Monday, May 25, 2020

Low Tide

And just like that, it was gone. No, not the coronavirus, I'm talking about the 2100 Towers NE corner penthouse I mentioned in my Thursday post the day it hit the market. By yesterday, three days after listing, it was under contract. This unit is a one-of-a-kind property and even at more than a million dollars and $462 per square foot asking, I am not surprised that it sold so quickly. It was not the only penthouse unit to sell yesterday. The top (5th) floor SW corner unit at the new Flores de la Costa building in north Cocoa Beach was also contracted yesterday. It is a brand new, never lived in 4/3 unit with luxury fixtures and finishes and two garages. Asking was $789,000.

In addition to those two units, ten other residential properties in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral have gone under contract since last Thursday. Prices and types are varied; oceanfront, riverfront and landlocked, condos and homes, prices from $105,000 to $650,000.

Cocoa Beach now has ten confirmed coronavirus cases and Cape Canaveral is holding steady at two. This even as Florida posts the sixth highest daily count of new cases in the nation. Because of the virus, Cocoa Beach High School graduation was different this year. Rather than crowd everyone into the school courtyard like we usually do, the seniors made their walk over the boardwalk and along the beach with a spaced out crowd of family and well-wishers cheering them on. It will be a great memory for these seniors whose senior year was interrupted. I suspect we will see future graduating classes continue the tradition. Seems fitting for a school that is 1.4 miles from the beach.



It is being reporting that the Governor has lifted the vacation rental ban for Brevard County as of Friday but I can't find an announcement from the County confirming that. In addition, they have yet to publish the procedure changes that are going to be required as rentals resume. Our County Commission has never been known for fast action demonstrated most recently by taking four days longer than other counties to submit a coronavirus vacation rental plan to the State. I got to see this inefficiency in action and up close when the River Falls neighborhood tried to block Magnolia Bay from being built.

Memorial Day weekend got off to a busy start here in Cocoa Beach on Friday afternoon but we woke this Monday morning to rain squalls and overcast skies. That lost day of holiday business is going to be missed by the just-reopened businesses here. Regardless the weather this is a day that we remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. We remember them and hope not to take for granted what it was they died for. We are in this together.

In other news, the local band, Hot Pink, performed a concert from the upper deck of the paddlewheel Indian River Queen to a big crowd of fans aboard over a hundred scattered boats in the Indian River on Saturday. This was probably one of the safer gatherings around the state this weekend. Crowds elsewhere were not so distanced.

As of right now, the first launch of astronauts from American soil since 2011 is scheduled for Wednesday but weather is looking to be iffy. Whenever it does go, this is a huge thing for American space exploration. Even as the astronauts go to the space station this week on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Boeing X-37 space plane is already in orbit, unmanned but ready to carry humans on a future mission. Our sights are on the red planet on a yet-to-be-built craft.

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ___Joe Klaas

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Price Is Right, Or Maybe Not

The Brevard County Commission finally got around to addressing the vacation rental shutdown and voted on Tuesday to submit a procedure plan to the State asking for the go-ahead to reopen. Their plan is based on the Panhandle counties' plan that has already been approved. Among the procedures are safety protocols including masks, gloves and temperature checks for staff who interact with guests. In addition the Brevard County plan indicates that, for vacation rental reservations from areas the governor identifies as high-risk, guests occupying those vacation rentals "must adhere to the quarantine restrictions or be subject to established criminal and civil penalties." Considering the total lack of enforcement for rentals already operating I suspect this will be equally ignored.

Inventory in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral has shrunk to 196 existing condo and townhome units and 45 single family homes as reported by the Cocoa Beach MLS this morning. Sales activity is strong with 25 residential properties going under contract in the last seven days. Closings, not so much. The reduced activity during March and April is being felt now and we are averaging just one condo closing per day in our two cities so far in May. Only two closed units so far in May were asking more than $400,000.

