Wednesday, November 11, 2020

We Salute You


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

Slim Pickings


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

How Far We've Come


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 25, 2020

Evaporating Inventory

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sue the Association for Water Damage?



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

Squalls Out on the Gulf Stream

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Inspector Said...

This is beginning to feel like my encore song. Just a few posts back I had this to say:

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.

Renegotiating a contract after inspections is a common occurrence with a wide spectrum of outcomes, cancellation of the contract among them. A buyer should expect a reasonable seller to make concessions for hidden defects found during inspections. As noted above, being the beach with a salty environment, AC units are at the top of the list for trouble items found during inspections. Most condo buildings of more than two stories will have AC compressor units installed on the roof. The condition of this unit can't be known during a typical condo showing unless the seller disclosed its condition. Inspections can often reveal a unit that is barely holding together after years in the salt air and is poised to fail. Renegotiating the contract price or asking for a credit from the seller is reasonable in this situation. Asking a seller to replace a functioning unit in apparent good condition that is showing some rust or signs of age is usually not. Inspectors will often note a unit as "nearing the end of its useful life" or "consider replacement" or other language that can spook a buyer who hasn't seen an inspection report before. I have never seen a report that didn't mention "further evaluation" at least once about something. I have seen buyers walk away from a contract on a property that perfectly met their expectations and at a fair price because they wanted unrealistic concessions related to inspection report language. It is unrealistic to expect brand new anything in a used property unless the seller advertised something as brand new or unless the existing appliance or system is not functioning as designed or is obviously one breath away from failure. Used properties have used systems and appliances and a buyer's initial offer should take that fact into consideration. Offering high intending to whittle down the contract price post inspection is a recipe for disappointment. Buyers would be well-advised to expect inspection reports on used properties to reveal issues related to the age of the property and to keep that in mind during initial negotiations. They should also keep in mind their alternative targets, if any, should they decide to cancel. Low inventory does not favor buyers.

There are 146 existing MLS-listed condo and townhome units for sale this morning in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. There are another 13 offered as pre-construction reservations most of them in the new oceanfront Surf in downtown Cocoa Beach. Twenty seven units in CB and CC have accepted contracts since Aug 1 with a median price of about $300,000.

Single family home inventory is in similar depleted condition with but 42 existing homes offered for sale in our two cities. Both these inventory numbers, condos and homes, are at all-time lows and showing no signs of recovery. There will never be a large number of new units added to our inventory in Cocoa Beach as there is no vacant land upon which to build. Like the new Surf building downtown, for any new buildings to be built, with very few exceptions, something old has to be torn down. Cocoa Beach, at about 70% water, has a higher water percentage than the average human body. The remaining 30% has been almost entirely developed. 

Buyers need to keep this low inventory in mind when looking and offering. The more stringent one's must-have list the more crucial it becomes to shoot for success when offering. This is not the time to offer low and work up to fair. If the perfect property becomes available now is the time to be aggressive. Considering the pace of new listings, it could be a long time for another acceptable listing to appear and by that time, prices are likely to have increased. If you hope to buy a property in this market at this point in history, be bold and quick with your offers or be prepared to never buy. I don't like it either but, as I heard a high-ranking figure recently say, it is what it is. Know that if you do have to overpay for your perfect beach getaway, the tight inventory and vigorous demand will likely push the value up to your purchase price and beyond in short order. 

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views." __the Doctor, Doctor Who 


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Doldrums

Fatty tuna for those so inclined. Yes, it was as good as it looked.

There are but 152 existing condo and townhome units listed for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral this morning as reported by the Cocoa Beach MLS. We began the month with a similar inventory and 52 of those sellers have accepted a contract since July 1. So far in July 2020 a total of 58 condo units have closed, 17 of them at prices over $400,000. Seven direct ocean units sold for over $300 per square foot, all of them above the ground floor and most remodeled with garages. The majority of direct ocean units of average size in good condition are closing at prices in the upper $200s per square foot. 

Thirteen single family homes have closed in our two cities so far in July, most at prices between $300,000 and $400,000. One large, open water beauty in Cocoa Beach closed for $1.29 MM. There are only 41 single family homes for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral today. With sales exceeding new listings and barring a surge of new inventory the already-depleted inventory will continue to shrink. Showing activity remains strong despite virus concerns. I imagine there will be some impact on our second home market as fallout from job losses and business closings spreads but, so far, the real estate market locally doesn't seem to have been affected.

