Insights

Joe Lewkowicz’s Secrets to Real Estate Success

Joe Lewkowicz is considered an expert authority on the North Tampa Bay real estate market for his personalized customer service and unprecedented ability to get homes off the market in very little time and for the right prices.

To help his clients sell their homes, Joe provides them with insider tips and tricks that ensure a home not only attracts buyer interest, but also gets off the market and stays off the market. To accomplish this goal, Joe has perfected the art of pricing homes, staging them, and making recommendations to pass inspections, in his more than 35 years of real estate experience.

Realistically pricing a home is key to getting it off the market fast. An important aspect to pricing, which Joe Lewkowicz knows better than almost anyone, is timing. April and May are peak months to list a home in the North Tampa Market, while June and July also serve as successful months. If a home is priced too high in the fall, it is unlikely to see offers within its first few months of listing, a bad sign for potential buyers.

In addition to smart pricing, staging plays a big role in bringing in offers. Joe emphasizes to his clients the importance of hiring a professional or asking an experienced realtor for advice in staging homes. With decades of real estate experience, many of those in luxury neighborhoods, Joe Lewkowicz can spot a well staged home in no time, something he knows will push potential buyers to make an offer.

Selling within a month of listing is positive news for buyers, but Joe Lewkowicz has been known to get homes off the market in just days.

“We put our house on the market on a Friday. We showed it on Sunday, and on the next day came a contracted offer at full asking price,” Danny Wilson, one of Joe’s recent clients said.

Another of Joe Lewkowicz’s clients shared in a video testimonial how impressed he was with Joe’s ability to attract offers to his home. “We sold our house the first day we had it on the market, and at full price,” the client said. “It couldn’t have been any quicker!”

Getting a home off the market is one thing, but it’s a completely separate task to make sure a home stays off the market. This is where Joe’s decades of experience benefit his clients in a major way. Joe is no stranger to home inspections and strongly suggests his clients take care of any structural problems that could jeopardize the home inspection.

Joe cites some of the most common inspection problems in the North Tampa as old roofs and pools that are not up to recent code. It is important to tend to these problems early, as a buyer is likely to pull an offer on a home that does not pass inspection, Joe stresses.

In addition to pricing, staging, and inspection preparation, Joe offers his clients the best of real estate marketing and a highly personalized customer service experience. Joe reminds clients that “No-one works harder to sell your home,” because he puts in the time, effort, and money necessary to sell homes and keep them sold.

To experience the scope of real estate services Joe Lewkowicz brings to the North Tampa area, visit his website, josephlewkowicz.com, or call him directly at 813-908-7293 today!

Home Inspections: What are the most Common Issues for Homeowners?

Have you ever wondered what a home inspector focuses on in his or her search? Veteran realtor and North Tampa Bay expert Joe Lewkowicz reflects on some of the most commonly cited issues for home inspections, as he chronicles the inspections of his latest listings.

I have just taken stock of the last three home inspections performed on my listings that have been put under contract. It is interesting to see how different home inspectors will focus on different things when inspecting for a buyer. Here are my findings on the more common items/issues that came up on the last three inspections, and other items that I see more frequently.

The first house was built in 1995 and had a new roof put on in 2005. This home has a side entry garage door with wood rot, one of the most common to show up on inspection reports, in my many years of experience. If the door is soft, it may be repaired using wood putty, however, the correct, and long-term fix would be to replace the door. The inspection also called for the screened enclosure around the pool to have a bonding wire attached, this will ground the screen itself during a storm. Other issues, though more minor, were the bathroom tub diverter, or knob that you pull to turn the shower on, wasn’t working correctly, and there was a stain on the ceiling from a past leak that needed an explanation.

The second home had mostly electrical issues as the focus of the inspection. The home was built in the late 1970’s, and code at that time was likely much different than today’s. The electrical panel needed to have some work done. Several of the breakers had double lugging, where two wires come into the same breaker. Some of the GFI’s were not working properly either, which is another very common item to show up on an inspection report.

The third and final house had several roof trusses that were cracked (could be material defect), and some had been cut to accommodate a water heater. This is common on both older and newer homes. The proper fix is to replace the broken truss and the webbing attached to it.

