Before Buying, Check Out a House at Different Times of Day

A home changes drastically throughout different times of the day.

A quiet, relaxed Saturday neighborhood may be entirely different on a Tuesday morning. Traffic from the local church on Sunday may have an impact on the neighborhood’s atmosphere as well.

David Feldberg, the owner of Coastal Real Estate Group in Newport Beach, suggests that his clients visit their prospective home during multiple different times of day, in order to understand how it is to live in the neighborhood where the home is located.

Listed below are times when it would be worth checking out the area where a buyer is looking for a house.

8:00 a.m.

Pay attention to just how long it takes to leave your driveway and really get going on your commute to work. If public transportation is a viable option for you, track how long it takes to travel through that method as well.

10:00 a.m.

It’s helpful to find out if traffic, construction, or nearby pets contribute to noise during the day, but there are other reasons to visit early in the morning as well.

This is the best time to seek out someone who will be able to keep an eye on your home in the middle of the workday, if you’ll typically be away from the house until evening. You may even want to ask if they can accept delivered packages for you.

3:00 p.m.

If your home is located near a school, it would be worth waiting around to see if children will cut through your yard and damage your property. Traffic is also important to keep an eye on, as streets can become very congested around this time.

5:30 p.m.

You should test how long it will take you to return home from work, too. If you intend on relaxing after work, especially outside, you should be sure that evening traffic doesn’t cut straight through your neighborhood.

Furthermore, however unlikely it may be, your neighbors may like to grill outdoors, which may present issues for some buyers.

9:00 p.m.

Liane Jamason, an associate broker at Smith & Associates Real Estate in Tampa, Florida, advises that you scope out to see if your neighbors are notoriously loud. One of her clients quickly found out that a neighbor of the home she was looking into buying, frequently had large parties during the middle of the week.

It’s important to visit the neighborhood after dark in order to figure out how safe the neighborhood is when the sun goes down. Buyer should also keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, neighbors, or areas around the neighborhood.

If it is possible to enter the home, you should definitely do so. It would be unfortunate to finally get settled into a home and then find out a neighbor’s light blindingly fills your bedroom. For more information regarding buying a new home, [Click Here].


19 percent price appreciation in Tampa’s 33558 zip code

There has been a 19 percent price appreciation in Tampa’s 33558 zip code for the last three years.

In tracking the numbers for the area in the last three years, there were 1,105 single-family homes sold since September of 2013. Median price in the area increased from $282,000 in the second half of 2013 to $334,900 in the first half of 2016, which just finished. The year is based on March to September and October through February, which represents spring to summer and fall through winter.

In this three-year period the spring half of the year produced more sales and price increases than the fall-winter half. In the period from September 1, 2015 to February 28, 2016 there were 158 homes sold. For the spring-summer half, which runs from March 1, 2016 to August 31, 2016 there were 238 homes sold, an increase of 80 homes sold. Median price also increased from $308,000 to $334,900 in that time period.

The median number of days to get an acceptable contract for the last three years was always under 50 days, with the quickest sale time period being this last spring during which median days was just 24. Cost per foot, which is often the best indicator of value, increased from a median cost of $116 per foot in 2013 to $135 per foot this last half of 2016. That is an average increase of 19 percent for the whole time period or 6.33 percent per year.

There were a total of 106 REO/bank owned properties sold and 47 short soles in this three-year time period. The distressed sales, which is a combination of bank owned and short sales, remained at 17 to 18 percent of the market for the first two years of this study, and has decreased the last two halves to 9 percent and 7 percent for the most recent half-year. With price increases, there are fewer homes under water and people can afford to sell them or refinance.

Interest rate sensitivity will be something to consider in the next year. Current interest rates are 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 2.75 percent for a 15-year. These are as low as they have been all year, and if they remain, the market is liable to increase in price. If, however the mortgage rates increase by 1 percent, which has happened in years past, rates would still be low, but some first time buyers may be priced out of the market. For more information visit,

Buckhorn Moves Forward with Tampa’s Urban Transformation

Just east of Tampa’s City Hall sits a prime block of downtown property. The area along N Florida Avenue, between E Kennedy Boulevard and E Jackson Street, has been owned by the city for nearly 20 years; but, that could soon change.

Three groups have made offers to develop the city-owned block. Among them are some big-name local players.

