It’s Another Wonderful Friday On Sanibel & Captiva Islands

If we have ever had picture-perfect week on the islands, it was this week – gorgeous sunny days with low humidity and temperatures only into the low 80’s until today (even into the 50’s at night). It’s expected to be terrific for the next week too. Here are a couple of photos that Lisa took Sunday just after sunrise on the beach in front of Sunset Grill. (Last week in the blog, I mistakenly called this restaurant Sunset Cafe, which is my favorite restaurant on Saint Martin. Sunset Grill on Sanibel is just as wonderful, especially if you get lucky enough to get Lisa as your server. (She is there a few shifts a week & the beach views are great especially from the front porch.))



We had just a handful of showings this week and got a few phone calls from our recent island-wide condo, home, and lot list mailings. I also opened our new listing at Spanish Cay for its first viewing yesterday. Good action for a post-season pre-summer week. A couple of our seasonal-rental condo listings do not have bookings next week – for the first time in many weeks. If they remain vacant, we will take advantage of the time and hold a few open houses.

Dave and Lisa are enjoying a couple of days off, while Elise and I are holding down the fort today. I’ll be covering this weekend too. Here are some news items, followed by Elise’s activity reports.

Realtor® Events This Week

government_affairs_rpac_logo_homeNo Realtor® Caravan meeting this week, but last night was our annual Sanibel and Captiva Island Association of Realtors® end-of-season event which started many years ago as “The Over-the-Hump Party”. With many members often working what seems like 24/7 during the winter months, this annual event includes a few hours of comradery to celebrate spring – when the island population and our workday return to a more normal pace. This year, the event included a golf scramble, followed by silent and live auctions, all to raise funds for the Realtors® Political Action Committee.

The Sanibel and Captiva Association has won several state awards over the years in recognition of the RPAC dollars raised. When the final tally for last night is complete (early records show over $25K), this year should be no exception. Teammate, Lisa Murty, won the $2,500 raffle-prize gift certificate donated by colleague, Karen Bell, co-owner of Lily & Company. Lisa is pretty excited about that. My donation of six homemade desserts brought in $550, purchased by the same Realtor® who bought them last year. Guess his family still likes my cooking! It goes to show that Realtors® will dig deep for good causes.

Sunset 2013-05-082013 Florida Realtors® President Dean Asher and his wife, Wendy, drove down from Orlando the day before to be here for the party. Several of us, including our current Board of Directors and Past Presidents, joined him on a sunset cruise on Wednesday out on the “Santiva” of Captiva. The photo was taken just outside Blind Pass on the gulf side. It was nice to give Dean a Wendy such a splendid introduction to the island. We are still arguing about whether a “green flash” was spotted.

President Dean spoke to association members at the party last night about the wrap-up of Florida’s legislative session which he attended ended last week. If offers good evidence of the results of some of the work accomplished with the help of our RPAC funds.

Realtors® Score Big in Florida’s 2013 Legislative Session posted the following article last Friday night at the end of the 2013 Legislative Session.

Much-needed funding for affordable housing programs. Lawmakers allocated more than $200 million from the large national mortgage settlement last year to numerous housing programs. Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) negotiated the Senate’s settlement spending plan, SB 1852, which provides $50 million for rental assistance (State Apartment Incentive Loans or SAIL) and $40 million to refurbish existing homes for low-income families and provide down payment assistance and lease-purchase assistance (the State Housing Initiative Program, or SHIP). It also directs $20 million to Habitat for Humanity, $16 million for additional retired judges to help relieve the foreclosure caseload and $10 million in legal aid services for low- and middle-income homeowners facing foreclosure. While Florida Realtors® prefers that funding for affordable housing programs come from the doc stamp taxes collected on every real estate transaction for the Sadowski Trust fund, we appreciate the Legislature’s commitment to provide affordable housing for Florida’s low-income families and the elderly. Effective when mortgage settlement money is deposited in Florida’s general revenue fund.

