Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Real estate activity has resumed at its typical fall pace since the hurricane with 49 condos and townhomes and nine single family homes contracted since the storm passed. Inventory remains very low with a high proportion of optimistically priced offerings. For instance, $413 per square foot for a 32 year old 2/2 condo in mainly original condition or $309 a foot for a 44 year old 2/2 unit with a tiny balcony and Formica countertops. Neither of these unremarkable units has a garage.
About price per square foot: It is not an exact metric for determining value but is a good starting point. If other 30 to 40 year old units without garages of approximately the same size and condition with a similar view are selling for $250 per square foot then my unit is very unlikely to command $400 a foot no matter the depleted inventory. High demand and low supply contribute to rising prices but they rarely induce buyers to pay way above fair value. Finding an agent willing to take an overpriced listing, however, is easy. Agents will take unsaleable listings with the hope that the seller will eventually come to their senses but even without an eventual price drop the listing has value for the agent. Buyers who inquire about the overpriced listing can be shown other fairly priced offerings. An agent's willingness to accept a listing at an unjustified high price is not confirmation of the possibility of getting close to that number. The agent may just be seeing the listing's potential as a good lead-generator. I'm looking at you, side view Cape Canaveral condo in original condition without a garage asking the same outrageous $305 per square foot since last December. Drop the price by 20% and I'm guessing a buyer will materialize.
"How's a beer sound, Norm?"
"I don't know. I usually finish before they get a word in." __Norm Peterson
Sunday, October 01, 2017
Three weeks post-Irma and we are gradually getting ourselves back together. The streets of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral are still lined with piles of debris and blue tarps adorn many structures including my office. The administration of the City of Cocoa Beach is operating out of temporary quarters and probably will for a while. The heavy rains the last few days on top of our already saturated ground has the City Manager considering whether to shoot for at least one rice harvest at the golf course while conditions are so favorable. The river remains too high to accept any runoff so new precipitation sits where it lands.
As expected, sales numbers were off in September as we lost a big chunk of the month to Irma. In September 2016, with no storms, 66 condos and townhomes were closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. This September, just 40. The rising trend of condo mortgages continued with 60% of all condo sales financed. High dollar condo sales were particularly slow with only two sales exceeding $375,000.
Another persistent dynamic is low inventory and fast sales. Over a third of the closed condos sold in less than two weeks. That's to be expected with an inventory of 193 units and an average monthly sales rate of 60. The fast sales are only happening with the units that are listed at fair prices, not the overpriced listings that predominate the MLS. It's not unusual to see sellers take a long shot with an initial optimistic asking price and then reduce when the market doesn't respond. One problem with that is some become married to that crazy number and hang there in Neverland for months. Well over half of all current listings have been on the market for over three months. In a market where a third of listings sell in the first two weeks that is a sure sing of overpricing.
The eleven closed units that were on the market over 90 days had dropped their initial asking price by an average of 7% before selling. Once reduced they sold for an average of 97% of the new asking price. All but one of the 14 units that sold in two weeks or less sold without a price drop. Seven units sold in the month at or above asking price and all 40 closed for an average of 96% of last asking price. This tells me that these sellers weren't willing to accept much below asking price regardless of whether the asking was fair or not. Consider that when deciding on an offering price.
September was an excellent month for waves with a couple of truly epic clean, well-overhead days. We lost some sand to the constant battering but considering the amount and size of the constant swell the erosion was minimal. The beach fishing suffered with this year's mullet run unfishable from the beach during the rough days. I strapped my lifeguard stand to a coconut tree for the storm but sadly it wasn't worth saving once freed.
There's something about this Sunday
It's a most peculiar gray
Strolling down the avenue
That's known as A1A
I was feeling tired, then I got inspired.
And I knew that it wouldn't last long
So all alone I walked back home, sat on my beach
And then I made up this song.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
My plastic yard flamingos survived their second hurricane, unmoved.
Around midnight Sunday, I began to question my decision to ride out Irma in a little oceanfront condo in south Cocoa Beach, especially considering that my mother-in-law was a hunkering down in the next room on my recommendation. I'd had my wife evacuate her to Cocoa Beach from her home in the projected path on the west coast. A storm passing 100 miles away shouldn't be a threat. Right? But, with no Weather Channel updates since the power went out at 7:30, and the intensity of the noise outside, I couldn't be certain that the storm hadn't taken a hard turn and was hitting Cocoa Beach directly. My doubts began when the first air conditioner blew off the roof and into the pool. I had an idea what it might be but with all shutters closed I couldn't be sure that it wasn't a Cessna. We all eventually managed to drift off to sleep in the absence of a shutter failure and woke early wondering what sunrise would reveal.
