Saturday, July 11, 2020

Uncertain Times

I think the huge corn snake that ate a rat on my porch has reproduced. Found this little guy in the yard and while he's not orange like the other one, the pattern looks the same. All rats visiting the neighborhood are hereby on notice. We have a zero tolerance policy and enforcement patrols are to be assumed nearby at all times.

Even as coronavirus cases explode in Florida, real estate activity remains brisk. A total of 72 condo and townhome units closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral in the month of June, almost exactly the number of new cases diagnosed in Cocoa Beach during the month. We stand at 100 cases in Cocoa Beach this morning and another 46 in Cape Canaveral. There were 10 and 2 respectively when I wrote my June 3 post.

Exactly half of the 72 June condo sales were cash deals and half sold in less than 43 days on the market with 20 of them selling in 10 days or less. Median price was $250,000 with only four sales over $500,000. That pace of sales has continued into July with 25 units going under contract since July 1, with sales concentrated in the $150,000 to $400,000 range. Inventory has been stuck at 156 units since late last month. It's easy to see that with 72 units selling in a month and 156 for sale we're going to be out of inventory quickly without a fresh infusion of new listings. As it stands now a large part of existing inventory is the priced-too-high-to-sell listings. They are the last few peanuts left in the bottom of the bowl of mixed nuts at the end of the party. If we add some cashews they'll be gone immediately. If you're looking for a cashew of a condo you better have an agent who knows this market and can react quickly when the cashew hits the bowl.

Prices for oceanfront condo units are higher across the board than I can remember seeing them. Of the nine sold east facing units above the ground floor with garages the average selling price per square foot was $317. Three exceptional side view units commanded over $280 per foot, one Sandcastles weekly rental north side unit going for $337 a foot. This is a result of more demand than supply.

Single family home sales have been strong also with 16 homes closing in June in our two cities, median price $525,000. Seven of the 16 were cash deals and half were on the market for 36 days or less. Inventory of single family homes this morning stands at 40, less than three month's supply. Three quarters have been on the market longer than a month with four over a year. We know what that likely means; overpriced.

Reluctance to travel has made property shopping difficult for out of town buyers. Typically with clients that trust me, if I find and look at a property that checks all the boxes, we could hammer out a deal with a long enough inspection period for the buyer to get here to personally inspect the property. With reduced flights and the exposures of air travel that strategy is not working except for those close enough to drive or those willing to fly during a pandemic.

Cocoa Beach has finally mandated mask wearing indoors or in situations where distancing is not possible. They waited until after the holiday weekend (July 8) and after several restaurants and City facilities had to be closed because of coronavirus cases. Even with the reality of spreading cases two of our Commissioners voted against the mask mandate. The virus is here and it's spreading rapidly through our town. Please be aware and considerate to those of us who might not survive should we contract it. Masks, y'all.

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

Friday, July 03, 2020

Deal Killers

I have compared closing a real estate deal to completing a 100 meter hurdle while carrying a tray of full martini glasses without spilling anything. Those hurdles represent all the possible deal killers that exist between the contract acceptance (starting line) and the closing table (finish line). It's difficult enough knowing that the hurdles are there. Not anticipating those hurdles makes successfully clearing them much more difficult. Regardless the hurdles, a transaction that begins with unreasonable expectations from any of the principals is usually doomed from the start.

Unreasonable expectations: This is a big one. A buyer who makes an offer already intending to renegotiate the price after inspections has a very tall first hurdle. It's not unreasonable to renegotiate if a hidden defect is found but planning to renegotiate later for obvious defects is not a good strategy. It's a rare seller that's going to consider a price concession for something that was plainly visible or disclosed before the offer. The offer price should reflect all visible defects. Hidden defects like a leaking swimming pool or failed AC system justify asking for concessions after their discovery. Speaking of AC systems, unless the exterior AC unit is brand new it's going to be rusted and showing signs of age. This is the beach and everything is rusty. Exterior AC compressor units typically last from five to ten years on the beach depending on where the unit is installed (ground or roof) so asking for a price concession for a functioning unit showing wear is not reasonable.

Appraisals: This one is legitimate. With so many properties overpriced to begin with, the incidence of low appraisals is fairly high. Buyers who have struggled finding a suitable property might offer more than the comps tell them the property is worth hoping that the appraisal will save them from overpaying. Problem here is sellers tend to become married to their contract price even when advised that it is optimistic. Asking the seller to renegotiate the price after the appraisal comes in low is justified and is often resolved if the parties are reasonable. It doesn't always require a seller to match the appraisal. A buyer may be satisfied with some price concession as a show of good faith and make up the difference out of their pocket, especially if there isn't a suitable alternate property available at the moment.