Tax loophole closed. This goes into the win column for Florida Realtors®. Working with several legislators, language was included in different bills to close a tax loophole used by for-profit affordable housing builders to exploit the law. They accomplish this by forming non-profit subsidiaries primarily to pay lower property taxes. Thanks to Reps. Daniel Davis (R-Jacksonville) and Doc Renuart (R-Ponte Vedra) for accomplishing this via HB 437, and Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) for placing this language in several Senate bills. Effective: July 1, 2013.

Lawmakers to squatters: Jig’s up. Homes left unoccupied due to foreclosure have brought out all kinds of opportunists, including those seeking free rent in swanky digs under the veil of adverse possession. HB 903 by Rep. Daniel Davis (R-Jacksonville) amends Florida’s long-standing adverse possession law to curb these abuses. Effective July 1, 2013, persons claiming adverse possession must:
•    pay all outstanding taxes and liens levied by the state, county or municipality within one year of claiming adverse possession;
•    provide the county property appraiser with their contact information, the date when the adverse possession claim began, a legal description of the property, and the dates when outstanding taxes and liens were paid. Filing this return with the property appraiser does not give an adverse possessor an enforceable interest in the property.
Squatters who don’t file a return may be charged with trespassing. If an adverse possessor leases the property to a third party, they can be charged with theft.

Citizens_logoCitizens will shrink, but not because of higher rates. A legislative session wouldn’t be complete without an insurance reform bill. The bill that crossed the finish line, SB 1770, started off big and controversial, calling for substantial rate increases for many of Citizens’ nearly 1.3 million policyholders and all new policyholders. The end product is still big — 75 pages — and includes a Florida Realtors® priority: create a clearinghouse to enforce Citizens’ eligibility requirements. But it does not include a requirement sought by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) that all new policies be actuarially sound. Simmons chaired the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee this session and negotiated a compromise between an ambitious Citizens reform bill passed by the Senate and a “lighter” version proposed by the House.

“”There were so many insurance bills this session that seemed to go in so many different directions, including huge rate increases. But early on we identified the one reform — an eligibility clearinghouse — that would do the most good for the most people without unleashing rate increases that could hurt Florida’s economic recovery,” says John Sebree, Senior Vice President of Public Policy. “The legislation that did pass was the result of many long hours of negotiations between legislators, insurance companies and agents, consumer groups and Realtors.”

“Here’s what the bill accomplishes:
•    All applicants for Citizens coverage will have to go through a clearinghouse to establish eligibility. If applicants can obtain private market coverage at a cost that’s within 15% of the Citizens’ premium, they are ineligible for Citizens. Incidentally, this is current law but easily circumvented.
•    Currently, homes with a replacement cost of up to $1 million are eligible for Citizens coverage. Beginning in 2015, the maximum replacement cost will drop $100,000 a year for three years. In 2017, then, homes with a replacement cost greater than $700,000 will not be eligible for Citizens coverage. This won’t apply to homes in areas where the Office of Insurance Regulation determines there’s no “reasonable degree of competition,” such as the Florida Keys.
•    Removes Citizens eligibility for homes built or substantially improved seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line after July 1, 2014.
•    Expands the Citizens Board of Governors to include a consumer advocate, who will be appointed by the governor.
Effective: July 1, 2013, unless otherwise provided.
Foreclosure reform. With buyer demand increasing and inventory levels at record lows, Realtors® consider foreclosures lingering in the courts as prime housing stock. To be sure, foreclosing on a mortgage is a long process in Florida — about 853 days, more than twice the national average. That should begin to change with the passage of HB 87 by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). The bill allows lenders to ask the court to justify why a final order hasn’t been entered, and gives condominium and homeowners associations the right to request the court to move the process along where appropriate. Consumer interests are addressed in several provisions including: (1) requiring lenders to prove they own the loan for a property before foreclosing on it; (2) reducing the time lenders can seek deficiency judgments from five years to one year and (3) providing protections for innocent parties who purchase a property without knowledge that a previous owner may have a claim to the property. For the person whose home is erroneously foreclosed on, HB 87 provides for the recovery of damages (monetary, compensatory, punitive, statutory and consequential), injunctive relief and fees. Effective upon becoming law.

