Today The SanibelSusan blog moves to WordPress.com


Next week marks the one year anniversary of SanibelSusan’s Friday blogs. Thank you to all who have commented on them & encouraged my continued ramblings. In efforts to make the posts more efficient & professional, I’m determined by next week to master this WordPress venue. So as to not lose the continuity of the blog, posted below are my postings since they began Sep 11, 2009. I hope that you will continue to follow the real estate related happenings on Sanibel & Captiva Islands through my blog. Here’s the history including today’s blog:   

(Note that this representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors or its Multiple Listing Service. Neither the author nor the Association nor its MLS guarantees or is any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the Association or its MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. The information provided represents the general real estate activity in the community & does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions.)
  CONDOS HOMES LOTS
ISLAND STATS      as of 9/3/2010  No. Avg. Price $  No. Avg. Price $  No. Avg. Price $
SANIBEL
For sale 225 764,210 234 1,247,614 108 592,304
Sales pending 9 472,556 13 1,175,176 0 N/A
Sold-to-date 2010 91 593,614 99 764,961 16 380,938
Sold 2009 87 670,489 144 755,003 11 333,136
Sold 2008 95 731,648 148 952,695 13 379,927
CAPTIVA
For sale 69 829,407 80 3,752,922 13 2,271,154
Sales pending 2 1,197,000 1 1,999,000 0 N/A
Sold-to-date 2010 15 578,293 6 1,911,250 2 2,850,000
Sold 2009 22 804,818 16 2,573,016 3 2,241,667
Sold 2008 21 894,536 13 3,465,385 4 3,251,250

9/3/10    

Did we say that it was quiet on Sanibel last week – & the week before? Double that for this past week. Last weekend, we had not a single call & did not have many during the course of the work week either. Interesting too, that though it’s a long weekend, our buddies at one of the island’s largest rental division advise that they have only 5 check-ins tomorrow (& 3 are owners). Too bad, as this is one of the best times to be on the island. We are even having a spell of low humidity & cooler temps than usual (35% & low 70’s evenings & mornings). Here are a few news items:
Top Secluded Beach – Shermans Travel had a posting on MSNBC last weekend describing the 10 Most Secluded Beaches in the U.S.  Sanibel’s Bowman’s Beach garnered the top spot & the write-up included: “The island is well-known as one of the best shelling spots in the country, but you’ll find little competition here. There’s minimal development & ditto on amenities — though Bowman’s does have one perk not found on any other beach on Sanibel: barbecue grills.” Bet you didn’t know Bowman’s has grills, I sure didn’t. FYI, the other beaches rounding out the top 10 are: 2) Carova Beach, NC; 3) Cumberland Island, GA; 4) Dry Tortugas, FL; 5) Enderts Beach, CA; 6) Kaihalulu, HI; 7) Orient Beach State Park, NY; 8) Point Bennett, CA; 9) Rogue Bluffs, ME; & 10) Sandbridge Beach, VA.
Florida Population Growing Again – Interesting article posted today on www.Tampa.com by the “St Petersburg Times”. It said that while the recession caused FL to lose population for the 1st time in more than 60 years, the state’s population is growing again. According to estimates released yesterday by the University of FL, researchers calculated a modest addition of 21K residents from Apr 2009 to Apr 2010, while from 2008 to 2009, FL’s population dropped by more than 56K. Some see this as a tentative sign that the worst of the recession has passed. From 2003 to 2006, FL’s population grew by more than 400K per year & in the previous three decades increased approx 300K per year. The decline last year was the 1st since 1946 when military personnel left the state at the end of World War II. Counties statewide were fairly split between those that lost & gained population, but there were some differences. Tampa’s Hillsborough County added 6+K residents, 2nd only to Miami-Dade, which grew by 8+K. Some large counties grew because of a fairly sizable number of births & increase in foreign immigrants. The largely built-out Pinellas County (Clearwater/St Petersburg area) lost 3+K residents, 2nd only to Seminole (central FL), which lost 3,659 people. UF is forecasting continued slow growth for FL. To quote the article “One factor inhibiting growth in the short term is the housing slump gripping the country.” A lot of retirees who might have already moved to FL are probably having trouble selling their homes up north – or maybe even working longer. According to the article, FL’s estimated population as of Apr 1 was close to 19M.    

Mortgage Rates Hit Decades Low – This week, mortgage rates fell to their lowest in decades for the 10th time in 11 weeks, as investors continue to worry about the economy. According to Freddie Mac yesterday, the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan was 4.32%, down from 4.36% last week. That’s the lowest since Freddie began tracking rates in 1971. Low rates have fueled a wave of refinancing, now at its highest level since mid-2009. But, the low rates have not been enough to lift the struggling housing market. Home sales are at the lowest level in more than a decade. Potential buyers are holding off purchases, worried about jobs & the economy, while some are having trouble meeting tighter lending standards.    

Taste of the Islands – For those of you who remember these CROW fund raisers being in the spring, after high season, this year, it will be Nov 21, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The “Taste” brings together island restaurants in a celebration of Sanibel-style cuisine, while raising money for CROW’s mission to care for sick & injured wildlife. There will be sample dishes from a variety of local establishments, live music, recipe competition, & more. The 2010 Taste logo created by Ikki Matsumoto is bound to be a crowd-pleaser & collector’s item.  (We’re excited as The Taste will again be across the street from our office at the Sanibel Community House & City Park.)    

Here’s the MLS activity for the week:    

CONDOS    

6 new listings: Colonnades #49 1/1 $199K, Ibis at The Sanctuary #A202 3/2 $449K, Sealoft Village #105 2/2 $529K, Sundial #H306 2/2 $575K, Nutmeg Village #214 2/2 $995K, Sundial #L405 2/2 $1.35M.    

3 price changes: Sanibel Siesta #104 2/2 now $349.9K, Atrium #204 2/2 now $1.149M, Plantation Village #B122 3/3 now $1.995M.    

2 new sales: Sundial #M303 2/2 listed for $695K, Gulfside Place #118 3/2 listed for $1.195M.    

5 closed sales: Loggerhead Cay #343 2/2 $477.5K, Sandalfoot #4D3 2/2 $541K (our referral), Heron at The Sanctuary #2-2B 3/3.5 $550K, Shell Island Beach Club #7A 2/2 $585K, Gulfside Place #201 3/3 $1.5M.    

HOMES    

1 new listing: 766 Donax St 2/2 duplex $325K.    

10 price changes: 2001 Roseate Ln 2/2 now $340K, 1290 Sand Castle Rd 3/2 now $449K, 1001 East Gulf Dr 2/2 now $479K, 1262 Par View Dr 3/2 now $650K, 673 East Rocks Dr 3/2 now $659K, 1311 Sand Castle Rd 3/2 now $735K, 2735 Wulfert Rd 4/5 now $1.4M, 1209 Isabel Dr 5/4 now $1.545M, 4630 Rue Bayou 4/4 now $1.75M, 1212 Isabel Dr 3/3 now $2.295M.    

2 new sales: 1012 East Gulf Dr 4/2 listed for $335K, 710 Birdie View Pt 3/3.5 listed for $998K.    

4 closed sales: 523 Rabbit Rd 3/2 $425K, 1866 Farm Trl 3/2 $460K, 498 Surf Sound Ct 3/3 $775K (our listing), 205 Hurricane Ln 3/2 $800K.    

LOTS    

No new listings.    

3 price changes: 1299 Par View Dr now $260K, 1120 Olga Ave now $299K (our listing), 604 Boulder Dr now $299K.    

No new sales.    

1 closed sale: 1808 Buckthorn Ln $235K.     

8/27/10    

I’ve been in Orlando this week at the annual Florida REALTORS® business meetings, attending some terrific classes which will give our listings broader exposure & bring us more buyers.    

Transnational Referrals – Yesterday, I finished the class work to earn the TRC (Transnational Referral Certified) designation, which hopefully will bring SanibelSusan Realty more international prospects. Last year in FL, over 27% of the closed sales were with foreign nationals, so earning this designation now makes SanibelSusan one of the few specialists in SW FL positioned to work with these buyers through cooperative agreements with over 30 countries, through ICREA, which is the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations.    

Networking – I made many new face-to-face Realtor contacts this week. We can’t complain about our island condo market here after learning, that Miami has 16 years worth of condo inventory at their current rate of sales. Now in additional to short sale & foreclosure specialists, their are East Coast REALTORS® that specialize in bundling condos for investors (who will rent them for a few years until the market rebounds). I heard of one Miami high rise that has nearly 800 units & only one occupied. They now are selling at 1/4 the original 2005 prices. That’s scary. Obviously, that market is having a tougher time with financing than we are on the West Coast, & it is contributing to the difficulties in lending requirements for FL condos.    

Here are few tidbits a little closer to home:    

2011 Shell Fair – The Sanibel Community  Association announced that the 74th Sanibel Shell Fair & Show has been selected as one of the Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 events to attend during the spring. It will be Mar 3-5 next year, plus planning is already underway for the 75th anniversary event in 2012, which is expected to be an island-wide Shellabration. The fair is the largest exhibition of its kind in the U.S.    

Sea School Opens at South Seas – The Sanibel Sea School has opened on Captiva at North Pointe in the heart of South Seas Resort. Though the Captiva campus is currently available only to South Seas guests, the original Sanibel Sea School is open to the pubic. Check out their offerings on www.SanibelSeaSchool.org. For 3 yrs, the school has offered children & adults education & exploration of the islands marine life & natural history.    

TRIM Notices Mailed – Lee County mailed the 2009 preliminary tax notices last weekend. They can be viewed thru www.LeePA.org by going to the Real Property Search & then searching by address or name. When the property appears there is a link on the right for “2010 TRIM”. There also is a good question-answer sheet on the home page.    

Here’s the Sanibel MLS activity since last Fri:    

 CONDOS    

2 new listings: Sandpebble #4A 2/2 $369K, Sanibel Arms West #M3 2/2 $379K.    

4 price changes: Mariner Pointe #1062 2/2 $369K, Sanibel Arms West #L6 2/2 $519K, Sundial #Q402 2/2 $649K, Plantation Village #A212 3/2 $1.095M.    

3 new sales: Sundial #J303 1/1 $429K, Sanibel Inn #3524 2/2 $469K, Pointe Santo #E33 2/2 $799K.    

 HOMES    

5 new listings: 1754 Windward Way 2/2 $559K, 1182 Kittiwake Cir 3/3 $719K, 1538 Royal Poinciana Dr 3/3 $825K (short sale), 246 Christofer Ct 4/2.5 $935K, 2294 Wulfert Rd 4/4 $1.289M.    

13 price changes: 1672 Atlanta Plaza Dr 2/1 now $350K, 1730 Windward Way 3/2 now $474K, 1487 Sand Castle Rd 3/2.5 now $475K (short sale), 446 Lagoon Dr 2/2 now $479K (short sale), 1001 East Gulf Dr 2/2 now $494K, 490 (+460) Old Trail Rd 3/2 now $550K, 540 East Rocks Dr 3/2 now $599K, 6192 Henderson Rd 3/2 now $599K (short sale), 220 Palm Lake Dr 3/3 now $724.9K, 1320 Eagle Run Dr 4/3.5 now $899.9K, 1360 Eagle Run Dr 5/3.5 now $1.2M (short sale), 913 Kings Crown Dr 4/3 now $1.495M, 1209 Isabel Dr 5/4 now $1.595M.    

3 new sales: 1012 East Gulf Dr 4/2 duplex listed for $335K (short sale); 662 Donax St 2/1.5 listed for $399,993; 1304 Seaspray Ln 3/2 listed for $3.149M (short sale).    

3 closed sales: 710 Donax St 2/2 $380K (our seller), 3987 Coquina Dr 3/2 $494K, 1386 Sand Castle Rd 3/2 $500K.    

LOTS    

3 new listings: 355 Cowry Ct $295K (short sale), 513 Seawalk Ct $357K, 4415 Gulf Pines Dr $449K.    

No price changes, new or closed sales.    

8/20/2010    

If we thought last week was quiet, it didn’t hold a candle to this week. No Realtor Caravan yesterday & very little real estate action. Today one of the island rental managers told me that of the nearly 200 units in their rental program, there are only 15 check ins tomorrow. Lee County schools start Mon so that always is a slow time. Rumor has it that “once it’s all said & done” Aug rentals could be off as much as 50%. Sep is expected to be slow too. The “Island Sun” this week had a few more restaurant notices: Traders is closing for 6 weeks (from Sun until Oct 4), while McT’s is closing (after 30+yrs), also on Sun. We might be brown bagging for a while.    

What We Are Doing When The Phone Isn’t Ringing – To make good use of the off-season, Dave & Elise are taking on-line classes & doing some database work which will expand our marketing campaign. I’m excited to have just been selected again for the 2011 state Professional Development & Professional Standards Forums. (Professional Development covers educational & informational trends, new technologies, & broker/manager/agent education, while Pro Standards provides Realtor members & boards/associations info & education on policies & procedures.) Also, one upcoming class for me is the Transnational Certification which was developed by the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations. It will expand SanibelSusan’s international marketing & bring us more world-wide referrals.    

