It’s another Friday and time for another report from SanibelSusan. Island visitors this week should be happy. The weather has been terrific – temperatures in the low 70’s with bright blue skies and sun shiny days. The outlook for the beaches and waterways has improved too.
Several of our listings again had showings this week. We had another nice closing – lot in The Dunes. Our condo listing at Compass Point went under contract too. Before the activity posted in the Sanibel and Captiva Multiple Listings Service, here are a couple of news items – most highlighting water initiatives.
Sanibel/Captiva Association of Realtors Monthly Membership Meeting
The islands’ Association of Realtors® had their monthly membership meeting yesterday with updates by two affiliate members. Birgie Miller, Executive Director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, who sponsored the breakfast and Dave Owens, from Midland IRA and 1031, who spoke on tax-deferred exchanges.
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Birgie’s pitch included reminders that the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge now covers 7,608 acres with 35 species of mammals, 102 species of fish, 272 bird species, 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, 14 threatened and endangered species, and more than 750,000 visitors each year. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society has four Realtor® board members and encourages everyone who enjoys the islands to join at www.dingdarllingsociety.org.
1031 Exchanges – During Dave Owen’s update, he reminded us that he first talked to island Realtors about tax-deferred exchanges in the late 90’s, they were fairly new to the island. Back then it was common for property owners here to exchange out of an investment rental condo into another one of higher value. Today, he said the most common scenario has changed. The states with the most tax-deferred exchanges are California, followed by Texas, then Florida. He said that today, more investors are coming out of investment properties in a highly taxed northern state and buying in Florida to defer capital gains and other taxes.
In summary, a deeded property that qualifies for a 1031 exchange is one that is used for business, investment, property rented out or used in business, or land, if it was held for speculation. Property that does not qualify are primary residences, second homes with little or no rental history, or property not intended for business or investment use. Dave reported that since he first spoke to our group, he has performed some 10,000 exchanges. Good info on his web site at www.1031company.com.
Sanibel City Council Backs Mayors’ Water Quality Initiatives
Local papers report that on Tuesday, Sanibel City Council officially agreed with the initiative by Lee County’s mayors to combat short- and long-term water issues. Council unanimously voted to approve four points involving control of water prepared by the mayors of all Lee County’s cities at a recent emergency meeting in Bonita Springs. The approval came at the request of Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, who chaired the meeting.
The request from the mayors to the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other involved parties to, in times of emergency, release water south from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades, identify public and private land suitable for storage and use it, and to provide transparency when drastic water release decisions have to be made.
“The mayors came up with the bullet points and continue to challenge the Corps of Engineers to use its operational flexibility,” Ruane told the council.
During the meeting, Holly Milbrandt, Acting Director of the Sanibel Department of Resources, framed the problem. “It was the wettest January on record with rainfall 400% above normal,” she said. “This is unprecedented for all of us and we are still evaluating. We are not out of the woods yet,” she said. “Weather forecasts are for far above normal rainfall. Water goes into the lake six times faster than it is released, so that is a challenge.”
She reported on Monday the Lake Okeechobee level was at 16.24’, compared to 16.33’ a week ago. She noted that the lake level “is finally falling for the first time in a long time.” She said the lake is 1.45’ higher than it was at this time last year and two feet higher than two years ago. Its level is in the range where the Corps of Engineers can release water.
Ruane and Milbrandt both highlighted that the fresh water pouring into the local estuary from the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River has not all come from the lake. During the heavy rains in January, most of the water was runoff from the local watershed. Now 89% of the water is coming from Lake O.
Ruane pointed out the importance of the C-43 Reservoir, which will hold local runoff but will not be ready until 2020. He also said C-43 covers only part of the storage acreage that is necessary in times of heavy rainfall and runoff.
The mayors’ document addressed both short- and long-term options. Under the heading: “What are the options for relief now?” the document asks to:
- Initiate discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the 700,000 acres of agricultural lands south of the lake and to all other public and private lands in the C&FS system.
- Identify and utilize emergency storage on all public lands within the Kissimmee, Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee basins.
- Maximize storage within the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and provide adaptive flexibility for water level management in the regulation schedules to allow more water storage.
- Seek emergency temporary deviations from federal and state water quality criteria and restrictions that limit discharges south into Everglades National Park during extreme wet conditions and events.
Long-term solutions included land acquisition for and construction of the EAA Reservoir to help move water south of the lake and projects to create storage within the Caloosahatchee watershed, including C-43.
Council members noted the lead by Sanibel in getting action and creating awareness during the recent crisis. The council also pointed out how important it is for Sanibel to continue to be a leader when it comes to environmental practices. In conjunction with that, Council passed a second motion to provide a list of its management practices regarding nutrients and fertilizers and make it available to other municipalities.
Mayors Off to Washington
As reported in “The Santiva Chronicle”:
“Next week, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane is off to Washington as part of a delegation that will bend Capitol Hill’s ear on water in Florida. Ruane believes that the mood is different in Florida now after the state was drowned with 16” of rain in January – the dry season. The drenching got everyone’s attention and it pointed out the frailties and inadequacies of the water management practices in the Everglades-Lake Okeechobee system.
““It’s not like 2013. It’s all hands on deck now,” Ruane said Tuesday afternoon, hours after the Sanibel City Council had given its unanimous approval to a brief prepared by Lee County’s mayors.