Rent out homestead every year, keep tax exemption. This initiative originated in Northeast Florida, where property owners sought to rent out their homestead during The Players Championship golf tournament and the Daytona 500 without jeopardizing their homestead status for several tax exemptions. Under current law, rental for any amount of time in the second of two consecutive years triggers abandonment of homestead and loss of the homestead exemption in the second year. SB 342 by Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) provides a “safe harbor” that lets people rent their homestead for up to 30 days a year without losing the exemption. However, rentals that exceed 30 days for two consecutive years jeopardize the homestead exemption in year two. Note that the law doesn’t address how many days beyond the 30-day threshold triggers abandonment of homestead. A Department of Revenue opinion allows for rentals of up to six months every other year if proof of substantial residency and other conditions are met. Effective: July 1, 2013.

New option: Electronic version of yearly property tax notices. Many businesses have cut down on the cost of paper and mailing by giving customers the option to check bills online. HB 247 by Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) and Rep. Bryan Nelson (R-Apopka) attempt to do the same thing for Florida, and it could impact a few real estate-related forms, such as the annual TRIM notices (property tax assessments). Currently, counties mail TRIM notices and other documents, including sample election ballots, to homeowners by first-class mail. Under HB 247, a county can opt for an online system, providing certain conditions are met, such as an “opt-in” system for collecting email addresses. Effective: Oct. 1, 2013.

Hidden liens no more. Sometimes governmental and quasi-governmental entities place liens on property that aren’t known until closing, which can disrupt an otherwise good transaction. HB 267 by Realtor and Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven) requires these liens to be recorded in the county where the property is located in order to be valid. This bill only applies to liens entered by a governmental or quasi-governmental entity for services, fines, or penalties, and does not affect liens for taxes, non-ad valorem or special assessments, or utilities. Effective: Oct. 1, 2013.

New disclosure for residential leases. HB 77 by Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City) contains a number of revisions to Florida’s Landlord and Tenant Act. It also includes a new disclosure that must be given to tenants when they receive notice as to where their security deposits or advance rents are being held, if they’ll receive interest on the money and so on. The bill also contains provisions about screens, recurring tenant violations of a lease, evictions after acceptance of partial rent, non-renewal notice requirements, writs of possession and the transfer of security deposits from a previous owner to a new landlord. Property managers are encouraged to review this legislation closely. Effective: July 1, 2013.

Green energy tax incentives. In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment providing tax breaks to residential property owners who install solar energy devices or wind-resistant materials. HB 277 by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) creates rules to implement the tax break for solar energy devices installed on or after Jan. 1, 2013. The bill does not, however, shield windstorm mitigation upgrades from property taxes. That exemption was stripped out of the bill to win support from the House Finance & Tax Subcommittee. Effective: July 1, 2013.

Licensure changes for brokers, appraisers. SB 852 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) brings Florida appraisers into compliance with the Dodd-Frank Reform Act, enabling them to continue to perform appraisals on federally-related transactions. To help the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board complete disciplinary actions within a year — a federal requirement — the state budget appropriates funds for nine new staff positions. The bill also takes a tougher stance against brokers who lose their license in disciplinary actions. If the Florida Real Estate Commission revokes an individual’s broker’s license, it also revokes any multiple licenses the broker may hold. Effective upon becoming law, unless otherwise provided.

“In other appraisal news, lawmakers passed SB 1398 by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), allowing online pre-licensing courses to be offered for appraisers. Unlike real estate salespersons and brokers, appraisers currently may only take post-licensing classes via the Internet. Effective: July 1, 2013.

