Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Demand Is Increasing

Roseate spoonbill, snowy egret and wood stork in Cocoa Beach

We begin 2021 with a record low inventory of residential properties for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. There are a total of 108 MLS-listed condo and townhome units for sale in our two cities. That's exactly the number of units closed in the last 55 days with over half of those sold in less than a month..

Single family home inventory is equally depleted with a total of 23 existing homes for sale on the MLS. We closed that many homes in the last 52 days.

Despite low and declining inventory throughout the year, 2020 saw a remarkable number of sold properties. There were 209 single family homes closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral during the year. A quarter of those sold in their first week on the market, most with multiple offers. Over half the sold homes sold in less than a month on the market and only 13 closed for less than $300,000. Top price of the year was $2.3 MM for a direct ocean 3 year old beauty in downtown Cocoa Beach.

The story was much the same with condos with 730 units closed during the year, half of them selling in 35 days or less. Seventy five units sold for more than a half million dollars with the top price of 2020 being $1.6 MM for a 7th floor penthouse unit at Ocean Oasis downtown Cocoa Beach. Only 43 units out of the 730 closed for less than $100,000.

About a third of the existing inventory has been on the market for over 100 days, a sure sign of over-pricing in this fast-paced market. Those of you hoping to purchase in 2021 need, more than ever, to have your ducks in a row and have a good idea what you're looking for. If your competition is more prepared they will have an advantage when the perfect property hits the market. The time to talk to a lender is before you start looking at properties. You will be at a disadvantage to those who are paying with cash so make the other terms of your offer as attractive as possible if you must get a mortgage. An experienced buyer's agent in our market is another huge advantage. Your cousin who is an agent in a nearby town is probably not your best choice for a Cocoa Beach property search. She may be perfectly experienced with contract particulars but lack of local knowledge will put her at a disadvantage against local agents in our competitive market.

While we're talking about agents, people, please stop letting your agents pick your pockets with transaction fees. The title company is entitled to a transaction fee but I have yet to see a situation where an agent deserved a transaction fee on top of his commission. I closed a deal a couple of weeks ago with an agent who did the bare minimum during the transaction and still had the audacity to charge his client a $395 junk "transaction" fee on top of the commission they were already paying him. It's not an accident that the agents who rob their clients with transaction fees are often those who are the slackest. That was my experience again in 2020 as it has been my entire career. DO NOT PAY transaction fees to your agent. They are usually being handsomely compensated with commission and don't deserve a transaction fee or whatever else they may call it. Except in rare circumstances, an agent charging a transaction fee is not acting in the client's best interest.

"We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true." _Robert Wilensky

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Into the Home Stretch


We began 2020 with a record low inventory in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. There were 185 existing condo and townhouse units listed for sale in our two cities on January 1, 2020. It seemed we couldn't go any lower at the time yet we've dropped by a third since then. The total this morning is 120. We have closed that many units in the last 52 days. Even with our depleted inventory, closed sales have not declined by any significant amount. This has only been possible by new inventory appearing at almost the rate of sales. At our current rate of decline, we will be below 100 total units for sale by the end of January. 

Single family home inventory is equally scarce. Someone looking to purchase a single-family home in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral has 22 existing homes to consider. We have closed 199 homes since January 1 making current inventory enough to get us to about the middle of January.

The tight supply has continued to push prices higher with multiple offers being the norm for any new listing that is priced remotely close to fair value. Appraisals are a crap shoot. People are willing to pay more for desirable properties than appraisers are able to justify in many cases. Because of this, cash offers are even more attractive than ever. A contract contingent upon a mortgage could leave a seller faced with having to either cancel or renegotiate the contract price late in the process.

Those looking to purchase should keep in mind that there is competition for every property type and much of that competition has the advantage of having already lost out on a previous listing. Those one-strike buyers are being aggressive with their offers with both terms and price. A potential buyer hoping to find a "deal" is living in the past. The time to bottom fish was ten years ago. The 698 condo buyers who purchased already in 2020 paid fair or above market value. That is an unfortunate condition of the 2020 real estate market in our area but one that any prospective buyer needs to come to terms with. Best of luck to those looking. There are attractive properties available, just not as many as we have been used to in years past.

"Just because you lost me as a friend doesn't mean you gained me as an enemy. I'm bigger than that, I still wanna see you eat, just not at my table." —Tupac Shakur

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

We Salute You


 Veteran's Day Nov. 11, 2020 and a heartfelt thanks to all who serve and have served.

We now begin the broken record report of current market conditions.

Our single family home inventory is down to 19 existing homes for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. Only three of those are asking less than $500,000. A third of them are in the sweet spot between $500,000 and $600,000. Consider that 23 homes closed in the month of October over half at prices below $500,000. The lower priced inventory has been almost completely absorbed.

