Twas Two Nights Before Christmas at SanibelSusan

It has been pretty quiet today at SanibelSusan Realty. Elise, Lisa, and Dave are enjoying a long weekend (Monday is a holiday for them too), while I am here hoping for some showing inquiries. We have a couple of offers in the works. Those are always fun for me and hopefully productive.

My yard, taken December 22, 2011

The December island weather continues to be delightful. Bright blue sky and temps in the high 70’s low 80’s expected right into next week. The bike paths, beaches, restaurants, shops, and roadways are busy busy. I think it is safe to say that the holiday visitors are arriving.

Here are a couple of news items about island animals. They are from a January Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation newsletter article called “Living With New Island Wildlife” by Dee Serage, SCCF Living with Wildlife Educator. Following those is a good summary posted today by Florida Realtor of their top ten stories in 2011.

“Coyotes and a Florida Black Bear

“Residents of Sanibel and Captiva work harder than most at living with wildlife. Last winter two new species, coyote and Florida black bear, moved on the islands, roaming the preserved lands as well as island neighborhoods. These newcomers require us to become even more vigilant, making sure our neighbors and visitors don’t intentionally or unintentionally feed any wildlife. Both coyote and black bear can become dumpster divers if we don’t protect them from this horrible fate. Fed wildlife usually ends up dead wildlife. Please make sure garbage for pickup and pet food are not left out overnight.
“To date there is one Florida black bear documented on Sanibel. The City of Sanibel and the State of Florida have been trying unsuccessfully to capture and relocate the bear since last summer. So far the bear continues to shy away from direct human contact as most black bears to, but a recent call from The Sanctuary Golf Club told of the bear pushing a golf course garbage can 30 feet across the green into the mangroves! By e-mail photos, plastic bag, and Tupperware containers, scat samples have made their way to SCCF for identification. Scat samples from Gulf Ridge and outside the Bailey tract have been identified as black bear. One sample was full of bird feathers, others contained palm fruit. Bears are very opportunistic feeders. Last summer the bear raided bee hives on SCCF property that belong to the Curtis family, bears like to eat bees even more than honey. The Curtis Family from Labelle has been keeping bees on Sanibel since 1954. having domesticated bee hives on Sanibel is a way to stop the aggressive Africanized bees from moving in. New queen bees bred for docility are added to the hives often. If aggressive bees move into the hives, they will be bred into docility.
“In November, a coyote was found road-killed on San-Cap Road and soon after two coyotes were photographed together by the Refuge’s wildlife camera. Florida is the last state to have coyotes populate every county, Sanibel may be the last city to have them move in…but coyotes are here to stay and we have a family. Coyotes move and hunt in family units, not packs. They also are opportunistic feeders, and their diet includes fruits. This summer coyotes predated a few sea turtle nests. Raccoons predate nests every year. Plans are being made to protect more nests with screens for the upcoming sea turtle season.
“To learn more about these new island species, please attend the “Coyote and Bear Tales” Program on January 5 or 18, or call Dee at 472-2329.”

