Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Crunch time for new projects

In lieu of accurate MLS stats, here are housing start stats as reported by Florida Today this week. Click here for the whole article.

Single-family home permits in Brevard County in 2005:
7,273 compared to 6,180 in 2004

Median sale price of an existing home in Brevard:
$234,400 in December, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

Although this was a record for single-family home starts in Brevard County, a slowdown was obvious by December when the monthly number dropped to 551, less than the 2003 and 2004 December totals.

In other real estate news beachside, several new condo projects are approaching completion and other new projects are just breaking ground. Equipment has been moved onto the site of the old Cocoa Cabanas in South Cocoa Beach and the small condo project to be built there is offering pre-construction units starting just under $1 million. Across the street on the river, the first building of the 77 unit, Magnolia Bay project has topped out at the fourth floor with the construction crews making fast time. Investors who bought units there at pre-construction prices starting at $549,900 will soon be marketing their units as closing approaches. If any of them have researched nearby activity on the MLS, they must be nervous. In the Crescent Palms, a new 15 unit building just south of this project, 14 of the 15 units are on the market with, so far, no takers.

Crescent Palms

Those investors will soon be closing on their luxury riverfront units and making mortgage payments and paying taxes on their investments. Hopefully, everyone made plans for the possibility of not being able to flip their contracts.

I've been talking about the risks of pre-construction for a year now and the reality of over-supply and optimistic pricing that concerned me last year is in full bloom. If you are holding a pre-construction contract for investment purposes, you need to make some contingency plans. You may be forced to close unless you are willing to drop your price to a point at which the unit will sell. Many of the current group of investors are unwilling to accept that the profit they expected is not going to happen. Many of them will be closing and carrying debt hoping to sell at some point in the future when the market has digested the current crop of new units. Selling now for break-even may be more prudent for some of them.

If you're looking for a second home or vacation condo, this same scenario is to your advantage. Stay tuned and contact me if you'd like a list of soon-to-close projects.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bottom Fishing for Bargains

Things have picked up considerably since the first of the year. I have written offers for 4 different buyers in the last 2 weeks with 3 of those buyers getting accepted contracts. I am seeing sellers more willing to respond to low offers than last season but I haven't found any seller yet willing to sell for under market value. Two bits of advice if you're making a lowball offer; first, don't expect a warm reception from the seller. Second, if you're offering considerably lower than asking price, the terms of your offer better be attractive to be considered. A seller will be more tempted to respond to a low, cash offer with a quick close than an offer contingent on a high loan-to-value mortgage or other troubling contingencies such as the sale of another property or a delayed close. If you plan to do some bottom fishing, get pre-approved for a mortgage, make your offers as clean as possible and be prepared to lose out on a few.

Our inventory is still climbing with each week seeing a new record high number of listings. Here are our current stats for Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. One caveat; there are many duplicate listings as agents learn our new MLS, so, the actual number of listings is less than the numbers below. Even adjusting for the errors we are still at record high inventory.

MLS listed properties, Jan. 19, 2006

condos all prices__815
_over $500,000___206

homes all prices__117
_over $500,000__58

New condo listings since Jan. 1 - 182
New single family listings since Jan. 1 - 34

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sellers get aggressive with pricing

I'm still not convinced of the accuracy of our new MLS but I will report the stats as they are showing in the system.

I have seen a burst of activity in the last four weeks with serious buyers out and making offers. There is a disconnect at the moment with both buyers and sellers seemingly on different pages. Buyers are somewhat over-confident in their power to make low-ball offers and many sellers are still clinging to the idea that each new sale must be higher than the last. That is the reality in many of the scenarios that I directly observe. Of significance at the moment are those motivated sellers who have priced their properties to sell. I showed several condos yesterday and two of them are priced well under the market. One is a 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1574 sq.ft. ground floor unit at River Lakes in Cocoa Beach that was just reduced to $299,000. That is a lot of direct waterfront condo in a great complex with boat slips for $299K. The other priced-to-sell unit was a direct ocean, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1753 sq.ft. unit at Waters Edge in south Cocoa Beach for $459,900. That is $263 per sq.ft., a rate we haven't seen for oceanfront in quite some time.

Whatever you believe about the future of the real estate market in Florida, if you want to own a waterfront condo, now is the time to get out and start looking. Although I believe that the high-end condo market will see even more downward pressure on prices because of too much investor involvement and increased supply, I think that quality units in existing complexes that are primarily resident-owned represent a great opportunity at these prices, at least the ones that are aggressively priced like my 2 examples above. You can choose between a brand new riverfront condo at $402/sq.ft. or a nice older unit on the same shoreline for $189/sq.ft. The difference leaves a lot of money for upgrades.

Here are our stats for today. Remember that our new MLS lists properties somewhat differently than the old one so some of these numbers will appear to have changed dramatically from my last stats reporting in December. For instance, some townhomes now appear under single-family homes. The important number here is the combined number of all listings. It is at an all-time high at 887 total listings in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.

MLS listed properties, Jan. 12, 2006

condos all prices__785
_over $500,000__196

homes all prices__102
_over $500,000__53

Another significant number is the 57 price reductions in the last 7 days. Don't think that you can get a great deal on most of the listed properties because of our high inventory levels. A large number of sellers are willing to wait as long as it takes to sell their properties or even not sell at all. Others don't have that luxury and may have to sell because of a relocation or simply because they are over-extended. These are the ones you want to buy from. They're there and I'll be glad to help you sniff them out. I can be reached by email at or at my new office, Walker Bagwell Properties in downtown cocoa Beach at 321.868.3151.