Sunday, May 15, 2022

Do the Math - Ignore the Emotions

This is a sign not to ignore. The sound of a baby alligator bleating is a guarantee that Mama will be on the spot very soon. Please give the nests, baby gators and the shoreline of the ponds a wide berth at the Cocoa Beach Country Club.

Inventory is increasing. There are 81 existing residential properties of all types for sale this morning in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral at prices between $134,900 and $1,999,000 with a median asking price of $499,000. Thirteen of these are single family homes, all of them in Cocoa Beach. There hasn't been a single-family home offered in Cape Canaveral for several weeks.

There are still two luxury units offered in The Surf (under construction) downtown Cocoa Beach for $1.66MM and $1.999MM. Other listings of note are a remodeled 47 year old, 10th floor NE corner 2/2 at 2100 Towers asking a staggering $1,497,000. How about a 3rd floor 3/2 with 1323 square feet and no garage at Cocoa Beach Towers asking $950,000. Weekly rentals allowed here so that takes a small step towards justifying that number.

Twenty two residential listings have closed so far in May, including a yet-to-be-finished single family in a new riverfront development in south Cocoa Beach for $2,095,000. Not sure how they manage to close the sale of houses that have yet to be finished. Maybe someone can enlighten me. Over half of the closed sales sold for full asking price or more, one at $65,000 over asking price and over half sold within the first seven days on the market. And, over half of the closed sales sold for cash.

Other closed sales of note included a small furnished 1st floor Canaveral Towers 2/2 with no garage and no ocean view that sold for $595,000. Weekly rentals boosted that number as they did for a 49 year old, 2nd floor, side ocean view Spanish Main 2/2 that sold for $549,500. It was remodeled and furnished but had no garage. A nicely remodeled & furnished 3rd floor direct ocean 2/2 at Hacienda del Mar in south Cocoa Beach closed for $594,000. It has a wide open ocean view and a garage but the building doesn't allow weekly rentals.

Sales continue to be strong with 32 contracts accepted since May 1 including a penthouse at the unfinished Surf downtown Cocoa Beach that was listed for $3.2MM. 

The national thirty year fixed rate mortgage average is 5.57% as reported today by Bankrate.com. That's two full percentage points higher than the rate we began the year with. This is certainly affecting some buyers but with a high percentage of cash sales and second home sales, the effect on our local market is not as drastic as it may be in non-vacation-destination markets.

Those looking to buy in our market will be well-served to remember that there is intense competition and many prices can't be justified by the last sale of a comparable property. The sales are going to the bold and quick buyers. The time to do one's homework as a buyer is before the search begins, not after a property has been found. While you're studying comps some other buyer is likely already writing a non-contingent offer. Know what you want and what you're willing to pay to get it. Be realistic. There are no deals in a market like this. Either make peace with that or stop torturing yourself with a search that isn't going to yield fruit. Best of luck to those of you on the hunt.

"If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate's 62, 63 percent. So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do." _Phil Mickelson

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Measure Twice, Cut Once


Snowbird season 2022 is behind us and all but a few of our winter guests have returned to their northern homes. Those who have only visited during the Christmas to Easter snowbird season might be shocked at the pace of life post season. Restaurants are no longer jammed, sidewalks are empty and a golfer can show up at the Cocoa Beach Country Club without a tee time and be assured of getting a round in. We'll enjoy a month or so of this before the summer vacation season takes off in earnest on Memorial Day weekend. 

Real estate sales are somehow keeping the pace despite depleted inventory and crazy, high prices. We have a total of 55 existing residential properties for sale this morning in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. Just twelve of those are single family homes. In the last two weeks, 57 sellers accepted an offer, most of them choosing from multiple offers. That works out to a 16 day supply at the current rate. That would seem unsustainable except for the fact that we've been maintaining this precarious pace for a few years. Ever-higher prices are reflecting the skewed demand/supply dynamic. 

Of the 75 properties that closed since first of April, 31 of them closed for more than asking price, several for considerably more. Weekly rental oceanfront condo units continue to set records. Among those that raised my eyebrow was a 4th floor furnished 2/2 at Canaveral Towers that  closed for $696,000, which was $46,100 over asking. This seems crazy for a 47 year old unit without a garage but the magic comes from the ability to do weekly rentals at Canaveral Towers. The current sky-high weekly rental rates for nice oceanfront units helps the math pencil out even at these astronomical selling prices. Another weekly rental 2/2 next door at Cape Winds closed for $530,000 with a side ocean view and no garage. A north facing Sandcastles 2/2 weekly sold for $575,000, $46,000 over asking while a direct ocean Sandcastles 2/2 brought $645,000.