FL Supreme Court Considers Amendment – Yesterday, the FL Supreme Court heard arguments supporting & opposing, the ballot wording of proposed FL Constitution Amendment 3 which was created in 2009 to boost home sales. If added, it would give buyers who have not owned a primary residency in the previous 8 years an additional property tax break. It also would lower the yearly tax appraisal cap for rental property & commercial real estate from 10% to 5%. The point of dispute is about how the wording would read on the ballot & whether it adequately explains what would happen should it become effective. Earlier, a lower court judge removed Amendment 3 from the ballot, saying the wording misled voters. The point of contention is the effective date of the tax break (Jan 1, 2010) which is not mentioned in the amendment. The judge feared some voters would opt to approve, thinking, incorrectly, that they would get the tax break if it passed. Florida Realtors filed an amicus brief supporting the amendment. While the Supreme Court justices did not issue a decision yesterday, few of the 6 justices present for oral arguments seemed inclined to place the amendment back on the ballot. Trey Price, a FL Realtors public policy rep, said lawyers advocating removal of Amendment 3 presented a strong case before the Supreme Court due to the omission of the effective date. A decision is expected by early Sep before absentee ballots are printed. “If Amendment 3 does, in fact, not appear on the Nov ballot, FL Realtors’ State & Local Taxation Subcommittee is ready to discuss the next steps & plan for a better amendment for 2012,” Price says. “Economists are telling us that commercial property assessments are unlikely to exceed 5% in the coming 2 years, so that is somewhat good news.”    

Realtor Continuing Ed – I completed my 2-yr requirement for 14-hours of Continuing Ed this week. It took our local Assoc a long to time, several years ago, to get state approval to teach this class locally. Best part is that Kristie Anders, Director of Education at the Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is an approved instructor. She is so inspiring & a wealth of information from island history to the environment & current events. (Everyone should hear her speak at least once a year.) We spent part of the 1st day on the water thanks to McCarthy’s Marina, where Kristie updated us on mangrove trimming rules, land development changes since Hurricane Charley, water quality issues, & other environmental changes that affect our business. Toured & trained at the Island Water treatment plant & even spent the last half of the 1st day at SCCF including a stop at the Native Plant Nursery & a visit from some baby Loggerhead turtles (smaller than the palm of your hand.) Day 2 covered Core Law & Risk Management which certainly wasn’t as much fun, but Audrey Conti of The Academy of Real Estate Education has been teaching for 30+years so has truly mastered keeping wiggle Realtors in their seats. This broker has now once again completed her license requirements! Whew!    

Below is the MLS activity since last Fri. We have fingers crossed for an upcoming closing that received bank “clear to close” not once, but twice, following loan commitment. Financing remains tough (even with well-qualified buyers, well-priced properties, good appraisals, & high deposits). It’s too bad when it takes the joy out of the process.    

CONDOS    

No new listings.    

3 price changes: Spanish Cay #A1 2/2 now $349.9K (our listing), Sanibel Arms West #M7 2/2 now $474K, Lighthouse Point #130 2/2 now $499K.    

1 new sale: Tennisplace #A26 2/1.5 listed for $265K.    

2 closed sales: Sundial #S201 2/2 $584K, Tarpon Beach #303 2/2 $600K.    

HOMES    

4 new listings: 962 Sand Castle Rd 3/2 $399.9K, 1440 Sandpiper Cir 3/2.5 duplex $449.9K, 1562 Serenity Ln 5/3 $468.9K, 1417 Causey Ct 3/2 $599K, 4960 Joewood Dr 3/3 $995K.     

12 price changes: 9319 Kincaid Ct 2/2 now $230K (foreclosure), 1012 East Gulf Dr 4/2 duplex now $340K, 9312 Kincaid Ct 3/2 now $349K (short sale), 1809 Farm Trl 3/2 now $499.9K, 1430 Causey Ct 3/2 now $549K (short sale), 6072 Dinkins Lake Rd 3/2 now $574K (short sale), 540 East Rocks Dr 3/2 now $614.9K, 3733 Coquina Dr 3/2 now $695.5K, 450 Sea Walk Ct 4/3 now $949K, 970 Victoria Way 3/3 now $1.059M, 544 Lighthouse Way 5/5.5 now $2.5M, 1304 Seaspray Ln 3/2 now $3.149M (short sale).    

1 new sale: 1859 Ibis Ln 2/2 listed for $479K.    

1 closed sale: 6141 Henderson Rd 2/1.5 $317K.    

LOTS    

1 new listing: 847 Casa Ybel Rd $174.9K.    

No price changes or new sales.    

1 closed sale: 1208 Par View Dr $240K (our buyer).    

8/13/2010    

We’re celebrating Friday the 13th & 6th anniversary of Hurricane Charley. Weather is clear & bright, hardly a cloud in the sky, unlike 2 days earlier when Sanibel got 5+” of rain. A little swale in my yard filled with water that has not done that since that eventful hurricane. Talk about lush & green, grass is growing inches a day. Probably is one of the nicest summers since 2004, though we were buzzed this morning by the mosquito helicopter. 1st time we’ve seen that in a while. Not much real estate activity this week, but Elise is back from her island vacation, Dave returned from a quick trip to VA, & I’ve just finished the e-PRO course. Great course, geared toward expanding real estate business through technology. I’m so fired up that a new improved SanibelSusan web site is in our future. I’m exploring those options now. Here are a couple of other real estate related items:    

New Pepper Removal Zones – Sanibel City Council recently adopted a new ordinance which designates Zone 5 of the Brazilian Pepper Eradication Program as a “mandatory removal zone”. This means that all owners within that zone (west of Tarpon Bay Rd & east of Rabbit Rd) must remove any pepper from their property within 90 days of July 20, 2010. Removal isn’t easy, so if you have not gone thru removing this invasive exotic, be sure to get the details by calling City’s Natural Resources Dept at 239-472-3700. Additionally, Council designated Zone 6 (properties west of Rabbit Rd to & including Jamaica Dr as a “voluntary removal zone”. During the voluntary phase of the program, property owners are eligible to receive 20% reimbursement for the cost of the removal. Funding is limited & there are some requirements.    

Clearing the Closing Hurdles – Seems that every recent closing has had some delay, so was timely that there is a pertinent article in the Aug issue of “Realtor Mag” (published by the National Assoc of REALTORS®). Prior to 2009, in 20 years, I don’t think I had even a handful of transactions close late. Now, it is almost commonplace. Here are some article excerpts: “According to recent REALTORS® Confidence Index surveys conducted by the National Assoc REALTORS®, between 10 &14% of pending transactions don’t close. Another 20% are delayed but eventually close.”  Best way to avoid a delay is to anticipate a problem & prevent it. Here are some of the problems mentioned. It’s my job to come help with the solutions to these problems, but good for you to recognize what could be coming down the pike.    

“Problem: Financing falls through at the last minute. Tighter & in some cases still-evolving, loan underwriting standards make it more critical than ever for buyers to make sure they are financially qualified for the purchase…However, because of new requirements under the Real Estate Settlement & Procedures Act, many lenders are no longer issuing pre-approval, only pre-qualifications…Tighter lending standards & heightened concern about mortgage fraud also mean more time-consuming paperwork…For example, not only do FHA buyers who receive funds from a family member have to disclose the gift & its source, but the person making the gift must also show the source of the funds…Lenders also are asking to see statements of homeowner’s assoc reserves before approving a loan, which can create “a great deal of difficulty at the last minute if the HOA isn’t cooperative,”…Lenders & mortgage loan investors in the secondary market are scrutinizing actual tax transcripts from the IRS more closely” too.    

“Problem: Appraised value does not support contracted sale price. The biggest hurdle to closing in an uncertain market is the lack of comps, especially for…loans that require comps to be within a 3-month time limit…The Home Valuation Code of Conduct has taken away the power of lenders to do quick closings, …The federal regulations, meant to ensure the integrity of the appraisal process, require that appraisers are assigned by a 3rd party, such as an appraisal management company…If an appraiser is not familiar with the neighborhood or property type, the result could be a value that is way off base. Buyers of secured loans also are doing more due diligence on home values these days, & that can present another appraisal hurdle.” Transactions have even been questioned when values do not match what is on Zillow.”    

“Problem: New lending & closing regulations create delays. Recent changes to the Federal Truth in Lending Act & RESPA can slow the closing process. The new HUD-1 form adds more hours of document preparation…Unfamiliarity & the fear of making a costly mistake in the Good Faith Estimate form are sometimes prompting lenders to ask for closing-cost info more than once or in several formats. Lending rules have also made it harder to close on time if circumstances change late in the deal. Amendments to the Truth in Lending Act require a 3-day disclosure period if a borrower decides to change the loan amount or anything else that can change the interest rate.”    

“Problem: A home inspection uncovers serious issues. The time it takes to negotiate which party pays for repairs & get estimates—and sometimes even complete the work—can spell big delays for a closing…One way to head off last-minute wrangling is to get a home inspection & make repairs before the property is on the market. However, that practice isn’t endorsed across the board…In most cases buyers want their own inspector, & the results of 2 inspections often differ, especially when a property is on the market for a long time.”  “No matter how much you plan ahead, it often seems that closings are just taking longer today…Indeed, the “new normal” may be that it takes 45 or even 60 days from the date the contract is signed to close the transaction.”    

Now for the better news; here’s the MLS activity since last week:    

CONDOS
1 new listing: Sayana 103 2/2 $895K.
2 price changes: Tennisplace D32 1/1 now $175K (short sale), Sanibel Sunset 201 3/2 now $1.625M.
2 new sales: Kings Crown 212 2/2 listed for $699K (our listing, back under contract to same buyer as previously, but with different terms); Sanibel Arms West J-8 2/2 listed for $429K.
No closed sales.    

HOMES
1 new listing: 994 Whelk 2/2 $629.9K (foreclosure).
7 price changes: 1133 Schooner 5/2 duplex now $439K, 962 Donax 3/2 now $655K, 2143 Periwinkle 6/6 tri-plex now $675K, 1302 Par View 3/3 now $688.5K, 799 Conch 3/2.5 now $899K (short sale), 1320 Eagle Run 4/3.5 now $929.9K, 1232 Isabel 3/2 now $1.6M.
2 new sales: 978 Sandcastle 3/3.5 half-duplex listed for $398K, 1501 Sandcastle 3/3.5 listed for $599.9K (short sale).
1 closed sale: 765 Vinca 4/2 for $405K.    

LOTS
1 new listing: 1301 Par View $399K.
2 price changes: 604 Boulder now $329K, 537 Lighthouse now $929K.
1 new sale: 1808 Buckthorn listed for $329.5K.
No closed sales.     

8/6/2010    

It’s the time of year when business gets quiet. Many island restaurants & shops have posted when they will be closed for vacations/remodeling, most in Sep. Traffic is light, with a few folks squeezing in their final summer vacations. Plenty of condo complexes have begun their annual improvement projects which are common late this time of year. Even our friends at The Bean are closing early now (4 p.m.) & will soon close for much of the month of Sep for remodeling. Read too that The Historical Museum closes tomorrow for the remainder of the summer, reopens Nov 3. Also heard a couple of restaurants are extending their typical 1-2 week closings to 3-4 weeks this year, since business is expected to remain slow until the snowbirds return.    

Weather – We’ve pretty much settled into our typical afternoon summer shower routine. Bright sunny days until the big popcorn clouds roll in late day & provide an afternoon, sometimes early evening, shower or thunderbuster. Makes for great sunsets & cools things down. This week NOAA reduced its “active hurricane season forecast” because more Jun & Jul storms were expected than happened. Historically, the busiest hurricane stretch is mid-Aug through early Oct.  Season ends Nov 30. A total of 11 to 20 named storms, including 8 to 12 hurricanes, are expected, with 4 to 6 of the hurricanes major with sustained winds greater than 110 mph. NOAA cites 3 main reasons for the busy forecast: abnormally warm water in the tropics; a decades-long era of Atlantic hurricane intensity, & the emergence of La Nina, an atmospheric condition that nurtures tropical systems. We suggest everyone keep their fingers crossed especially for the next few weeks, & particularly next Fri (the 13th) & the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Charley. For those in town, that’s also the 1-yr anniversary of Ellington’s in their new location on Periwinkle. Big party planned, including special hurricane drinks & Charley stories.    

Coastal Watch ~200 people have volunteered for Sanibel’s Coastal Watch program which is part of the city’s emergency management plan. Coastal Watch was initiated as a result of BP’s Deep Horizon oil well disaster over 3 months ago. Though Sanibel beaches are AOK, the City prepared anyway. The oil is 300 miles north of the island but the Sanibel is taking no chances. Coastal Watch volunteers will patrol island beaches in the event the spill threatens us. The training, testing, & orientation program last week was conducted by City officials, police & fire personnel, & “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge personnel. The primary mission of volunteers is “look but don’t touch”. The City has contractors standing by for quick mobilization should oil be spotted. The Coastal Watch program would not be activated unless oil comes within 75 miles of the island, but preparedness is how Sanibel won many awards for its planning & response to Hurricane Charley in 2004. We don’t expect any oil, but It’s great to be part of such a proactive community.    

Farmers Market Plan on seeing it back on the island this winter. City Council this week approved another lease on City Hall property for the event on Sundays Nov thru Apr.    

