Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

I struggled with the title of this post. I considered "How NOT to Choose a Real Estate Agent" but (uncharacteristically for me) discarded that in favor of a positive title although the intent of the post really is about what NOT to do when selecting an agent. I briefly touched on this in a post a couple of months ago but figured, considering the strong shift taking place, that it deserved revisiting..

The thing that got me on this subject again was the recent big increase of properties being listed by out-of-town agents. Over the years I've worked in the Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral market, most property listings here have been with local offices. I suspect most US markets have been the same. Makes sense to have a broker who knows the market and is readily available for buyers and their agents. Things are different now and the change happened quickly. Over a third of the new listings in the last two months in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral are with agents and/or offices in other cities. There have always been some agents in other cities in our county who would have the occasional listing here, even some who did quite a bit of business, but never the proportion that we're seeing now. What happened? Consumers embraced the big online real estate sites for their real estate research and in the process discovered what appeared to be an easy way to find a local Realtor in their target market. The problem? The sites allow anyone willing to write a monthly check, no matter their location or qualifications, to buy their way into the list of local agents.

I searched Zillow this morning for a Cocoa Beach buyer's agent. (Results were similar for seller's agents.) Out of 13 "Trusted Pros" on the first page of 500 total results, only four work in offices in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral. Note that the recommended agents rotate for every search so your results may differ from mine but, after doing several searches, it's obvious that my results are typical. Two of the Cocoa Beach "Trusted Pro" agents work out of offices in other counties over an hour's drive from Cocoa Beach and another seven work out of offices in other cities in our county. Four of the recommended buyer's agents had zero sales in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral in the last 12 months and another agent had one. How did they get recommended? Easy. They pay Zillow to be there. No skills, experience or even physical proximity required. I could buy my way into recommended agent status in Key West or Pensacola if I chose. My value to a buyer in either of those markets would be considerably less than most of the experienced local agents but, that wouldn't stop an online advertiser from accepting my monthly check and proclaiming me a "Trusted Pro" in the area. The same is true for these out-of-town agents on the Cocoa Beach agent list. Does it matter? If I'm landing in Tegucigalpa I'd much rather have a pilot who has experience with that hairy airport than a guy who is making his first landing there. The more experience with that runway, the better. An agent unfamiliar with our market might not kill you but it is not in your best interest to have her in the left seat.

Feel free to use Zillow and other online real estate sites to look for a buyer's or listing agent but do yourself a favor and at the very least select an agent in the actual town you plan to buy or sell in. And, remember that there are active experienced agents in every market like myself who choose not to pay to be included in the Zillow cluster. You may overlook your very best choice if you limit your research to paid ads. I may be forced to surrender at some point and pay to be agent number 501 in Cocoa Beach but for now I prefer to be excluded from the list even though I have hundreds of successful landings and takeoffs here and know the terrain like the back of my wrinkled hand. For anyone looking to buy or sell a place here, you'd be well-served to extend your search for an agent outside the "Trusted Pros".

"Being the quiet, mysterious one doesn't get the ladies unless you happen to be high-end handsome." __applicable metaphor

Thursday, August 21, 2014


The slowdown in sales that I commented on in my last post, Cooling Trend, is persisting. The rate of new listings is not keeping up with the rate of sales. The inventory of  condos and townhomes in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral this morning is 267 units if I include 19 non-existing, pre-construction units and 9 over-priced units that have been for sale and sitting empty since their construction six and seven years ago. That leaves us with 239 units of which another 33 have been for sale longer than nine months, several for years, indicating unrealistic pricing. An overflowing handful of other listings have had their days on market manipulated to appear as not having been for sale forever so the "really for sale" inventory of condos and townhomes in our market is below 200 units, probably below 150 if we filter out anything asking 20% or more above market value. That dearth of inventory, not a lack of interested motivated buyers, is the reason for our current sales rate of about one condo closing per day. We averaged over two per day the first half of 2014. I don't see any near-term catalyst that will be improving that. If anything, we may see sales decline even more as we move into the fall months.

Back to the mid 90s today. I can't imagine living anywhere but the coast in Florida. No matter the heat, we can count on the cooling sea breeze by early afternoon most days. Get away from the coast and the heat index goes Richter. The theme parks and inland golf courses must be especially brutal this time of year. Thankfully, the Cocoa Beach Country Club course sits on an exposed peninsula in the Banana river so it is exposed in most places to any breeze.

Our next scheduled launch is a SpaceX Falcon 9 in four days. Check the schedule of all upcoming launches HERE. A tropical storm could be influencing our local weather by the end of next week. A poorly organized mass is approaching the Lesser Antilles right now and moving northwest but not expected to have favorable conditions for turning into anything significant. Meh.

"Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person." anon

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Cooling Trend

The crazy pace of sales in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral has slowed. After a blistering first half of the year for property sales, July returned to a more sedate pace. My constant predictions about a coming slowdown have until now been entirely wrong. It seemed impossible that we could sustain an average pace of 63 sold condos a month with an inventory of around 250 existing units. Somehow we did until July. As of this morning, the Cocoa Beach MLS is reporting a total of 45 sold condos and townhomes in the month of July and 11 single-family homes. That's compared to 67 condos and 14 single families in June. There are 255 existing condos and townhomes for sale at the moment along with 19 very-optimistically offered pre-construction condos.

I expect the slowed pace to continue. Eleven of the 255 for-sale condos are bank-owned and six are short sales. The days of high numbers of distressed sales are, for the most part, behind us. We are at the lowest ratio of distressed offerings since the first short sale closed in our market in 2008. There are 27 pending distressed contracts yet to close so the boost in numbers from those will be inconsequential. While no one was looking, our market has returned to a healthy supply and demand dynamic. Demand exceeds supply by a good margin at the moment.

Of the 45 closed condo sales in July, 25 sold for cash. Only one of the sub-$100,000 purchases was with a mortgage. A quarter of the condo sales were at prices above $285,000 and a quarter were below $107,000. The higher priced sales were a good mix of ocean and river units.

There are currently 47 direct ocean listings. Six of those are asking $250,000 or less, most in that range in older buildings along Ocean Beach Boulevard. Twenty of the units have been for sale for over 300 days telling us that they are most likely overpriced.

I hope those of you who are surfers got to enjoy our first, brief hurricane swell this week as Bertha passed off our coast. Yours truly missed it completely while scalloping off Florida's west coast. On a bright note, the scallops are thick this year and my crew was able to limit out every day in less than an hour of snorkeling the grass flats. If you've never done it, it's a great activity for kids and adults alike and the bounty is very tasty.

" of the worst things society has done is name adipose tissue the same thing as a macronutrient."  comment on fat by a random Redditor