Condo and townhouse inventory is at 127 existing units at the moment, up slightly from my last post. Over half that number, 64 units, closed in the month of October with the bulk in the price range between $250,000 and $400,000. Sales are brisk with 26 units going under contract in just the first ten days of November. At this rate, we are likely to enter 2021 with an even more depleted and critically low inventory. Buyers, my advice to move quickly and offer aggressively has never been truer than right now. The timid and the bargain hunters will not be successful in this market. Cash rules. Those planning to get a mortgage are at a significant disadvantage to the cash buyers as are those with other contingencies complicating their offers. The cleaner one can make their offer, the better it's chances of succeeding. Those getting a mortgage need to talk to a lender, preferably local, before starting the search.

The wind has been blowing hard onshore for several weeks without a break. Everything within a couple blocks of the ocean is coated in salt. My late season chili peppers are toast. The AC industry must love these conditions. We woke up this morning to see that tropical storm Eta had changed course and is now projected to closely brush us as it crosses the state from the Gulf. Hopefully the wind pattern will change after the passage and we can wash everything down.

Our second manned mission from SpaceX is scheduled for this Saturday aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, destination; the International Space Station. Godspeed to our brave astronauts.

"Working under close supervision from ground controllers more than 200 million miles away, the robotic arm on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has begun placing specimens collected from an asteroid last week into a return capsule to bring the material back to Earth in 2023, officials said two weeks ago." 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Slim Pickings


The last week of October 2020 and the Cocoa Beach real estate market is struggling to function with an eroding just-in-time inventory resupply. Our years-long, persistently declining inventory is approaching a critical level. We began the year 2020 with 185 existing condo and townhome units listed for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. That was already down sharply from the 265 units that we began 2019 with. Fast forward to October 2020 and we are looking at 118 total units for sale. For perspective, that is less than the total number of units at Sandcastles in Cocoa Beach. About half that number of units (57) has gone under contract in just the first three weeks of October. New inventory has been appearing at a slightly slower rate than the sales so, unless something changes, we could begin 2021 with less than a hundred available units. I would have called that prediction insane had it been suggested as recently as a year ago. Refer to our history of over 1000 units for sale at the peak of the mid-2000s bubble. Any talk of a current bubble conveniently ignores the inventory elephant. Markets respond to supply and demand imbalances and ours is skewed heavily to demand. Pricing tends to favor demand so those hoping to buy should expect continued upward pressure on prices and structure their strategy accordingly. If I don't buy the slightly over-priced unit I want today, what can I expect to pay for a comparable unit next year if I can find one? 

The high end of our condo market has been particularly active with eleven units from $499,000 to $969,900 finding buyers so far in October. Over 20% of the current inventory has been on the market for six months or longer, a strong hint of over-pricing. That means the actual, close to fairly priced inventory is already below 100 units. Buyers, don't be shy with your offers if you can find anything you like.

Things are much the same with single family homes. We are sitting today with only enough homes to accommodate 29 families. Only three of those are asking less than a half million dollars. I'm reminded of the Tribe Called Quest lyrics; "All you poor folks, you must go."

The developer of the new Surf of Cocoa Beach luxury oceanfront condo is expecting to break ground in the very near future. Nothing physical has happened yet with the Yen Yens property across the street nor the Bernard's property but I am optimistic that after the Surf begins construction we may see some activity. We'll probably get all that shiny new construction completed at about the time we are forced to put up a "No Vacancy" sign at the Cocoa Beach city limits.

"Tell people what they want to hear and you can be wrong indefinitely without penalty." _____Morgan Housel

Monday, October 12, 2020

How Far We've Come


How has the market in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral changed in ten years? In 2010 we were into our third year of collapsing prices and 56% of the sales that year were either short sales or foreclosures. Two thirds of the sales in our two-city market in 2010 were cash deals. Lenders, having been wiped out in the bust, were still figuring out effective risk management in the new landscape and were erring to the side of caution. Prices had retreated to pre-2000 numbers for existing properties and new construction condos were selling at less than half the cost to build them. MLS inventory had dropped from a peak of 1200 condo units in mid-2006 to around 500. Buyers with the cash and courage to purchase picked up condo units that have tripled in value in some complexes. In October 2010, five year old, still-unsold developer units at Mystic Vistas in Cape Canaveral were sold by the bank as low as $130,000 for a 2nd floor 3/2 in the B building and two 4th floor 3/2 units in the A and B buildings closed for $150,000.

The same month, small condo conversion 1/1 units in Cape Canaveral closed as low as $13,500 at Beach Club and $18,500 at Jeannie by the Sea. A 2nd floor, four year old Portside Villas 2/2 sold for $89,000. In south Cocoa Beach, a 2nd floor Beach Villas ocean view 1/1 sold for $81,500 and a 2/2 Sutton Place on the ocean closed for $85,000. Diplomat 2/1 units closed as low as $64,000 the same month.