Condo Association: This is one that tends to drop out of the sky unexpectedly. The buyer is approved by the lender, the inspection went well and the appraisal matched the contract price. Then the underwriter rejects the loan because the association only has a line item of 5% of budget for reserves. Or it is discovered that there is some unresolved litigation involving the association, or one owner owns multiple units or too many owners are delinquent on their monthly dues. This is one reason that cash buyers are more attractive than mortgage buyers. Disqualifying criteria may be fewer for a high down payment loan. Requirements are different for primary residence than for second home or investment property purchases. It is a good idea for condo sellers to get their hands on a condo review questionnaire and know how their association will answer the questions before being blindsided several weeks into a deal.

I suggest that anyone in an association without a line item in the budget of at least 10% going to reserves needs to consider that that fact eliminates a lot of potential buyers from buying any unit in the complex. Changing the budget after a mortgage has been denied will probably be impossible but alerting the other owners to this issue at the next meeting might encourage them to vote to change the budget to compliance before they are the ones affected. If one entity or person already owns more than 10% of the units in the complex it may not matter. In that situation, a full review mortgage will likely not be possible even if the other requirements are met.

Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral property inventory is at an unprecedented low level. There are just 156 existing units and a mere 31 single family homes for sale this morning on the MLS. Consider that we closed 17 homes and 77 condo units in June. That pencils out to about a two month supply of both homes and condos. Slim pickings.

Coronavirus has arrived with a vengeance in Cocoa Beach. In the three weeks since my last post we have increased from 15 to 105 confirmed cases in our two cities. Several restaurants and the Cocoa Beach Country Club are shut down due to positive test results among employees. We are headed into the July 4th weekend with no additional restrictions other than limiting beach groups to 10 people and distancing between groups to 10 feet. It's disappointing that the City didn't take a more careful approach knowing that our little town would be packed this weekend with visitors from inland areas with high prevalence of virus. I understand the political ramifications of trying to limit parking and crowds. The decisions that matter the most are always the hardest to make.

At the time of that last post on June 13 Florida's 3 day moving average of daily new cases was 1657 having tripled in the previous two weeks. It has more than quadrupled since then and is at 7588 average new cases daily after yesterday's record 10,109 new cases. Y'all might want to reconsider wearing masks as a tool to reduce the spread even if you think it's a unfair imposition. They work to reduce the spread and we desperately need that right now. It's but one slice of Swiss cheese in our protection strategy. To the businesses in Cocoa Beach who have maskless employees. What y'all thinking? It's sending a bad message.

"In risk management it’s called the swiss cheese model. Stripped down, it means many layers of overlapping imperfect security can add up to an effective solution." __unknown

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Eight Weeks To Zero

The pre-dawn SpaceX launch this morning was spectacular. As the rocket rose into the sunlight the exhaust plume expanded into a giant circle in the eastern sky over the lights of the cruise ships anchored offshore. The payload was 57 Starlink and three Skysat satellites, an unbelievable feat of engineering without even including the safe return and landing of the rocket. You can spot the descending rocket just below the bright glow from the still-ascending stage.

Real estate activity in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral has been brisk even as inventory continues to shrink. Since June 1 ten homes and 42 condo units have gone under contract. As of this morning there are only 47 existing single family homes and 170 existing condo and townhome units for sale on the MLS in our two cities. Compare that to the 1200 condo units for sale in May of 2006 at the peak of the pre-crash mania. At the rate condos are selling our existing meager inventory will be gone in eight weeks. All price ranges are active with the bulk of activity for condos in sub-$300,000 units. Homes are equally divided with half of the ten contracts under $400,000 and half over.

Florida continues to set records of another kind with coronavirus case growth. There is controversy over how cases are counted with some saying cases are being overstated and others saying the opposite. Testing has decreased from 36,740 average daily tests three weeks ago to 23,948 this week. Whatever the truth, we are wide open, people are out and about and Florida's reported three day moving average of new cases has tripled in two weeks to 1657 daily new cases as of yesterday. [edit] One day after I wrote this the 3 day moving average surged to 2075.] I'm hoping that's overstated but the hospitalization rate doesn't support that narrative. As a high-risk individual I appreciate the efforts of everyone wearing masks and observing distancing. Your mask might save my life. Thanks.
"Prevention is physically rewarding in the long term, but not emotionally rewarding in the short term. People who stay home won’t feel a pleasant dopamine kick from their continued health. Those who flock together will feel hugs and sunshine. The former will be tempted to join the latter. The media could heighten that temptation by offering what Lincoln calls “disparity in spectacle.” __Ed Yong from The Atlantic

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Will It Sell? Will It Close?

Dawn Patrol
This is loosely based on a real story that happened a couple of months ago.