Not bad. No catastrophic building failures were visible in our immediate area but most every building was showing some signs of damage with older buildings faring the worst. Elsewhere Cocoa Beach had a few buildings that are probably total losses like the Sea Aire Motel and the funeral home among others. The downtown area was especially hard hit with many commercial buildings losing their roofs including my office and the Police Department/City Hall. It's now six days later and many areas of Cocoa Beach are still without power including my neighbors right across A1A in south Cocoa Beach and most of downtown. Water supply to Cocoa Beach was lost during the storm but most properties had water restored by Wednesday. During the waterless days I, like many residents, used a debris filled pool for my daily bath and as a water supply for flushing toilets.
Some traffic lights are working today and a few businesses have reopened. I just heard that downtown will likely not have power restored until after the weekend. Overall, we were fortunate to escape with the damage we had. I know those who suffered the greater damages or those still without power don't feel very lucky but it only takes a look at the Keys to confirm our fortune.
I won't try to detail all impacts but thought those who aren't here would appreciate some report of the impact. We are battered, bruised but still standing and, some of us, looking forward to a cooked meal.
"Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight." __Bob Marley
Tuesday, September 05, 2017
The first week of September and all of Florida is on alert for approaching Category 5 Hurricane Irma. It's still too early to know where landfall will be but most of us have our plans in place should we need to move.
I wish I could report that the inventory situation is improving but it's not. Our for sale inventory in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral stands this morning at a mere 194 existing condos and townhomes and 54 single family homes. At the August rate of 18 closed sales those 54 homes will be gone in three months. The 194 condo units for sale will last 81 days if we continue to close 74 units a month as happened in August. Of course, that assumes all 194 are fairly priced. That isn't the case. Many of the overpriced of the 194 will continue to linger while new, fairly priced listings sell around them.
Six direct ocean units sold for $300 per square foot or more during the month. All six were nicely remodeled and had garages and three were sold fully furnished. The other ten direct ocean east facing units brought between $226 and $270/sf with 1st floor units and those without garages bringing the lower prices. We're seeing more buyers using mortgages for condos than earlier this year with slightly more than half of the 74 condo sales financed.
Twenty one of the condos sold in the first week on the market and over half sold in a month or less. When I look at the units still for sale, over a third have been on the market for over four months, a sure sign of overpricing in this tight market. Thirty one units are asking over $300 per square foot. A few deserve it and will probably get it but the vast majority are hoping for a miracle that's not going to happen. Sellers need to realize that lack of inventory doesn't mean buyers are going to pay whatever dream number they hang on their property. Buyers should be familiar with the comparable units that have closed to come up with fair offering prices. Offers well below asking price better have justification from sold comps. A fair offer well below asking that can be justified with comps stands a chance at success as long as the seller is reasonable. Unfortunately, most of the overpriced listings are not being sold by reasonable people. The market may be tight but the units that are selling are, for the most part, selling for fair value. I still get a lot of calls and emails from people looking for "deals". In 2017, in this market, that is usually a fool's errand that goes unfulfilled. Finding a fairly priced property is task enough and, so far, in this rising market, is being rewarded.
I hope everyone fairs well through the upcoming weather. LW out and hunkering down.
“If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time. If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide.” ~Gabor Maté, MD
Thursday, August 31, 2017
This week I am trying to put together a deal with an older agent with several decades of experience under his belt. Like far too many experienced agents, he is embarrassingly out of date on his contract knowledge and has asked for several crazy changes to the contract that are dangerous for his client and that will likely sabotage the deal. He has taken two days to respond to every question or counter-offer and I'm currently on day three waiting for a response to our last counter. I doubt that his elderly client is aware of how he's mishandling the listing. She only knows that he's got enough experience to be good at what he does. Not. Those of us with years of experience run the risk of becoming too cute for our clients' good. Prime example is the very common demand for escrow deposits to be held at the title company. That's a no-no that any new agent knows the reason for. Not so with many experienced agents who should know better.
Buyers and sellers, don't let your agent's preoccupation with the minutiae of the deal torpedo the deal itself. Question their recommendations if they don't sound right to you. The difference of a few days on a contractual time period may not be material and in most cases is not worth losing a deal over. I'm looking at you Mr. 15-day-VA-loan-approval guy. Likewise, demanding a delay of title commitment by a few days is of little benefit to a seller and actually damaging if it contributes to a buyer withdrawing. Eyes on the ball, guys. No score, no check.
I took the picture above of a shoreline in Mosquito Lagoon this week on a fishing trip with Travis Tanner. My Bahamian buddy and I fish with Travis every year and this trip was like every previous year, plenty of fish and a great experience. We caught all the redfish we cared to pull on and had a great day on the water. I highly recommend Capt. Travis if someone wants the fishing trip of a lifetime in these pristine waters in the shadow of the launch pads. He can be found at mosquito-lagoon-fishing.com A trip would be a great present for a loved one.
