Archive for the ‘real estate st augustine’ Category

Where Should a First Time Buyer Start?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
How many years will you be in the home?

How many years will you be in the home?

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

If you are buying a home for the first time, where do you start?

Before you do anything else, try and figure out realistically how long you are planning to live in the home you are about to buy.

You do this first for a couple of reasons.

First of all, there are closing costs when you go to sell again.  It might take 3 years before a home gains enough equity to pay closing costs on a sale.  So if you go to sell the home in under three years, you may have to bring money to the table to pay the closing costs on the next sale.  Leaving you at square one again when you go to buy the next home.

So the upshot is, do I plan to live in this home for three or more years?

For example, you just took a new job in a new city.  Everybody is telling you that you should buy instead of rent.  I would say make sure you like the place first before you make that call.

So rent for a year in the place you think you would like to live and see if it meets your expectations.  It might turn out that after living there for a year you discover that there’s another part of town that suits your needs better, or that you like better.

Alternately, you might find out the job or the city isn’t the best fit.  If that’s the case you don’t have to go into a hole selling a property that you’ve only owned 12 months.

Next, the chicken or the egg question of do you find a Realtor or a loan first, and what type of home should a first time buyer look for.

If you are a first time buyer contact St. Augustine Team at , or simply call broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.


How Much Does Real Estate Cost? Seller Closing Costs

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

Previously we did a video on Buyer Closing Costs.

Here’s the video Kate Stevens, Broker Associate, and I did on Seller Closing Costs.

Here are the things we cover in the video:

Real estate commission, settlement fee/title search, owner’s title policy and endorsements, doc stamps on the deed, recording fees, survey, HOA estoppel, and any CDD fees.

Contact St. Augustine Team to get a handle on your closing costs, or call broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.

Is Buying a Bank Owned Home a Good Bet?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

Is buying a foreclosure a good bet?

Is buying a foreclosure a good bet?

Is buying a home that is owned by a bank (a home that has been through the foreclosure process) a good bet?

I’ll keep this short and simple.

Take the words referencing “bank owned” out of the above sentence.  That leaves you with, “Is buying a home a good bet.”

It is all about the HOME itself.

Do you like the home?  Does it have the right amount of kitchen, bath and bedroom space?  Do all the extra things that come with it, communities, school, yard space, commute, etc., really work for you?  If these things fit the bill, by all means buy it.

After all, the house doesn’t know it was foreclosed on.  You wouldn’t know either except that it’s part of the public record and probably marketed that way to find a buyer quick.

Here are the caveats:

Do your inspections, and do them with a fine toothed comb.

When it comes to the paperwork that the bank wants you to sign (it will come from the Realtor who is marketing the home and will be given to your Realtor for you to sign), take it to a real estate attorney and have him or her go through it with a fine tooth comb.  Make sure you can get out of the contract (and what it will cost, if anything, ideally no cost) if you are uncomfortable with the results of the inspection.  Do this before you sign it.

And, insist that a local title agency, or your attorney, provide the owner’s title insurance policy with the same endorsements that a lender’s title insurance would have for the same house.  EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT YOURSELF.  That should save your butt if there is something that wasn’t done to code or, goodness forbid, two years down the road a court determines that there was a robo-signing issue with the house and gives it back to the original owners.

Wow, I haven’t used all caps in a blog post I think ever.  Must be an important point!

Contact St. Augustine Team for a group of Realtors that will make sure you hit all the important points.  Or just call Broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.

The Foreclosure Next Door. What to Do?

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

The foreclosure next door, in better days.

The foreclosure next door, in better days.

There’s a foreclosure next door.  The owners have moved on to parts unknown.  The grass is getting high (this is Florida after all), but the value of the home is getting lower as a lack of care causes it to deteriorate.  Could be your value is deteriorating too, as your home sits right next door.

What can you do?

Well hopefully a little bit more than I can.  You see, I have this same problem, literally.

The house to my rear foreclosed two years ago.  It’s been empty ever since.

If your city or county has a code enforcement division they may be able to help.  Some municipalities will actually cut the grass and then esentially bill the foreclosing bank at closing in order to clear title.   Even if the house hasn’t been foreclosed yet and the owners have simply absconded, that may be enough for the city/county to get out there.

If you live in a homeowners association they may be empowered to take care of the landscaping/yard work already, however, there is less likelyhood that they’ll get paid back.  We had a short sale a few years back where the owners abandoned the house and then essentially disappeared.  Because our sign was in the yard the neighbors started calling us.

We finally pulled the sign so people would quit calling (our calls to the owners went unanswered).  We called the homeowners association to alert them to the problem (not sure why the residents didn’t).

My partner Ron was the past president of an area HOA and when a similar situation arose in his neighborhood, the HOA did move forward on the yardwork.  While they weren’t sure if they would see the maintenance bill squared when the foreclosure proceeds were dispersed, the board felt their action was neccessary to protect values in the neighborhood.