After enjoying many years in their Cocoa Beach condo a couple decides to sell it and buy a property closer to their grandchildren in another state. The unit has been remodeled and is tastefully furnished. The recent sales of similar units nearby suggest that they will be able to sell for enough to fully pay for the new property. They list the unit, get a contract quickly for the price they were hoping and begin making plans to move. Two weeks before closing the buyer's lender tells the buyer they can't do a loan in that complex because the condo questionnaire completed by the association has been rejected by the underwriter. The sellers are surprised as they know the association is well-funded, has reserves and the building is in excellent condition. Unfortunately for the sellers, the requirements are specific. It's not uncommon for a condo sale to fail because of hidden issues within the association that disqualify the condo for mortgage approval. Disqualifying issues include absence of or an insufficient percentage line item in the budget for reserves, too many units owned by the same person, too many condo fee delinquencies, insufficient insurance coverage and existence of ongoing litigation. Condo sellers are advised to know whether their association has any disqualifying issues and what can be done to solve or circumvent them.

Luckily for condo sellers, about half of all sales here are cash deals so the questionnaire never rears it's ugly head. None of my suggestions matter if the buyer is paying cash. In addition, not all mortgages require the same questionnaire. What disqualifies one mortgage might be OK with another one with higher down payment. Knowing what matters in advance might prevent a failed deal.

Most residential mortgages must conform to Fannie Mae guidelines. Looking at a Fannie Mae condo questionnaire prior to listing is a good idea for both buyers and sellers. Had the sellers known the issues in advance they would have known that the particular loan their buyers were applying for would not fly. If their agent was sharp enough to know the difference in full and limited review loans she could have guided the buyer's agent towards a strategy that would have had a chance at approval. Had the buyers' agent known, she could have done the same and not wasted hers and her clients' time in a complex that wouldn't pass.

Those thinking of selling in the future might consider finding out if there are any issues in their complex and take steps towards remedying the easy ones. In our story above, the issue was the amount of the line item for reserves in the budget. Had they known prior to the current year's budget meeting, they could have encouraged the Board to increase the line item by a couple of percentage points to squeeze into the acceptable range.

The governor of Florida has extended the eviction and foreclosure moratorium until July 1. As of today those who are late on their rent or mortgage payment can't be served notice of eviction or foreclosure. We can probably expect a flood of both in July. Rental inventory in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral is almost equal to the for sale inventory. Of the 190 rental listings on the MLS there are but 13 asking less than $1000 a month. If a renter wants two bedrooms and two baths, there is one unit in our two cities asking less than $1300.

As expected, the number of closed sales in the month of May was low because of reduced traffic in the preceding months. There were 33 condo and townhome units closed in the two cities, only two over $400,000, both in downtown Cocoa Beach. Highest price paid was for a remodeled 16th floor direct ocean SE corner Stonewood 3/2 that closed for $840,000. The other was a remodeled Beach Winds 6th floor NE corner 3/2 with a two car garage that sold for $450,000. While closings were slow, sales activity was surprisingly heavy. A total of 82 condo and townhome units went under contract during the month, median price $260,000.

Vacation rentals are back up and renting in spite of vague rules from the County. Traffic in Cocoa Beach has been heavy on sunny days with a lot of beachgoers crowding downtown on weekends.

Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral have added no new coronavirus cases as of yesterday and are standing at 10 and 2 confirmed cases respectively. At a glance, the restaurants that have reopened appear to be busy, some of them packed. Turtle nesting continues to be heavy at the south end and the surf has been fairly consistent with quite a few fun days recently. Y'all stay safe, hydrate and use your sunscreen.

"The war has been incited and guess what? You're all invited."
Matty Healy - "Love It If We Made It"

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

"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

Friday, April 17, 2020

Essential Wrestling

Scene from the Ft. Lauderdale airport on March 15.

Suggestion: Restaurants that are taking measures to ensure that employees are healthy should be sharing their efforts with the public. Instead of a free roll of toilet paper with my pizza I'd be more inclined to order takeout if I knew that all employees were wearing masks and none reported for work with a temperature above 100°. Beneficial for the owner and the other employees and very reassuring for the customers. Cost? Minimal. Porque no?

April 16 Covid-19 report shows no new cases in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral. Confirmed cases still stand at six and one respectively.

Inventory of homes and condos for sale in the two cities has contracted slightly with a total of 206 existing condo units and 55 single family homes for sale this morning. There are another 26 units and homes offered as pre-construction reservations.

Sales activity as measured by new contracts is declining rapidly with a 40% decline in new contracts in the last 30 days compared to the same period in 2019 and is off by more than 50% in the month of April so far; 32 contracts in 2019 from April 1 through April 17 versus 17 this year. Even though real estate has been designated an "essential" service by the Florida governor, buyers are reticent during uncertain times. For what it's worth, Governor DeSantis also included professional wrestling on the essential services list. Florida Man's reputation reconfirmed in the minds of the world.

The vacation rental market is at a full halt but, surprisingly, there hasn't been a new listing of one for sale in over four months. With over 1000 weekly rental units in our two cities, the collective lost rent during the shutdown is over $1,000,000 a week. The vast majority of these units don't carry a mortgage so the pressure to sell isn't as urgent for these owners even though rent is currently zero. I expect to see new listings of vacation rental units if the no-rent order persists. People will vacation again after the coronavirus shutdown so those with resources (and courage) who have wanted to purchase a short-term unit may have opportunities during the coming months. Note that mortgages are difficult if not impossible to obtain on most of these properties in the best of times.