7/30/2010    

Island sales action was pretty bleak again this week. Interesting the only reported closing was a short sale. Of the price changes & new sales, many are short sales too. Hate to see more of those on the islands, but it shows we are not immune from what is happening elsewhere.    

Foreclosures Up – The Associated Press reported this week that households across a majority of large U.S. cities received more foreclosure warnings in the first 6 months of this year than in the 1st half of 2009. That trend is the latest sign that the nation’s foreclosure crisis is worsening as homeowners battling high unemployment, slow job growth & an uneven rebounding of home prices, continue to fall behind on their mortgage payments. The foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc reported yesterday that 154 out of 206 metro areas with at least 200K residents posted an annual increase in foreclosures between Jan & Jun. (RealtyTrac follows notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions & home repos – warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.) The latest figures show the threat of foreclosures is spreading well beyond the top tier of metro areas located in CA, FL, NV and AZ, which have borne the brunt of the fallout from the housing crisis. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area received more foreclosure-related warnings in the 1st half of this year than any other, the firm said. FL accounted for 9 of the top 20 metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates. The Miami-area metro was the only one among the top 10 to register an annual increase in its foreclosure rate.    

FL’s Economic Recovery – “The Miami Herald” today reported that FL is winning a very slow race to economic recovery. It said that, while the oil crisis dealt a blow to the Panhandle tourism industry, it will not be enough to stop  from growing 2.9% this year, based on a University of Central FL forecast. Even so, the report predicts recovery at snail’s pace both statewide & in South FL as employers resist hiring & real estate values remain depressed. The study’s author, UCF economist Sean Snaith said, “Nothing’s really going to start percolating until 2011, & maybe the 1st quarter of 2012.” Snaith predicts incomes across South FL will grow this year & for the rest of the decade as the region crawls toward a slow recovery. “It’s a fairly flat profile for a while,” Snaith said. “Statewide payrolls won’t return to their pre-recession levels until 2014 & in 2 years housing starts will only rebound to where they were in 2001”, Snaith wrote. “Consumers in FL have been beleaguered, much more so than their counterparts around the country, by disappearing home equity & an evaporation of stock market wealth,” Snaith said. Still, the report reinforces the consensus of economists across the country that, by the math, the recession has passed & a fragile recovery has taken hold. Snaith’s report also said the BP oil disaster will put off a full recovery in FL’s tourism industry by at least a year. He does not expect statewide employment in leisure & hospitality to grow until 2012, defying more optimistic predictions before the spill.    

What the Locals Are Saying – Many colleagues, including most rental organizations, have made BP claims for recent revenue losses. I heard from one of the larger accommodations providers that their Aug bookings are down more than 50% from last year. Luckily, Aug was never much of a big income-producing month for rental owners, but I’ve often had good sales that month, mostly Europeans & future winter residents looking to grab a pre-season bargain. It is truly astounding how many phone calls we continue to field asking about the condition of our gulf waters. Please pass the word – OUR BEACHES ARE BEAUTIFUL – covered with sunshine!    

Sanibel Dining – Mentioned last week that the Sea Star Cafe recently opened at the Sanibel Inn. This is the time of year when many restaurants are making changes so here are a couple more rumor mill announcements. New restaurant is coming at the old Mermaid Kitchen location next to Ace Hardware. The old Biddle’s Buckets at the corner of Periwinkle & Tarpon has a sign in the window that “George & Wendy’s Tropical Grill” will be opening soon. Construction is going on. George owns Schnapper’s Hots & his wife Wendy is at Tarpon Bay Explorers. I heard too that Beachview Restaurant is opening this fall under new management. That’s it for the island scuttlebutt. Keep your fingers crossed that we see no tropical storms this year & that buyers are ready to take advantage of the terrific opportunities available today. It is truly the best time to buy in the 18+years that I’ve lived on Sanibel.    

7/23/2010    

Today we have been watching the weather. So far, we’ve only had a steady drizzle, nothing special from the tropical depression. Here’s a link to current FL weather radar (from the South FL Water Mgmt District): http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20weather/current%20weather%20conditions%20%28radar%29    

Real estate wise this week, we’ve had a couple of busy days & just as many “no call” days – funny time of the year. I had 3 offers pass my desk the last couple of days, none have come to fruition, but I’m still hopeful. We had no Realtor Caravan yesterday, though many of us starting to look forward to our annual convention in Orlando in another month. Some great classes being offered this year on international sales, social networking as it relates to real estate, & more. I always have a variety of committee meetings to attend too.  We’ve received quite a few calls from our newsletter, mostly owners thinking of selling.    

FL Home/Condo Sales Up 15% in Jun – It’s good to watch activity at both the state & national levels, to see how we compare & to see what prospective buyers are hearing about our market. FL residential real estate sales were up in Jun, marking 22 consecutive months that sales have increased in year-to-year comparison, according to data released by Florida Realtors®. FL’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $143.4K. A year ago, it was $147.7K for a decrease of 3%. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in May 2010 was $179,400, up 2.7% from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In CA, the statewide median resale price was $324,430 in May; in MA, it was $299K; in MD, it was $249,177; and in NY, it was $194.9K. More jobs are key to the continued recovery of the housing market, according to NAR’s latest industry outlook. “If jobs come back as expected, the pace of home sales should pick up later this year and reach a sustainable level of activity given very favorable affordability conditions,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “We’ll also keep a close eye on market conditions on the Gulf Coast.” In FL’s year-to-year condo comparison, 6,916 units sold statewide last month compared to 5,215 in Jun 2009 for an increase of 33%. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $95K; in Jun 2009 it was $112.8K for a 16%decrease. The national median existing condo price was $181.3K in May, according to NAR. The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.74% in Jun, down from the 5.42% during Jun 2009, according to Freddie Mac. FL Realtors’ sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.    

Dr. PJ Leaves CROW & is headed to Pensacola where she will assist with the rehabilitation of wildlife impacted by the BP oil slick.    

Sanibel Mayor Ruane at Tues City Council Meeting said he wants Council to “proceed with caution” in preparing the 2010-11 budget. He believes Sanibel property values will show an even greater decrease than in the past 3 years, greater than 7%. Values fell 19.6% in the past 2 years. In their 1st step of the budget process, Council set a tentative millage rate of 2.1561, the same as last year. In future meetings, Council can reduce but not increase that millage rate. The 1st budget hearing is Sep 11 & the final hearing on Sep 21.    

Condo Insurance Changes were included in a state bill that recently passed & went into effect July 1. The bill deals only with residential condos (not homeowners’ associations & office complexes). Here are some of the new rules: Assoc insurance must be based on replacement cost as determined by an appraisal (which needs to be redone or updated every 36 months). This doesn’t mean that the assoc must insure for 100% of the appraised value; the assoc can decide a lesser amount as long as it is within insurance guidelines. The assoc is responsible for selecting the deductible. HVAC equipment now is included in the assoc master policy portion of property losses & the assoc cannot refuse to insure these items. The responsibility to maintain, replace, or repair this equipment is not covered, but usually addressed in the complex condo docs. Items like installed drywall, windows, interior non-load bearing walls, doors, toilets, bath tubs, sinks, closet rods, & sliding glass doors remain the insurance responsibility of the assoc; while improvements that benefit the unit owner specifically need to be insured by the owner, i.e. new interior walls, glassed balconies, etc.    

New Dining Spot open for breakfast, lunch, & dinner, is “Sea Star Cafe” at the Sanibel Inn.    

7/16/2010    

What’s Happening With Foreclosures? AP reports that according to data by RealtyTrac, Inc., a foreclosure listing service, more than 1M American households will likely lose homes thru foreclosure this year, as lenders work their way through a huge backlog of borrowers who have fallen behind on loans. Nearly 528K homes were taken over by lenders in the first 6 months of 2010, a rate on track to eclipse the more than 900K homes repossessed in 2009. By comparison, lenders historically take over ~100K homes a year. The surge in repos reflects the dynamic of a foreclosure crisis that has shown signs of leveling off in recent months, but remains a drag on the housing market. The pace homes fall behind in payments & enter the foreclosure process has slowed as banks continue to let delinquent borrowers stay longer in their homes rather than adding to the glut of foreclosed properties. At the same time, lenders have stepped up repossessions in an effort to clear out the backlog of distressed inventory on their books. On average, it takes ~15 months for a home loan to go from being 30 days late being foreclosed & sold, according to Lender Processing Services Inc., which tracks mortgages. Assuming the U.S. economy doesn’t worsen, aggravating the foreclosure crisis, Richard Sharga a Sr. VP at RealtyTrac projects it will take lenders through 2013 to resolve the backlog of distressed properties that have on their books right now. A new wave of foreclosures could be coming in the 2nd half of the year, especially if the unemployment rate remains high, mortgage-assistance programs fail, & the economy doesn’t improve fast enough to lift home sales. The prospect of lenders taking over more than a million homes this year is likely to push housing values down, experts say. Foreclosed homes are often sold at steep discounts, lowering the value of surrounding properties. “The downward pressure from foreclosures will persist & prices will be very weak well into 2012,” said Celia Chen, senior director of Moody’s Economy.com. She projects home prices will fall as much as 6% over the next 12 months from where they were in the 1st quarter. Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, continue to be the main catalysts for foreclosures this year. Initially, lax lending standards were the culprit. Now, homeowners with good credit who took out conventional, fixed-rate loans are the fastest growing group of foreclosures. There are more than 7.3M home loans in some stage of delinquency, according to Lender Processing Services. Lenders are offering to help some homeowners modify their loans. But many borrowers can’t qualify or they are falling back into default. The Obama administration’s $75B foreclosure prevention effort has made only a small dent in the problem. More than a 1/3 of the 1.2M borrowers who have enrolled in the mortgage modification program have dropped out. That compares with ~27% who have received permanent loan modifications & are making payments on time. Among states, NV posted the highest foreclosure rate in the 1st half of the year. One in every 17 households there received a foreclosure notice. However, foreclosures there are down 6% from a year earlier. AR, FL, CA & UT were next among states with the highest rates. Rounding out the top 10 were the states of GA, MI, ID, IL, & CO.    

Flood Insurance Reform Bill – The House has approved a flood insurance reform bill that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for 5 yrs to Sep 30, 2015, a provision strongly supported by the National Association of Realtors®. The bill now heads to the Senate, however, where its prospects of passage are now clear. To become law the bill needs approval by both the House & Senate followed by the President’s signature. Passage of the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act, would strengthen the NFIP & bring certainty to many real estate markets, NAR said. “This longer-term reauthorization of the NFIP is critical to millions of taxpaying families who rely on the program for flood insurance, which is required to obtain a mortgage in nearly 20K communities across the nation,” says Vicki Cox Golder, NAR president. “This would restore flagging confidence in a vital program by ensuring its continuation for several years without further disruption to real estate markets upon which our nation’s economic recovery depends.” NFIP has been allowed to expire twice in the past 2 years & Congress approved 8 short-term extensions, resulting in multi-week delays or cancellation of thousands of real estate transactions. Such stop-gap measures have caused many hardships & lost sales for property buyers, sellers & communities.    

“Sanibel Scoop & Captiva Chatter” – So far feedback calls from our Jun newsletter are mostly condo owners thinking of selling. Though we always are looking for new listings, we must stick to our guns on pricing. There are way too many overpriced listings glutting the market. Though buyers are making offers, many are not making it to contract. Purchasers are looking to “steal” & most owners not willing to let them. There are 233 Sanibel condos for sale, another 13 under contract, & 77 closed sales year to-date. Average condo sale price is $584K, down ~13% from last year. The number of condo sales, however, is up over last year. More homes & lots have sold. But, like condos, inventories are high, with 230 homes & 107 lots available. 86 Sanibel homes & 14 Sanibel lots have sold this year. Average home & lot prices are up 6% & 8% respectively, over last year. Considering that these sale prices are 30% under the average asking price, this news is not as bright as it seems. Telling it like it is seems to be working, with Susan holding the record for MOST SANIBEL LISTINGS SOLD year-to-date.    

7/9/2010    

Quiet here, few showings & little sales activity. Most visitors are in the holiday mode. The parade last Sat was a big success, as were the fireworks on Sun. The rain cleared just in the nick of time. Good photos of both on www.SanibelCaptivaDaily.com. Here’s a little more scoop:    

Upcoming Island Activities – Those who enjoy BIG ARTS may want to check their upcoming winter schedule which was published just this week. Many of the big-name speakers & performances in high season sell out. 2010/2011 offerings have expanded from music, dance, movies, concerts, & exhibits, to more lecture series, digital performances, live theater, & a variety of collaborative events, plus a Winter Academy. As new items are announced, we update our Events Calendar on www.SanibelSusan.com. Check it often & remember BIG ARTS on Periwinkle now is in the building directly behind us.    

Oyster Reef Restoration & Mangrove Planting – The Conservation Foundation, with the help of almost 300 volunteers, has built 5 reefs in Clam Bayou & 33 oyster spat monitoring trays throughout Tarpon Bay & Clam Bayou. The last oyster restoration event will be Sat, Jul 10, at Bowman’s Beach at 9 a.m. Shell baggers needed. Over 10,000 red mangrove propagules have been planted in Clam Bayou since last fall. More seedlings need to be planted Jul 16 & 17 at 11 a.m. If you can help, call SCCF at 395-4617.    