In other inspections, I have seen the inspector note that the pool drain was not up to current code. That usually does not mean it needs to be replaced, as it was acceptable at the time the pool was built. New drain types are called “Anti-Vortex”, which diverts the suction to the pool drain, aiding in drowning prevention.

Additionally, older roofs suffer a loss of the material on the shingles over time. A roof that is 17 years or older, may have a hard time passing an inspection, preventing the buyer from obtaining homeowner’s insurance.

If your roof has been replaced in the last few years, you should check to make sure that a permit was pulled and that the permit was finalized. You can find that information online at www.hillsboroughcounty.org , in Hillsborough County, or your County permit website.

I have had three of these cases in the last year, where the permit was expired, but not closed out. To clear this up afterwards, you might need to hire an engineer to come out and inspect the roof, at a cost, and file the proper paperwork with the county, which can be timely as well. Another common roof-issue, is the vent stack cover deteriorating (or getting chewed up by squirrels), average cost for this replacement/repair is about $125.

I hope you have found this to be a helpful guide in preparing for your own home inspection. For more information regarding the Tampa market or general real estate tips and tricks, visit my Industry Insights page, or contact me directly at 813-908-7293. Remember, “No-one works harder to sell your home!”

Northwest Tampa Market Continues to Improve Year Over Year

The 2016 numbers are in, and the North Tampa market impressed realtors, homeowners, and real estate industry experts yet again! On a continued streak of improvement, the market specifications for this year are broken down by standout realtor and North Tampa veteran Joe Lewkowicz below.

Both numbers of homes sold and the median price improved this past November, compared to both 2015 and 2014. There were 312 sales in the area roughly defined as North of Busch Blvd/Linebaugh and west of i-275 to the county line. This does include some areas of Land O Lakes. Median price increased from $278,000 in 2015 to $282,000 in 2016 in this same time period. Days to contract has consistently decreased from 51 days in 2014 to 38 days in 2016. Cost per foot has also increased from $118/ft to $135/ft.

Months of inventory is a very low 2.6 months of available homes. A normal balanced market is when inventory is 6-8 months of available homes. In 2008, for example, the inventory levels were running at 12-14 months of available homes. It begins to become a buyer market when the inventory levels reach 9 months or more. As can be seen, with this low inventory available, prices have continued to increase, being a boon to sellers of homes.

The homes for sale below $200,000 has been an exceptionally strong market. At this time there are 80 active listings on the market and 79 per month selling, This is an incredible 1 month supply of inventory. Prices in this price range have continued to escalate. The problem has been finding a nice home to purchase and with price increases, getting a mortgage company to approve the appraisal of the property.

In the market above $800,000 there is more available inventory, which is to be expected. Currently there are 107 available homes with just over 8 per month selling for a 13-month supply of inventory. However, this compares to 2013 when available homes were at 18-20 month supply.

Depending on many factors coming in the next several months the real estate market in Northwest Tampa should continue to remain strong. There does not appear to be a real estate bubble in this area of town and it should remain vibrant for the next few years.

Another year of improvement for the Northwest Tampa market, in which Joe Lewkowicz is considered the leading residential real estate source, is expected to bring good news for the future of the market. To keep up with the latest news and reports concerning North Tampa realty, visit josephlewkowicz.com today!

10 tips to have an awesome mortgage in 2017

Home sales are sure to increase, and a brand new president will occupy the White House; these are two statements about 2017 that can be said with absolute certainty. When it comes to mortgage rates, however, the predictions are less clear. 2016 saw low rates, but they could rise in 2017; there isn’t room for them to go much lower.

Regardless of whether you plan to buy a home or refinance a loan, here are 10 mortgage tips to help you save money during 2017.

1. It is possible to not make a down payment
Lenders frequently inform clients that the days of making a 20% down payment are long-gone. Some loan programs require a down payment as low as 3 to 3.5 percent, while other programs require no down payment at all.

Borrowers who qualify for the Department of Veteran Affairs program are offered zero-down mortgages. To qualify, you must be a veteran, an active-duty service member, or a member of the National Guard or Reserves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers zero-down to buyers in rural areas as part of its Rural Development initiative.

Qualified members of the Navy Federal Credit Union are offered zero-down mortgages to purchase primary residences.

