Thursday, December 25, 2014

That's a Wrap, Cocoa Beach

2014 was an eventful year in Cocoa Beach. I had forgotten how much had happened until I began listing the significant events of the year. I know I may have missed some but these are the ones I can remember that felt worth mentioning.

The picture at the left was taken from the golf course at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on December 20. Temp was in the high 70s at the time. It was a carbon copy of every day of the entire preceding week. By the way, how about those new greens? It's been a couple of years since they tore out the old ones and replaced them with new, salt-tolerant Paspalum grass. They were better than the old very quickly but now that they have completely filled in, they are excellent and, according to one old-timer who plays all over Brevard, might be the best in the county. Kudos to the people who made the decision to undertake this disruptive project and who chose the type of grass to use. It has paid off wonderfully.

Some of the Highlights of 2014

Our new fire station is almost finished directly across the street from the old station which is slated for tear-down. Imagine the Chili Cook-off next year.

The Cocoa Beach Pier was sold to Westgate Resorts of Orlando who have begun total renovation of the 52 year old landmark. I expect big things and probably a challenge of the height and density limits for a new structure on the parking lot. That will be highly contentious if it happens.

The Pelican Landings Resort in south Cocoa Beach was sold and torn down to make room for a magnificent new oceanfront home, a rare case of natural density reduction. It was completed late in the year.

We saw the highest price ever paid for a single family home in Cocoa Beach this year. It was for a 13 year old luxurious, three level direct ocean beauty for just shy of $2 million. That record is soon to be more than doubled when the pending Pumpkin Center oceanfront block closes.

And once again, as we've done for the last six years running, the number of closed residential sales exceeded the preceding year. The over 670 condo units closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral (as of Christmas) exceeded the total for every year since 2005.

The final chapter of the Glass Bank saga was begun late in the year as preps for demo began.

The new oceanfront condos on the site of Crawford's Cocoa Cabanas in south Cocoa Beach finally broke ground after first being announced back in 2006 just as the housing crash began. I've been hearing ever since then that construction was about to begin. They are being offered with "boat slips". Caveat emptor.

After voters overwhelmingly supported mixed-use zoning in a small area of downtown Cocoa Beach in 2011, we saw our first two new mixed-use buildings completed, residential upstairs over commercial downstairs. I think we can expect many more of these types of buildings downtown. Also downtown, we saw several other commercial buildings remodeled and re-purposed and several new restaurants, offices and watering holes opened. The old Post Office was sold and remodeled and has reopened as retail and offices.

The Port continued it's blazing pace of growth. The old boat ramps next to Grills were closed to make room for the new Cruise Terminal One which is almost complete. We recreational fishermen scored on this one as we got brand new ramps much closer to the Port entrance adjacent to Jetty Park. The container port appears to be either complete or close to it. The main channel of the Port near the entrance has been widened to allow two cruise ships to pass one another. Next on the agenda there is to turn the area around the Exploration Tower into something like downtown Disney. The conceptual renderings are breath-taking. We've come a long way since Captain Ed's and the scallop plant.

SpaceX completed several successful missions from the Space Center as did the other usual players. The big launch of the year was a massive Delta 4 Heavy in December carrying the Orion space craft. There are a dozen launches scheduled right now for the next eight months from the Cape, seven by SpaceX and five by the United Launch Alliance. The space flight business is firing on all cylinders (nozzles?).

And, while not Cocoa Beach news, the online real estate world experienced a couple of major moves with Zillow buying Trulia and News Corp. buying Point2 and Move, Inc. so that they now own, in addition to, the pipeline for the vast majority of Zillow and Trulia's listings. This one ain't over by a long shot. I can't wait.

We are entering 2015 with an inventory of 257 condo and townhouse units for sale and 60 single family homes.That's about a 4.5 month supply at 2014's rate of sales. Considering this, I think it's reasonable to expect the number of sales to decrease in 2015. There are a total of five short sales and 24 bank-owned properties for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. That scarcity of distressed sales combined with the low inventory should be a tailwind for continued rising prices. As always, buyers should be aware of market conditions and recent selling prices and be realistic if they hope to purchase. Prices have risen but are still less than the cost to build in many cases. There are gems to be had. Good hunting.

Happy safe holidays to all and a positive and gratifying New Year.

"Your purchase choices are probably fueling slavery. But convenience often trumps ideology, so...whatever." ___ M.Lapa

Friday, December 19, 2014

Robberies Update

Thanks for the feedback from those of you with knowledge of this ripoff. It didn't take me long to find several more examples of the same local brokerage charging their clients the junk fee. The "Broker Only Commission" is exactly the same as the infamous "Regulatory Compliance Fee" that used to be charged by another local brokerage. It's a junk fee that has no place on the vast majority of settlement statements. One reader was kind enough to forward me a portion of their contract that showed the fee disclosed and pre-printed on the last page, presumably to make it seem legit. In two other cases that I looked at, that line was omitted from the contract but the fee was inserted on the settlement statement.