The NE corner penthouse in one of Cocoa Beach's tallest buildings hit the MLS this morning. I remember when this unit was for sale in 2004 for $1.675 million while in original 1975 condition. It didn't sell and was eventually relisted after the crash and eventually sold in 2015 for $670,000. The new owner gutted it and did an amazing total and beautiful remodel and it is offered now for $1.175 million, a fair price in my opinion. This is a good lesson in skewed expectations. The unit could have probably fetched over a million in 2004-2005 but the market rejected the $1,675,000 number. Ten years and over $300,000 lost because of unrealistic expectations. I see this same mistake being repeated right now with a large number of our active listings. Barring some other unusual condition, any properly-priced listing in our current market should sell. Those that have been sitting for six months or longer (a fifth of our current inventory) are almost certainly overpriced. Sellers, take note. Buyers, do your homework on valuation before making your offer. Your agent is probably willing to let you overpay but, hopefully, only after talking to you concerning current fair value. There are some situations where overpaying might be called for. Ignorance is not one of those situations.


Cocoa Beach now has nine coronavirus cases and Cape Canaveral is still at two. Most of our restaurants have reopened at reduced capacity and weekend daytripper traffic has been strong. Safety precautions are being taken seriously in most. The Cocoa Beach Country Club is to be commended for their approach. If this week's weather is any indication, it's going to be another hot summer. Interesting related observation: the coconut trees seem to have an unusually large number of coconuts this year and the sea turtles have been making their nests very high up the beach. Legend tells us this is an indication of a busy hurricane season. I sincerely hope not.

Is it a dog whistle if everyone can hear it?”  __unknown

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Cautiously Reopening

A couple of Black Skimmers hanging out with their Royal Tern cousins yesterday

Under Phase 2 of Florida's reopening plan, (undetermined start date), vacation rentals will be allowed to open but only for Florida residents. Anyone who is traveling internationally or from an area considered a COVID-19 hot spot will not be allowed to rent. There must be 72 hours between guests checking in so units can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Whether this will be enforced is not known but the Phase 1 total shutdown is already being ignored by some vacation rental owners so I imagine Phase 2 restrictions will be widely ignored as well. The wording "should consider" in the governor's guidelines is partly to blame. There are not similar strict restrictions for hotels for some reason.

With the beginning of Phase 2 restaurants will be able to increase seating to 75% capacity with six feet separating parties of no more than ten people. Restaurants are advised to screen workers before work and to "consider" requiring employees to wear masks while indoors or in close proximity to guests. Gyms will be allowed to reopen at 75% capacity with six foot distancing and cleaning of equipment between usages. There are no restrictions on beaches other than those imposed by local governments. Hopefully Cocoa Beach will continue to try to stop the massive littering problem we suffer at the hands of daytrippers with $250 littering tickets. I predict lukewarm enforcement with little impact.

Cocoa Beach has had one new case of Covid-19 since my last post bringing our total to eight. Cape Canaveral is still at just two confirmed cases.

Real estate activity is already picking back up with 16 condo units and four single family homes going under contract in the last seven days in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. For sale inventory remains virtually unchanged. Those looking for a direct ocean unit above the ground floor with at least two bedrooms and two baths have four possibilities under $400,000, two of those at Stonewood of Cocoa Beach.

Many of our local restaurants have reopened for dine-in guests. Among those, The Fat Snook reopened yesterday with a few intriguing new menu items for returning guests. Takeout is still offered. Kudos to them for sharing their safety protocols. Looking forward to the yummy Instagram posts resuming. Reservations are required at most of the newly reopened establishments. An almost complete list of restaurants with links and phone numbers can be found here.

In other news Delta announced today that they are retiring permanently all 18 of their Boeing 777 aircraft.

If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't.” ______Lyall Watson

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Compromise. Anything But My Desires.

