Saturday, April 24, 2010

Slack and slacker

All 96 of the sea oat seedlings that I planted on
the beach a couple of months ago are flourishing.

I am showing four condos today. I called yesterday for showing instructions. Two of the offices required that I call the listing agent directly for showing instructions. Neither of those agents answered their phones. I left messages for both. One called three hours later and told me that there was not a lockbox on the 3-day old listing but that she would try to get one on before my showing today. I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be able to get in that unit. The other agent has yet to return my call. I wonder if her clients, the sellers, are aware that some potential buyers can't gain access to their unit.

Incidentally, when the first agent returned the call I suggested that she mark her lockbox when she left it so that I and other buyers' agents could distinguish which box belonged to her listing. This particular building has a secure lobby and all lockboxes are in the same area outside. She responded that that wouldn't be necessary as hers was the only listing in the building. Unknown to her, there is another much nicer listing in the building that is priced $100,000 less than hers. It's been on the MLS for 30 days. Also of interest is the fact that the last four sales in the building, all of units in better condition than hers, were for prices at least $150,000 less than her quixotic, blue sky number. It's clear that this agent did not do any research before taking this listing. We are looking at the unit today knowing that at some point in the future, if the sellers are serious about selling, they will have to price it realistically and perhaps we will still be in the market at that time.

These are not isolated incidents. There are many agents and brokerages that contribute more obstacles than solutions for their clients who are hoping to sell. Sellers would be well-advised to do a little homework before selecting a listing agent. A lazy or unqualified listing agent will, at best, hinder and, worst case, prevent a listing from selling. There are many professional and knowledgeable listing agents and offices. Seek them out if you want to sell. By the way, the other offices that I contacted yesterday had showing instructions at their fingertips and I was cleared to show within a few seconds of calling.

" gotta buy groceries before you can cook."

______Spinal Tap

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April: 7th inning report

The 22nd of April and we have had 22 closed condo sales so far in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral according to our somewhat-lagging MLS. As a continuation of the dominant trend of lower price range activity, seven sales were for less than $100,000 and none exceeded $500,000. In a departure from another trend, only three of the closed sales were short sales. The sweet spot for prices right now is in the $100,000 to $200,000 bracket with half of the sales landing between $114,000 and $205,000.

The two highest prices, $465,000 and $500,000, were both at the bank-ordered sale of Ocean Club in north Cocoa Beach. The numbers look good on paper, $185 and $160 per square foot for almost new construction. The reality is that the building sits on a flag lot back away from the ocean with the big pink Coral Seas building to the east blocking a good portion of the ocean view. Looking at other sales with impeded views, the buyers of a Solana Shores unit got the deal of the month so far in that category at $136 per square foot for a nine year old 3/3 in that established, untroubled complex.

Another contender for deal of the month was a six year old, top floor direct Banana River, Solana River 2/2 with 2055 square feet that sold for $205,000 or $100 per square foot. Icing on the cake was furnishings included. Incidentally, $205,000 is exactly half the price it sold for in 2005.

A top floor, original condition, side ocean view 2/2 with private garage at Sand Pebbles in Cape Canaveral closed for $165,000.

A very nice, upgraded 5th floor direct ocean Windrush 2/2 with 1271 square feet and garage sold furnished for $300,000.

A small (1125 square feet) very nice, remodeled top floor (5th) Sea Oats direct ocean corner 2/2 with garage sold for $275,000.

A foreclosed 2nd floor A building Mystic Vistas 3/2 saw the lowest price there since 2002 when it closed for $179,771.

One of the newer Villages of Seaport 2/2 units closed as a short sale for shocking $84,000 this week. This unit sold in 2005 for $230,000. That's not a haircut. It's a shave. Of note is that this short sale closed in ten weeks between contract and closing table. Good job to the listing agent.

Inventory is pretty much at the same levels of the last two months. Condo mortgages, while still available, have become even harder to obtain with far less lenders willing to loan. Some buildings have become practically cash-only with no one willing to write a mortgage. I am seeing more offers of seller financing.