How about a Harbor Isles of Cocoa Beach lakefront 2/2 for $120,000? Or a 2nd floor direct ocean Royale Towers 1/1 with a garage for $150,000? A four year old Perlas del Mar 3 bedroom 2.5 bath with a two car garage and 2424 square feet closed for $161,000. A Cocoa Beach single family waterfont home sold for $210,000.

Jump to the present, October 2020, and there are 108 existing condo and townhome units for sale in our two cities. Add 34 single family homes and there are 142 total existing residential properties for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. So far in 2020, 708 properties have closed, of those five were foreclosures and one was a short sale. Three hundred of the total closed for cash. 

Interesting tidbit: There were 362 different listing agents for the 708 properties sold so far in 2020. Only 98 of those agents have an active listing in the market at the present. I'm thinking someone's going to go hungry moving forward considering the inventory. To paraphrase Chuck D, "If you're a gunslinger, you can't start crying about getting shot."

Buyers, keep this low inventory in mind as you look. You will probably not have a lot of choices in any certain property type and being too specific with must-haves will reduce your choices. There are plenty of others looking for the same property that you are. Good luck in your search. It isn't impossible if the criteria aren't too limiting but it may require patience to find your place in Cocoa Beach. 

"It makes sense to dance while the music is playing." __Maynard G. Krebs

Friday, September 25, 2020

Evaporating Inventory

 

Middle of September 2020 and there are 137 existing condo and townhouse units for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral as reported by the Cocoa Beach MLS. There are another ten unbuilt units available, with just six units left for reservation at the soon-to-be-built, luxury oceanfront building downtown, The Surf of Cocoa Beach. The remaining unreserved units there range from $875,000 to $1,450,000.

The existing units for sale range from a $3,297,000 mack-daddy penthouse at Villa Verde on the river in south Cocoa Beach to a couple of efficiency units in Cape Canaveral asking under $100,000 with a median of $339,000. Buyers looking for a unit with at least two bedrooms and two baths in an oceanfront complex have 67 to consider with prices beginning at $230,000.

Activity so far in September is typical for this time of year with 57 units getting a contract so far in the month, three of those at The Surf at prices above one million dollars. Thirty nine previously-contracted units have closed so far this month. Notable sales included a modestly remodeled 6th floor NE corner 3/2 with wrap balcony at Royale Towers in Cocoa Beach that closed for $590,000 or $352 per square foot. Furniture may have been included but the Space Coast MLS does not require that included furniture be noted in a closed listing. A glaring omission, easy corrected but apparently not worth the effort.

Another notable sale was a mildly updated & furnished 5th floor, south facing unit at Canaveral Towers that sold for $385,500 or $336/sf. That's a rich price for a unit without a garage that isn't east facing but Canaveral Towers allows weekly rentals which means income potential is much higher than a non-vacation rental unit. Two other oceanfront units broke the $300/sf barrier, both east-facing with garages, one at Stonewood and the other at Windjammer.

Single-family home inventory has been cut in half since the start of the year with only 25 existing homes offered for sale in our two cities. Another 10 are offered as pre-construction reservations in a proposed development in south Cocoa Beach at prices around $1,000,000. Considering that 22 homes have closed since September 1, the current inventory isn't enough to last to Halloween. Buyers must be aggressive if they hope to purchase a fairly priced home with the current imbalance between demand and supply.

The tropical weather map at the top was from eleven days ago. We expected things to really heat up from that frightening time but today there isn't a single system or area of interest in the Atlantic region. Fingers crossed that we can cruise through the next four or five weeks without a significant storm. November always brings welcome relief  from the constant apprehension of peak hurricane season.

"When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." __unknown

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sue the Association for Water Damage?



[This post originally appeared four years ago but I was reminded of it this week when a water leak issue surfaced in another condo building. The issues remain relevant.]

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a huge crashing noise that sounded like it came from my bathroom. I grabbed the nearest weapon (a formidable broken post-hole digger handle) and tiptoed into the bathroom ready for imminent batting practice. I was relieved to find not an intruder but the entire ceiling above my bathtub resting peacefully and soggily in my tub in a pool of dirty water. Turns out the upstairs neighbor had forgotten to turn the water off when filling her tub and it had overflowed and leaked through the floor and walls onto my ceiling which eventually collapsed from the weight. It got way more interesting after the initial incident.