“Ruane is part of delegation that will include Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki and Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson. It will also include elected officials from other areas, including the East Coast.
“The delegation will arrive in Washington Sunday and hit the pavement on Monday. Lawmakers are on the list, particularly the Florida delegation and those who hold key committee positions. Ruane has been effusive in his praise of Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs. Clawson is working closely with Ruane and others to get movement on several fronts. The delegation will also be in contact with Florida’s senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. Committee chairpersons for water resources and the environment are on the list and, of course, appropriations.
“But Ruane says the first visit needs to be paid to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps, Ruane said, is often painted as the enemy because it’s the Corps that turns the tap and starts the pumps at Lake Okeechobee, often to the detriment of places like Lee County. But the Corps, just like the rest of the Army, follows orders and operates within the framework of the resources it has been given.
““The first talk will be with the Corps of Engineers,” Ruane told the Chronicle Tuesday. “We won’t go there to argue or point fingers. We want to talk about how we can help one another. The Corps needs funding to complete major projects. A united front can help them get that funding.”
“This visit to Washington won’t involve appearing before any committees or subcommittees, but Ruane said that will be done if it is helpful and the opportunity arises…. “It’s all about working together, getting others to recognize each other’s problems and then finding solutions. The mayors, City Council, our lawmakers in the state and in Washington, and many others are pulling together this time. That’s what it’s going to take,” Ruane said.”
More Canadians Choosing to Sell U.S. Homes
As posted in “Realty Biz News” on Monday, this is the trend on the islands too.
“With the Canadian dollar currently around $.72 to the US dollar, an increasing number of snowbirds are choosing to sell their properties in the United States.
“Previously a large number of Canadians bought US property when prices were cheap and are now choosing to sell them to take advantage of higher real estate prices and a favorable exchange rate. Even when additional costs such as capital gains tax are taken into account, many Canadians feel it is too good an opportunity to miss. Quite a few chose to buy their property back in 2010 when the US and Canadian dollar were almost at par and when real estate prices had yet to recover. Thanks to low exchange rates and rising prices, this means that many are able to sell for a big profit. According to the article in CBC.ca, real estate agents in Arizona, an area very popular with snowbirds, are seeing an increase in the number of Canadian homeowners wishing to sell their property.
“Figures from the American National Association of Realtors® survey, for the year ending March 2007, show that Canadian buyers accounted for 11% of property sales to foreign buyers. As the strength of the Canadian dollar increased, so did the percentage of real estate deals to Canadian buyers. By March 2011 to March 2012, the percentage of sales to Canadians had more than doubled, increasing to 24% and accounting for approximately US$15.9 billion. Since then house prices have increased by between 30% and 50% and when the weak Canadian dollar is factored in to the equation, then sellers are able to make a large profit, even when tax is taken into account.
“In Florida, real estate agents are also seeing an increasing number of Canadians who wish to sell, compared to 2009 to 2013 when most wanted to buy. There is also another good reason as why selling is a popular option for those north of the border, as a declining Canadian dollar increases the costs of running a home in the US, and utility bills and property taxes have all become considerably more expensive.
“Real estate agents are confident this selling trend will continue for as long as the Canadian dollar remains weak. Some of those choosing to sell their homes will still escape harsh Canadian winters, but intend to rent in the future rather than buy.”
Low Rates Spark Big Rush to Refinance
As posted on Realtor®Mag on-line on Wednesday:
“Applications to refinance mortgages surged to their highest level in more than a year as home owners rushed to take advantage of low rates. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.83% last week, the lowest level since April 2015, MBA (Mortgage Bankers Association) reports.
“The refinance boost fueled an 8.2% jump last week in total mortgage applications, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance applications jumped 16% during the week ending Feb 12. Mortgage applications for home purchases, on the other hand, dropped 4% during this same time. The volume for all refinances is now 50% higher than just four weeks ago.
“”Treasury rates fell again last week, and mortgage rates fell to their lowest level in over a year, with rates on jumbo loans dropping to their lowest level since December 2012,'” says Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “As we have noted in recent weeks, borrowers with larger loans tend to be more sensitive to a drop in rates, because they stand to benefit more from refinancing.”
“Mortgage lenders reported a new record for the average loan size for refinances last week at $316,000, according to MBA.
“While mortgage applications for home purchases fell last week, the gauge of future home-buying activity still remains strong for the year. Mortgage applications for home purchases remains 30% higher than the same week one year ago, MBA reports.” Source: “Refinancing Pushes Mortgage Applications 8.2% Higher,” CNBC (Feb. 17, 2016)
Sanibel New Resident Reception
New residents are invited to a reception on Wed, March 2 at 9 a.m. in Mackenzie Hall at Sanibel City Hall. Mayor Kevin Ruane and City Council Members will be there to welcome new residents and answer questions.
Sanibel Hurricane Reentry Passes Available Now
The City is issuing 2016 series hurricane passes. All residents, property owners and businesses need to apply for a new 2016 series pass. (Our old ones were dated 2012.) The new residential passes are purple and the commercial are tan. These will be the only ones that will aid in re-entry to the island following a storm. Passes are issued at the Police Dept Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. More info and application forms on www.MySanibel.com.
Sanibel & Captiva Multiple Listing Service Activity February 12-19, 2016
(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 general real estate activity in the community and does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions.)
Until next Friday, more of the same wonderful island weather is expected!
February days in the mid-70’s are the best!
Susan Andrews, aka SanibelSusan