There is a lot of discussion and disagreement going on in condo associations about whether pools and other common amenities should be closed during the shutdown. I would advise Boards to seek legal advice before relying on what the neighboring building may be doing or what may have been reported on Facebook. Coronavirus may be seen as a "known hazard" and actions taken or not taken relating to it may be judged on that basis. If there is disagreement within your association about this, seek guidance from your association's attorney.

Stay safe, wear a mask in public and please stand at least six feet from me. I appreciate it.

"If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined." _______King Pyrrhus of Epirus

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Comes Next?

Other than the shutdown of vacation rentals until April 30 (could be extended again) and slowed buyer activity the impact of the pandemic on real estate in Cocoa Beach is yet to be revealed. There have been some significant changes with mortgage requirements but I have not heard of a local sale that has been affected by those changes, yet. There has been no surge in new listings and no noticeable movement in prices as the economy has ground to a halt. Perhaps the effects on our little market will be minimal. As of the April 13 report there are still just six cases of Covid-19 in Cocoa Beach and one in Cape Canaveral.

How about long-term rentals? What happens to the newly unemployed renters of Cocoa Beach and their landlords as the coronavirus shutdown lingers? On April 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order suspending evictions and foreclosures for 45 days amid the coronavirus pandemic. What happens afterwards?

Being a tourist destination Cocoa Beach has a large number of restaurants and bars and a significant number of the renters here are employed in those businesses. We are past Easter and it appears the shutdown will be extending for several more weeks at a minimum and possibly into summer. Whether the public will be willing to crowd into restaurants and bars when they reopen is unknown but it's probably safe to assume the fear of close contact will remain with a lot of us beyond the reopening. Best case scenario is that the virus goes away quickly, all our establishments survive the shutdown and reopen with their full staffs to packed houses. The more likely scenario is that some don't survive and close permanently and those that do reopen do so with limited staffing until something like normality returns. That scenario leaves a large number of servers, bussers, bartenders and back of house workers with reduced hours or without a job in a beach town without a lot of alternative jobs.

Who will rent these condos and apartments if a substantial number of these workers are forced to move elsewhere seeking employment? What happens to rents and the value of the properties that these workers have been renting? Smaller, inexpensive condo and apartment units are the primary property type these workers are renting. For the record, maximum unemployment compensation in Florida for those who qualify and can wade through the excruciating application process is $275 a week. The CARES legislation promises additional compensation but we'll have to see how that plays out as it is administrated through Florida's broken and overloaded system. Average rent for a one bedroom condo in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral is $1200 a month and average selling price of these units is around $130,000. I have no idea how this will resolve as most everyone is still frozen in place with fingers crossed hoping for a miracle. I don't know if the number of affected renters will be enough to matter but at first glance it appears to be a possibility.

I would be interested in readers' thoughts and stories related to our coronavirus reality. Feel free to comment to this post or email me directly. All input contributes to our understanding.

"When times are good, investors tend to forget about risk and focus on opportunity. When times are bad, investors tend to forget about opportunity and focus on risk."  __unknown

Sunday, April 12, 2020

I'd Love It If We Made It

Lots of clam shells on the beach recently.

The latest report indicates there are now six Covid-19 cases in Cocoa Beach and one in Cape Canaveral. There are six cruise ships either anchored or drifting offshore at the moment with one at dock inside the Port. Officials at Port Canaveral have said that in the first three months of the "no-sail" order from the CDC they expect to lose $22.5 million in docking, passenger and parking fees. They are still taking in $1.5 to $2 million a month in fees from the short dockings when the ships take on supplies before returning to anchorage offshore. The lost revenue to associated local businesses from the tens of thousands of missing cruise passengers is much more difficult to estimate but it's safe to assume it's quite large.

Hearing reports of wildlife taking advantage of abandoned cities including photos of coyotes walking  down empty city streets in San Francisco and Chicago did not prepare me for the sight of a wild turkey strolling across my yard yesterday. This hen was last seen heading north on the beach side of A1A in south Cocoa Beach. Best of luck to her and I hope she doesn't cross paths with our bobcat.

Real estate activity continues to decelerate with only seven residential properties going under contract in our two cities in the last seven days. We've managed to close 15 in the same seven days but I expect that number to ramp down as the pipeline of new contracts dwindles. There are 219 existing condo units for sale this morning and another 21 offered as pre-construction reservations. I have not heard if the new oceanfront project in downtown that represents the bulk of those 21 pre-construction units has decided to delay ground-breaking but I imagine there have been discussions. I will report as I hear of developments.