Mill Creek Residential, based in Orlando, has completed more than 90 development projects across the country. After completing the 5,000 apartments in the development phase this year, the company will have an impressive 25.000 under its belt.

HRI Properties of New Orleans has completed 70 major development projects, totaling more than $2 billion in apartments, hotels, offices, and retail.

Development Services Group, the Framework Group, and Forge Capital Partners teamed up to bid on the urban project. Development Services group is a Mephis-based company that led the $26 million transformation of Tampa’s federal courthouse, turning the old building into the new boutique Le Méridien Hotel. The latter two companies, both based in Tampa, are already partnering on developing a 21-story apartment building on Tampa’s Harbour Island.

A fourth proposal was submitted late, and though it won’t be considered, it speaks to the interest Tampa is garnering both within the city and around the country.

“These proposals reflect the increasing interest in Tampa’s urban core and the demand for a true live, work and play environment,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a statement released in early September. “We look forward to reviewing each one and choosing the proposal that most closely fits the city’s vision for this property.”

Buckhorn feels developing the block, which is now a parking lot across from City Hall, is a crucial part of developing Tampa’s urban core. After reviewing the project proposal, the mayor referred to the land as the potential “new crown jewel of our skyline.”

Not many more details have been released about the development proposals. Due to Florida law, the city will not be able to announce information regarding the proposals, including bidding prices, for another 30 days, unless city officials announce their intent to award a contract sooner.

The city’s July request called for proposals for multi-use buildings, including office spaces, retail stores, hotel rooms, or multi-family residential areas. City officials also emphasized the necessity for the project to allow for about 200 parking spaces in its garage to be used by the city.

The land, purchased by the city in 1997 for $1.3 million, is now estimated to be worth nearly $2.7 million, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.

In making their final decision, Tampa officials will consider the significance of the financial offer, but will place a greater emphasis on each developer’s experience in building downtown living, working, and shopping spaces, architectural sensitivity to the existing area, and financial track record. For more information regarding Tampa’s urban transformation, [Click Here].


Northwest Tampa and Hillsborough Market News

How much did homes go up in Northwest Tampa in the last three years? When were the most sales made? How long did it take to sell a home in the area? How are bank owned and other distressed properties still affecting the value of my home? The answers with some explanations are in this article.

Northwest Tampa is loosely defined as Busch Blvd and I-275, west to Pinellas County and North to Pasco County. In this area there were 13, 615 single family homes sold since Sept of 2013. Median price in the area increased an astounding 41% in this period, an average of 13% per year. The median price in the first market half of 2014 was $156,000 and the period just ending it was $219,900.

In this three year period the spring half of the year produced more sales and price increases than the fall-winter half. In the period from 9/1/2015 to 2/28/2016 there were 2,133 homes sold. For the spring-summer half which is 3/1/2016- 8/31/2016 there were 2,629 homes sold, a 23% increase in sales in spring/summer versus fall/winter. Median price also increased this past sales year from $191,200 to $219,900 a 15% increase in that time frame.

The median days to a contract for most years was 30-40 days. This last selling cycle the days to contract dropped to just 23 days for all homes sold. Cost per foot, which is often the best indicator of value, increased from a median cost in 2013 of $97/foot to $125/foot in spring of 2016. That is an average increase of 29% for the whole time period or 9.6% per year.

Bank owned and short sale properties were almost 24% of the market for the last 3 years. However that number has continued to drop due to homes being sold and interest rates being so low for a significant period of time. Of the 4,070 sales made in the 2013/2014 selling season, 1,292 were either bank owned or a short sale. This represented 31% of the market. That percentage, while still high, has dropped to only 12% this last selling cycle.

Many factors affect the resale market in Northwest Tampa. Job growth, interest rates and the general economy, just to name a few. The market while still not as strong as the peak year of 2005, is getting back to a normal. In this same area in 2005-2006 cycle there were 4,004 single family homes sold in this area. The median price was $244,000 and the median $cost/foot was $152. That cycle there were only 15 bank owned homes sold. As the number of distressed properties continue to decline, look to see home values continue to rise as they no longer have to compete with discounted properties.