I've recently heard about two local condo associations trying to change rental restrictions via rule changes. As we found out in an outrageous incident a few years ago, an association can't merely add a new rule to change property use. That particular incident was a Cocoa Beach association that attempted to limit how many units a person could own by burying a new rule in the existing rules and regulations. It doesn't work that way. Property use can only be changed by a properly announced and voted amendment to the condo docs. Any properly administrated new amendment that changes property usage does not apply to owners who vote no or abstain from voting on the new rental restriction. The condo docs determine the process and majority required for such changes. As always, I am not a lawyer and unit owners should seek qualified legal counsel if they think their Board is operating outside the law. Rogue Boards are not an uncommon occurrence in the Sunshine State.

From the Florida Statutes:
The Florida Condominium Act, in Section 718.110(13), Florida Statutes, limits the ability of a condominium association to amend its documents to impose new rental restrictions. The statute states that “an amendment prohibiting unit owners from renting their units or altering the duration of the rental term or specifying or limiting the number of times unit owners are entitled to rent their units during a specified period applies only to unit owners who consent to the amendment and unit owners who acquire title to their units after the effective date of that amendment.”

I'm always interested to hear stories of condo association shenanigans. Feel free to send me an anonymous email of shady goings-on at your association. I can share them or not, your call.

All beach parking in Cocoa Beach is open and beaches are open for all activities with social distancing being enforced and alcohol is banned on the beach. An unexpected thing happened during the time that beach parking was closed. Litter disappeared from the streets of downtown. On a typical Monday morning, our streets are covered in food containers, broken styro coolers, piles of beer cans and bottles, dirty diapers and all the other crap that beach-goers feel compelled to throw on the ground rather than look for a trash container. Apparently it wasn't the locals doing the littering. Shocker. Because of extent of the problem prior to shutdown, CB Police have cracked down on littering and are aggressively enforcing a zero-tolerance policy with $250 tickets for littering. Over on the west coast Naples just re-closed their beaches after beach-goers refused to practice the mandated distancing rules when their beaches reopened.

Only 37 condo and townhome sellers found a buyer in the month of April in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. Single family home activity remained strong with eleven contracts in the month. A total of 64 residential properties closed in the month boosted by some pre-shutdown contracts. Rental inventory remains high at 207 properties offered for rent. At the same time rental activity is moderate with 45 properties rented in the month of April.

Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral have had no new confirmed cases of coronavirus in four weeks now. Hopefully that will hold steady as visitors from more highly infected areas begin returning to the beach.



Before anyone asks, the post title is from the Rush song, Resist.

"I feel like you're running out of all the things I liked you for." __Matty

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

What Do You Have To Lose?

The first weekend in May was gorgeous and crowds of stir-crazy Floridians took to the beaches. Downtown Cocoa Beach was swarmed with people, probably inland Floridians considering that vacation rentals and motels are virtually empty. From casual observation it appeared the majority were practicing some version of distancing. Dat B Good BBQ food truck at the south fork was doing a brisk business with a long line of appropriately spaced customers when I passed by. I am encouraged by what I'm seeing that we can safely resume our lives with minor behavior changes. Might be a long time before I'm willing to go to a concert or ball game but I can live with that.

I have been wondering about the future of rentals locally since the shutdown began. Many of the renters who lost their job in March have now missed two rent payments. The suspension of evictions on most property types will expire in our county on May 17. Tenants in some properties with federally backed mortgages are protected from eviction notice until July 25. Whether landlords will begin booting renters who are past due remains to be seen. With a drastically reduced pool of gainfully-employed renters and a higher supply of rentals, landlords are in a tough spot. There are 206 rentals offered on the Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral MLS this morning.There are probably several dozen others that aren't listed. Some of the MLS listings are former weekly rentals being newly offered long term. Median rent of the listed properties is $1800 a month. Will the new dynamic force rents down? It's too early to tell but increased supply and reduced demand is usually negative for prices.