Florida's online unemployment compensation system has crashed and the only way to apply now is with a paper form. For locals who need to file, paper forms are available at the front of the Cocoa Beach Library which is closed for other business. Best of luck to those trying to navigate this morass that was designed to fail which it has just done in magnificent form. The politicians must be proud.

A happy and healthy Easter to all.

"And I'd love it if we made it."  __Matty Healy - The 1975

Friday, April 10, 2020

Maintaining the Interval

Yesterday's report indicated there were a total of 5 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Cocoa Beach. There are drive-up testing locations elsewhere in Brevard County for those who meet the stringent qualifications for testing. Most people I see in Cocoa Beach seem to be observing good distancing practices. On-street parking downtown is empty and a few people are strolling about or picking up to-go orders from the downtown restaurants. I usually see a handful of well-spaced people waiting outside Surfinista for pickup orders around lunchtime. My household has gone to Instacart delivery for groceries from Publix and the experience so far has been excellent. I made a dash into Coastal Produce a couple of days ago for fresh produce and was the only customer in the store. The only employee I saw was the cashier who was wearing a mask as was I. Incidentally, they had toilet paper for sale.

Among the restaurants adapting to the shutdown, Papa Vito's has really excelled at stepping up their game. They were early to adapt to the coronavirus shutdown by offering a free roll of toilet paper with every pickup or delivery and are now offering produce, meats and paper products for delivery or pickup in addition to pizza and Italian dishes. They will surely be among the restaurants who survive after the shutdown. The 4th Street Fillin Station is another who has excelled at transitioning to takeout only. Their Instagram is worth following just for the photos of yummy food and drinks. I encourage everyone to support your favorite restaurants during the shutdown if you want to be able to visit them again in the future. In addition to take out orders, gift cards are a great way to support them.

Fortunately our beach is still open for much needed exercise and fresh air with distancing being enforced. With all beach parking closed the beaches are practically empty. This was the beach yesterday at low tide walking back into south Cocoa Beach from Patrick Air Force Base. No distancing issue here.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” ________John Donne

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Sitting in Chairs Outlawed - Surfing Encouraged

Remember in the 90s when Fifer ran for Mayor of Cocoa Beach with a platform that included legalizing skateboarding? This was at a time when No Skateboarding signs were quite common around town. Times have changed. Cocoa Beach now embraces skateboarding and there is a skate park behind the school. Adding validation for our other board sport, Cocoa Beach has issued an Emergency Proclamation that specifically legalizes surfing during the beach restrictions related to cocronavirus. It is a welcome instance of common sense in our leaders' often bizarre responses to the outbreak. Thanks to Mayor Ben and the rest of our City leadership for the practical guidance.

Pursuant to the authority vested in me as Cocoa Beach City Manager by the City Commission of the City of Cocoa Beach, in accordance with Amendment #1, City of Cocoa Beach, Florida, Declaration of Emergency Proclamation, approved March 19, 2020, I hereby Order that all ocean beaches in the City of Cocoa Beach are closed to all activities except walking, jogging, biking, fishing, surfing and swimming.  Activities such as sunbathing, sitting in chairs, organized sports or laying on blankets and grouping of persons is not permitted.  A minimum of six foot social distancing shall apply.  When your activity is complete, you will be required to leave the beach area.  This follows State of Florida Executive Order 20-91, as modified by Executive Order 20-92, Safer at Home, specifically Essential Activities.  Beach parking, beach access parking, and the parking garage will remain closed.  Failure to comply with the Order may result in further restrictions being applied.  Fine for violation (pursuant to Cocoa Beach City Code Section 8.5-6) is set at $500.00 per occurrence.
          Done and ordered this 2nd day of April, 2020.

"The argument that the elderly and weak may just have to die to enrich the young and strong — painted as some sort of sacrifice, rather than a horrific outcome that we should fight against — is so bleak and hopeless. Lord, change hearts. Lord, protect the weak." __Haley Byrd

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Let's Eat

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash
If you're looking for some variety in your home dining during the restaurant shutdown, there are plenty of takeout and delivery options in Cocoa Beach. I took the current City of Cocoa Beach list of eateries offering pickup and delivery and added links to their websites where available. Just click on the name of the restaurant. I added Taco City and The Fat Snook who, while in Cocoa Beach, are outside the city limits and, for that technicality, not on the City's list.

I'm not familiar with some of these but after looking at the food pictures I'm gonna have to make an effort to work my way down the list for takeaway. If you own or work at any of these please check your link to make sure it's correct. If you're not included contact me to be added. Those without websites I chose not to link to their Yelp listing because of the buttholes who have ruined Yelp for all of us. Check out the ones you don't know. There are some hidden gems in our little town.

These are especially hard times for our restaurants and many are barely hanging on with takeout and delivery orders. If you order from any of these you will be helping them and their employees survive through these extraordinarily hard times. Maintain your intervals and be safe.