Florida Realtors Hold Oil Spill Recovery Forum – It was standing room only at the FL Realtors Oil Spill Recovery Town Hall Meeting hosted today at the Emerald Coast Assoc of Realtors. Realtors, business leaders & area officials voiced concerns over the Gulf oil spill to BP reps, asking tough questions about the company’s claims process. “Plug the hole is what we want & need,” said 2010 FL Realtors President Wendell Davis as he welcomed audience members & Realtors from around the state participating via the webinar. “Until that happens, we need to stand together & work through these difficult times speaking with one voice. It is my hope that these presenters today will make a difference for you. We plan to use our collective strength as the Realtor community to advocate for the right & fair solutions for you, your clients & communities.” Mike Sole, Secretary of FL Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) discussed ongoing cleanup & recovery efforts. DEP is designated as the lead state agency for responding to the Deepwater Horizon spill along FL’s shoreline. “They are recovering roughly 25,000 barrels a day through current efforts & that’s 25K barrels a day not going into our waters,” he said, noting that another aspect of the recovery is slated to start this weekend. “If all goes well, they will be able to recover 40K-50K barrels a day & that hopefully will be about 90% oil.”  Sole added that crews are close to the target depth for plugging the well, but the work goes more slowly when it’s that close. BP has stated mid-Aug is the estimated time frame for plugging the well; however, he thinks crews are ahead of schedule & could reach the required depth by the end of Jul. Representing BP at the meeting were Mary Shafer Malicki, BP deputy incident commander for FL & Liz Castro, BP governmental & public affairs. “BP has paid $167M in claims,” Castro said. “To date, $28.18M has been paid to FL, with more than 27K claims.”    

Weather Lots of phone calls from up north this week. Most said their temps warmer than here. Yesterday, Dave left for vacation. He called this morning as he was driving thru Idaho on his way from Washington to Montana, said it was expected to be 90’s there today. Weather here is about the same – & terrific, as are the beaches! Send us business!     

7/2/2010    

Real Estate Activity – Not many showings this week, pretty typical of pre-holiday. The good showing activity last week resulted in 2 of our home listings going under contract. That was a nice unexpected double surprise—bears witness that well-priced homes are moving, even during the summer. Now if we could spread that activity to the condos.    

Island Traffic – Our friends in rentals tell us that both tomorrow & next Sat they have good vacation bookings, even picked up some reservations from visitors canceling in the Panhandle.    

4th of July – We’re getting ready for tomorrow’s parade. Forecast is looking good so it should be a nice one. Weather reports are even saying that our late day showers (which started this week) & are routine during our summer rainy season, may hold off Sunday nite for the fireworks.    

Congressional Approvals – Bills re-authorizing the Home Buyer Tax Credit & National Flood Insurance Program were approved by Congress. With the President’s signature, the Tax Credit bill extends the Jun 30 closing deadline for homes contracted by Apr 30, to Sep 30, 2010; while the flood insurance program which expired May 31, becomes retroactive so no coverage lapse.    

New Sales Contract Forms – Florida Realtors (which is the new name for FAR (the FL Assoc of Realtors) posted new sales forms approved by the Assoc & the FL BAR. Good to know these docs are continually updated to keep up with our ever-changing market & technology. Susan has attended the state Contracts Committee meetings for many years (each Jan & Aug) & advises that these new documents were long in coming, but contain welcomed changes. They include the Residential Contract for Sale & Purchase (now 11 pages), the “As Is” Residential Contract for Sale & Purchase (now 10 pages), & the Comprehensive Rider to the Residential Contract for Sale & Purchase (now 32 pages, with 28 clauses covering a variety of situations.    

Marketing – Just brought 4500 newsletters to the post office. A similar amount will go Tues. It usually brings us inquiries about listings that generate sales, as well as new listings. This week, we got several calls from condo owners looking to sell. Heard similar reports from colleagues; probably indicative that the number of condos for sale by summer-end will be a record.    

Lee County Foreclosures – “Fort Myers News Press” reported the backlog of foreclosures clogging the court system dropped below 20K in Jun even as lenders continued the steady flow of filings against homes. It was the 1st time the number dipped below 20K since 2008.  After falling for 3 months, foreclosure lawsuits filed increased in Jun to 890, per stats released by the SW FL Real Estate Investment Assoc, up from the 847 filed in May but still only about 1/2 the 1,756 filed in Jun 2009. 1,318 homes sold on the courthouse steps in Jun, creating a net decrease in number of cases. “If we’re eating up 150, 160% of what’s filed, we’re making great strides,” said county Clerk of Court Charlie Green. The backlog reached its peak of ~29K in late 2008, just before the start of the “Rocket Docket” that lets judges crank out hundreds of foreclosure judgments daily. Foreclosures started to increase in 2006 after the residential real estate boom started to collapse. The number reached an all-time record high of 2,665 in Oct 2008 and has generally been falling since then, according to association’s numbers.    

6/25/2010     

We are gearing up for the upcoming holiday & have already seen evidence of summer travelers with an increase in showing inquiries for the upcoming weekend. More visitors will arrive as we get closer to the 4th. Dave & Elise have been busy this week updating our data base, while Susan penned the next issue of “The Sanibel Scoop with Captiva Chatter”. It features each of our listings & goes to the printer this weekend, with distribution of over 8,000. If anyone out there in blog-land, wants a copy, please let us know (Susan@SanibelSusan.com).    

Holiday Weekend – Sanibel’s traditional hometown parade, this year with the theme “Freedom Rocks” will be Sat, Jul 3rd, 9:30 a.m. (A great vantage spot for watching is in front of our office. Also the Community House will be open across the street for those wanting to view in air-conditioned comfort.) Following the parade, beginning at 10:30, there will be festivities at both Bailey’s (backyard BBQ) & Jerry’s Centers, as well as the annual Road Rally (begins at noon at The Timbers). As mentioned last week, enough funds were raised for a fireworks display on the 4th too. Best viewing will be on the causeway at dusk, but get there early to get a good spot.    

FL Condo Bill Signed – Gov. Charlie Crist traveled to South FL yesterday to ceremonially sign this year’s massive condo bill, SB 1196. It revises voting laws for condo associations, & makes changes to loss assessment coverage. Crist officially signed the bill into law Jun 1. It includes FL Realtors-supported “bulk buyer” language that seeks to reduce inventory by encouraging investors to purchase blocks of condos. It’s accomplished, in part, by protecting bulk buyers from some of the liabilities faced by developers. Other provisions include: Lowers cost of condo-ownership by repealing a requirement that owners purchase individual unit-owner insurance coverage. Removes the requirement for mandatory retrofits of sprinkler systems in condos over 75′ high. Requires lenders to pay more in past-due assessments on foreclosed properties.Allows associations to deny owners/occupants use of common areas & recreational amenities when an owner is 90+days delinquent in paying financial obligations due the association. Allows associations to use tenant rent to pay delinquent assessments owed by the owner.    

Fed Holds Interest Rates Steady – Nationally, new home sales fell in May to their lowest level on record, plunging 33% from Apr. That bleak data followed an earlier report that sales of existing homes dipped, too. The Federal Reserve, mindful of the fragility of the housing market, was cautious Wed when it said that recovery is “proceeding.” Previously, it said rebound was strengthening. The Fed repeated its pledge to hold interest rates at record lows to fuel economic growth. That has helped keep mortgage rates down, but even ultra-low rates could not overcome the effect on sales caused by the end of the tax credits. Many of those tax-credit sales have not closed due to the national Flood Insurance Program being at a standstill since the end of May. Buyers who signed sales contracts by the Apr 30 deadline have until Jun 30 to close to qualify for the credit. It’s frustrating that thousands of those closings are delayed, now by the Senate (it passed the House this week). The drop in new-home sales means fewer construction industry jobs, which normally is what powers economic recovery. This may be an indicator of what the housing industry will endure through the summer. Michael Sivage, CEO of Sivage Homes, who builds homes in Albuquerque & San Antonio was quoted in an AP article as saying, “We had a really strong start for the year, but then when Apr 30 hit, it was almost like turning off the spigot.” Here we had a slow Jan, lukewarm Feb, but good action in Mar & Apr. Unfortunately, like in NM & TX, the same spigot turned off here in May when the snowbirds headed home & the oil disaster hit the headlines. Most buyers have determined that there is good value right now. They are no longer on the sidelines waiting for prices to fall, but are on the waiting for the economy to stabilize & the oil situation to get resolved.    

6/18/2010    

Not a lot of real estate phones ringing this week, but things are looking up. Here are highlights:    

Realtor Monthly Membership Meeting – Was yesterday & brought a big turn-out. Guest speaker was Sanibel City Manager, Judie Zimomra, who gave good insight into the City’s plan should any oil make its way to our shores. Odds are slim that it could happen & if it does, she said that it will be in “weathered condition”, i.e. either tar balls or tarmacs. Tar balls are small & their removal depends on their size, while tarmacs are larger than dinner plates. (That’s way more than we ever wanted to know about those.) Judie is in daily contact with a large group of federal, state, & local offices & agencies from the Governor to the Coast Guard to those leading clean-up efforts in other states & cities. She advises that the lessons already learned have helped fine-tune Sanibel’s emergency management plan, which has been in place for many years & was tweeked thoroughly after Charley. Unlike many not-so-fortunate communities, Sanibel has $12.6M for disaster reserve. Judie noted that as Realtors we should be ensuring visitors that our beaches remain pristine with no threat from the spill. She reminded us that BP has provided a $25M grant to FL to promote tourism & recovery over the summer. Another excellent point she made was that Tony Lapi, owner of Tween Waters, is Vice Chair of the local Visitor & Convention Bureau, giving the islands a strong voice there. This week, Judie announced a new Sanibel Coastal Watch Program, looking for volunteers. Sign up at www.mySanibel.com    

Future Bookings – Our friends at VIP Vacation Rentals report that they have good check-in activity this weekend. Nice improvement over the last few weeks & indicative of school vacations beginning.  They also report that some reservations are from vacationers who canceled trips to the Panhandle. I was at Sanibel Arms West this morning & spoke with Steve, the long-time manager there.  He reports that their 2010 bookings are well ahead of recent years, though they have had a few recent cancellations.    

City of Sanibel Facts – Our MLS posted updated resource material this week. Good talking points for us to use with new island visitors. Here’s a reminder/update for those curious:    

Island Age = ~5000 years    

Island Area = 11,600 acres including 7,200 acres of conserved land    

Square Miles = 17.5 including 15.5 miles of beach    

Average Elevation = 4′ above sea level, Maximum Elevation = 13′ above sea level    

Annual Precipitation = 42.3″    

Average Temperature = 74 degrees F    

Registered Voters = 5,673 (in 2010)    

# Dwelling Units = 8,299 (total) including 3,981 single family, 3,115 multi-family, 739 motel/hotel/cottage, 384 time share & 80 mobile homes.    

Enrollment at Sanibel School (Grades K-8) = 377 students (in 2010).    

Fireworks News – Front page of the “Island Sun” today listed the contributors have made it possible for us to have fireworks again on the 4th. Thanks to all who have donated, more is needed.    

Fort Myers “New Press” – Here’s the article that was on the front page of the local Fort Myers paper yesterday. Please read it to the end, Kevin Ruane, our Sanibel Mayor, sums it up best.    

“Sanibel & Captiva Become Paradise for Buyers”
“For Sale: Two world-renowned islands in Lee County. The price? Dirt cheap.    

“Prices on houses & condominiums on Sanibel & Captiva have dropped to their lowest levels in almost a decade. And there are many for sale: more than 16% of properties on Captiva & 8% on Sanibel. The sagging economy has finally caught up with the rich, & real estate experts wonder when the downward spiral in prices will stop.    

“We’ve had drops for several years now & it looks like they’re bottoming out,” said Ray Ochester, managing broker for John Naumann & Assoc. “They’re not there yet, but it’s getting close.” For example: Average single-family home prices on Sanibel are at their lowest levels since 2004. Average Sanibel condo prices are fetching less than what people paid in 2002. Average Captiva single-family homes are selling at their lowest levels since 2001. Captiva condos sales are averaging about the same price people paid in 2002.    

“As of June 9, more than 16% of the estimated 977 homes & condos on Captiva are for sale. On Sanibel, 8% of the island’s existing 6,841 homes & condos are on the market.    

“Russ Weyer, an economist with Fishkind & Associates, said the number of homes for sale doesn’t appear to be high, especially when considering the economy and personal finances. “Stock portfolios have been decimated or greatly reduced,” Weyer said. Most homes on Sanibel & Captiva are second homes, & Weyer said the first thing people tend to get rid of when finances get tight are second homes.    

“We believe we’re nearing the bottom. Everybody’s struggling,” he said. “It’s not a sign that people want to get out of there.”    

“Brenda Cosentino, the general manager of the Kona Kai & Sanibel resident for 20 years, said the sagging economy has finally caught up with the rich. “This island was the land of the wealthy,” said Cosentino, whose motel was sold for $1.6 million May 5. “If you bought on this island five years ago, there’s a good chance you’re under water. Times are hard for everyone.”    

“Since 1970, home values in Southwest FL climbed about 6% each year until 2003 when they began soaring, Weyer said. “The fact that they’re now back to what they were in 2002 makes Sanibel & Captiva a very good investment right now,” he said.    