Lastly, the Federal Housing Administration allows down payments of 3.5 percent on mortgages it insures. Other lenders provide mortgages with a down payment as little as 3 percent if you have private mortgage insurance.

2. The FHA will give out loans to those with imperfect credit
You don’t need stellar credit to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan. The average homebuyer has a credit score of 753. For an FHA borrower, it was 686.

A minimum credit score of 580 is required for FHA-insured mortgage that has a down payment of 3.5 percent. If your credit score is between 500-579, a down payment of at least 10 percent is required. In that case, however, you must first find a lender to approve the loan.

3. Make sure to keep some of your savings available
Mortgage lenders advise against spending all of your savings on closing costs and the down payment. If unexpected costs were to arise, you would need a way to pay for them without missing a house payment.

Your lender will calculate the minimum amount of money you need to have in reserve in order to qualify for a mortgage. Sometimes, more needs to be kept in reserve than anticipated, which leads to you making a down payment of less than 20 percent. This subsequently requires mortgage insurance. In this specific scenario, you would have to walk away from the deal and stockpile your funds in order to avoid needing mortgage insurance.

Lenders would prefer that you have a rainy day fund, even if it means that you need to make higher house payments due to mortgage insurance.

Running out of money in your savings is one of the five critical mistakes first-time homebuyers make.

4. You can save money by refinancing into a 15-year loan
Despite mortgage rates being expected to rise in 2017, it may be beneficial to some homeowners to refinance. There are a few reasons to do so, depending on your situation:

– Divorce
– Recovering from bad credit
– To do away with mortgage insurance
– Positive equity
– To cash out on some of your equity
– To save money long-term

The last option applies to a 15-year mortgage, and it saves money in two separate ways: 15-year mortgages have lower interest rates than 30-year loans and interest is paid over a shorter period. While the monthly payments will be higher on a 15-year loan than they would be on a 30-year loan, you will pay less total interest.

5. Only borrow what you can afford
First-time homebuyers will often stretch their funds in order to cover the initial payments. They do so under the assumption that their incomes will definitely increase over time.

However, it is much smarter to live within one’s means; buying an expensive home should come after the big raise. A general rule is all of your monthly financial obligations, house payment included, should be less than 36 percent of your gross income.

For example, if you take home $5,000 each month, your monthly house payment, credit card, child support, student loan payment and other payments should not exceed 36 percent of $5,000, which in this case is $1,800.

Those with a higher credit score and more money in the bank will be able to make a higher house payment. However, if you exceed the 36 percent guideline, there will be very little money left over to enjoy yourself and save for the future.

6. Make sure to ask about a mortgage without closing costs
Typically, mortgages require thousands of dollars in fees and closing costs. Paying out of pocket will allow you to get the lowest possible interest rate. Choosing to accept a higher interest rate may allow you to avoid most, if not all, of the closing costs you would typically encounter.

For example, if you pay the closing costs yourself, you may be offered a rate of 3.75 percent. Another option is to take a 4.125 percent interest rate, but have the lender cover the closing costs.

The people who benefit most from this type of plan are those who intend to sell their newly purchased homes within the next five years. If you plan on staying longer than five years, it would save you money to pay the closing costs yourself and take the lower interest rate. One should be careful not to cover the closing costs if it will affect your down payment, as then you may need mortgage insurance.

7. Pursue a zero-down VA loan
While Veterans Affairs mortgages were already mentioned, these types of loans are typically underused.

In 2016, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Veterans Association guaranteed one-eighth of mortgages. Yet, in 2010, a survey found that many veterans who were looking to purchase homes were not aware of the VA loan benefits. Approximately 25 percent of active-duty military personnel did not know they were eligible for this type of loan.

Perhaps those same active-duty members thought those loans only applied to those who were already retired or had been discharged. VA loans are available to those who have been honorably discharged, personnel on active duty, or those who have served for at least six years n the National Guard or certain Reserve units. Surviving spouses of a deceased veteran are eligible in some circumstances, as well.

VA loans are so enticing because they allow one to bypass the down payment when buying a home.

8. Cash-out refinancing may be a good idea
Cash-out refinancing occurs when the homeowner refinances their home for more than the amount they owe. The borrower then pockets the difference in funds.