Budget appropriations
•    $1.543 million for Florida International University to enhance the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Projection Model so it can assess flood damage resulting from hurricanes. Currently the model only assesses windstorm damage. This will help insurers better estimate the maximum loss that should be insured.
•    $700,000 for the final phase of a study on ways to reduce the amount of nitrogen released from conventional septic tank systems. The study also looks at septic tank technologies.
•    $500,000 to combat unlicensed activity.
•    Funding for nine new positions at the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board….” 

America’s Happiest Seaside Towns

Photo from Coastal Living magazine June 2013 issue

Photo from Coastal Living magazine June 2013 issue

If you missed it on the “Today Show” on Wednesday, the island has been abuzz all week about “Coastal Living” magazine posting the results of their 2013 survey for America’s Happiest Seaside Towns. The process began with nominations, plus all the past places that the magazine has lauded as Dream Towns. From there, they looked at the community rankings on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of sunny days, healthiness of beaches, commute times, crime ratings, walk-ability, standard of living and financial well-being of the locals, geographic diversity, and their editors’ assessment of each town’s “coastal vibe”. Their 2012 winners were not eligible. The names of the top 10 contenders were announced in their February 2013 issue, and then the public voted for their favorites. The winners are:

1.         Beauford, SC

2.         Harwich Port, MA

3.         Sanibel Island, FL

4.         Sag Harbor, NY

5.         Newport, RI

6.         Rowayton, CT

7.         Kennebunkport, ME

8.         Pa’ia Town, Maui

9.         La Jolla, CA

10.        Pescadero, CA

The accompanying article said this about Sanibel: “Life in this South Florida island town just west of Fort Myers is a pastel dream, combining pale blue skies, white-sand beaches, and millions of seashells that have literally built the island on which it sits. When locals dig in their backyards on Sanibel, they turn up conch, scallop, and clam shells—intact. As for the quiet, away-from-it-all life that Sanibel offers its 6,469 residents, consider that there are no stoplights, nor buildings taller than the tallest palm tree. And the shell-seekers know that Bowman’s Beach, a natural stretch accessible only via pedestrian bridge, is one of the best for shelling (and birding).”

Big Job Boom Expected in Homebuilding

An article posted on Tuesday at “Daily Real Estate News” says “Between 2006 and 2011, residential construction jobs saw a 41% drop, as the new-home market faced steep losses. However, a big rebound is expected to be on the horizon in homebuilding. Housing starts are expected to return to normal levels by 2016, and with that prediction residential construction employment will likely rise to nearly 2.5 million jobs, according to Fannie Mae’s Housing Insights report, which looks at the historical relationship between housing starts and construction jobs.

“According to Fannie’s forecast, residential construction employment will surge by 412,000 jobs between 2012 and 2016. “This 20% rise in homebuilding employment will nearly triple the forecasted pace of total job growth during this time period,” HousingWire reports. Despite the expected surge in homebuilding jobs, Fannie says that the increase still will not reflect all the homebuilding jobs that had been lost during the housing crisis. By 2016, the number of residential construction jobs is forecasted to be nearly 1 million below the peaks reached during the housing boom.”

5 States With the Highest Foreclosure Inventories

On Thursday, “Daily Real Estate News” sourced CoreLogic for the following about foreclosures. Florida remains on the list, but there is improvement here too.