With a total of 127 confirmed Covid cases, little Cocoa Beach continues to lead all beachside communities in Brevard County, most of them more populous, with number of cases. Cape Canaveral was reporting 69 cases as of yesterday's report. Y'all stay safe and hydrated. The high temperatures have been somewhat masked by the tropical southeasterly flow the last couple of weeks but when that ends look out. Sea turtle activity continues at a brisk pace in south Cocoa Beach with new nests and hatches of existing nests almost every night. It's been a good year for the turtles in Cocoa Beach.

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

You think everyone is stupid but you???

It's been a while since I had any crazy agent stories worth sharing but the drought ended this week with a doozy of an interaction with an Orlando agent. A client asked me to check out a Cocoa Beach condo that was listed for sale on Zillow but not the local MLS. The unit had an Orlando brokerage and agent displayed as the listing contact. This is not uncommon as our MLS is not part of the Orlando MLS and agents there have to join our MLS if they want to add a listing here. Some of them risk listing on Zillow for free without the MLS to save the membership fees. I contacted the agent through his real estate broker's website identifying myself and my brokerage and this was the exchange with the condo name omitted:

Me: Sir, I'm trying to find out about showing your listing in Cocoa Beach. At least, it appears to be yours. Your name was posted as the listing agent on Zillow.

AgentBest to Text and I will let you know when it is available.  What day is your client available?

MeThey are not in Cocoa Beach and will want me to preview without them. My office is a few blocks away so I am flexible on when. Let me confirm with them that they are interested enough for me to check it out. I'll let you know. Thanks.

AgentI wished there was some honesty in this business.  You lie to me about having a buyer.  It is realtors/brokers like you that make this a difficult mean business that wastes a lot of time.  You are the type of person that gives real estate agents a bad name!!!

It got worse after I pointed out that I contacted him specifically because my client had asked me to but he was committed to being angry and there was no turning back. He went on to accuse me of trying to insert myself into the middle of a deal, called me greedy and asked if I thought everyone but myself was stupid. He finished up with "The only time I want to hear from another Realtor is when they have a buyer!!!!!!!!" Turns out after all this that he is the owner of the unit and has been solicited for the listing by Cocoa Beach agents in the past which, I'm guessing, was his reason for unloading on me. He did not apologize when he eventually realized that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. It's hard not to take something like this personally and I'm left wondering if I could have worded my inquiry in a manner that wouldn't have triggered such a response but I have to assume that there were other issues going on with him and I happened to pass through the crosshairs at the wrong moment. He did not allow me to see the unit because he thought my initial inquiry was an agent trick trying to get the listing by making up a phantom buyer. If I'm to see the unit for my client, it appears I'm going to have to be willing to endure more abuse in the attempt to convince him that the client is indeed real. No donut for me on this one. I've heard real estate sales described as an easy job. At times that is accurate. Other times...

The huge leatherback sea turtle nest behind my house hatched last week along with several other loggerhead and green turtle nests nearby. According to the turtle people who monitor nesting activity, there are over 300 turtle nests so far in a two mile stretch in south Cocoa Beach. With an average of a little over 100 hatchlings per nest we're talking about over 30,000 baby turtles beginning their lives this year in south Cocoa Beach alone.

As of yesterday's report, Cocoa Beach has the highest number of confirmed virus cases of any beachside community in our county with 117 cases. Cape Canaveral has 53. Indoor mask use is now mandated in Cocoa Beach and appears to be accepted by the majority of people based on casual observation. The Country Club golf course has reopened with distancing and masks required in the pro shop.

On a related note, three weeks after opening their borders to foreign visitors the Bahamas are closing again to American visitors after an outbreak of Covid following the reopen. I'm hearing that the Bahamas strict mask mandate is not being enforced in businesses on the outer islands in Abaco where tourist dollars are desperately needed after last year's devastation from Hurricane Dorian and the earlier border closure this year. This is an especially crippling development for the special place that is Abaco and the people who call it home as we approach the active months of hurricane season in 2020.

"What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men, you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week -- which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it anymore than you men." __"Captain" - Cool Hand Luke

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 covid@omnihealthcare.com.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Now the ISS. Then Mars and Beyond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 61st Birthday to Robert Smith of The Cure.

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