 “Joe Trainor, 49, of Sanibel, recently purchased his 2nd home on the island. “We had one & bought another. Sanibel, I think, is still one of the best-kept secrets,” he said. “The terrific values present a tremendous opportunity.” Trainor said he plans to use his new condo as a rental property.
“Longtime islander Bert Jenks has been trying to sell the 27-unit Waterside Inn for a few years now, said Dennis Rawlings, the owner-broker of Rawlings Realty in Fort Myers. Originally listed for $12.5 million, the 2.5-acre Gulf-front property has been reduced to $10.9 million. “The islands are like any other market now,” said Rawlings. “They used to be isolated from everything else in the world. Prices have come down & they haven’t been immune to foreclosures either. You never saw that before.”    

“But the number of island homes up for sale isn’t a new thing,” said Eric Pfeifer, broker/owner of Pfeifer Realty Group on Sanibel. “It wasn’t abnormal to see 10% of the homes here for sale in the early part of the decade,” he said. The big difference between then & now, Pfeifer said, is that inventory often decreased below 5%. “We’re seeing fewer sales & I think that this is the new reality,”
“Ken Bergstrom, 70, sold his East Rocks home about two weeks ago. “We wanted to live on a canal,” said Bergstrom, a full-time resident who will move to Fort Myers’ Palmetto Point soon.    

“Pfeifer says buyers are out there & the evidence is that home sales on Sanibel from January 1-June 9 are up 36% from the same period last year & that the average sale price has increased by 14% over the same period.    

“Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bikes on Sanibel, doesn’t believe there’s a “mass exodus” of people wanting to leave. “I’m sure some want to move somewhere else & some others may be underwater.”    

“& others,” said Jim Hall, VIP Realty & Sanibel Captiva Assoc of Realtors President, “are just testing the waters. It’s all about pricing right now,” he said. “We’re a 2nd home market, so our inventory always runs pretty high.” “For about 10 years, Sanibel & Captiva have faced one challenge after another, said Ric Base, San-Cap Chamber of Commerce. “It started with 9/11, then (Hurricane) Charley, the recession & now the oil,” he said. “It looks like every 2nd house on Captiva is for sale. When are we going to catch a break?” “Soon,” said Sanibel’s optimistic Mayor Kevin Ruane. “The consumer is in an overly protective state right now. People are uncomfortable about jobs, the economy & the oil,” he said. “Sanibel still has all the things people want. Everything that people like about Sanibel is still here.”    

6/11/2010    

This was another quiet week on Sanibel. No evidence of the rainy season beginning yet (now the weathermen are predicting “maybe some passing showers next week”). We need rain!    

About the only news this week was a little scuttlebutt about the upcoming July 4th holiday. There is a move afoot to change the parade date from Sat July 3 to Sun July 4. See Facebook posting called “Sanibel’s 4th of July Parade Should be ON the 4th of July”.  Not sure where that will go as we still haven’t seen any sign-up forms for parade entries on either date.    

There also is a local effort to fund the fireworks on the 4th which were not in the City budget this year. $10K is the minimum needed for a 12-minute show (it’s usually 20 minutes). $2500 also is needed to pay Sanibel police/fire for the event, which is protocol. Money is already rolling in & provided enough is raised, the City will sign the contract & assume liability. The group filed for the 501(c)3 status as the ‘Friends of the July 4 Fireworks’. Extra funds will roll over for 2011.The Zambelli fireworks vendor will pull permits & has the insurance. An account for contributions has been set up at Bank of the Islands & donations can be made any time. We delivered our check yesterday. For more info e-mail friendsofjuly4fireworks@gmail.com.    

The oil disaster continues to be in the mind of islanders & certainly has affected business for everyone in FL. At the Chamber lunch this week, Kristie Anders, Education Director at SCCF said here we should thank the glaciers. They created the continental shelf, which has shallow waters out 200 miles from Sanibel & that’s where the Loop Current runs & hopefully will keep the oil well away. In the interim, islanders are rallying. The OSHA class at South Seas on Mon is sold out & various contingency plans are in effect should any of the nasty stuff come here.    

6/4/2010    

Had an interesting twist on things this week when a bank pulled a buyer’s loan commitment at the 11th hour, just before the closing. It’s our listing, so we still don’t know the real reason, but thru further investigation have uncovered that many of our colleagues throughout the state also are reporting a litany of other problems with Bank of American. Not good. But we do have some good news. We had three other closings this week & are thankful for those. They were uneventful, though had earlier contingencies related to the oil leak, volcano dust, & tenant occupancies. Seems that just when we think we’ve heard it all, there is another twist. As we say, “in real estate, you can expect the unexpected.” Showing activity was fair this week with vacationers in town for the holiday. Not much announced at Realtor Caravan yesterday, just a couple of new sales & a handful of price reductions.    

Here’s other news:    

City of Sanibel Urges All Residents to Review & Know the State’s Oil Spill Reporting Guide – Here’s a link: http://www.mysanibel.com/    

17th Island Nite – Tues evening, ~3700 Sanibel & Captiva residents enjoyed one of the few times that it hasn’t rained for Island Nite at Hammond Stadium. This pet project of the Bailey brothers usually is plagued by an unexpected shower, oftentimes the 1st one of the rainy season. In fact, the rain tradition has happened so often, that this year, Bailey’s Store had special umbrellas made especially for the occasion. They’ll just have to save them for next year, as it was a perfect evening for a parade, ball game, & neighbor camaraderie.    

Anniversary of Sanibel School – The Sanibel School began in the late 1800’s, 112 years ago, & continues today as a National Blue Ribbon facility. A fundraiser birthday celebration will take place on Captiva Sun at The Mucky Duck noon to 4 p.m., benefiting The Sanibel School Fund, a nonprofit that raises money to pay for programs such as foreign-languages & technology. Great fun for families & music will be provided by one of our favorite islanders, Gino Frederico.    

New Croc at “Ding” Darling Remember we reported in Jan that our long-time island attraction, Wilma, the old crocodile passed away? Last Fri, another mature female croc was moved to the refuge by the FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. She came from a private property in Grove City, FL (Charlotte County) & is more than 8′ & 150 lbs. We should begin to hear of new croc sightings soon, none yet. If you see her, pls call the refuge at 472-1100.    

5/28/2010    

We’re looking forward to terrific weather for the holiday, bright blue skies with sunny days & temps in low 70’s nights/low 90’s days. Perfect for enjoying the islands! Today, the only oil on FL beaches is suntan oil, so we look forward to having extra visitors here the next few days. Susan will be holding down the fort at the office & is ready for any who want to talk real estate.    

4-Hour Training for Oil Spill Cleanup Being Offered – Interesting in helping, should oil reach the islands? There will be 4 hours of OSHA training at South Seas on Jun 14. Two sessions will be offered thru the Captiva Erosion Protection District & arranged by the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center. Anyone willing to assist in beach cleanup is welcome to attend. Reservations are required. In 1991, the state of FL began requiring communities to either maintain 1st response capabilities themselves or contract with outside experts to provide the services. In 1992, the Ostego Bay Environmental Response Co-op was created to meet those state requirements. This all-volunteer group is licensed & inspected by the state & operates under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard. To register, call CEPD at 239-472-2472 or e-mail mycepd@gmail.com before Jun 9. Seating is limited, cost is $25. Certificates will be provided upon completion. Dave from our office is already signed up.    

City to Lift Bayside Boat Dock Ban – As a means of protecting Sanibel sea grass by keeping boats away, for the past 17 yrs, there has been a ban on dock construction on the east end from Woodring Point to the light house. (Obviously, from a real estate prospective, this has affected the values of those properties.)  These property owners, as a group, hired legal counsel. This week following their meeting with the City, it was reported that Sanibel most likely will lift this ban, as interestingly, the sea grasses have not gotten healthier. A draft ordinance expected to include many special dock conditions & based on Planning Commission recommendations is scheduled to be heard by City Council in late Jul.    

Island Real Estate Sales – Our MLS posted a healthy number of closings this week. More will be reported over the next few weeks as settlemens occur for the remainder of contracts written during “high season”. Though prices haven’t made the upturn, it’s interesting to note that we’ve had more total closed sales year-to-date than any year since 2006. Now that’s improvement! Here are the details:    

Closed Sanibel Sales from Jan 1 to May 28:
2010: 64 homes, 58 condos, 9 lots = 131 total; 2009: 49 homes, 24 condos, 5 lots = 78 total;
2008: 71 homes, 43 condos, 6 lots = 120 total; 2007: 74 homes, 49 condos, 7 lots = 130 total;
2006: 83 homes, 93 condos, 9 lots = 185 total    

5/21/2010    

These blogs are starting to sound like the rest of the press, mostly negative news items. Don’t like that, so here is some good news. This week, the island was quiet & weather already typical summer glorious: warm nights, hot days, bright blue skies, blue-green gulf waters with great beach days & terrific fishing reports. Driving down Periwinkle Way, it’s nice to see all the new growth in the vegetation planted by Sanibel Beautification.    

Real estate wise, we had only a few showings this week. Realtor Caravan Meetings have switched to the every-other-week summer schedule. Only a handful of new listings were on caravan yesterday (including our new one at Spanish Cay). A few sales announced too & still plenty of price reductions. In May, most Realtors are busy with closings & holding together contracts written during high season. No exception here. It keeps Dave busy. We had another nice closing this week.    

Below are a couple of those “not-so-good” news items.    

Guidelines for Reporting Oil on Beach – Here’s some info, we hope no one needs to use from a report issued by the FL Governor Crist’s office Tues: If you see pollution – tar ball, tar patch or oil sheen – the state wants to know, even if it’s not related to the Gulf leak. Governor Crist asked residents & visitors to report evidence of oil along state shores by calling the State Warning Point at 1-877-2-SAVE-FL (877-272- 8335) or by dialing #DEP from a cell phone. Oil reports through the State Warning Point will be investigated for verification. If oil impacts are found, Unified Command in Mobile will send out a Shoreline Cleanup & Assessment Technique team in coordination with state & local govts. “Floridians & visitors can play an active role in minimizing any potential threats to FL’s beautiful beaches & coastline by reporting the impact of oil,” said Gov. Crist. “There are no oil impacts to our coasts at this time, but it is important that we be prepared & informed about what to look for & what impacts may be associated with the spill.” A key component to reporting evidence of oil is recognizing the appearance of weathered oil. When crude oil is released into the environment, its composition changes as a result of “weathering,” or exposure to water & sun. Evaporation is one of the more significant weathering processes. Evaporation occurs mainly during the first 24 to 48 hours after release, & greatly reduces the amount of the lighter components of crude oil. Some crude oils may lose up to 40% of their volume due to evaporation in the first days after a release. The composition of released material becomes substantially different from the originally released crude oil. Oil on Florida’s coastline will most likely be in the form of tar balls, oil sheen, tar patches or mats. Each has a different appearance. To help Floridians identify the different types of oil pollution, the state created a PDF with photos. It can be downloaded online at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/files/news_gov_oil_spill_reporting.pdf    

To learn more about FL’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon, follow http://www.Twitter.com/FLDEPalert or call the FL Oil Spill Information Line at (888) 337-3569.    

What SCCF is Doing – This morning, Eric Lindblad, Exec Director of SCCF, issued the following update on their work related to the oil spill: “We are all hopeful that oil & tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon Incident do not reach the shores of Sanibel & Captiva…but the Foundation has been working on several fronts in preparation. SCCF is registered with the St. Petersburg Unified Command Center as an affiliated volunteer organization. In terms of wildlife impacts, since oil or tar balls are considered a hazardous material, we are keeping tabs on when & where training certification opportunities, accepted by the Coast Guard & BP, will be offered. We are working closely with the FL Fish & Wildlife Commission on sea turtle & shorebird protocols involving nesting females, nest protection, & hatchling survival. They have tasked us with protocols to implement now in order to prepare for the potential of oil or tar balls on our beaches. We have worked with the City of Sanibel, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlfe Refuge, Captiva Erosion Prevention District & the Captiva Community Panel to supply data & revise Geographic Response Maps & Area Contingency Plans in order to provide the St. Petersburg Unified Command Center with up-to-date resource info for protection efforts. The level of involvement by local volunteers should the oil reach us is still being clarified & we are keeping a list of people who have called in to volunteer. If you would like to be added to that list, e-mail sccf@sccf.org. Realistically the threat from this incident will probably remain a concern through the summer & into the fall. One major unknown is the possible role of hurricanes. All forecasters acknowledge that a major storm in the Gulf could greatly impact how & where the oil or tar balls spread.”    

Homeowner Confidence Rises Nationally – Countrywide, homeowners had mixed opinions about their own homes’ values, according to the Zillow Q1 Homeowner Confidence Survey posted yesterday. Nationally, homeowners were overconfident, with only 50% believing their value declined in the past year. In reality, 65% of homes declined. Meanwhile, 7% of homeowners, or 5.3 million homes, said they would be “very likely” to put their home on the market in the next 12 months if they see signs that the housing market is improving. That number surpasses 2009’s total home sales of 5.2 million existing homes. An additional 8% said they would “likely” put their home on the market, & another 14% said they would be “somewhat likely.” Economists have worried about this shadow inventory of homes – those not yet on the market but ripe for selling, perhaps because owners or banks are holding out for a higher potential selling price. A recovery could be delayed if a significant number of shadow inventory homes enter the market. “We can expect to see a lot of new inventory entering the market via sidelined sellers,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “This added inventory, combined with current elevated inventory levels & continued high rates of foreclosure in many areas, will likely serve to keep home values treading near the bottom for several years. Inventory must come down for home values to go up.” The nation’s most pessimistic owners reside in the West, even though values in many CA & CO metros stabilized over the past year. 18% of Western owners believe their home gained value over the past year, when in reality 31% of Western homes gained. On the other end of the spectrum were Southern homeowners, who were overly optimistic, even as many Southern markets continue to see decreases in home values. 34% of Southern owners said that their home gained value over the past year when only 27% gained value.    