"I get up in the morning looking for an adventure." __George Foreman
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Remember the Oscar Meyer bologna kid? My city has a first name. It's C O C O A. My city has a last name. It's B E A C H. If, like either of these people, one omits my city's last name, the margin of error is about 10 miles and in the case of the bar patron, the Indian River rather than the Atlantic Ocean. The Orlando agent was scouring Brevard Avenue in Cocoa Village not Cocoa Beach, three bridges and 20 minutes drive time away.
Small things can undo large things. It's not uncommon for a contract to specify issues to be completed prior to closing. Examples: "front door to be replaced", "all contents to be removed and unit cleaned", "broken window to be replaced", "hurricane shutters to be serviced and operational", "refrigerator to be installed". The buyer's final walk-through prior to closing confirms to their satisfaction that the agreed upon items have been completed. No fridge and closing doesn't happen until it's delivered or an agreeable price concession is made. If the buyer needs an item to be done in advance of final walkthrough, the timeline needs to be specified in the contract. I saw an otherwise solid contract fail a couple of weeks ago because the buyer demanded an appliance installed a month before closing rather than by closing. A simple missing clause on a contract torpedoed the deal.
I called a listing agent yesterday to discuss her overpriced oceanfront condo listing. It's not unusual in these calls for a listing agent to tell me that she realizes the asking price is high but the seller insisted on the asking price and it might take some time for him to realize that the market isn't going to deliver his expectation. Other times, like yesterday, the listing agent can't or won't admit to the pricing error. In this case the unit is overpriced by at least $80,000 yet the listing agent, for some reason, is hanging her hat on a number that can't be supported by any comps. Go figure. Unsaleable listings still draw page views on Zillow so she may be able to steer inquiries to someone else's properly priced offering. In that context, any listing at any price is worth having.
Nothing much has changed with our low inventory other than properly priced listings are selling and being replaced by more optimistically priced ones. Condo and townhome inventory is still below 200 existing units in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral yet we still manage to close 12 to 15 every week. School started this week and there are drastically fewer vacationers in town. I think it's safe to say real estate activity will follow that lead and cruise from now through Christmas at a more relaxed pace. Snook season opens in a couple of weeks and the mullet run will follow shortly. Sharpen your hooks and patch the cast net if it needs it.
From an outstanding recent Vice interview with Liam Gallagher. The one below is from a series of questions about various Oasis lyrics:
Interviewer: What about "I ain't good lookin' but I'm someone's child…" [from "D'You Know What I Mean"]?
Liam: Well, I don't know about that. You can tell he (Noel) wrote that one, can't ya? Even when I sing it I'm going, "Not too sure about that one…"
Friday, August 04, 2017
My driveway and my only means of transportation for the last few weeks.
When I was a kid, school didn't begin until after Labor Day. This year, Cocoa Beach schools start on August 10. It really makes the summer shorter and it has an effect on our real estate market. Those new residents wanting their children to attend school in Cocoa Beach this year should have closed on their Cocoa Beach home by now in order to be a resident by August 8 registration. That probably contributed to the record 18 closed single family homes in the month of July in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. On a side note; students will have their photos taken at registration so make sure they are wearing a shirt or blouse that complies with the dress code. All details HERE.
In addition to the 18 homes, there were 62 condos and townhomes closed in our two cities in July. That's an impressive number considering that there are only 197 existing condos and townhouses for sale at the moment. Current inventory of single family homes stands at 64.
Lobster season opened this week here in the Bahamas and the results were good, at least for those who had done their pre-scouting and knew where to go. We were on the water before daybreak and had our limit in short order. Same story the next couple of days. By my count, I've spent about a hundred hours submerged since arrival fueled by a diet of mainly conch, fish and lobster. The combo feels healthy. Back on the job in Cocoa Beach shortly.
"My best vacation is somewhere I can hide, somewhere warm and not a lot of people around." __Derek Jeter
"I agree." __LW
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Another year already half gone. Despite the tight inventory of properties for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, the first half of July has been strong. Forty two condos and townhouses have gone under contract in the first 14 days of the month, a quarter of those on the market less than two weeks. Activity was spread across all prices with the median at $225,000. During the same two weeks, eight single family homes were successful in getting a contract.
As of this morning there are 69 single family homes on offer in the two cities at prices between $3 MM and $274,900 with a median of $530,000. Inventory of existing condos for sale has declined to another all-time low of 190 total units offered at prices between $1.45 MM and $79,751. At the current sales rate, that is a 64 day supply.
While prices are responding to the tight supply by continuing upward, many of the current listings are overpriced. Whether buying or selling, knowledge of fair current value goes a long way towards securing a contract.
Enjoy the vacation. I am.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat." __William Shakespeare