Cash-out refinances were popular during the early 2000s when real estate was booming. Then, the housing bust happened, and billions of dollars in equity virtually dissolved. Today. Now that home values are on the rise once again, cash-out refinances have once again returned.

A home equity loan or lines of credit are other ways to get cash from equity. If you intend to spend the money in a short period of time, such as a wedding or a vacation, a home equity loan or line of credit are good options. If the money is going to be spent over a longer period of time, such as adding onto a home, then cash-out refinancing is a better option.

9. You could refinance into a VA loan
If you qualify for a VA-guaranteed mortgage, it may be possible for you to refinance your conventional mortgage into a VA loan.

In most cases, you can refinance up to 100 percent of the current value of your home. This allows you to cash-out refinance by using a VA loan. Funding fees for cash-out VA finances range from 2.15 percent to 3.3 percent, and that fee can be added to the balance of the loan.

10. Underwriting requires patience
Holding onto your finances tightly is recommended when you apply for a mortgage until you close the loan.

While this sounds simple, it can prove to be very difficult, especially for first-time buyers. Having a little discipline and avoiding credit card debt or applying for new credit are necessary while underwriting is occurring.

A lender looks at your credit report and score when you apply for a loan. Right before closing, they look at both once more. If, during this timeframe, you managed to rack up a large amount of credit card debt via purchasing furniture and appliances, the lender may delay closing for your mortgage. In certain cases, you could ruin your chance at a mortgage and have to reapply.

Applying for new credit before you’re cleared is one of the three major ways to ruin a mortgage closing. For more tips, [Click Here].

Did you know, home ownership is more affordable than renting in Tampa Bay?

The cost of purchasing a home has been on the rise across the United States, often making local headlines and even national news stories. But, what some Bay area residents don’t realize is that in Tampa, the cost of purchasing a home is significantly more affordable than renting.

Trulia recently found that of the most popular housing options for Americans age 25 to 34, renting costs on average 42 percent more than buying a home in the Tampa metro area. The same difference can be observed in six other large metro areas— Houston, Baton Rouge, Syracuse, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New Orleans.

While the cost of housing has continued to rise, many Americans are unaware that dishing out rent on a monthly basis is actually costing them much more than purchasing a home would. Nationwide, buying costs Americans an average 23 percent less than renting does. These significant price differentials are motivating millennials to purchase homes, instead of renting, in all but a few notoriously high-priced areas, like San Francisco, New York City, and Honolulu.

For Tampa-based millennials, the choice to buy is, economically speaking, the smartest housing option. Of course, the fact remains that some millennialls aren’t financially positioned to buy, or that they don’t plan to stay in Tampa for an extended period of time, making buying an unwise decision.

In the past, Americans in their late twenties and early thirties have tended to rent rather than buy, especially in large metro areas, for a number of valid reasons. Perhaps the largest determent is the volatility of home values around the country. Today’s Americans in this age group remember all too well the recession and housing crisis of the early 2000s, and renting seems an obvious way to avoid major unpredicted financial hardship should the past repeat itself.

In Florida specifically, millennials may be wary of buying because of weak wages, tougher mortgage standards, and high cost of rental areas, especially when the nationwide public mentality is that renting is the more affordable option and buying is an investment for the future. Two of Florida’s Gulf Coast Metro areas rank in the top three American cities for fast-rising rental increases—Fort Myers and Sarasota.

According to a recent RentRange study, Fort Myers single-family home rental prices rose faster than in any other major city in the U.S. over the past year. In Sarasota, rental prices increased about 17 percent in the last year. Tampa, just a short drive up the Gulf Coast presents much more affordable housing options for millennials.

In time, the cost disparities between renting in buying will become less pronounced, but buying is predicted to remain the more affordable option for young people, especially in the Bay area. For more information regarding home ownership, [Click Here].

Home Value: How to Find Out What Makes it Worth More (Or Less)

Have you ever felt confused about the value of your home? What about its true size? If you think you might be buying or selling in the future, it’s important to have an understanding of how square footage is determined and what factors could change the technical size and/or value of a home. Below, Tampa real estate expert, Joe Lewkowicz breaks down the complex topic of square footage.

