Flash Mob & Governor at Realtors Meetings in Orlando, While It’s Quiet on Sanibel & Captiva Islands

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Florida Realtors
® Annual Business Meetings, Convention, & Trade Expo

As usual for this time of the year, things were pretty quiet on the islands this week when I headed to Orlando to the Florida Realtors® Annual Business Meetings, Convention, and Trade Expo. Naturally, we all breathed a sign of relief earlier on when the Hurricane Irene spaghetti plots moved its path away from Florida. Those summer tropical storms are about the only things that have wrecked havoc with these meetings in past years. (Our thoughts remain with those on the eastern seaboard until that darn storm passes. We have too much experience with them in Florida to take them lightly.) 

Thursday at the convention, often known as Super Sales Day, brings in Realtors® from all over the state, as it is jam-packed with classes and the annual awards luncheon with keynote address. Following the awards, world-class guitarist, stand-up comedian, and personal development expert Mike Rayburn wowed attendees with is “What If…and Why Not?” presentation. If you ever have an opportunity to see or hear him, please do. He’s great!

SanibelSusan Teammates Lisa and Dave came up for a couple of days too, their first convention. So many classes and forums take place (over 50 in total) and sometimes simultaneously that we all come away with excellent info to share. Topics this year varied from handling sales in today’s economic climate, social media trends, and home pricing strategies, with some of the top industry speakers. The trade show alone had more than 125 companies showcasing their latest products, technology and other business tools. We come back invigorated, smarter, and ready to better tackle today’s market.

Fannie Mae Reports: Dark Clouds Loom But No Recession

An article posted by Florida Realtors® on Tuesday said “The economy was hit by a barrage of disappointing news during the last month, which led to a downgrade in the overall macro economic forecast released today by Fannie Mae’s Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. While the August 2011 Economic Outlook does not forecast a double dip recession, it finds that the chance of a double-dip recession is roughly equivalent to a coin toss. For all of 2011, economic growth is expected to downshift to 1.4% from 3.1% in 2010. Growth is expected to pick up in 2012, but only to about 2.0%, compared to the 3.1% projected in the July forecast.

““Key factors … have revealed that we have a bigger hole to dig out of, which explains the consumer angst over the lack of employment growth,” says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Moreover, European financial market and fiscal policy turmoil, coupled with the U.S. debt ceiling debate, have hit on consumer confidence, which is at recessionary levels.” Duncan says Americans are clearly worried about global, big-picture concerns. “Housing has moved into second position behind general economic concerns among consumers, which is demonstrated in our National Housing Survey results,” Duncan says. “Our July data shows that 70% of Americans think the economy is on the wrong track, up from 60% a year ago. In turn, despite historically low interest rates, consumers are still saying they don’t see this as a good time to go out and borrow money to buy a house.”

“Housing activity is expected to weaken along with the overall economy due to a renewed decline in business and consumer confidence, and a weaker jobs forecast. One exception is the rental housing market. The rental vacancy rate (the share of rental housing that is vacant and for rent) plunged from 9.7% to 9.2% in the second quarter of 2011, and is now at its lowest rate in nine years. A lower rate of homeownership suggests that a rising share of households have gone from owning to renting.”

Increase in Summer Tourism

One of Ann Mitchell’s articles in today’s “Island Sun” had a particularly nice ring to it. “The sound of European accents has been music to the ears of many island businesses this summer, perhaps signaling a return to better days in this tourism-based economy. For the last three to four years, Europeans have stayed away due to factors such as the economy and unfounded fears of oil-marred beaches.

“What makes Europeans such welcome visitors is that being long-haul travelers they tend to stay longer than domestic tourists. They average five to seven days, says Jeff Shuff, general manager of ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva. “With Americans, we are lucky if they stay a weekend. That’s why our best seller is our three-night package.” “This is probably the best summer we have had since 2008,” said Shuff, estimating that business is up about 15%. He said a weak dollar is also making Florida vacations a good buy for foreign tourists.