You can even contact the lender on the property if you can find it in public records.  In our county (St. Johns County, Florida) the mortgage holder is typically listed in the clerk or courts filings, however, it can be really dificult to track down the person in charge, especially if the loan servicer has changed.

In my case there was little I could do.  The county doesn’t have any procedure to handle the situation, there is no HOA, and I couldn’t get the bank alerted to the problem as they would not respond to calls, emails or even letters.

So to protect my own property I mowed a buffer area probably 12-14 beyond my back line, and posted “private property” signs at the line.  I noticed at least one of the home’s other neighbors did the same on his side.

What else can you do?

Contact St. Augustine Team for agents that can help you find a home in the most stable neighborhood, or simply call broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327. 




5 Home Repairs You Will Have to Make

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

This water spigot cost $275 to replace.

This water spigot cost $275 to replace.

If you are a first time buyer, how much should you have in the bank for repairs?

The rule of thumb is to have 12 months income saved, not just for repairs, but in case of job loss so you can make the payments.

That being said, here’s what typically breaks down in the first few years of owning a north Florida home:

1). The A/C Unit.

Just about every home in this part of Florida has central heat and air.  And because these machines get such a workout, they are usually the things that break the most often.  Sometimes it’s just a resistor that will cost $200-$300, sometimes it’s the whole machine.

If the whole machine breaks down it’s going to run closer to $3000-$4000, which will replace not only the outside unit, but the air handler inside the home (they have to be matched in most cases).

Even newer models can break down because either the previous owner didn’t change the filters enough, or salt air near the beach made quick work of the exposed exterior unit.

2). The water heater.

This part of Florida has notoriously hard water.  And natural gas heated anything is pretty rare (everything is almost exclusively electric).

So your heating elements are going to get encrusted with carbonate deposits suspended in the water.  Figure less than $100 if you do it yourself for a new element(s), $200-$300 if a plumber comes out.

Because of the hard water your water heater will have an overall shorter life as well.  So figure, go out and buy one at Home Depot for $200-$250, and then have a plumber install it for another $200-$250.

You could also get a water softener, but those things aren’t the most environmentally sensitive things.

3).  Appliances.

Appliances break.  Usually it’s the refrigerator, which will run anywhere from $150 (on Craigslist) to $1000+ for the latest stainless model.

Then the dishwasher, a victim of hard water (see water heater above).  And then, less often, the microwave or stove.

4).  Plumbing.

Hard water does take a toll, but most plumbing items you see will be due to age or use wear-out.

Things you will be replacing?

Water spigots.  I’ve been charged $75 to $275 a pop to have a plumber come out and do one of these.  The $275 was for a spigot on a brick exterior home that was under contract to sell.  Yes we were ripped off.  No I don’t use that plumbing company anymore.  I don’t mind paying $75 for a spigot when it includes the call out fee–that’s only fair.  But when they charge $75 for each spigot…that doomed another company.  Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

You will also invariably clip your water shut off valve on the home’s exterior with the lawn mower.  Or the water line will break at the meter.  These may only be $200 or so for the fix, but your water meter will run up before you discover it.  If you’re lucky you will see pooling water (or how amazingly green the grass is on just one spot of your property).

Lastly, you may spend a few bucks replacing the wax ring, the water shutoff, and or the seat on a toilet.  All cheap fixes you can do yourself.

5).  Water damage.

This is related to plumbing and may require a plumber.  Typically what happens is that a faucet leaks just enough to contact a wood cabinet or counter, and then the wood warps.

Generally these aren’t expensive fixes if you do it yourself.  If you have to call a plumber to fix the faucet or lines, and possibly a general contractor to fix the wood, figure $200 for the plumber and $300 for the contractor…most of it on call out fees with a little bit of supplies and labor.

Contact St. Augustine Team for Realtors that will get you through the tough fixes, or just call Broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.




Why Do So Many Swimming Pools in Florida Have Screens?

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

Screens like these keep the leaves that fall twice a year out of the pool.

Screens like these keep the leaves that fall twice a year out of the pool.

Why do most swimming pools in Florida have screens or screened enclosures?

Well, it’s pretty simple.  As my uncle says, “The trees only shed their leaves twice a year, January through June, and July through December.”

Screens and screened enclosures eliminate A LOT of the daily cleaning you do when you own a swimming pool.  Also, to a certain degree they keep the bugs at bay (though I don’t think there’s a screen on earth that will completely eliminate sand gnats).  And they can keep most of the larger critters out, from frogs to snakes.  Trust me, it’s nice not to clean frogs out of your pool’s cleaning system twice a day.

People that have had both a screened pool and an unscreened pool say an unscreened pool runs about 4 degrees warmer and is easier to heat if you have a heating system.

For insurance reasons pools in Florida have to either have a fence surrounding it, or an enclosure of some type (like a screen), with an entry handle that is too high for a child to reach.  The reason being so kids in the neighborhood don’t wander over and drown.

Looking for a pool home? Contact St. Augustine Team today, or call broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.