“Foreclosure rates are falling, but some states are still battling high levels. According to nationwide averages, the foreclosure inventory as of March represented 2.8% of all homes with a mortgage — that’s down from 3.5% in February. In CoreLogic’s latest report reflecting March data, the following five states posted the highest foreclosure inventories (as a percentage of all mortgaged homes):

Florida: 9.7%

New Jersey: 7.3%

New York: 5 %

Maine: 4.4%

Illinois: 4.4%

Meanwhile, the five states with the lowest foreclosure inventories were: 

Wyoming: 0.5%

Alaska: 0.7%

North Dakota: 0.7%

Nebraska: 0.9%

Montana: 0.9%”

Sanibel & Captiva Islands Multiple Listing Service Activity May 3-10

4 new listings: Spanish Cay #F7 1/1 $264K (our listing), Blind Pass #E208 3/2.5 $474.9K, Sand Pointe #214 2/2 $749K, Sunward #301 3/2 $1.895M.
5 price changes: Sundial #D207 1/1 now $279K, Seawind #A102 2/2.5 now $414.9K, Coquina Beach #3C 2/2 now $420K, Sanibel Arms #H4 2/2 now $449K, Compass Point #212 2/2 now $569K.
8 new sales: Island Beach Club #P1A 2/2 listed for $449.5K, Island Beach Club #220B 2/2 listed for $499K, Sanctuary Golf Villages I #3-3 2/2.5 listed for $540K, Compass Point #203 2/2 listed for $589K, Sanctuary Golf Villages I #5-2 3/3 listed for $599K, Oceans Reach #1B4 1/1 listed for $649K, Somerset #D102 3/2.5 listed for $999K, Tamarind #A202 2/2 listed for $1.595M.
2 closed sales: Captains Walk #E5 2/2 $220K, Sedgemoor #105 3/3.5 $2.2M.
6 new listings: 661 Cardium St 2/1.5 $445K, 1659 Serenity Ln 3/2.5 $629K, 615 Hideaway Ct 3/2.5 $724.9K, 4622 Rue Belle Mer 3/2 $845K, 691 Cardium St 3/3 $949K, 829 Tulip Ln 5/4.5 $2.395M.
12 price changes: 625 East Rocks Dr 3/2 now $499K, 9459 Begonia 3/4 now $649K, 4563 Brainard Bayou Rd 3/3 now $699.9K, 657 Birdie View Pt 3/3 now $849K, 734 Pyrula Ave 3/2.5 now $875K,  6123 Starling Way 3/2.5 now $895K, 1748 Jewel Box Dr 4/4 now $1.425M, 2981 Wulfert Rd 4/4.5 now $1.795M,  2969 Wulfert Rd 6/6/2 now $1.995M, 2899 Wulfert Rd 4/4/2 now $2.695M, 2915 Wulfert Rd 5/6.5 now $2.898M.
8 new sales: 1076 Captains Walk St 2/2 listed for $575K, 1511 Angel Dr 2/2 listed for $634K, 4458 Waters Edge Ln 3/2 listed for $799K, 1433 Sanderling Cir 4/3 listed for $799.999, 1555 San Carlos Bay Dr 3/2.5 listed for $899K, 1826 Woodring Rd 3/2 listed for $1.449M (short sale), 407 Bella Vista Way E 4/4 listed for $2.699M, 1310 Seaspray Ln 4/4.5 listed for $3.195M.
2 closed sales: 6069 Henderson Rd 3/2 $375K, 630 Hideaway Ct 2/2 $478.5K.
3 new listings: 2 Island Inn Rd $159.555, 1402 Middle Gulf Dr $349K, 1503 San Carlos Bay Dr $1.295M.
2 price change: 1307 Par View Dr now $249.9K, 3351 Saint Kilda Rd now $324,555.
1 new sale: 3830 West Gulf Dr listed for $600K.
1 closed sale: Tarpon Bay Rd $199K.
No new listings.
1 price change: Seabreeze #1253 3/3 now $1.469M.
No new or closed sales.
No new listings.
3 price changes: 1114 Schefflera Ct 4/3 now $1.895M, 16447 7/6/2 now $3.25M (short sale), 15009 Binder Dr 4/5.5 now $3.699M.
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.


Another photo from my friend who watches the snowy plover hatchlings. Last week you saw one just born. They grow quickly!
Another photo from my friend who watches the snowy plover hatchlings. Last week you saw one just born. They grow quickly!












Happy Mothers’ Day!