It is my hope in the next few weeks to break these analysis of home sales into useful information for each zip code of Northwest Tampa and even further to several subdivisions that I track. If you would like more information about your area, feel free to contact me and I will be glad to help. For more information visit,


Buyers Pay Millions to Tear Down Luxury Tampa Homes

A new real estate trend has made its way to the Bay area. Buyers across the country are spending millions of dollars on luxury homes, just to tear them down.

Perhaps the most expensive teardown in the surrounding area took place this month when a nearly 7,000-square-foot home in Culbreath Isles, overlooking the Bay, was torn down for a whopping $4.5 million.

“I think this is a pretty big trend,” said Martha Thorn, a local Coldwell Banker agent. “I have six that I can verify (as teardown’s),” Thorn continued, clarifying that one of those teardowns was a $1.2-million home on Clearwater Bay.

The increasing price of luxury homes seems to be the driving force behind this unique teardown movement, according to Thorn. Rather than buying the homes of their dreams for $6 million or more—the going rate for several Tampa area homes this year—buyers are opting to purchase somewhat older luxury homes, with enough property space and in the neighborhoods they like, tearing them down, and starting from scratch. This allows buyers to get exactly what they want for under the market price.

“They just want to build their own thing,” Thorn added.

These teardown homes tend to be outdated and some rundown, but the location draws in wealthy buyers. Such was the case for the more than 1,600-square-foot Mease family home overlooking the St. Joseph Sound in Dunedin. Sitting on a double lot on a picturesque street, the house was in need of some TLC; it made the perfect candidate for a teardown.

“It was meant for someone who wanted to build a dream waterfront house and live in Dunedin,” Peggy Mateer, realtor for the Coastal Properties Group, said. “There’s a beautiful view there, and everybody is charmed with Dunedin at the moment.“

The Dunedin home sold for $2 million to a pair of Northern natives, who planned to tear down the home and build a more modern, tropical dwelling.

Another contributing factor to the teardown movement is Florida’s “50 percent rule.” This rule limits the dollar amount that can be spent on improving homes in flood-prone areas to half of a home’s assessed value. This budget is typically not enough to make all of the needed, not to mention desired, improvements to an outdated luxury home.

“If you’re paying $2 million for a lot, obviously you’re going to put a lot into the bricks and mortar,” Mateer said.
Realtors have made their best attempts at assessing the teardown trend, but some high-end buyers are defying logic by tearing down million-dollar listings already in beautiful condition. The best explanation is that buyers like something about the property, but maybe not the homes themselves. For more information, [Click Here].


9 Home-Buying Myths

Before you officially change your status from “renter” to “homeowner,” it’s time to put some serious thought into the future. If you are unknowledgeable about owning a home, it may be tempting to consult friends and family for guidance.

Unfortunately, advice backed by good intentions may not be ideal for your current situation.

Fortunately, however, we’re here to shed light on the common misconceptions of home buying and how to do it safely and efficiently.

Myth 1: You have to look for a house first.

Many people dive right into house searching by doing just that: searching. Searching leads to desire, and desire does not always conform to budget restrictions. The more searching that is done, the more likely it is the buyer will find a home that is not in their ideal price range.

Connie Antoniou, a broker in Illinois, warns against this very practice: “a buyer might be viewing homes that are in a higher or lower price range than what they are qualified for.”

Before the browsing begins, it is important to check that your credit is high enough to make the process as painless as possible, and it is also important to get pre-approved for a mortgage before any other steps are taken.

Myth 2: A 30-year mortgage is ideal.

A longer mortgage doesn’t necessarily equate to cheaper payments.

While the monthly payments for a 30-year mortgage are cheaper than a 15-year mortgage, you actually end up paying more over time. This is because you’re essentially receiving the same loan, but for a longer time and with a higher interest rate.

Samantha DeBianchi of DeBianchi Realty in Florida states that: “If you’re more focused on paying down the house versus the interest, a 15-year option is great.”

While a 30-year mortgage is not the end of the world, there are other methods to pay your loans off in a shorter amount of time, such as an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you don’t plan on staying in your home for the rest of your life, this option is ideal for you.

Myth 3: You must make a 20% down payment.

If you want to forego private mortgage insurance, then a 20% payment is ideal. However, if you are willing to pay the monthly bill for the insurance, many lenders will allow a down payment as low as 5% or 10%. The Federal Housing Administration also offers loans as low as 3.5% to those who qualify.