The weekly rental condos weren't the only ones setting records. A Windjammer direct ocean 2/2 sold for $532,000, $7500 over ask while a 59 year old Diplomat 2/1 with no view or garage sold for $300,000. Single family homes are likewise setting new records with selling prices. There is only one single family home in our two cities asking less than $550,000.

One disturbing trend I have recently noticed is incorrect square footage of condo listings. Two of the sold listings I mentioned above had inflated square footage in the MLS listings and there was a new one this morning that overstated the size by 14%. This is deliberate on the part of the listing agent and I can think of no reason other than to deceive potential buyers. Perhaps the sellers are convincing the listing agents that the tax record is incorrect and the agents go along with it rather than lose the listing. Whatever. Be careful out there and don't trust everything stated in a listing. It's easy to confirm the size with the tax record.

If something looks irrational – and has been so for a long time – odds are you have a wrong definition of rationality.” __Nassim Taleb

Friday, March 25, 2022

Brave New World

 

Anyone hoping for more residential inventory in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral is advised not to hold their breath. Numbers have declined again after a brief spurt of increased supply last month. There are a total of 50 residential properties of all types listed for sale on our MLS this morning. There are another nine proposed properties looking for reservations. In the last thirty days 79 properties have closed. At that same rate, our 50 currently available properties will be gone in 19 days. I believe that may be the lowest our supply has ever been although I don't track that particular metric.

Of the 79 sold properties, over half sold for at least full asking price.

  • 27 sold for more than asking price.
  • 45 sold for cash.
  • 11 sold first day on market.
  • 48 sold in seven days or less.

With the high level of competition buyers have become creative and, in some cases, careless with offers. Some of the strategies I've seen are waiving inspections, waiving appraisal or agreeing to make up all or part of the difference in the event of a low appraisal, escalation clauses, fast closings, rent-backs to sellers and in one bizarre instance, discussion of a bribe.

Buyers looking for a single family home in Cocoa Beach have ten existing houses to choose from, none of them asking under a half million. There is only one single family listing in Cape Canaveral, a 69 year old 3/2 on almost two acres of beautiful Banana River frontage asking $1,650,000.

Advice for Prospective Buyers

I would advise all prospective buyers to deal with the reality that you will almost certainly be competing with other buyers and to have a strategy in mind before you make an offer. Do not expect to find a deal. They do not exist. Do not withdraw an offer because you suspect the listing agent is lying about multiple offers. Do not think you'll be able to whittle the price down after inspections. There are buyers standing by who will be more than willing to take your place without a credit for repairs. Speaking of taking your place; if you lose out in a multiple offer scenario, write a backup offer and get it signed by the seller if they're accepting backups. I'm seeing many failed contracts presumably because sellers are refusing concessions post inspection and others because of low appraisals. It's tough to be a buyer now but somehow, 79 determined buyers closed on what they were looking for in the last 30 days.

I noticed while researching these numbers that there are seven condo listings with missing condo names. An agent or consumer who searches for a unit by condo name in one of those seven buildings will not find those listing. Prospective buyers whose agent set up an auto-alert in the MLS for a unit in one of those buildings will not get a notice of those listings. In this market, they will sell anyway but may not bring what they might have if all interested buyers were included. I'd advise sellers to review their listings carefully as soon as they come active looking for errors or omissions. Our non-intuitive MLS listing entry process makes for easy omissions so even experienced agents can miss something but those that care will catch it in their last review before taking the listing live. There is zero excuse for a missing condo name on an active listing. 

The new luxury condo, The Surf, in downtown Cocoa Beach has topped out. There is one last unsold unit being offered for $1,999,000. The long-delayed development of million dollar single family homes on the riverfront site of the old Joyce's Trailer Park in south Cocoa Beach is finally in high gear. I will be interested to see if the developer makes good on his promise of restoring and opening the clubhouse over the river in the old Fisherman's Wharf restaurant building. It was promised to buyers of units in the developer's other condos in south Cocoa Beach in addition to the buyers of the new houses. Some of those condo buyers have been waiting for their clubhouse for over five years.

"The early advocates of universal literacy and a free press...did not foresee...the development of a mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal...In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." __Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Legislature Decides Condos Are Safe Enough Despite Surfside Collapse


I wrote about the special task force that was established following the Surfside condo collapse last year. The task force came up with a list of recommendations that would enhance safety of condo buildings and hopefully prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. That list included items like requiring regular structural inspections and removing limitations to Boards' ability to assess owners to perform needed repairs. It also recommended establishing a source for long-term loans for owners unable to afford a high special assessment all at once.