Eagles at Gulf Pines

As many residents have noted, the Gulf Pines eagle nest is gone. The nest was on SCCF land in a snag (a dead tree) that snapped in half and fell over sometime in the early hours of October 18. Since that time, SCCF staffers and many others have been watching the eagle pair closely to see how they cope. Within a week, both eagles were seen flying with nesting materials in their talons and began working on at least two nests, which is not unusual. Field studies have shown that bald eagles often build multiple nests within their territory, with an average of 1.5 nests per territory, and ranging from one nest to five nests. Usually only one next will be used for nesting in any given nesting season. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the new nest at the original site also came down, but as of press time, the pair is on the remaining nest. Eggs were not found at either downed nest.
“To help this eagle pair remain at the Gulf Pines site, SCCF staff with the help of resident eagle expert, Bird Westall, are designing a nesting platform based on examples in the scientific literature. There are several reports of bald eagles successfully raising young in nests on manmade platforms.
“In order to permit his project, SCCF is communicating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both agencies have granted permission to move forward with planning for this platform. LCEC (Lee County Electric Coop) will be providing the 80-foot pole necessary to hold the platform and – unlike osprey platforms – there will be shade for the hottest part of the day. Timing of installation will depend on ground conditions in the area, which remain flooded at the moment.
“Along with the construction of the platform – and at the agencies request – SCCF will be formulating a research project to be associated with the effort. You might wonder if an artificial nest platform is a good idea given that the eagles are working on their own solution for the loss of their nest. Having multiple nests is not usual for bald eagles. In the case of the Gulf Pines eagles, the optimal way forward is to increase the odds of successful nesting by giving them a platform option in addition to the tree test.
“Biologists have shown that an eagle pair will continue to nest in the territory where they have successfully fledged young before. Even if a pair skips a year raising young, they may remain loyal to that site.
“To learn more about island eagles, please attend the eagle program by Bird Westall on Friday, February 10. Feel free to call Dee at 472-2329 with questions and for updates regarding this eagle pair.
Florida Realtors Top 10 Stories in 2011
1. Once-in-a-generation time to buy. Who’s in?
Most renters want to buy a home: 72% consider homeownership a good financial decision, and 64% believe the time is right, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2011 Housing Pulse survey. Mortgage rates hit a record low of 3.94% this year, homes sold for a fraction of their value five years ago, and excess inventory provided every buyer with a range of options. In some cities, homeownership became cheaper than renting. But job insecurities made buyers nervous to commit. Those who did found it difficult to get financing despite stellar credit scores. As a result, 2011 saw a real estate market with great deals, yet fewer buyers than needed. In 10 years, however, many Americans may look back on 2011 as the best time in a generation to invest in real estate.
2. The economy rebounded, sorta, kinda, a little
The Florida economy remained sluggish as unemployment rates stayed uncomfortably high and home sales stayed uncomfortably low; but, across the board, the state showed signs of recovery, with almost every economic indicator suggesting brighter days ahead. Home sales edged higher most months; selling prices held their own and, in a few cases, median selling prices rose. Floridians’ consumer confidence also rose toward the end of the year after bobbing around for most of the summer. Employment followed, and while the state has a long way to go to hit “normal,” it reached a 2011 level of “better than last year.”
3. Commercial market leaves “dire” for “not as bad”
Florida investors increasingly want to buy office, retail and industrial properties, says Cynthia Shelton, Florida Realtors’ 2009 president and a director at Colliers International in Orlando. Vacancy rates, while high, have stabilized, along with rental rates. Core assets (essential to businesses) are selling and lenders – including the life insurance companies – are lending again. Banks are more realistic about prices for distressed properties, and 2012 should see the entry of more commercial tenants. “With modest economic growth and job creation, the fundamentals for commercial real estate should gradually improve in the coming year,” adds Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
4. Florida Legislature: We got Amendment 4 and scrapped the cap
Florida Realtors had a number of victories in the 2011 Florida Legislature, but none as important as a constitutional amendment voters will consider in November 2012, and none so hard-fought as a law to “scrap the cap” on Florida’s affordable housing trust funds. Amendment 4, if approved by Florida voters, will create a property tax increase cap of 5%each year on non-homestead real estate, down from the current 10% cap. It will also give some first-time homebuyers a property tax break that decreases over time. In 2012, Florida Realtors will roll out its “Yes on 4” campaign. In the “scrap the cap” victory, the Florida Legislature agreed to allow all doc stamps earmarked for the affordable housing Sadowski Trust Fund to actually go into the fund.
5. Fasten your seatbelts. Property insurance is a bumpy ride.
Lawmakers wrestled with a question that has been around for years: Should property insurance be affordable or available? If affordable, a major storm could bankrupt the state. If widely available, the cost could drive buyers away and hurt current homeowners. Citizens Property Insurance, the state-owned insurer, sits squarely in the middle of the debate since it covers most of the high-risk properties and, should a major storm hit, would force all Floridians to help pay for damages. To attract private insurers to the state and cut down on the number of owners under Citizens, Gov. Scott and lawmakers made changes. Sinkhole coverage became optional and much more expensive. Citizens dropped about 7,500 coastal homes in early December, and policy costs and rules are set to become even stricter in 2012. The uneasy balance between affordable or available insurance shifted a bit closer to the “available” side.
6. Facts at your fingertips: Florida Realtors adds research department
Florida Realtors Industry and Data Analysis Department (IDA) opened for business in June 2011. Designed to provide practical information for association members, Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo says the department will help Realtors in Florida deal more effectively with increasingly educated consumers. The services provided by IDA include current analyses of Florida’s real estate market and support for Florida Realtors’ public policy efforts in Tallahassee.
7. HAMP, HARP, TARP do little for at-risk homeowners