People, do not pay a fee to your agent or broker above the commission they are receiving unless it's a case of reduced or no commission and you want them to be paid an appropriate amount for their work. If you are presented with a contract or settlement statement showing a "Broker Only Commission", "Regulatory Compliance Fee" or any other fee paid to your broker by you, refuse to pay it unless you previously agreed to and are OK with paying it. No agent or broker is going to let the deal die because you refused to be robbed of $345 at closing.

Agents, don't be bullied into ripping off your clients. This is a shady practice and it won't continue without your complicity. There are plenty of good brokerages that don't encourage you to treat your clients poorly. Do the right thing.

Beautifully Written Breath Hold Diving Techniques from

Release snorkel, pike, raise leg, begin to drop. A few strong slow kicks to get to negative and then, depending on the type/depth of diving, glide down to depth or kick a bit more to get through the top portion of the dive and down to depth. Mentally, as a natural low-level anxiety emerges, the game begins. The relationship towards the fear of air starvation becomes a game. It is "out there" in the consciousness, and I physically smile at it like an old acquaintance, neither friend nor enemy.

Ultimately, my control of, or my relationship to, these feelings begins to erode. It "becomes" time to go up. Small contractions may begin in my gut/diaphragm and throat. I begin to smile and to redouble my relaxing "non-effort efforts". Anxiety, tension and wasted movement are the tricksters that conspire to rob me of oxygen (and life). I smile at them, search for that relaxation, and rise. Kicking slowly, trailing my gun. Streamlined. I focus on the beauty of the light above and I move towards it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Robberies Continue

For the second time in two weeks I've witnessed a buyer being ripped off by their agent. The crime: a junk fee tacked on the settlement statement among the dozens of other, legitimate charges. If the buyer was told about and agreed to this fee in advance, it's still wrong. I don't know if the broker lets the agent decide whether to charge the client or pay it out of their own pocket. Agents working for a broker who charges them a transaction fee in addition to skimming a cut off the top of their commission are being ripped off. Agents who pass on the fee to their client when a substantial commission is already being paid are ripping off the client. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that this exact distasteful practice by my former broker (one of the big franchise offices) was the impetus for the opening of Walker Bagwell years ago.

I understand why some agents are tempted to pass the fee along. In this particular case, the buyer's broker is receiving $4920.00 commission from the seller's broker. Depending on the agent's split with the broker, if the agent pays the $345 "Broker Only Commission" there's a good chance the agent's take-home pay (before taxes) will be less than half the original $4920. Still doesn't justify ripping off the client. Agents, do the right thing or look for a broker who doesn't see you as just another revenue stream to squeeze and massage.

The photo is of the north side of the Cocoa Beach Pier yesterday, Dec. 10, midday, high tide. Surf was big and clean and, as is usually the case at the Pier, easy enough for Grandma to catch a head-high peeler. Things were a little more intense and consequential a few miles south where the north swell was hitting directly. The epic conditions continue today.

"Living is easy with eyes closed,
Misunderstanding all you see." ____John Lennon

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Status Quo

It's December 6 and the Cocoa Beach Christmas parade will shut down southbound A1A through downtown for a couple of hours this afternoon. Small town America at it's core.

The MLS tells me that there are 245 condos and townhomes for sale in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral this morning. This is the same number of units that have closed since July 21 this year. That's the entire inventory selling in 183 days, a tight market to put it mildly. Looks like 2014 will come close to matching last year's record-breaking 660 units with 631 closed units so far, as of this morning. Activity slowed considerably in November with only 38 units closed which is right in line with last year's 37 units.

Oceanfront and riverfront units continue to dominate the landscape with ocean units ranging from $240,000 for a direct 6th floor handyman 2/2 at the Sands to a 2nd floor southeast corner Sol y Mar 3/3 that closed for $750,000. Just three years ago a same floor plan corner unit on the 3rd floor closed for $447,000. That, ladies and gentlemen, is some serious price recovery.

Others sales of note included:
A 3rd floor southeast corner 3/3 in the ten year old Ocean Oasis in downtown Cocoa Beach for $600,000.

A smaller but totally remodeled 5th floor southeast corner Windrush 3/2 for $460,000.

An upgraded 5th floor direct river 3/2 corner at Solana River closed for $390,000 after just 23 days on the market.

A 4th floor direct river River Bend 3/2 in south Cocoa Beach sold for $350,000.

A few blocks north, a remodeled 3rd floor direct ocean 2/2 at Waters Edge closed for $345,000.

A few more blocks north, still in south Cocoa Beach, a remodeled 3rd floor direct ocean Sun Club 3/2 went for $329,000.

There were eleven closed single family homes in the month at prices from $194,900 for a bank-owned little beauty in Cocoa Isles to $450,000 for a totally remodeled canalfront 5/2 pool home with dock and boat lift.

Of the 49 total residential sales, seven were either short sales or foreclosures. Of the 304 active for sale residential listings of all property types, five are short sales and 19 are bank-owned. The short sale chapter in our boom, bust and recovery history is drawing to a close.

If you'd like the full details and photos of all or specific closed sales, shoot me an email.

Don't forget; parade at 2 this afternoon downtown Cocoa Beach.

"The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."  __Gloria Steinem.