MLS inventory April 22 , 2010 Cocoa Beach & Cape Canaveral

Condos, all prices_____604
over $500,000_________79
Single family homes___129
over $500,000_________40

"Cold weather makes people stupid and that's a fact."

______Early Grayce (Brad Pitt)_______Kalifornia

Monday, April 12, 2010

The "other" Cocoa Beach

Looking north towards the Cocoa Beach city limits.

As I was driving north on A1A through Cocoa Beach this past Monday I was feeling a vague sense of well-being that suddenly gelled with realization. The traffic of the last month had disappeared and the roads were uncrowded again. We sometimes forget during the spring season how peaceful Cocoa Beach can be at other times. This year was particularly busy when we had the perfect storm of a shuttle launch the day after Easter.

We have several distinct seasons in Cocoa Beach. The year begins with our winter visitors arriving in ever increasing numbers peaking in March. By that month we have the largest number of snowbirds, the visiting baseball teams and their families here for games at the Cocoa Expo and some spring breakers. Throw in the Easter Surf Festival at the Pier and a shuttle launch and it can get busy in the north part of town. Once past Easter things drift back towards normalcy. April and May are typically slow months as we are between the seasons of longer-staying snowbirds and summer vacationers. As soon as schools begin letting out for the summer, we begin receiving vacationers who are typically here for shorter periods than the snowbirds who often stay for months. Our summer guests tend to be here for only a week or two. Come first of September and the summer guests leave en masse and our little town gets downright quiet.

September and October are magic times with the least number of people in town, the water still bath-warm and the weather (barring a tropical storm) perfect. The mullet run begins along the beach in September and beach fishing is the best of the year. This is also the best time of year for surf with our beaches receiving clean swell from every tropical system that passes by. We stay uncrowded right through New Years when the the cycle begins anew.

Speaking of the crowds of this past month, there were parts of Cocoa Beach that remained quiet, uncrowded and peaceful during the peak of the action on Easter weekend. I'm talking about the "other" Cocoa Beach. Many visitors and residents alike do not know about the other Cocoa Beach. The area and beaches in the north end around Cocoa Beach Surf Company, Ron Jons and the Pier form many people's image of our town as does the Minutemen Causeway beach on weekends. As fun as these areas can be there is another side to our town. As one travels south from Minutemen, the shops and motels disappear and the other Cocoa Beach begins to take shape. Here are neighborhoods and the people on the beaches are primarily residents and the occasional clued-in visitor taking advantage of the limited street end parking at the beach. This other town changes once again in the magic strip of south Cocoa Beach that begins at the southern fork of A1A. For a little less than a mile here, there is a narrow strip of land with the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic to the east. Our mailing address is still Cocoa Beach but we are outside the city limits. All public parking disappears and there is the lowest population density of any oceanfront area in Cocoa Beach. A perfect storm of another kind, a formula for perpetually peaceful uncrowded beaches. I love that other Cocoa Beach.

“Insanity in individuals is the exception. In groups, parties, peoples and times, it is the rule.”

Beyond Good and Evil
– Friederich Nietzsche –

Thursday, April 08, 2010

One week in April

The shuttle Discovery ascending just before dawn on Monday above a deserted A1A. The crowds are starting to wind down now with the main snowbird season ending and Easter in the rear-view. By next week the streets and beaches will be mostly quiet again.

Water warmed up rapidly late last week and the cobia run was on. I scored an epic day Monday when we saw over 20 fish and landed four hefty ones for the dinner table. Surf temp is in the comfortable low 70s now. Notice how much colder the beaches just north of the Cape are this time of year.

Sea surface temperature graphic courtesy of
Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Science.

The Canadian dollar has been on a tear lately reaching par with the US dollar on Wednesday, the first time since May 30, 2008. It hit a low of .77 last March before beginning this climb back to even parity.

After a disappointing February for condo sales, March set a record with 50 MLS-listed condos and townhouses closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, the busiest March since 2006.

Mortgage rates have continued their steep increase and are now firmly above 5% for 30 year fixed rate loans. One month trend below.

"Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day."
___W. Earl Hall