Falling home values and risky mortgages caused more Florida owners to face foreclosure. The government created, and modified, a number of programs slated to help owners keep their homes, but most applied only to about half of those in trouble – owners who had mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Even then, however the carrots held out by HAMP, HARP, TARP and others didn’t entice lenders that feared principal cuts and long-term changes. The issue led to some strategic defaults – foreclosures where investors could afford to pay but walked away as a financial decision – court backups, and a system that allowed some non-paying owners to live in a home for over two years before authorities finally foreclosed. Analysts expect the problem to improve but continue in 2012.
8. Should we slow the recovery to avoid another crisis?
U.S. regulators have conflicting goals: Speed the recovery but, at the same time, take steps to make sure it never happens again. Unfortunately, it hasn’t figured out how to do both. While the federal government has tried to spark home sales through a number of programs (see No. 7 above), it has also created obstacles to homeownership by boosting mortgage rules, tightening appraisal standards and restricting the amount homeowners can deduct from federal taxes. A key concern of Realtors heading into 2012 is the qualified residential mortgage (QRM) rule – a minimum standard that mortgage loans must meet before Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will consider buying them. Some lawmakers have suggested a 20% down-payment, a high standard that will force many buyers to wait years before they can afford homeownership. The discussion will continue in 2012.
9. Social networking goes from ‘cutting edge’ to ‘must do’
New technology no longer surprises Realtors, who have been inundated with “cutting edge solutions” that now allow them to post videos, track complete transactions stored in a “cloud,” sign contracts without actually signing anything and politely ask their phone to look up information. Social networking was once the realm of early-adopters, and Realtors sold it to clients as “look what I can do for you.” Now, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goggle+ (new in 2011) and other social networking sites are standard in the real estate business. 10. 2011 Realtors are different from 2005 Realtors
The skills needed to sell a house have changed. Realtors spend a lot more time talking to banks, trying to find out what’s happening with a client’s short sale; asking what paperwork they needed to file or re-file; and understanding new laws that oversee what they can do – and can’t do – when working with short-sale sellers. Realtors learned to accept disappointment – sales that fell apart at the last minute; appraisals that came in lower than hoped; and clients who wanted a bargain below any reasonable expectations.

This is the Sanibel & Captiva MLS Activity Posted from Dec 16-23:

10 new listings: Donax Village #18 2/2 $369K; Blind Pass #G102 2/2 $389K; Blind Pass #E207 2/2.5 $399K; Sanibel Moorings #321 2/2 $415K; Sanibel Arms West #I8 2/2 $449K; Mariner Pointe #142 2/2 $459K; Sanibel Inn #3534 2/2 $495K; Sandalfoot #4A3 2/2 $579K; Lighthouse Point #125 2/2 $599,995; Gulfside Place #117 2/2 $986K.
7 price changes: Sundial #G206 1/1 now $279.9K, Sundial #I301 1/1 now $490K, Tarpon Beach #201 2/2 now $649K, Island Beach Club #P1E 2/2 now $674.5K, Gulf Beach #207 2/2 now $719K, Oceans Reach #2D2 2/2 now $799K, Sundial #L305 2/2 now $899K. 
2 new sales: Mariner Pointe #1082 2/2 listed for $298.5K, Sedgemoor #203 3/3.5 listed for $2.29M.
4 closed sales: Sanibel Arms #E6 1/1 $213,143; Sundial #D203 1/1 $345K; Pelicans Roost #302 2/2 $740K; Sundial #E201 2/2 $790K.
8 new listings: 1427 Sandpiper Cir 2/2 half-duplex $339K, 1331 Sand Castle Rd 3/2.5 $749K, 970 East Gulf Dr 3/4.5 $763K (short sale), 1735 Jewel Box Dr 3/2 $800K, 550 N Yachtsman Dr 3/2 $959K, 598 Kinzie Island Ct 3/3.5 $1.595M, 2981 Wulfert Rd 4/4.5 $2.199M, 3911 West Gulf Dr 5/5.5 $4.8M.
4 price changes: 1208 Harbour Cottage Ct 3/3 half-duplex now $699K, 765 Conch Ct 7/4 now $859K, 4960 Joewood Dr 4/3 now $899.9K, 1360 Eagle Run Dr 5/3.5 now $940K (short sale).
3 new sales: 966 Fitzhugh 2/1 listed for $364K,1929 Sanibel Bayous Rd 4/3 listed for $449K, 3145 Twin Lakes Ln 3/3 listed for $479,974.
6 closed sales: 978 Greenwood Ct S 3/2.5 half-duplex $340K, 436 Glory Cir 3/3 $535K, 987 Black Skimmer Way 2/2 $540K, 4215 Gulf Pines Dr 5/3.5 $542.5K, 4714 Rue Belle Mer 3/2 $590K, 1287 Par View 3/2 $759K.
3 new listings: 5750 San-Cap Rd $289K, 2475 Tropical Way Ct $499K, 1540 San Carlos Bay Dr $1.495M.
2 price changes: 4077 Coquina Dr now $225K, 2988 Wulfert Rd now $429K.
No new sales.
1 closed sale:  2355 Wulfert Rd $154K.
2 new listings: Bayside Villas #118 1/2 $280K, Captiva Shores #5D 2/2 $768.5K.
No price changes.
1 new sale: Beach Villas #2628 2/2 listed for $699K.
No closed sales.
1 new listing: 11515 Murmond Ln 2/3 $1.749M.
1 price change: 4 Sunset Captiva Ln 3/3 now $2.399M.
No new sales.
1 closed sale: 15 Seascape Ct 3/2 $740K.
1 new listing: 11515 Gore Ln $595K.
No  price changes, new sales, or closings.
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.My wreath

Best wishes from Susan & the entire SanibelSusan Team for a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

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