This list will be inaccurate almost as soon as published as some of these places are making the hard decision of whether to continue to offer takeaway or to roll it up until the virus shutdown is lifted.

1st St. Rick's Rollin Food Truck   321-917-5786
4th Street Fillin Station 321-613-2462
La Catrina Mexican     321-450-2010
Sergio's Tacos     321-450-4300
A.N.Y. Pizza     321-868-7177
Ice Cream Hut-   321-785-3000
IHOP     321-783-0620
New China    321-868-7588
The Skinny Mermaid     321-613-5079
Tropical Smoothie Café  321-868-7891
Acai Express   321-613-0900
Anacapri   321-868-2266
Beach Eatz   321-613-5176
Bistro at Courtyard by Marriott  321-784-4800
Brano’s Italian Grill   321-783-6031
Bula Kava   321-613-3252
Captain J's   321-783-1717
Coastal Produce    321-613-4663
Coasters Taphouse   321-613-3041
Dunkin Donuts-take out only
Flavors of India   321-613-3715
Florida’s Seafood Bar and Grill   321-784-0892
Frankie's Wings    221-452-5557
Hilton Cocoa Beach   321-799-0922
Island Time    321-613-4852
Little Z’s    321-613-0200
Jimmy Johns-Take out drive thru and deliveries
Juice and Java   321-784-4044
La Catrina Mexican Restaurant   321-450-2010
Long Doggers    321-613-0002
LUNA Food and Wine   321-613-5796
Mangia & Bevi Pizzeria    321-613-0691
Mexico's Grill    321-613-3850
Nolan's Irish Pub   321-783-8499
Nosh     321-450-2323
Pig and Whistle    321-799-0724
PizzaVola    321-613-4382
Pompano Grille 321-784-9005
Roberto's   321-874-1868
Salsas of Cocoa Beach    321-613-4382
Simply Delicious    321-783-2012
Slow & Low BBQ    321-783-6199
Starbuck’s    321-783-5404
Sunrise Diner   321-783-5647
Surfinista    321-613-3864
Taco City   321-784-1475 
The Fat Snook  321-784-1190
The Green Room Café    321-868-0203
The Tiny Turtle   321-446-7361
Flavour Kitchen and Wine   321-613-3573
Mambo’s    321-783-2271
Beachside Grill (Mike’s deli)    321-783-3354
The Fat Donkey- Pick-up and delivery only

Here comes sickness
Movin up my block
When she comes to my house
I hope she don't knock ______Mudhoney

Friday, March 27, 2020

Toilet Paper, Anyone?

The Atlas V yesterday launching into clear blue skies as seen from south Cocoa Beach.

Last week of March is typically the busiest week of the year. Things are different this year with many would-be visitors cancelling reservations and snowbirds departing early because of the corona virus. All bars are shut down and restaurants are doing takeout or delivery only. All beach streets and parking are blocked off and beginning today the beach itself is closed everywhere in Brevard County from 11 AM to 4 PM for Friday Saturday and Sunday. That could change. Traffic is very light and there are very few cars parked along the streets downtown. It's an eerie pre-hurricane vibe.

Not surprisingly, real estate activity has slowed dramatically. The last three weeks of February we were averaging 26 new residential contracts executed per week in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. That started slowing in early March and was down to thirteen last week. So far this week we are showing just nine executed contracts. The number of new listings so far does not appear to be changing. It's too early to tell if the reduced buyer activity has impacted prices. We won't see the impact in closed sales numbers until next month when this month's slowdown in executed contracts  will begin to be evident. As we're just now closing contracts from January and February, the March numbers are still looking good.

I'm hearing talk about changes in the secondary mortgage market which is being reflected in more stringent borrower requirements. Jumbo loans are particularly affected. Debt to income requirements have become more stringent as have credit score thresholds. Self-employed borrowers have a new set of higher hurdles to clear. Regardless ones situation, getting a mortgage now is more difficult than it was a month ago and some who could qualify last month may be rejected this month. Talk to your lender again if you're looking to purchase. The rules have changed and what you thought you could borrow in February may not be possible today. There is a strong possibility that we will start to see existing contracts fail to close because of these changes.

We've closed 50 condo units and 15 single family homes so far in March. Median price is just under $300,000 for condos and $540,000 for single family homes. Inventory for sale this morning is 225 condo units with an additional 21 in yet-to-be-built buildings, most of those in the Surf at Cocoa Beach downtown which is yet to break ground. There are 55 single family homes for sale in the two cities.

Vacation rental properties are being hit hard with cancellations due to the virus outbreak. If the beach closing is extended to include weekdays we can probably expect remaining rental demand from those within driving distance to dry up completely. Both grocery stores in Cocoa Beach are doing a seniors-only hour every morning to give us old folks a chance to snag a roll of toilet paper with relatively light customer density. I don't think they thought this one through very well as it isn't playing out as planned. A skewed to senior population means the old-timer hour is the busiest time of the day.