My house is 2,200 sq. ft., what is it worth?

This simple question warrants a somewhat complicated answer. First, “sq.ft.” needs to be defined. Total square feet is under the roof and will include the garage and porches or lanai areas. When comparing homes, square footage is defined as the heated or air conditioned living space. If a porch or lanai has been enclosed this could be considered part of the air conditioned living area. This may not show up on the tax rolls if a permit was not pulled for the work done or the permit was not finalized. Bonus rooms built over a garage will usually appear in the living area square footage.

In the example the total square footage is about 2800 sq. ft. The living area is 2,078 sq. ft.. The FOP part is a porch, but this has been enclosed without a permit. If it enhances a home, it may be valued the same as the other part of the house which would make the living area almost 2,300 sq. ft., but it may still be considered a porch area by an appraiser.

Living square footage is not all valued the same. For example, in one neighborhood, a house that had 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and 2,870 sq. ft of actual living area sold for $412,000. It had no changes to the original home and did not have a bonus room. The sale price is $143.55 per sq. ft. Three similar homes to this one sold in the same time frame but all had a bonus room. They each sold at prices between $400,000 and $465,000. The price per sq. ft. ranged from $113/ft to $132/ft. All of the homes were lower in price per foot than the home without the bonus room. In this case the bonus room is not valued the same as the rest of the home.

Most appraisers use a value of $40-60 per sq. ft. for the size difference of a property. Using the example above, in comparing one 3,200 sq. ft home that includes a bonus room to the one at 2,870 sq. ft. without a bonus room, the value difference might be 3,200-2,870=330 sq. ft. x $40/ft. or a $13,200 difference in price if there are no other factors in the valuation. The house with the bonus room that is larger should sell for $412,000+$13,200 or $425,200. This works out to be $132.87 per sq. ft. total. The same valuation process will apply to porches or garages that have been enclosed and in some cases they may be a negative in the sale if the extra size does not enhance the original floor plan.

There are, of course, other factors that will make a difference in the sale price of a home. These include numbers of baths, how large a garage, lot size and location. These will be discussed in future blogs.

Remember, no-one works harder to sell your home! For questions related to square footage, bonus rooms, or anything that might change the value of your home, use the free resources at https://josephlewkowicz.com/ or contact me today at 813-908-7293.

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Top 5 Tips for First Time Homeowners

While making your first home purchase can be intimidating, it does not always have to be. Some may say it isn’t true, but buying a home can be very enjoyable and rewarding.

The first step to buying a home is to always get pre-approved, and the earlier you start, the better. Finding the right Loan Officer (LO) is imperative in order to navigate the complex mortgage process. The best way to find an efficient LO is to have someone refer you to one they have used in the past. There is an overwhelming amount of loan officers who may not be ideal for your situation due to inexperience, so it is vital that you find a seasoned professional who is able to help you.

When beginning the process of buying a home, these are the five most important things you should keep in mind:

1. Start Early – Both saving money and improving one’s credit are made so much easier by having more time available to do so. Starting the process early will allow your LO to work with you to ensure your credit is in the condition it needs to be to acquire the lowest interest rate. Putting more money into the down payment results in more options. Once the process has begun, saving money becomes more streamlined now that there is a goal that can be pursued. It is not uncommon for a client’s family members to give them money toward buying a home. The earlier you start, the more likely it is that family will be able to better manage their finances and have the ability to contribute.

2. Down Payment – Don’t listen to any information that tells you 20% is required to purchase a home. There are a variety of different programs that require less than 5% for a down payment. FHA wants only 3.5% down, Conventional requires 3% down and VA has a 0% down payment. There are other loan programs available for 1% where the lender covers the other 2%. However, don’t fall victim to 1% payment programs, as your interest is sure to increase. For FHA loans, mortgage insurance is required while VA loans never require mortgage insurance. Conventional loans require mortgage insurance if the down payment is less than 20%.