Who is responsible for damages in this sort of incident in a multi-story condo building; the offending unit owner, the damaged unit's owner or the association? I got lucky and my neighbor made the repairs to my unit at her expense without my even asking. Had she not, I would have had to make a claim on my unit insurance as the other owner's insurance does not cover my unit. Surprisingly, neither does the association's policy.  Unknown to me at the time, my insurance company would probably have paid me and then gone after my neighbor and her insurance company and possibly the association for recovery of the money they paid me.

A similar incident happened in a unit I manage when the washer failed and leaked into the downstairs kitchen causing damage. Like my upstairs neighbor I paid to have the electrical and sheetrock damage repaired. Unknown to me, that unit owner filed a claim with their insurance company for inflated damages and collected a check for far more than the actual damages including the items that I had already taken care of and paid for. Several months later, the owner of the unit I managed received notice of a suit for damages from him by the downstairs unit owner's insurance company.

I was reminded of this last week when a lender's search of court records for a condo purchase in Cocoa Beach turned up a lawsuit against the association by a unit owner's insurance company in a similar water leak incident from one unit into another. I understand that it makes sense in a lawsuit to name as many parties as possible to increase odds of eventually settling with someone. Being named in a lawsuit even where no liability exists can be more than just a hassle for a  condo association as we found out. An unsettled lawsuit against an association will stop the mortgage process faster than a Stop Stick in the path of a speeding 69 Camaro.

In our case, the underwriter refused to sign off on the file that was otherwise approved because of unknown liability to the association, Florida law be damned. Florida Statutes appear to actually prevent an association from insuring the interior of units. For your reading enjoyment as applies to the association's insurance coverage requirements from the Statute (below); Make your own interpretations and decisions.

718.113(2). 3. The coverage must exclude all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit. Such property and any insurance thereupon is the responsibility of the unit owner.

Hopefully we will overcome the underwriter's objections and close. Takeaway: A specific person/entity's liability may matter less than the implications of a lawsuit initiated by an owner or her insurance carrier in the absence of an equitable settlement between involved unit owners. In my original experience, no insurance company was involved, remedy costs were minimal and no other owners were affected. In my second experience and in last week's incident, all unit owners were affected by the route taken by the affected owners. Sales involving a mortgage in a complex with an unsettled lawsuit against the association even if frivolously filed as in this case may be put on hold until the suit is settled and recorded.

It may not seem fair but if you're involved in a water leak incident in a condo building you may want to weigh the costs/benefits of settling without insurance company involvement against the unintended effects of an insurance company lawsuit's scattergun approach. The damages to you or one of your neighbors from a lost or delayed sale could be far more than the cost to repair the water damage.

"There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything."  __________Steve Jobs

Friday, August 21, 2020

Squalls Out on the Gulf Stream

It is interesting that the Miami condo market is experiencing an over-supply problem at the same time that Cocoa Beach languishes with record low inventory. While downtown Miami has a 30 month supply of units, Cocoa Beach currently has about a two month supply. Conditions that allowed Miami to overbuild do not exist in Cocoa Beach. First of all our restrictive height limit means even a four story building like the new Surf condo building downtown needs to win a variance before building. Add strict density limits and the likelihood of an oversupply in Cocoa Beach becomes a near impossibility, at least from the addition of new units to the market. Absent some macro event that would have hundreds of existing condo owners putting their units on the market simultaneously I think it's safe to assume that our condo market will always suffer from short supply. Conduct your search and negotiations accordingly.

As of this morning there are a total of 151 condo and townhome units for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral as reported by the Cocoa Beach MLS. Fifty four units have gone under contract since August 1 meaning the current supply will be exhausted in 59 days if that sales rate continues. About a third of those were asking $400,000 or more and a third were asking $200,000 or less. That sales rate is appreciably higher than in recent months. 

Seven direct ocean units have closed so far this month. The majority closed at prices that were in the mid to high $200s per square foot. Units that allow short term rentals continue to command a significant premium with one nicely remodeled upper floor, corner unit at Canaveral Towers bringing over $400 per foot despite having no garage. Looking through the current inventory I can find 29 that are asking over $300 per square foot, all but a handful in serious lala-land with their expectations. About a quarter of the current inventory has been listed for over six months, a sure sign of overpricing in this tight market. Consider that almost half the units closed so far this month were on the market less than 30 days.

The tropics are heating up and we expect to have two storms in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time next week. Cocoa Beach looks to be spared this time from these minimal storms but the season is young. If you're new to the area, now is the time to have your plan in place for protecting your property should a strong storm threaten us and have contingency plans if evacuation becomes necessary. 

Agents who have a closing next week need to get their buyers' insurance binder today as by Monday we will have a named storm inside the "box" and the insurance companies will not bind new policies while a named storm is in the box. You're welcome.


"He's the one/Who likes all our pretty songs/And he likes to sing along/And he likes to shoot his gun/But he knows not what it means." __Kurt Cobain