2015. Both median price and cost per square foot increased since last year. The median priced home in this area in 2015 was $265,000 compared to 2016 when the median price was $281,000: a 6% increase. Median cost per foot increased to $138/ft. in 2016 a 5.34 percent increase over 2015. Median days on the market decreased from 42 days in 2015 to 33 days in 2016.

Inexpensive homes were much harder to find in 2016. There were only 12 homes sold for less than $100,000 this year. Four years ago, this number was double at 25 homes sold. The big change in values this year was between the $200-300K range, which saw 22 fewer sales this year compared to last year. The $300-500k range saw an increase of 32 sales, a 31 percent increase in the number of sales in this price range compared to 2015 and double the number four years ago. In the $500K-1M range, there were 34 sales this year with a median cost of $188/ft.; this represented four more sales than 2015 with the same cost per square foot. There were seven sales in the $1M+ range the last two months, compared to three in 2015.

The numbers of bank owned and short sales decreased dramatically between 2016 and 2015. There were 70 bank owned sales in this period in 2015 compared to 37 this year. In the same time period, there were 22 short sales in 2015 compared to just eight in 2016.

In both 2015 and 2016, the average home sold within 98% of the final asking price. In the last 60 days 150 homes came off the market without being sold. However, with 401 homes sold, 251 pending, and just 243 new homes put on the market, the inventory levels are still declining overall, making way for upward price pressure for the area in the upcoming months.

If these trends continue, prices will most likely climb another 5% for 2017. The demand appears to be strong and the inventory may not be keeping pace. If mortgage rates rise only slightly, look for this upcoming year to be a continuation of the strong market we have experienced for the last several years.

Remember, no-one works harder to sell your home! Joe Lewkowicz will continue to provide exceptional service, helpful insights on the North Tampa market, and unique web tools in 2017. For more information on his real estate services, insight, or expertise, visit or call 813-908-7293 today!