“July occupancy at the Island Inn on Sanibel was 97.1%, which is about as good as it gets, and August “has been terrific,” said General Manager Chris Davison. To date, this month’s business is up 119% year-over-year. Island Inn, owned by dozens of shareholders, had been suffering from outdated management and a private club image. It’s now aggressively seeking business and has undertaken a half-million-dollar improvement program. “Even though we are far from being out of the woods, people are no longer scared to spend and there is pent-up demand,” Davison said. “There is good value here on the islands” and hotel rates are attractive. Lodging operators have been sweetening the deals with promotions such as $80 in dining credits with a three-night stay at ‘Tween Waters Inn, to mark the inn’s 80th anniversary.

“Others, like the Island Inn, put together discount deals with local businesses and attractions in June. Mark Pucher, general manager of Jerry’s Food on Sanibel, also reports “a really, really good summer.” While he didn’t have final numbers, Pucher estimates summer business is up about 7%. “We have seen a lot of Europeans. The oil chased them away last year… but they decided to come this year.” Pucher says about 85% of Jerry’s business is from tourists. “A lot of them saved and didn’t do anything last year so they had extra money to spend.”

“Besides Europeans, summer stalwarts tend to be people within a three-hour drive of Sanibel and Captiva, those living between Orlando and Miami. Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bikes, called summer business “OK, not the best but not the worst by any means.” He added, “July was definitely better than last year.” Kirkland credits lower gas prices, people feeling a little better about the economy and the good exchange rate for Europeans.

“Earlier this week, reports of Hurricane Irene forming in the Atlantic spurred calls from people with hotel bookings, but as the storm tracked east, fears eased. Predicting future bookings is a guessing game for hoteliers these days because few people make reservations much in advance. Travelers rely heavily on Internet sites such as TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, Davison said. “You will have people booking their reservation from the parking lot on their cell phone,” he said.

“With school back in session, tourism has slowed in late August. As usual, some island businesses have closed or are closing for several weeks to ride out the slowest time of the year, give employees vacation time and do clean-up and maintenance. Among them are Trader’s Store & Café, The Island Cow, Why Knot, Over Easy Cafe and the Sanibel Bean.”

Sanibel & Captiva MLS Activity Aug 19-26

1 new listing: Sanibel Moorings #1312 2/2 $399,999.

1 price change: Cottage Colony West #101 1/1 now $575K.

1 new sale: Pelicans Roost #103 2/2 listed for $590K (short sale).
3 closed sales: Captains Walk #E8 2/2 $240K, Sundial #R203 2/2 $460K, Sand Pointe #227 2/2 $615K.
5 new listings: 5659 SanCap Rd 2/2 $549K, 1233 Middle Gulf Dr 3/2 $650K, 1048 Fish Crow Rd 3/2 $775K, 411 Lighthouse Way 4/3 $1.395M, 2308 Troon Ct 4/4 $1.695M.
5 price changes: 954 Donax St 3/3 now $399K, 1433 Jamaica Dr 5/4 now $479K, 220 Southwinds Dr 2/2 now $549K (our listing), 6192 Henderson Rd 3/2 now $899K, 1360 Eagle Run Dr 5/3.5 now $999K (short sale).
3 new sales: 6076 Castaways Ln 3/2 listed for $900K, 600 N Yachtsman Dr 3/2.5 listed for $939K (short sale), 2332 Troon Ct 4/5 listed for $1.05M (short sale).
1 closed sale: 791 Pen Shell Dr 4/3 $1.1M.
1 new listing: 335 East Gulf Dr $335K.

No price changes.
3 new sales: 946 Fitzhugh St listed for $129,555 (short sale), 537 Lighthouse Way listed for $699K, 629 Lighthouse Way listed for $769K.

No closed sales.

2 new listings: Marina Villas #603 2/2 $550K, Lands End Village #1640 3/3 $1.899M.
No price changes, new or closed sales.
No new listings.
1 price change:  51 Oster Ct 2/2.5 now $695K.
No new or closed sales.
Nothing to report.

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 association nor its MLS guarantees or is in 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 and does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions. If your property currently is listed with another broker, this is not intended as a solicitation of that listing