For those who are unaware, there is a plethora of options to make down payments easier. Many programs are intended for potential homeowners with a low income, but there are plenty for those of greater economic status.

Myth 4: Down payments are your only initial expenses.

Unfortunately, there is the possibility of being responsible for closing costs, which can be a whopping 3% to 6% of the entire purchase price, and they could be higher depending on the state you reside in.

Fees, taxes, and various other costs are all also a part of the buying process, much to the dismay of the customer.

Myth 5: You need good credit to buy a home.

While regular loans require good, and sometimes stellar, credit to be approved, government-backed FHA loans are available even to those who have a credit score less than 600; all at a 3.5% down payment, no less. While on paper FHA loans may seem like a godsend, they are not always the best option.

Myth 6: A home inspection isn’t necessary.

This is a common belief among new homebuyers. Many also fear that someone who waives the home inspection may also be prioritized as a buyer.

Deceptive sellers who like to prey on those unaware buyers that will forego an inspection. If they make the mistake of doing so, they will receive the home in whatever quality it is in at the time of purchase. Subsequently, they will be left on their own to fix any issues the home may have. DeBianchi states that one should spend the money for an inspection, because “in the long run it can save you a lot of money and time.”

Myth 7: The asking price is non-negotiable.

Similar to buying a car from a dealership, you are able to make an offer that is less than the asking price. Good credit, pre-approval, and a solid down payment are all characteristics of a buyer that may entice the seller to negotiate.

Furthermore, if you chose to have a home inspection performed on the property, you could use any issues as leverage in asking for a lower price.

Myth 8: You don’t need an agent.

Many buyers are reluctant to spend money on an agent when there is a vast sea of information about home buying on the Internet.

Those thoughts need to be put to an abrupt halt; it is very important to hire a realtor to help you with the buying process. After all, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do. Plus, they have a lot more tools at their disposal than the average human, and they will use them all to find you exactly what you’re looking for.

Myth 9: If you don’t have kids, you don’t need to worry about schools.

Once a house within a budget is found, many people want to move in right away. The neighborhood you live in is important, however. Good schools are a staple sign of a good neighborhood. Walkability, traffic, and landmarks are all important when choosing the area you move to; make sure you move into one you’ll still want to be in ten years from now. For more information, [Click Here].

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Buying or selling? Understanding the Market

All markets are different. Any realtor knows this. But, it often takes an experienced realtor to be in tune with a market’s patterns, to prepare sellers for the process, and to coach buyers into making the best offers for a home in their market. Realtor Joe Lewkowicz, decades of experience have made these tricks of the trade nearly second nature in his North Tampa market.

In Tampa, prices have been increasing between five and twelve percent in the last year, which serves as a major obstacle for buyers, sellers, and their agents. While obtaining offers close to or above listing price under such circumstances may be no feat for sellers in markets, like San Francisco, where competitive bidding is commonplace, inexperienced Tampa realtors will have a hard time doing so. It takes experience, market knowledge, and confidence to get the job done in Tampa, especially its North and Northwest neighborhoods.

On Hutchinson Road sits a beautiful modern home in excellent condition, listed as the most expensive for its size and type in its neighborhood in the last year. Within four days, Joe Lewkowicz had solicited three offers, one from each person who had visited the property. Only one of those offers reflected a realtor’s knowledge that homes in the North Tampa market tend to sell above past sale prices and the rate at which prices appreciate in this market.

Joe Lewkowicz has seen these low offers, encouraged by inexperienced realtors or those unfamiliar with his market, before, and is able to prepare sellers, and encourage them to remain patient and confident in their decisions. His strategy as a realtor is to price a home correctly, although higher than previous market comparables and then devise a plan for offers to come in.

In the case of the Hutchinson Road home, Joe advised his sellers not to accept the first offer unless it was at least the full listing price and the buyer offers to make a generous down payment. Lucky for both parties, the first offer came from a realtor with knowledge about the market and its appreciation values, and the sellers were able to proceed with the closing process.

Joe believes the Hutchinson Road is perfect for the family who recently bought it, and is confident that the two other potential buyers wish they had been advised to make a much more competitive offer.

When it comes to buying or selling a home, enlist the help of a realtor who has extensive experience in the market, a working knowledge of its pricing trends, and a confidence in their skills. According to Joe Lewkowicz, “With a good understanding of the market, all parties can win!” For more information, [click here]