Saturday, July 25, 2009

Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me.

Woke up this morning thinking another surf before work would be in store with a light morning wind and a dying swell, but, it was not to be. Swell has dropped enough overnight that the half tide this morning was just not working. Possibly at the late afternoon low tide if the onshore wind isn't on it. At any rate it's been a welcome three days of good surf.

In lieu of ocean communion I headed to the office early and began sifting and number crunching through the MLS trying to sniff out the ever harder to find gems hidden in the active listings. I focused my search on the type of unit I am most often asked about, direct ocean with a good view. To set a base line, I began by searching for all direct ocean units above the ground floor with at least 1200 sq. ft. that have sold in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral since April 1 this year. [sales before April 1 are ancient history in this dynamic market] Discarding all sales of brand new units and those that didn't have a direct, east facing view the list contained 15 closed sales through yesterday. Lowest price was $207,000 for a 2/2 Driftwood in original but decent condition. Highest price paid was $675,000 for the northeast corner Xanadu penthouse, attractively remodeled. Sorting for price per square foot, the lowest price paid was $155 per square foot for a partially remodeled 2nd floor Constellation and the highest was $259 for a gorgeous 2nd floor, 5 year old Ocean Oasis. The average was $211 per square foot. I got the same number even when throwing out the high and the low. Only three of the sales were for less than $196 per square foot.

Now I have a number that the current market is paying for this type of unit. I also know from my research that these sales closed at an average of 90% of the last asking price. Searching using the same criteria for active listings and capping the price at $675,000, the highest paid price in my sold search, I have a list of 57 units actively for sale above the ground floor, east facing with at least 1200 square feet. Not surprisingly, the range of asking prices is out of touch with the reality of the sold range. Sorting on dollars per square foot, the lowest price is $184 per square foot (suggested short sale price) for a mostly-original Waters Edge 6th floor and the highest is, hold your breath, $353 per square foot for a Canaveral Sands 3rd floor corner with some updates but far from plush, offered furnished.

Of the 57 units on our list, 47 are asking more than 10% above the average on the sold list and fifteen dreamers are asking more than 10% above the highest. The average asking price of all 57 units is $260 per square foot or 23% more than the average sold price in the most recent four month period.

Our takeaway: The "for sale" market, for the most part, is out of touch with the recently sold market. There are anomalies and exceptions, of course, and these are the ones that buyers should be looking for in addition to the ones that are obviously priced right. I will consider paying above the average closed $/sq.ft. if the unit is exceptional in some way. If I can get someone's expensive remodel for a fraction of what it would cost me, it's worth consideration. I'm also willing to pay more for a corner or a second garage. On the other hand, I'm going to need to purchase below the average if a unit needs work. Buyers need to be thinking like appraisers. Establish a base price based on square footage and then adjust up or down for pluses or minuses. Also, as I mentioned in a recent post, it's vital to justify your offer with hard numbers like the ones here. Your offer may be far below asking but real world examples may be enough to snap an optimistic seller out of Lala Land. If you're offering and your agent is too lazy to do this research for you feel free to use my numbers here, or, probably smarter, find an agent who will.

By the way, in my search of active listings, there were six units asking less than the average sold $/sq.ft., two of them nice units firmly in the "deal" category at full asking price. Now, no TV until you do your homework.

"Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose."
__________James Taylor