Local restaurants began reopening yesterday. I haven't visited any yet but I know of at least two Cocoa Beach restaurants that are not requiring workers to wear masks. Political considerations aside, requiring food workers and servers to wear masks is a reassuring sign to customers that the restaurant is taking safety seriously. Hand washing policy is already in place for customer safety. Food safety goes way beyond coronavirus concerns and masks on servers at this time in history signals an aware management's attempt to mitigate customers' risk. If I've overlooked some obvious reason for not wearing a mask while handling a customer's food I'd enjoy being schooled. Otherwise I'd encourage restaurant owners to review their mask policy. I realize this has become a political issue but my reluctance to expose myself to possible infection knows no ideology. Hey, I don't want to catch a cold if I can avoid it. I'm for wearing masks forever but that's me. I wear one for sun protection when I'm on the water. Doesn't make me a bad guy.

"Now, having sown the wind, we are reaping the whirlwind."  __a mashup of several Old Testament verses

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Towards the Light

Last day of April and sea turtle nesting is off to robust early start in south Cocoa Beach. I counted thirteen new nests on my morning walk yesterday. I took the photo above a couple of years ago on a morning walk when a late-hatching nest was being blitzed by a group of crows. Most hatching happens during darkness when birds can't see the vulnerable young turtles as they make their way from the nest to the ocean. Those that don't make it to the water before sunrise are at the mercy of birds who fly along the beach looking for an easy meal. This particular hatchling was among several dozen that were being attacked by a group of aggressive crows. I and another walker who was passing by were able to keep the crows shooed away long enough for most of the little ones to make it into the ocean safely.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has announced a reopening plan that will allow restaurants and retail stores, except for three counties in southeast Florida, to open Monday, May 4 at reduced capacity. He mentioned no requirements for masks.  Indoor seating at restaurants and retail stores will be limited to 25% capacity. Local governments may continue to enforce more stringent policies. The Brevard County Commission is meeting today to discuss whether to move forward with allowing vacation rentals to begin accepting new guests on Monday as planned.

There have been no new confirmed coronavirus cases in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral in over a week. We are standing at nine confirmed cases, combined, as of yesterdays report.

Real estate activity in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral picked up this past week with fifteen condo units contracted in seven days bringing April's total so far to 46 accepted contracts. Those hoping for virus-related bargain prices have so far been disappointed. There are still no new vacation rental condo listings.

As we get back out in public and around one another again it would be reassuring if everyone wore masks and maintained their distance. Despite not being mandated as part of Florida's reopening, masks are a polite reminder to others that you're probably being attentive to and practicing safe behavior. Not wearing a mask suggests that you're probably not. Not to mention, masks are kinda fun. It's Halloween everyday. Enjoy it.

"I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better." __Georg C. Lichtenberg

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Liberate Sunbathers

Jigsaw puzzles have probably seen a resurgence in popularity everywhere if my house is any indication. This one by former Cocoa Beachling David Hale has been a mind-bender.

There was an interesting swerve in real estate sales in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral this week. The slowdown in condo contracts continued but single family homes had an unusually strong week despite the shutdown. There were only seven new condo contracts since last Saturday but five single family homes were contracted in the same period. One week is not long enough to call a trend change but surprising nonetheless.

We've had 34 residential properties go under contract since April Fools Day, nine of those single family homes. Compare that to 65 contracts during the same 25 day period last year. Closings are just now starting to reflect the impact of the shutdown as the closings so far this month were, all but one, contracted in previous months. So far in April, 45 residential properties of all types  have closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, 31% of those for cash. Five of those sales happened without being offered to the public and all but eight sold within two months.

Inventory is steady with 209 existing condo and townhome units and 53 single family homes offered for sale on the MLS. About a quarter of these listings have been offered for five months or longer signaling overpricing. Perhaps the slowdown will encourage some of these sellers to dip an exploratory toe into the reality pond. Maybe not. Reducing an asking price is a difficult step to take for most sellers even when the initial price was crazy high. If you're reading this and your property has been listed since last year without a contract maybe this is a good time to reevaluate your asking price. Why wasn't your property among the 251 that have already closed this year? With very few exceptions, the answer is because it's priced too high. With the reduced demand we're seeing right now, chances of finding a buyer willing to overpay have gotten even closer to zero.