Despite the task force's recommendations, one member demanded that the bill include a requirement for associations to fund reserves. He would not compromise and as a result, the bill failed to pass. As it stands now, Florida condo associations can  fund reserves completely, partially or not at all. Those with partial or no reserves must levy special assessments when funds are needed for repairs. The resistance to a large special assessment is what led to the delay and subsequent collapse of the Surfside building. 

Most associations fund reserves for big ticket items like the roof, pool, parking lot and painting. Until now, concrete repairs have rarely been specifically included as an item in condo reserves. If associations were required to fully fund reserves and include concrete repair in them it is conceivable that some associations would have to raise their monthly fees into the thousands of dollars per unit. It is a tough situation and whether law or not, condo boards are still faced with the challenge of maintaining their buildings and raising the money necessary from owners. There is always resistance to assessments or increased fees and as a result expensive repairs are often pushed off into the future. There are buildings in our area who have serious concrete issues that should have been taken care of long ago. Anyone hoping to buy a condo unit on the ocean should pay close attention to the appearance and integrity of the buildings they're interested in and to also examine the financials to determine the ability of the association to fund repairs. Low monthly fees for an oceanfront building, while attractive, are a red light for prospective buyers. Do your homework. Whatever the monthly fee is today, it is going up. 

''Most of us did not think these kinds of things could happen in our country. The veneer of civilization is very thin." __Margaret Thatcher

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Sky's the Limit


In a post from this same weekend in 2018, I commented that pricing was getting ahead of itself with 44 units asking over $300 per square foot while only three condos had closed so far that year in that range. Jump to March 2022 and, as of this morning, 46 units have closed for more than $300/sq ft, with eighteen of those fetching over $400/sf. Sales of units commanding top dollar are no longer restricted to a specific property type and/or condition but are spread across multiple complexes with $400+/sf sales happening at Ocean Oaks, Stonewood, Xanadu, Canaveral Towers, Las Palmas, 2100 Towers, Park Place, Royal Mansion, Spanish Main, Royale Towers, Ocean Pines, Sandcastles and Riomar among others. Not all of these oceanfront units had garages.

MLS inventory of existing condo units in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral the last few weeks has bounced around between 35 and 45 units while single-family home inventory has stayed between 13 and 19 for sale at any moment. Since Feb. 1 a total of 76 condo units have closed along with 13 single-family homes. Thirty of those closed sales since Feb. 1 were at least $500,000 with five of those over a million dollars. 

Most fairly priced new listings are getting multiple offers quickly and buyers are getting aggressive with their numbers and terms. It's not uncommon to see inspections and appraisals waived and many buyers are offering on properties sight-unseen. With so much competition, sellers are becoming more discerning with the offers they will entertain. They are wisely expressing concern with offers well above asking if they don't waive appraisal. Likewise, sign-unseen offers may be perceived as too risky. Buyers need to discuss all angles with their agent to figure out how to craft an offer than can compete. The less uncertainty an offer carries, the more well-received it will be. Expect the others to be offering cash with no contingencies and be prepared to lose to a crazy high offer. One last thought about multiple offers; a buyer who loses a unit to a higher offer will now be using that selling price as the new comp when they make their next offer. It's become a pay now or pay later dynamic.

Best of luck to buyers who are in the hunt. Be smart and quick with your offers and have an agent who knows the market and understands the competitive environment. Every edge matters and having a slow agent who doesn't understand our market dynamics or how to write a competitive offer will hurt you. Keep the offers as clean as possible, be prepared to pay more than you think it's worth (right now) and don't be slow to make an offer on a good property.

"Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours." __Ludwig van Beethoven 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Snooze and Lose


Property sales in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral continue at a furious pace even as inventory hovers at just less than a month's supply. After declining steadily for sixteen years we seem to have settled into a precarious just-in-time balance between sales and new listings. There have been 115 new condo listings since Jan. 1. Eighty of those new listings have already found a buyer. During the same seven week period 104 condo units have closed, eleven of those in the unexplored range over $400/sq ft. There are currently 47 existing units offered for sale with another four proposed units available for reservation. Of the units currently offered for sale only half have been for sale longer than three weeks. I wonder why the units that have been on market for over 30 days have not sold yet. Could it be price?

There are a total of thirteen existing single family homes for sale in our two cities. Thirteen homes have closed since start of the year only four of which were under $500,000. The lowest priced current listing is $499,900.