5/14/2010    

Local chatter about the oil disaster & how it’s affecting phone inquiries/reservation requests. Those writing offers are adding contingencies to void the contracts if oil reaches us.    

Resort Housing Redevelopment – Sanibel Planning Commissioners, sitting as the Land Development Code Review Sub-Committee, followed Council direction & recommended hotels, motels & resort condos keep their existing # of dwelling units if they redevelop or remodel, but only if they maintain short-term occupancy, to ensure plenty of visitor accommodations. Rules have changed since many resort properties were built, making them non-conforming for a variety of reasons, including density, coverage, height, & setbacks. Unless codes are changed, the resorts cannot modernize without losing units. If they don’t update, they may lose business. This review process is expected to take months. Next topics discussed (on May 25 & Jun 8) will be impervious coverage, developed area & vegetation removal.    

National Assoc of Realtors Mid-Year Legislative Meetings – Our colleagues pushed on Capitol Hill for real estate reforms, asking Congress to strengthen FHA & extend high-cost loan limits, & get flood & disaster relief insurance reforms passed. Also at the capitol, the Senate voted to ban mortgage brokers & loan officers from getting more pay for offering higher interest rates, & to require borrowers prove they can repay loans (evidence of income, etc.).    

Credit Reports – Starting Jun 1, Fannie Mae will require Lenders to pull a “2nd credit report” just before closing a new mortgage. This is to ensure an applicant has not obtained new loan(s) prior mortgage closing, which could affect their qualifying ratios. While the financing, buyers should not make new credit purchases (cars, furnishings, appliances, etc.) as it could affect their loan approval. Now, a credit report is ordered only at time of application.     

Freshwater Again Being Released into Estuaries This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander addressed Lee county residents & commissioners about unseasonably high flow releases being discharged from Lake Okeechobee. Also, the District Commander & South FL Water Mgmt District Governing Board heard public comment on the affects of the releases. The public was loud & clear: “find alternatives to blowing out natural resources.” SCCF staff made comments on finding additional emergency options for storage & on adaptive protocols for managing lake releases. The lake is at 14.8′, a level more like the middle of rainy season. The level needs to be lowered for dike safety, but the Commander has committed to being conservative & holding water in the lake longer if it can help reduce estuary releases. At the current discharge rates into Caloosahatchee & St Lucie rivers, it will take 40 days to drop the lake one foot, the target the Corps wants to meet before rainy season begins. Wed, the Corps began a 10-day Caloosahatchee pulse release that will continue the high releases that began in Apr. These flows are 10x greater than healthy flows, discharging out to the Gulf on average 3.2 billion gallons per day of freshwater –- the equivalent of a 60-day water supply for the 600,000 residents of Lee County. Next week, the SCCF staff goes to DC to the 1st Everglades Summit, lobbying Congress to ensure funding for this project. Everglades restoration has new momentum & SCCF asks all residents, in & out-of-state, to contact legislators nationwide about the value of the Everglades & the need for restoration funding.    

5/7/2010    

We had beautiful summer weather here all week.  Amazing how quickly the island can shift to hot & humid. The beaches are beautiful & snowy plover & turtle nesting seasons have just begun.    

Update on Sales 2009 Compared to 2010 – Showings were off this week as the island is pretty quiet again, but more closed sales were reported.  We had a couple of closings this week, including a commercial sale, The Kona Kai Motel on Periwinkle.  Below is a comparison of the residential closings for this year, compared to the same period last year (Jan 1 to May 7).    

Sanibel Sales                #2009 Sales      Avg Price $        #2010 Sales      Avg Price $    

Condos                         21                     646,143 47                     575,189    

Homes                          39                     896,382 51                     719,748    

Lots                              5                      407,000 8                      300,625    

Mortgage Rates Sink to 6-Week Low – This week, the average 30-yr fixed-rate mortgage was 5%. Rates dropped to a record 4.71% in Dec. The last time rates were less than 5% was Mar.    

Study Shows Reckless Spending Behind Foreclosures – Researchers at U. of Arkansas report that the most foreclosure households were relatively well-to-do highly educated folks with few or no children, living in areas that experienced extremely rapid real estate appreciation. Using data from a variety of sources, researchers divided U.S. households into 21 life-stage groups & identified which experienced the most foreclosures. The group with highest % was one they dubbed “Cash & Careers”, affluent adults born between the mid-1960’s & early 1970’s. “The policy implications from our results is that strong consumer protection laws, though necessary to prevent Wall Street banks from offering high-risk loans to the most vulnerable – will not be sufficient to prevent another financial crisis like the one the U.S. economy experienced in 2007 & 2008,” said Tim Yeager, associate professor of economics & lead author of the study.    

Happy Birthday Sanibel School – The Sanibel School will celebrate its 100th year on the island with a birthday fundraiser party at the Mucky Duck on Jun 6, noon to 4 p.m. The fundraiser will benefit the Sanibel School Trust Fund, a nonprofit that raises money to pay for programs such as foreign-language instruction & technology enhancements. Fundraising for these programs has helped the school earn the Blue Ribbon designation from the U.S. Dept of Education.    

City Plans to Use Booms to Protect Shores from Oil – No oil yet in FL, but business already hurt, as the Panhandle particularly has faced cancellations brought on by fears that oil will make landfall there.  Here, island rental companies report that calls to make future reservations have all but stopped. Most of their inquiries this week have been from incoming visitors wondering if their deposits will be refunded if oil hits the islands. Foreign tourists, especially, are skittish because of the time & expense of international travel. Also, to tourists not familiar with FL geography, what happens in the Panhandle may be indiscernible from what happens in Orlando & SW FL, though the destinations are hundreds of miles apart. Working in cooperation with federal, state, & local partners like SCCF & PURRE, Sanibel City council & staff made plans to use booms along beaches & mangroves to keep oil from damaging the environment. Sanibel’s Natural Resources Director, Rob Loflin, said the gulf loop current is 20-80 miles offshore & if oil gets into the current, it would move quickly down the coast. He recommended that booms be placed along 30 miles of beaches & ~8 miles of mangroves including openings to JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. At the state level & in anticipation of job losses from fishing & tourism, Gov Charlie Crist on Thur requested $50M in federal funds to pay unemployment claims brought on by the oil spill. Though BP is ultimately responsible, Crist urged President Obama to approve the measure so the state can help assist affected workers while it waits for the company to reimburse.    

4/30/2010    

Though we saw a decrease in island traffic this week, we are happy to report that several of our listings were shown. SanibelSusan is still out showing property, offers have passed her desk again this week, & our colleagues are reporting the same. Good indications that we may not see the same business slow down we typically see this time of the year (usually not much action until schools are out late May/early Jun).    

UF Report – Florida Real Estate Market Has Hit Rock Bottom – A report issued yesterday by the University of FL indicates that FL real estate markets show the 1st tentative signs of recovering from the most painful recession in state history. “Results of our first quarter survey indicate that the real estate market in FL has hit bottom & is in the process of stabilizing across most property types,” said Timothy Becker, Director of UF’s Bergstrom Ctr for Real Estate Studies. While most survey respondents report the market probably won’t get any worse, few say it has actually begun to improve yet, Becker says. On the positive side, private capital – both foreign & domestic – is continuing to enter the state in search of quality investment deals. As banks start to deal with their problem assets, more deals will come to market. Another good sign: Life insurance companies have started to re-invest in commercial properties after backing off for the last year plus. On the negative side, unemployment continues to be one of the state’s biggest problems, edging up to 12.3% in March, the highest level since the state began keeping count in the 1970’s. FL has lost more than 880K jobs since 2007. Although there is potential for job growth later in the year, even under the most optimistic assumptions it will take 3 to 4 years to return to 2006 levels, Becker said. One of the strongest areas of the state is South FL, especially Miami-Dade & Broward counties, with their diverse economies, steady migration, & influx of foreign capital. Orlando, Tampa, & Jacksonville also are picking up. A positive note overall is that survey respondents’ confidence in their own business has risen for the 5th consecutive quarter. In previous breakdowns by profession, developers & lenders had extremely low expectations for their own businesses, & that has grown substantially in the last few surveys. “It’s always a good sign for us that the lenders think their business is going to get better,” Becker says. “Maybe it means there is some light at the end of the tunnel, even though we’re still not at a great spot.”    

Condo Bill Moves to Governor’s Desk – A measure to provide condo owners economic relief is headed to the Governor’s desk. SB 1196 which passed FL House makes a number of condo law changes. If signed it’s effective Jul 1. Will report more if it passes, but it’s all good. BIG ARTS 5th Annual Family Day Sunday 3 p.m., fun free events for the whole family including Juggler/Comedian & The Sanibel School Performing Arts Groups, student exhibits, SW FL Symphony Instrument petting zoo, Sanibel School Steel Drum Band, face painting, photos, food, ice cream & more.    

4/23/2010    

There were lots of newsy items about the island this week, plus plenty of properties being shown & offers flying back & forth.  Unfortunately, we expect the flurry of activity to subside once the spring break visitors return home tomorrow. Here’re some happenings:    

New Sanibel-Captiva Professional Center is sked to break ground in May. This will be the 1st commercial island project in more than 15 yrs. The 11K+ sq.ft. office bldg planned at 600 Tarpon Bay Rd is expected to open late this yr or early 2011. Owned by Dr. James Frizzell (who also owns Huxter’s & Sanibel Spirits), the center will have units for lease for primary or satellite offices, full- or part-time, as well as office space for Dr. Frizzell himself.    

Schoolhouse Theater & BIG ARTS – The boards of these organizations have announced their intention to join forces. The theater will become part of BIG ARTS, pending approval of the theater foundation members. The move will combine the mgmt, marketing, fundraising, & volunteer program operations into one collaborative effort making the organizations more efficient & financially stable. With the new BIG ARTS on Periwinkle office right behind our office & the theater right next door, we’re excited about the increased traffic this change will bring us.      

New Mayor – Kevin  Ruane, previously Vice Mayor, was elected Sanibel’s new Mayor. We supported of Kevin’s City Council campaign & appreciate all the good things his involvement has done for the city. Through the year, we also enjoy working with his wife, Doreen, who often processes client mortgages at the Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank. Congrats to the Ruanes!    

Farmers Market – After its 1st full year of operation, Sanibel Farmers Market got City Council’s blessing for another season on City Hall grounds (Nov thru Apr). We locals are going to miss the market this summer & already look forward to it beginning again on Sundays in the fall.    

4/16/2010    

Today, it’s, another beautiful day – bright blue sky & lots of new growth & spring blooms from the April showers earlier in the week. (Those are rare, but we need the water so no complaints.)    

Island Happenings – Tomorrow (Sat 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is the 1st Annual Edible Mollusk Festival with Oyster Eating Contest at The Timbers Restaurant parking lot. Sponsored by The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum & the restaurant, the festivities celebrate the Shell Museum’s New “MMM…Mollusks Exhibit”.    

On Wed (4/21 at 10 a.m.) The Dept of Interior, Bureau of Land Management & the City of Sanibel invite the public to attend a patent transfer ceremony for the Lighthouse Beach property Sat (4/24) in partnership with Tarpon Bay Explorers & “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Friends of the Refuge, JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate Earth Day’s 40th anniversary noon to 4 p.m. Theme is “Choose Green”.     

Kiwanis 2-for-1 Dining Books are available & good thru Dec 18. Contribution is $30 w/proceeds for local causes.    

Sales Activity on Sanibel Thankfully the islands have not experienced anywhere near the same % of distressed sales as reported nationally & elsewhere in FL, but the media reports this week certainly don’t give buyers much comfort. Susan was the star of the Realtor Caravan Meeting yesterday with 3 listings sold & 1 new listing announced. “Stuff is still happening!”    

Federal Official Hears Realtors’ Concerns “When it comes to the real estate market, all eyes are on FL”, Chris Oakley, VP & regional exec of the Federal Reserve Atlanta’s Jacksonville branch, said while meeting with Realtors to discuss FL’s economy. Oakley said the nation will closely watch FL for signs of housing market recovery as the Sunshine State was one of the hardest hit by the recession. “The SW corner of FL has been ground zero,” he said. “For FL, unfortunately, it was very ugly going in (to the recession) & it’s probably going to be very ugly coming out.” A rebound in real estate will hinge on several key issues, Oakley said, including personal savings, bank lending & employment recovery. “It seems like the banks are making loans but under criteria from a decade ago,” he said. “The banks are not going to go back to easy credit. We still have a lot of wreckage to go with the banking industry. Banks right now, many of them are in hunker-down mode.” Realtors said another issue with the banks is getting them to cooperate on short sales & on the sale of real estate owned by banks, or REOs. They’d like the Fed put more accountability on the banks to help with such properties. Short sales alone can take 8-12 months to move & REOs often become uninhabitable because banks let them sit for so long. Oakley said he plans to take these Realtors’ comments back to the Fed.    