We are not under stay at home orders yet but that may be coming. I may have to actually clean out the garage if that happens. So far, we're eating really well and are treating the evening meal as the highlight of the day. Leisurely taking a couple of hours to prepare the meal is therapeutic and enjoyable.

Most restaurants in Cocoa Beach are offering curbside pickup for take-away including the Fat Snook. Growlers of draft beer and margaritas (among other drinks) are available for take-away with your food from the 4th St. Fillin Station downtown and at least one Cocoa Beach eatery is including a roll of toilet paper with every delivery while supplies last. Please support our eateries if you can. This is a hard time for those who serve and feed us. In lieu of ordering takeaway, consider buying gift cards to use later. Every little bit helps.

Best wishes to everyone and hope we can all emerge from this with the slightest of scars.

"It doesn't matter if you buy or sell today, the important thing is that you panic." __Josh Brown

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Peak Snowbird

When golfing in Cocoa Beach in March players may occasionally hear a strange distant whirring sound. Local golfers are used to hearing the sound of the ocean when the wind is calm and the waves are big but this one is more a white-noise, static than the rumbling of distant surf. It's ducks, thousands and thousands of ducks. In the warm spring days as they begin their northern migration, huge flocks are moving back and forth between the Banana River and the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons. They fly very high but the sound of thousands of wings is audible on the ground on calm days like yesterday. Pretty cool.

We are at the peak of snowbird season in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral and activity in real estate is busy as is always the case this time of year. Thirty nine residential properties have gone under contract since March 1. Lower priced properties have seen the most activity with 33 of the 39 asking under $400,000. Nine of the 39 are single-family homes, all but one in the under $420,000 range. During the same two week period 33 properties, contracted earlier, have closed. Eight of those were single family homes.

Sales of note included a nicely remodeled, 4th floor direct ocean Stonewood of Cocoa Beach Sand Dollar wide floor plan 2/2 that sold for $530,000 or $360 per square foot.

A remodeled & furnished 6th floor direct ocean SE corner 3/2 Beach Winds downtown Cocoa Beach sold for $434,000.

A small, remodeled ground floor, direct ocean 3/2 Sea Oats of Cocoa Beach sold for $325,000. It had no ocean view.

A partially remodeled direct Banana River 4th floor 2/2 Harbor Isles of Cocoa Beach sold for $275,000.

These are representative of the types and prices of condos currently selling. Those looking to purchase have a total of 220 condo units to consider in all price ranges. Potential buyers looking for a direct ocean unit asking less than $400,000 have five possibilities. If they want above the ground floor that drops to three units between $375,000 and $395,000.

As always, buyers need to have an idea what represents a fair price range for the type of property they're looking for. The opportunities to overpay for a Cocoa Beach condo are abundant, more so than at any time in the last several years. The majority of our for sale inventory is overpriced and uninformed buyers or those without an experienced local buyer's agent are at a disadvantage. Know this market or engage someone who does.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer weather this month. Expected to hit 80 again today. Please be aware of the poor golfers behind you. If you haven't had to wait on anyone ahead of your group but you see the guys behind you every time you look back, your group is probably playing too slowly. Thanks in advance.

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you’re a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you’re a vegetarian." __Dennis Wholey

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Limited Review

There are a a total of 207 existing condo and townhome units for sale this morning in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. Readers of this blog and too few Realtors know that low inventory has been the new normal since 2012 when we first broke below 300 units for sale. At the time it seemed an unsustainable level and sure to rebound but that never happened and inventory has hovered in the low 200s ever since. In spite of the low inventory we have managed to close over three times the inventory every year since then. For eight years new supply has entered the market at exactly the same rate existing properties have sold.

Current demand is strong with 75 units going under contract since February 1, about a third of those are units asking over $400,000. February is the month when sales begin to ramp up every year and activity usually stays strong through August. Those looking for a condo unit should expect competition. An informed buyer will also be aware of the highly optimistic prices of the majority of the inventory. In a market with low inventory and high demand it is to be expected. Buyers who will be getting a mortgage should know that their lender will not be equally receptive to every condo they may consider. The association's financial health will be scrutinized and the intensity of that scrutiny may vary depending on the amount of down payment being made. Talk to your lender before you narrow your property search and find out what's going to be required so you aren't blind-sided by arcane and seemingly unfair lender questions that may eliminate your dream condo.

Happy Birthday to all the Leap Year babies. I'll go into detail about specific sold properties in the next post.

Cocoa Beach has a great new healthy eatery just south of  the Cocoa Beach Fire Station, the Skinny Mermaid, offering excellent poke bowls, wraps, salads and boba teas. It's worth a visit.

"Over the years, a number of very smart people have learned the hard way that a long string of impressive numbers multiplied by a single zero always equals zero." __Warren Buffet

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Chirp, Chirp. They're Here.