In addition to walkers, fishermen and surfers who have been allowed all along, our beach has reopened to those who want to sit or sunbathe as long as they maintain distancing and gather in groups of no more than five. Beach parking is still closed. I was happy to hear this week that Publix has begun buying surplus produce and milk that farmers can't sell and donating it to food banks. In a time of massive grift it's encouraging to hear stories of corporate benevolence. Good on ya, Publix.

The Cocoa Beach Community Food Drive is providing food and supplies for local citizens in need at two locations. They are:

Lutheran Resurrection Church at 525 Minutemen Cswy. Food Pantry is open Saturday 10 -12

Society of St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry (through Our Savior’s Catholic Church) is open Monday, Wednesday, Fridays 9:30 am- 1:00 pm. Site pick up is different than the church so please call ahead 321-799-3677 for pick up. The location is 130 Cleveland, Unit C.


There were no new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cocoa Beach (7) or Cape Canaveral (2) this week. Testing has loosened up somewhat and free tests are available to those with symptoms (see above) and antibody test are available to anyone for $100 from Omni in Melbourne (321.802.5515) or covid@omnihealthcare.com.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into."  __anonymous

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Now the ISS. Then Mars and Beyond.

The 1067 foot Norwegian Breakaway anchored five miles offshore Cocoa Beach. This ship would normally be carrying over 4000 paying passengers but for now it is anchored outside the Port along with several others waiting out the virus shutdown.

As of yesterday's report, our number of confirmed Covid-19 cases are unchanged with seven in Cocoa Beach and two in Cape Canaveral. Only 41 people have been hospitalized so far in our entire county due to coronavirus. Our governor is straining at his leash to reopen businesses and reports are we could see outdoor dining and elective surgery resumed by next week. I guess professional wrestling isn't generating the kind of tax revenues he'd been hoping for. The Brevard County Office of Tourism will shortly be launching a big marketing campaign targeting the "drive market" of visitors that are within a short drive of the Space Coast. They are hoping to curb the estimated loss of over $7,000,000 in tourist tax revenue in our county from the shutdown.

American astronauts are scheduled to be launching from American soil  late next month for the first time since 2011 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on a mission to the International Space Station. This is a long-awaited event and locals are excited to see the resumption of Human Spaceflight from the Cape.

Real estate inventory and sales in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral are little changed since my last post. Activity is slow but far from stopped. Video walk-throughs have become the standard for property showings and are safe for everyone involved. Most agents are happy to Facetime or otherwise video properties that their clients may be interested in. Ask them.

As of yesterday more than 1.5 million Floridians had applied for unemployment benefits since March 15. Of those one and a half million jobless people, only 40,193 have received any benefits and about 90% of the applications have not even been reviewed. The system is working exactly as designed.

I commented in my last post that customers considering ordering takeout would probably appreciate and respond positively to knowing what coronavirus protective measures a restaurant is taking. A picture of the staff with all wearing masks would probably do more for takeout business than a 15% off coupon. The day after my post a local restaurant posted a short video to Instagram showing an employee dispensing food into a large container while not wearing a mask. Seems tone-deaf to go to the trouble of posting something intended to spur business that instead shares an unmasked food handler standing over the food they're hoping to sell. Better to be silent and assumed to be practicing safety than to post and prove that you're not. I was a germophobe before all this started so my opinion is probably too extreme. Be safe all and wear your masks in public. Even if you don't think masks are effective wear it as a show of solidarity with everyone who wants to get back to normal, whatever that is now. Thanks in advance from the germophobe community.

Happy 61st Birthday to Robert Smith of The Cure.

"Clusters anywhere are a threat to people everywhere." MM Fill, MD