Home Foreclosures Accelerating Mar foreclosures filings jumped nearly 19% from Feb, up almost 8% from Mar last yr; the highest monthly total since Jan 2005, when RealtyTrac began reporting. Lenders repossessed nearly 260,000 properties 1st quarter – a record for any quarter, & 35% increase from a year earlier, Realty Trac reports. Obama administration efforts to prevent foreclosures continue to get sharp criticism. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is lagging well behind the pace of the crisis, & most homeowners in financial trouble will never receive help, according to a report this week by a congressional oversight panel. For every borrower who avoided foreclosure through the federal program last year, another 10 families lost their homes, the report said.    

4/9/2010    

It was a good week at SanibelSusan. Island packed with holiday/spring break visitors which brought showings & offers. So far, 1 is a sale. Weather is terrific – like spring/summer – so folks smiling – us perhaps more than some, as we had 3 closings this week.    

Island Occupancy Rental offices report occupancy will bump to 30-40% tomorrow, as more vacationers go home. Many snow-birds already headed out. Spring weather up north & “tax-time” do that every year.    

Kudos to The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum for recently receiving accreditation from The American Assoc of Museums. Of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums, only 775 are accredited, with the Shell Museum one of only 48 in FL.    

New Lending Requirements & HUD Forms One of our Realtor affiliates is sponsoring a class at our new Assoc office next week to go over the latest federal changes to the closings forms that have become our “bread & butter”. Dave will attend.    

4/2/2010    

Island is busy with traffic jams to prove it. Funny to think we have those. Lots of things happening since it’s a holiday weekend & our locals are on spring break.    

Another huge accommodations turn-over expected tomorrow. Spring weather is here & vacationers are out enjoying it. Temps are expected to be in low 80’s for the next week. Here are some national events that affect the real estate industry.    

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Hiatus The National Assoc of Realtors confirmed with FEMA that “lenders may consider assignment of a policy in order to obtain coverage through the NFIP during the hiatus.” The closing papers must show that the unearned premium on the existing policy is paid by the buyer. This means that if the seller has an existing policy the buyer can assume that policy if the above conditions are met. (As background, insurance companies issue flood policies as part of the NFIP under an arrangement with the Federal Govt. The NFIP operates under authority from Congress that has to be renewed periodically. That authority to issue new policies expired at midnight on Mar 28, 2010, & is awaiting Congressional renewal.  Thus the NFIP is experiencing a hiatus – a period without authority to issue new policies, issue increased coverage on existing policies, or issue renewal policies – until Congress re-authorizes it.)    

Time Running Out on Home-Buyers Tax Credit Though we haven’t seen a lot of action due to Govt stimulus legislation with these tax credits, the program ends soon. To take advantage of the $8K 1st-time home buyer tax credit or $6.5K credit to current home owners purchasing a new or existing home, sale contracts must be executed by Apr 30 & closed by Jul 1, 2010.    

Freddie Mac Easing Lending Rules on FL Condos Freddie Mac will back condo mortgages in financially troubled developments as long as seller’s loan is already owned or secured by the mortgage finance company. That is a reversal by Freddie, who had been rejecting mortgages for units in complexes with low occupancy & high condo fee delinquency rates. FL’s once-burgeoning condo market (particularly the East Coast) has been hit hard by foreclosures, falling prices, & high inventory from overbuilding. Prices have fallen by 1/2 since 2006 in many parts of the state. Fannie Mae is reviewing hundreds of state condo projects that currently don’t qualify for its loans. Complexes deemed stable after the review will be given a special approval. If projects receive this approval, lenders may offer mortgages to buyers & sell those loans to Fannie Mae, which pools them into bonds & sells to investors.    

3/26/10    

27th Annual Lions Club Arts & Crafts Fair going on across the street at the Community House today & tomorrow. The island should stay busy for another week with Easter visitors arriving tomorrow.  Plenty for them to do in upcoming days:    

3/28 12-4 p.m. Sanibel School Seahorse Festival 2010. Children’s Education Center of the Islands Spring Festival is 4/3 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at City Park across the street. Also 4/3, the Egg Hunt at the Community Church at 11 a.m. Lily & Co. will have an Egg-stravaganza, also 4/3, 2-4 p.m. with egg hunts &  costume contest.    

Re:  Real Estate, we saw decent action this week: 13 new Sanibel sales (6 condos & 7 homes). To summarize year to-date sales compared to last year. 1/1/2009 to 3/26/2009: 11 condos, 16 homes, & 3 lots sold. From 1/1/2010 to 3/26/2010: 24 condos, 28 homes, & 5 lots sold. Another 28 condos, 29 homes, & 3 lots are under contract. We remain optimistic that more properties will go under contract over the new few weeks, as high season winds down. With 258 condos, 293 homes, & 122 lots on Sanibel still for sale, we are a long way from real estate recovery; but the improved activity this year has us all encouraged. It remains a terrific time to buy!    

3/19/10    

We happily report 1/2 the island sales this week were ours! Maybe “thankful” is more the word, as there were only 4 new sales. The only condo & lot sales were our listings. We have just 3 more wks of high season to go. Here’s some general island scoop.  Lots of going on:    

Traffic & Showings – Periwinkle gridlock continues mostly as island workers come & go.  Many families here for spring breaks.    

Community Park to Get Pavilion – This week City Council approved construction of a gazebo-style pavilion for community events, band concerts, etc. at Sanibel Community Park across the street from our office. We always get good walk-in traffic when they have special events at the park so this should contribute to our business too.    

2nd Annual Car Show – tomorrow at Tahitian Gardens 10 a.m to 3.    

Springfest/Snookfest here in Sanibel Square Sun 1-5 at Norm Zeigler’s Fly Shop at the other end of our bldg, proceeds to benefit SCCF.    

Sanibel-Captiva Cares is Sun at The Sanctuary. 10th yr of this event which has raised $2.5M to benefit Children’s Hospital of SW FL.    

BIG Arts Chorus Yr-End Performances: Susan’s singing with the altos Sat nite at the Millenium Development Goals fundraiser at the Community House. (That’s the 10-yr UN project to reduce world hunger by 2015. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ ) Tues nite, Schein Hall, Community Band & Chorus Spring Concert, w/special surprise soloist.    

3/12/2010    

Weather – Today was a SW FL soaker. Rain began last night with thunderstorms & continued ‘til midday. Rain came down sideways with white caps in our parking lot. Spring showers at their best!    

Showings – Good island showing activity this week, mostly condos, but increased interest in homes & lots too. Several sales announced yesterday at Realtor Caravan. We are negotiating a few offers with indications that some will come to contract.  More on those next week.    

Island Occupancy – Rental organizations expect the most yr-to-date check-ins tomorrow. Temps to be in the 70’s all next week. Good weather usually results in visitors spending more fun-in-the-sun time than looking at real estate. It’s the time of the year for the serious buyers though. Only 3 more wks ‘til Easter, then comes the period we refer to as “after season” (Easter to Jul). This year, there probably will be more “after season” sales than most yrs.    

Condo Financing is challenging. Though no Sanibel condos officially are on the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac-backed loans list, some units have been financed without big downs & high interest rates. These often require the bank approving the complex, by1) obtaining satisfactory appraisal on unit being purchased; 2) review of condo covenants & restrictions, mainly to ensure no “first right of refusal”; 3) review of calendar year budget to ensure assoc funds for budget items & satisfactory reserves; 4) assoc-completed Condo Questionnaire, to ensure fewer than 15% delinquent units, that assoc has no litigation, no short-term rentals (or not a condotel), no on-site rental desk, etc.; copies of assoc insurance policies to ensure adequate fidelity, hazard, HO-6, & flood insurance is carried.    

3/5/2010    

Yet, another wonderful sunny Sanibel day.  We are tired of talking about chilly weather. Good news in the forecast! At last, temps expected to be back into the 70’s by Sun & warm weather predicted all next week. Get out the bathing suits!    

Annual Shell Fair & Show continues thru tomorrow at Community House across from our office. This is its 73rd year. Admission free.    

Randy Wayne White begins his book signing tour for his latest & 17th Doc Ford thriller “Deep Shadow” this weekend. He’ll be at Doc Ford’s Sanibel 3/7 & 3/8.  It’s a great opportunity to get books signed & meet him. (This is the 1st time one of his book tours has begun on the island, where the books began!)    

Good sales activity announced at Realtor Caravan & our “Island Sun” ad reports that the # of Sanibel sales Jan/Feb doubled the number during the same time last year. While the rest of the nation reports a drop in existing home sales, as stormy weather prevailed north & west, that was not the case here. Though our weather also was chilly, it probably helped sales.    

Mortgage Rates are again under 5%. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-yr fixed rate was 4.97% this week, down from last week. The central bank’s $1.25 trillion program to buy up mortgage securities expires Mar 31, but the Fed may extend if the economy weakens more. Either way, it’s a terrific time to buy & we are hopeful that we will see more sales in the next few weeks before the snowbirds fly out.    

2/26/2010    

The islands remain busy. Sometimes, we are not sure if showings are weather related, but we are thankful for them just the same.  Happily, we had another listing go under contract this week (another non-US-resident buyer—we are seeing lots more of that this year). Susan sold a commercial property too (process began in 2007).     

Jan/Feb 2010 Compared to 2009 Last yr by now, 7 condos, 9 homes, & 2 lots had closed. This yr more have closed: 11 condos, 18 homes, & 4 lots. It’s great improvement. Interestingly, 30% of this yr’s condo sales were in the $300-400K range. Homes had 30% under $500K.    

High Season Ends Early Sellers continue to reduce prices. With Easter, only a few wks of high season left. Inventory remains high: 264 condos, 275 homes, & 122 lots. That’s almost a 4-yr supply even at the improved rate of sale.    

Farmers Market is moving to City Hall. This Sun event (8 a.m.-1 p.m.) has been so successful that it’s created a Periwinkle Way traffic jam. At its new site, there’s plenty of parking at City Hall plus next door at BIG ARTS & the library. Check if out. It’s well worth the trip.    

2/19/2010    

Island should be nearly full thru Easter. Increased showing activity this wk & 60-degree weather today, back to 70’s tomorrow.    

Realtor Monthly Membership Meeting discussed low offers & difficulties presenting them. Sale prices are hovering at 2000/2001 values. Only a few sales announced, but Realtors busy showing & many have offers in works or recently written offers that didn’t make it.    

Sanibel Lighthouse – For $447.50 City can purchase the 44.7-acre 102’ property & 2 light-keepers cottages. Sound like a deal? Downside is the 136-yr-old iron structure has lead paint requiring removal/repainting. Estimates ~$300K. Buying process took 6 yrs, but City given just 30 days to pay up. We also like quick closings.    

LCEC – Good news here. Our county electric co-op advises that by strict budgeting, customers will not see a base rate increase this year. If you’d like to further reduce your electric costs, there are energy tools & green energy tips at www.lcec.net.    

Mortgages – Good news here too. Rcvd an e-mail from Dan Krispinsky, Sanibel SunTrust mortgage banker, that both Loggerhead Cay & Pointe Santo complexes have passed Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac tests for govt-backed financing. Similarly, Dan Cronin, Asst VP & loan officer with San-Cap Bank, reports that they had their 1st closings under the new Jan 1 RESPA rules. Hopefully with rates low, this activity will get non-cash buyers into the buying.    

2/12/2010    

Several sales announced yesterday & many Realtors out showing, pleased “things are picking up”. Offers are in the works with hopefully good news soon.    

Weather Up-north storms keep bringing rain & chilly temps.  Another front passed thru with cold nights (40’s) & cooler days (60’s) expected, has turned into longest stretch of cold weather remembered. Keeps phones the ringing though. Looking at real estate on bad weather days keeps tourists busy.    

Open House at SCCF – The conservation foundation will have their annual Open House on President’s Day. This is the 1st time, they will be offering bus tours of the preserves.    

Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair – Annual event, held this weekend (both Sat & Sun) at Community House across the street from office. It always brings walk-ins. Returning are Ikki & Polly Matsumoto. Love their art. They’ve designed cool commemorative T-shirts again this year (which often become collectors’ items).    

BIG Arts Chorus has expanded to nearly 80 members. Come hear your Realtor sing. Sked performances are: 2/18 FISH Volunteer luncheon at Sundial, 3/17 IrishFest at Bailey’s, 3/20 Millennium Development Goals Project at Sanibel Community House, 3/23 Spring Concert with the Sanibel Band at BIG ARTS, & 3/24 Minnesota Twins/Marlins game at Hammond Stadium.    

2/5/2010    

Weather & Showings – It was challenging out showing property this week. Tues brought more continuous rain than we’ve seen in weeks. Luckily those storm bands are just wet stuff by the time they get to FL.    

Realtors Are Busy – At the Realtor Meeting yesterday, many reported that they were out showing this week. Happens every year when the island has its Feb visitors in town.    

Price Reductions & New Listings – It’s astounding how many are still being posted every day.    