Look who gave Greta a lift back to Europe, everyone's favorite sailing family, Riley, Elayna and young Lenny on La Vagabonde.

Firmly into snowbird season 2020 we sit this morning with 221 existing condo units for sale on the Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral MLS, a modest increase from our inventory levels of last year. There are another nineteen to-be-built, pre-construction offerings as well, most of those in the new luxury oceanfront building, The Surf at Cocoa Beach, to break ground shortly downtown.

January was slow for closed sales as is usually the case. We closed 38 condo units in our two cities in January compared to 40 in January 2019. Highest price sale was $603,500 for a corner unit at Majestic Seas with a median selling price of $240,000. Four oceanfront units commanded over $300 per square foot, all of them above the ground floor and with extensive remodeling. Sellers would be well-advised to remember that when they are pricing their units. An original condition 2/2 on the 5th floor with a magnificent view is not going to justify $300 a foot unless there is a Tesla being thrown in the deal.

Sixteen single family homes closed in the month, all in Cocoa Beach, none in Cape Canaveral. Highest price paid was $830,000 for a beautifully and completely remodeled four bedroom pool home on a canal with covered dock and boat lift. Half of the sixteen sold for more than a half million. Lowest price paid was $330,100 for a modestly updated but well-maintained four bedroom non-waterfront four blocks from the ocean.

I have had a slow but interesting start to 2020. I have been tussling with a minimal-contact buyer's agent who is also trying to be a mortgage broker for his client. As I expected, that distant lender failed to complete the loan but a local lender swept in and saved the day start to finish in less time than it took the the distant lender to get an appraiser to the property. Buyers are advised to use a local lender whenever possible. Rate shopping internet lenders may get a lower interest rate estimate but that saves nothing if they fail to close. That happens often enough that I would not consider using an out-of-town lender myself regardless the quoted interest rate.

The fairways at the Cocoa Beach Country Club recently resemble the scenes from Jurassic Park with herds of slow-moving herbivores roaming grassy plains. Those gentle giants in our case are our beloved snowbird visitors who do their best on our courses to teach us to slow down and smell the roses. I'm trying. I really am but as George W. used to say, "It's hard, reeeeeal hard."

"It’s so exciting. My son turned 14, and now he knows everything! Everything! I don’t have to tell him anything anymore because he already knows! In fact, he knows more than I do AND more than his dad does! We couldn’t be more thrilled. What a joyous time."  __Michele Tafoya

Friday, January 03, 2020

Here We Go Again

We begin the new decade with an inventory of 185 MLS-listed condo and townhome units for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. That's less than we've closed since Friday the 13th in September. There were a total of 690 units closed in 2019 at prices from $53,000 to $1.625 MM. Median selling price was $245,000. Private sales like the Meridian unit that closed for $1.275 MM are not included in my MLS-sourced stats.

There were a total of 154 single family homes closed in the year in our two cities at prices from $192,500 to $1.995 MM with a median of $410,000. There are but 55 for sale this morning.

Total sales activity for 2019 trailed last year's record setting 734 condo units but was still among the four highest years since 2005. Not surprisingly the other three high years were 2016, 2017 and 2018. I see no reason to anticipate this trend slowing outside of some unforeseen macro event. Of course, those trend-influencing macro event are always unforeseen so a trend shift remains anyone's guess. Just less than half (48%) of the sold units closed for cash so a sudden surge in mortgage rates would be expected to have limited effect. Units that were priced fairly sold quickly with 138 units selling in the first week on the market. At the other end of the spectrum we had 105 stubborn sellers who overpriced their units and had to wait over six months to sell. A quarter of those took over a year to sell.

Construction will begin this year on the new oceanfront condo, The Surf at Cocoa Beach, in downtown Cocoa Beach on the vacant lot that has been empty since the storms of 2004 destroyed the shabby old condo building that was there. It's a welcome addition to our newly vibrant downtown area. Expect more new things downtown in 2020.

 I snapped the eagle pictured at the Cocoa Beach Country Club last week. We are used to seeing lots of ospreys, dozens of species of wading birds and waterfowl including the occasional roseate spoonbill but bald eagles are a rare sight. The Country Club is a true lootbox for bird watchers. The arrival of our largest winter population of migratory fowl, the northern snowbird, has begun. In addition to the Cocoa Beach Country Club golf courses another good location for viewing is Publix. The males tend to gather around the free coffee up front while the females forage throughout the store before competing, often savagely, for spots in the Express Checkout line. The usual trend is steadily increasing numbers through the end of March into early April when we reach our max number of visitors with converging snowbirds, spring breakers and baseball families here for spring training at the Expo. It looks to be another record setting season.

Anyone looking for their own little slice of Cocoa Beach is welcome to contact me with questions or advice or representation. I'm willing to share what I know about our special little town and am willing to offer an opinion about the rest whether I know what I'm talking about or not. Happy New Year, all.

"Concentrated risk is not compensated in the long-run." __unknown