3. Credit Score – Having a respectable credit score is instrumental in securing the best interest rates. An imperfect credit score is not unsalvageable; there are plenty of techniques you can use to boost it. While there are steps you can take to increase it, there is no “magic button” to do so, so be wary of ploys that claim to raise your score a large amount in a short period of time. Time is a consistent factor between all of the techniques used to increase it, and some require more than others. If you are searching tomorrow for a home to buy, it is far too late to worry about your credit score. If you have a few months to work with, you will be a lot better off. Some of the most efficient ways to increase your credit score are to pay down your balance, paying amounts that are past due, and paying off collections or charge offs.

Lowering the utilization-to-limit ratio can help with your credit score as well, and this can be done by calling your creditor and asking for an increased balance. Loan officers are frequently experienced in helping clients raise their credit scores, so they are an option to turn to for advice. Even if the increase is only a few points, you may be able to secure a lower interest rate.

4. Mortgage Insurance – Mortgage insurance is nothing to be afraid of. While it may be frustrating to have to pay monthly for something that may not even be used, it will finally get you out of your parents’ house. Mortgage insurance is required for all FHA loans and Conventional loans if less than 20% is put down. In order to borrow from a lender, mortgage insurance is required, as it protects the lender from potential losses. Similarly, Mortgage insurance on Conventional loans is acquired from insurance companies by lenders in order to protect against a borrower defaulting on their loan. While avoiding mortgage insurance is always a decent way to save some money, the insurance itself should not be a deterrent from purchasing a home. Furthermore, just because you have the money for the 20% down payment does not mean you should pump all of your cash into buying a home. It is always important to plan for contingencies, even if it means putting down 15% and buying mortgage insurance rather than putting down 20%.

5. Loan Officer – The most integral part of the entire home buying process is choosing the right loan officer. Friends are a great primary resource on where to find a good loan officer. Realtors are also able to provide solid recommendations. The biggest mistake that buyers make when dealing with LOs is that they only ask about interest rates and closing costs. Unfortunately, there are many shady loan officers who will initially offer a very low interest rate at first, only to increase it later when the rate becomes locked in.

When searching for a LO, ask them why you should choose their services over someone else’s. Many loan officers are paid commission, so it is imperative to see through the sales pitch they give you and choose an LO who takes the time to work with you. The best LOs are the ones who go out of their way to educate their clients about the home buying process. If they are pushy or don’t promptly return to phone calls or emails, look elsewhere. The most important characteristic to look for in a loan officer is the willingness to communicate with you and invest time in making sure you understand everything about the process. LOs are a big part of purchasing a home and you will be spending a lot of time talking to them, so it is important to choose someone you are comfortable with.

How Millennials Are Changing the Housing Market

As millennials, the next generation of homeowners, transition from splitting rent with friends to buying, the housing market will begin to see changes.

For many millennials, the rising cost of rent is the best motivation to make the switch from renter to owner. In fact, such a large number of millennials are buying homes that their purchasing trends have begun to drive the housing market, according to Zillow.

Currently, half of America’s homeowners are under the age of 36, Zillow’s Consumer Housing Trends Report shows.

“Millennials are shaping the market more than anyone realized. In fact, half of all buyers are under 36 and half of sellers are under 41,” Zillow’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jeremy Wacksman, said.

An interesting facet to the millennial buying trend is the diversity among young buyers, which is working to more accurately represent the country’s population within the collective “homeowner” group. While 77 percent of all US homeowners are white, the figure is much lower among millennial buyers. Of young adult homeowners, 66 percent are white, 17 percent are Latino or Hispanic, 10 percent African American, and 7 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.

This diverse, motivated group of buyers is exhibiting one trend that took many real estate experts by surprise—nearly half of all millennial homeowners live in suburbs. With stereotypes like “the urban hipster” and a widespread desire to move away from white picket fence homes, the millennial suburb movement may be surprising in a social sense, but it is a wise economic move.

As urban homes become increasingly popular, their price tags become increasingly expensive. In order to afford bigger homes with community amenities, like gyms and pools, millennials are opting to move to the suburbs, where so-called “starter homes” are increasing in size.

Despite the new suburban shift for many millennials, the fact remains that no other generation has such a high urban-living population. The love for downtown living among young adults and the fact that this generation is the highest educated, yet lowest paid group of workers, means renting still looks good for those who aren’t committed or financially stable enough to take the leap from renter to owner.

In cities like Seattle and Denver, owning is out of the question for many millennials, especially those working to make the purchase on just one income.