As in previous years, over half of this year's condo sales so far have been for cash. Mortgage-seeking buyers are adapting in order to compete by dropping contingencies. I have rarely written offers in the past waiving inspections or appraisal but that has become normal. If the time period will allow for it, a buyer can offer cash and still get a mortgage in time for closing. In that scenario, the buyer better have a local lender who understands condo loans and can perform with a tight time period. If the lender isn't ready by close date, it's either close with cash or lose the deposit. I would not recommend offering cash intending to get a mortgage with an out-of-town lender nor if I didn't have the liquid cash to close with. Prudent listing agents are asking for increased deposits with cash offers to ensure commitment and to penalize failure. Buyers, prepare your offers accordingly and know that contingencies of any kind weaken your offer and open the door to a competing buyer who offers without contingencies. Good luck and be prepared to move quickly and decisively.

"I know worrying works, because none of the stuff I worried about ever happened." ___Will Rogers

Friday, January 28, 2022

Waiting in Vain


After trending up for a few months the inventory of residential properties for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral is shrinking again. There are only 60 individual residential properties for sale this morning in our two cities, 47 condos and townhomes and 13 single family homes. In addition, there are another seven unbuilt luxury homes offered by reservation in the much-delayed planned community on the river in south Cocoa Beach. 

Activity has been non-stop with 68 condos receiving an accepted contract since the beginning of the year. If the sales rate continues at this pace, the entire existing inventory of condos will have sold by Valentine's Day. Resistance to crazy high prices has all but evaporated and frustrated buyers have been paying prices that can't be justified by earlier sales. In the last two months seven oceanfront condos have sold for more than $400 a square foot, four of them without a garage. These prices put us in unexplored territory. Can prices continue to go up? Sure. Can they reverse course? Same answer. Buyers looking for return on investment can easily calculate whether current prices work with expected rents and occupancy. Those looking for a beach get-away for their family or for a primary residence should be more concerned with the property itself than with where prices are at the moment. I've watched careful buyers wait years because they thought prices were too high and would be correcting. For the last fifteen years or so those buyers either had to reframe their expectations or they never bought. Waiting for a correction that is slow in coming might mean not making memories at the beach during years when it would mean the most. Everyone has to decide for themselves. Paying 10% more than one thinks a unit is worth today will probably be inconsequential years down the road, especially if those years have been spent enjoying the family beach place that Mom and Dad overpaid for. Bob Marley may have been talking about this when he sang, "'summer is here, I'm still waiting there." 

"Let me be clear about this. I don't have a drug problem. I have a police problem." __Keith Richards

Monday, January 03, 2022

Against All Odds


Another year done and one in which we were still dealing with a disrupted economy. Despite the pandemic and related issues in the economy, 2021 was a multiple record setting year for Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral real estate. The number of residential properties sold in our two cities was the highest in history. Our average inventory was the lowest of all time and selling prices for many properties (not all) were at the highest levels ever.

Two years ago, January 2020, we began the year with 108 condos and townhomes and 21 single family homes for sale in the two cities. Inventory during 2021 averaged a little over half that in both property types. Despite the drastically low inventory we closed the most units ever, 863 condo and townhome units and 168 single-family homes. There are currently 14 single family homes and 57 condos for sale in the two cities. Anyone looking for a single-family home in Cocoa Beach for less than $625,000 has only one listing to consider. A buyer looking for an oceanfront weekly rental condo unit is completely out of luck with zero units offered on the MLS this January morning.

Vacation rentals were one of the story property types of 2021 when we saw an explosion of vacation rentals in buildings off the beach. That was fueled in part by the City of Cocoa Beach relaxing its opposition and enforcement of vacation rentals in previously prohibited off-the-beach areas. Prices being paid for those properties and for the few condos that allow weekly rentals skyrocketed. 

Vacation rentals weren't the only property type to see record high selling prices. Sellers of oceanfront units happily accepted over $300 per square foot for 43 different units during the year compared to just six the previous year and zero in 2019. That upward movement in prices continues with little resistance. Those hoping to purchase this year need to understand the dynamics at play and construct their offers accordingly. There will be competition for any desirable property and it is likely to include buyers who are willing to knowingly overpay. Buyers paid over asking price for 155 condos in 2021 and the majority of the remainder sold at or within 2% of asking price. Slightly more than half of all sales during the year were cash deals. Cash buyers always have an advantage over a buyer using a mortgage but that advantage has increased clout with these market conditions. With the current optimistic pricing, appraisals become an issue and the uncertainty that comes with that becomes a liability for a mortgage-seeking buyer. It is not uncommon for a seller to accept a lower cash offer over a mortgaged offer for just that reason. Don't lose that dream condo over a few thousand dollars if it's checking all the boxes. Pinch your nose, pay up, and enjoy the beach while market momentum closes the price gap after closing.

Welcome to all our new neighbors who bought in 2021. I hope Cocoa Beach turns out to be exactly the laid-back, friendly little beach town you were looking for.

"Wow. That's my husband. It's freaking Nazaré and I'm pretty sure he has a soft top with him." __Jordan Gravy