1/29/2010    

Island Traffic & Showings – More showing action this week, but occupancy still off. Visitors enjoyed terrific weather. Beach & bike paths had lots of activity. More tenant turn-over expected tomorrow, plus new monthly visitors arriving. We’re ready!    

Jan 26, our only island saltwater crocodile was found dead on the SCCF East River Trail, possibly a victim the cold. In her 25+ years on Sanibel, she helped define our community as one dedicated to living with wildlife, even the big beautiful scary ones. She was unique in her 11’ length (large for a female) & the northern-most of her species in FL. Her guess-timate age was 40-60 ys. Her stories will always be told at SCCF & the Refuge. A plaque will mark her final resting place.”    

Who’s Looking at Real Estate? This year, more Europeans & Canadians are lookin’. What do they want? Great deals! Inexpensive condos w/pool & tennis in close-to-beach like-new condition. More U.S. lookers at other end of spectrum. Folks who already own & recognize values today. Unfortunately, many have to sell 1st. Gulf-front homes are getting showings, but the mid-range housing market, $400K-$3M, is still very S-L-O-W.     

1/22/2010    

Season Traffic picking up, but the 3-day weekend quiet.    

Dancing With the Island Stars. Susan joins fellow Realtors in cheering on colleague Karen Bell at the dance-off this weekend, a fundraiser for the Community House. Dress rehearsal tonite & event Sat sold out. It’s also being streamed live w/voting at 6:30 p.m. at Doc Ford’s, Lazy Flamingo, Dunes, The Sanctuary & Beachview Country Club.    

State of FL Emergency Fishing Rules. Due to the recent cold weather effecting water temperatures, snook fishing is closed ‘til Sept 1, tarpon & bonefish ‘til Mar 31st.    

1/15/2010    

Hooray!  Today is 1st day in 2010 since New Year’s Day with above average temps.  It’s back into the 70’s & so nice to turn the office heat off. Folks again are back out bike riding & beach-walking.  Susan showed condos last weekend – 20 in total – most on Saturday in the freezing rain. Sure gave her a better appreciation for our more typical winter weather.  Thankfully, those lookers have become buyers & are now under contract to purchase a gulf-front condo. Realtors weekly caravan met yesterday in the new digs. Last year, we purchased the 8-unit strip center behind “Wings” on Periwinkle. Over the last few months, the top 5 units were combined & remodeled for the Assoc of Realtors office, conference, & training space.  Next the exterior will be updated (which really needs it).  Finnimore’s Cycle Center is the downstairs tenant. We are all ready for the island to get busy again, but surprisingly Saturday check-ins look to be off. The rental organizations tell us that most visitors are calling last minute to book.    

1/8/2010    

Cold Weather for so many days that we are getting used to it. 2nd cold front arriving now with highs tomorrow expected to be in the mid 40’s. May set an 83-yr record. No snow yet though. Temps expected to be back in the 70’s by the end of next week.    

Big Home Ordinance On Tues, after 3 yrs of Planning Commission & City Council meeting with input from the public, especially the Realtor population, Sanibel City Council voted down the new draft ordinance amending Section 86-43 of Sanibel’s Land Development Code. Planning Commission had proposed requiring that new homes larger than the largest in an established subdivision go thru a public hearing process to obtain a permit (a lengthy costly process).    

“Island Jazz” is Back This great group of island musicians is playing thru season in a variety of location, often in the BIG ARTS courtyard on Sunday afternoons. I like opening the back door of the office & letting the music waft in. Check our “Events Calendar for their schedule.    

NEW YEAR’S EVE    

The island traffic remains heavy, particularly on chilly days when it’s too cold for the beach. Most holiday visitors depart on Sat.    

New 1-Day Attendance Record set this week at Sanibel Rec Ctr when on Mon, 652 patrons used the facility. The event tonite will be well attended too.    

Restoration Project at Lighthouse Beach – In order to avoid bird & turtle nesting seasons, the City’s Lighthouse Beach Sand Placement Project will begin on 1/4 at the bayside beach of the Lighthouse Beach Park adjacent to the fishing pier. Project includes placement of 5000 cubic yards of sand. The bayside beach will be closed for the 20-day project.    

CHRISTMAS EVE 2009    

The islands are busy. Traffic on roadways & bike paths increased daily. Rooms full now & more arriving Sat with higher occupancy for New Year’s.    

The weather is glorious, a sunny 76 degrees. Nice warm-up from the chilly temps earlier which were a Dec reminder. It’s expected to hit 80 tomorrow with a few showers possible, hopefully not enough to dampen any Christmas beach walks. No Realtor Caravan Meetings this week or next, not much to report anyway with most everyone in holiday mode.    

Good phone & e-mail inquiries as well as walk-ins, some from the snowy weather up north, some (both visitors & property owners) thinking that we now are giving away island property. Sure isn’t easy convincing them otherwise. I’m asking Santa to give the economy a good kick so we can change the perception & get rid of some inventory.    

12/18/2009    

Today we woke to rain/tornado warnings, part of front that brought snow to VA & Carolinas. By mid-day, it was back to sunny & 75. Tomorrow ‘til Tues, cool temps are expected, 60’s days & 40’s/50’s nights. Visitors probably won’t like it but it will feel like Dec. Back into 70’s before Christmas.    

Sunday Farmers Market at Tahitian Gardens is a hit. Fresh fruit, veggies, cheeses, seafood, baked goods, even full meals ready-to-go, cut flowers & plants. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. SanibelSusan is there early on her way to the office. Amazing what $5 will buy. “Green dot” salsa is good, the “red dot” reserved for the very brave.    

Sanibel Rec Center has expanded their offerings. New classes & activities offered thru the holidays & winter. Go to www.MySanibel.com for full schedule.    

Mini-Golf at the Sanibel Community House Dec 26-30—an annual island tradition!    

12/11/2009    

After a soggy weekend & overcast days earlier in the week, today it’s bright & sunny. It’s perfect for looking at property, but have not had many requests. Actually not too much traffic either. Retail & restaurants not too busy either. Holiday visitors should start arriving this weekend, more on 19th, most on 26th for New Years week. Few sales announced at yesterday’s Realtor meeting. It’s pretty much shopping season—just not for real estate yet, that should come mid-Jan.    

12/4/2009    

Dodging raindrops today & hoping that some Luminary visitors will want to buy real estate.  It’s a chilly 64 degrees with overcast skies & heavy rain on-&-off. Hope it clears by 5 p.m. when Luminary Festivities begin. Not many real estate lookers this week, nor was much reported at our Realtor Caravan meeting yesterday. Only 11 properties on tour, 15 are allowed. Plenty of island holiday activities, especially this weekend. I’ll be at the Community House tonite looking for buyers & singing carols with the BIG ARTS Community Chorus.    

11/27/2009    

Sanibel Community House – Art Festival today & tomorrow.    

Island Weather – It was a chilly 55 degrees this a.m., 10-15 degrees below normal. Low expected tonite (45) may set a record. But it should be back into the 80’s by Mon.    

Luminary Next Week – Sanibel festivities begin 5 p.m. Fri 12/4. Rumor is Santa (Jim Jordan, City Planning Director), & Mrs. Claus (Olivia, the Sanibel Square manager) will be in here. It’s always a fun time.    

Next nite, Sat 12/5, it’s Captiva Luminary.    

BIG ARTS Holiday Concert – Last year sold out. To see your favorite Realtor® sing with Sanibel Chorus, don’t delay getting tickets: $7 at “BIG ARTS on Periwinkle”, behind our office. Concert 7 p.m. Tues 12/8 BIG ARTS Auditorium. Most Thanksgiving vacationers head home this weekend, so may be quiet early next week, as Dec holiday mode sets in.    

11/20/200     

A few more sales were announced at weekly Realtor® Caravan meeting. Hopefully a sign of more action, though some rental divisions are reporting that Thanksgiving check-ins tomorrow are off significantly from past years. Most also advise that plenty of accommodations remain available for Xmas & New Years weeks too (times usually already gobbled up by now). Here are a few items of interest: Thanksgiving Celebration—If you are here this weekend, try to catch BIG ARTS Community Chorus singing at the Thanksgiving Celebration at Sanibel Community House, Sun nite 11/22 7 p.m. Food/monetary offerings to be collected for FISH (Friends in Service Here) of Sanibel.    

11/13/2009    

We had more showings this week. Some winter residents here to open their property for season already headed homing for holidays. Little sales activity announced at Realtor Caravan yesterday. Cooler temps this morning (56 degrees). It’s bright & sunny now.  Island perfect!    

Worker, Home-ownership, & Business Assistance Act of 2009 has extended the tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified 1st-time homebuyers purchasing a principal residence. It also authorized a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified repeat homebuyers www.FederalHousingTaxCredit.com    

2009 Sanibel Masters Art Festival – Chorus is singing 2 programs during the festival held Fri & Sat, 11/27 & 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Community Center (across the street adjacently from our office). This is the 20th year, established by BIG ARTS, with over 50 national juried artists displaying all media types.  Chorus performances are Sat at 10:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m.    

11/6/2009    

Sanibel Farmers Market is back, open Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Tahitian Gardens. The open air market features vendors with fresh baked goods, live plants, honey, pasta, cheese, sausages, fresh fish, fresh produce, & organic veggies.    

Red Tide which was observed earlier in the week has mostly dissipated. Though the beaches & bay had some effects from the bloom, the NW winds forecast the next several days are expected to send it on its way further south.    

Happy Birthday Sanibel – Events sked in the upcoming week to celebrate Sanibel’s 35th anniversary. Some include: Sun—Kickoff Celebration w/speakers at Community House, Mon—J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Drive free all day, Tues—CROW Open House w/tours of new Education Ctr, Wed—City Hall Veteran’s Day celebration, Thurs—BIG Arts premier of  Sandbars to Sanibel…”, Fri– Free talk at Historical Museum about founding of the City.    

10/30/2009    

Weather still much like summer with temps expected to remain in the 90’s ‘til early next week.  Makes for nice days at the beach & on the water, hardly feels like fall. We saw a small increase in traffic this week, a few more snowbirds back in town opening properties up for winter.    

2nd annual week-long Sanibel community festival begins Nov 8 & we are already counting down to Luminary which is Dec 4 here & Dec 5 on Captiva. If you enjoy the Sanibel Chorus & Band Holiday Concert, it will be Dec 8 at BIG Arts. (Susan is practicing already.)    

At the Realtor Caravan meeting yesterday, not may new sales were reported as the details below show, but Realtors are all fired up for a better winter season than last year & indications are that there will be improvement.  The 10-month 2009 stats show condos & lots starting to move again—though slowly—& the low-end homes continuing to be the best sellers.    

9/25/09    

After a flurry of showings over the weekend & early week, it’s been slow on the islands, with occasional calls about folks thinking of listing for “season”.    

BIG ARTS Gallery & Gift Shop on Periwinkle – behind our office, is officially open (M-F 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Stop in next time you visit us.    

FISH 10K Race – Friends in Service Here (FISH) invites runners to sign up for their inaugural 10K race (6.2 miles) sked for Sat Oct 17. FISH is a non-profit that helps islanders in need.    

Shadowfax Sailing to Panama – Remember Realtor, Scott McPhee who sailed around the world abt 5 years ago out of Tween Waters, he’s now sailing thru the Panama Canal.  Scott has a real flair for reporting his adventures. Many from his past trip were posted in our local papers.  Here’s the 1st leg of his journey to Panama. Amazing what some island workers do during the off season:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjPdV9wbCpQ    

Elec Outage – Abt 2800 east-end properties were without power Tues nite for abt 4 hours. That’s toasty when it’s 80+ degrees.  Can’t complain though, it’s been a mild summer overall.    

9/18/2009    

Midway thru what’s traditionally our “slowest” month on the islands.    

Citizens Insurance Requirement – Realtor Assoc monthly membership meeting yesterday was well attended but not many island sales or new listings were announced. A speaker from Storm Smart discussed the new Citizen Wind Insurance requirements for hurricane protection on any openings in structures with $750K coverage.  He reported that many of the other insurance providers are considering similar requirements. The openings include not only windows & sliders, but also garage doors & skylights. It’s still amazing that they are requiring storm protection on lower-level windows in piling homes that have break-away walls. The protection can be storm panels, hurricane shutters, impact-rated glass, & the new screen-type products. Taxes & TRIM Notices: Today is the last day to dispute annual notices.  Sanibel City Council Tues voted to reduce the island millage rate, reducing average island tax bill by approx $74.    

Coastal Clean-up Day – Tomorrow SCCF is participating in International Coastal Clean-up Day.  If you can help, just report to the Conservation Foundation between 9 a.m. & noon.    

9/11/20091st Blog    

Quiet week, even Labor Day saw little island activity except locals on the causeway. Many restaurants closed or closing (on staggered schedules) for annual vacations & spruce-ups.    

Afternoon showers most days. Grass continues to grow at record speed & the new tropical vegetation on Periwinkle Way looks like it’s been there forever. You’ve gotta love the FL growing season!    

Shared-Use Paths: Annual repair project starts 9/14 on the 22+miles of island paths. Some bike paths may be barricaded over the next 60 days while work is being done.    

Here at Sanibel Square: Nanny’s (children’s wear) starts moving tomorrow into the old Goumas Chocolates cottage next door to us. It should open in a few weeks.

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