“Depending on where they liv, homeownership may be out of reach,” Wacksman said. For more information regarding millennials changing the housing market, [Click Here].

Hillsborough County: Lowest Foreclosure Numbers in a Decade

Foreclosures in Hillsborough County have been on the decline, and the number is now the lowest it’s been in a decade.

September 30 marked the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, a period in which Hillsborough County saw less than 3,000 new filings. In 2008-2009, the number of foreclosures filed for in Hillsborough was around 15,000. In 2006-2007, before the housing market had crashed, the number of foreclosures was still more than double this year’s.

The low number of foreclosures in the county is a good sign for Tampa city officials, lenders, and residents.

“This is tangible evidence of the real estate recovery we have been seeing,” said Pat Frank, Hillsborough’s clerk of court. “It’s really great news for Tampa’s economy, which is still closely tied to the housing market. Let’s hope the trend continues.”

Though there are not yet exact figures for surrounding counties, the figures are expected to dip well below “boom-time” levels.

In Hillsborough County, the number of filed foreclosures began increasing significantly in 2008, when the global financial crisis was in full force. The following year, the county filed a record high—15,164—foreclosure actions.

Previously any home foreclosed on was auctioned on the courthouse steps in Tampa. Since October2012, however, the county has used an online foreclosure system, run by Real Auction, to auction off these homes.

The future is bright for Hillsborough County, as fewer and fewer homeowners are delinquent on their mortgages. This August just 4.8 percent of borrowers in the county were more than 90 days late on their mortgage payments. For more information regarding Hillsborough’s lowest foreclosure numbers, [Click Here].

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Avoid explanations to sell.

It’s harder to sell a home when you have to explain things.

I just showed a home in North Tampa to a prospective buyer. They liked the area and before they viewed the home, they liked the price. Once inside, the buyers started to have reservations when certain items that were out of the ordinary came up and needed to be explained.  In this home, there was something in the guest bathroom that drew attention, a screen up against the tub, that had been added by a previous owner. The buyer asked “what the heck is this for”? I had a very hard time explaining that one. There were also sandbags on the outside and by the screen porch. This really got the buyer nervous, but still did not completely turn them off of purchasing. They simply stated they would need to consider this in the price, and were concerned about the drainage everywhere. They wanted to know if there were any pictures during a heavy rain? I mentioned that I would go out that week, when it is supposed to rain very hard, and take some photos to see how bad it might get.

I am not sure if these customers will ever make an offer on this property.  Sometimes, things that an owner has lived with day in and day out, seem normal to them, but can become an obstacle when selling the home to someone who has never seen the property or some of those abnormalities. It does not mean a buyer will not purchase the home, but, it does mean that the offer will be less, no matter what the market conditions are. Buyers can put up with normal updating of a home. People can look at dated kitchens and baths and have some reasonable idea as to what it might cost to update them. Usually the house is priced based on the condition of the property. A problem in selling a home arises when something out of the ordinary has to be explained. Buyers start wondering about the home. They start to wonder what else is wrong with this house?

This house needed an explanation, because there was concern that water might be coming into the home.  Other things that typically come up, include cracked pool decks, lanai porch ceilings with drywall seams falling down or showing. Garage ceilings without drywall or areas where someone has stepped through them. If a ceiling inside has been repaired because of a previous leak, typically makes the buyer wonder what the issue really is?  Other examples are extension cords running all over the place, air conditioning units in an office or bedroom in addition to Central AC, is a big warning sign for someone buying.

Many of these items can be taken care of before the home is sold. Some, like drainage or settling issues, cannot. For these it helps to have a written explanation as to why the items are this way, and what you as a seller, have experienced while living there. Some may be an issue if explained correctly. I had one family explain their sinkhole issue with a three paragraph synopsis and the house sold more easily because of it. Before we had done the letter, all the seller had was the engineering reports. The detail in the reports scared the past buyers away.

If you can easily fix the issues, I recommend you do it. If you don’t know what the issues may be, call someone experienced to look at your property. If you cannot afford the cash out of pocket for some of these, talk to a professional to see what can be done to make the sale continue, in as-is condition. For More information visit, https://josephlewkowicz.com.