Archive for August, 2009

St. Augustine Real Estate: How Not to Get Dumped by Your Agent

Monday, August 31st, 2009

by Sean Hess

Here’s a post from my personal website on how NOT to get dumped by your agent. Or, How Not to Look Like a Rookie Buyer.

St. Augustine Real Estate: The Pest Inspector Squeeze

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

by Sean Hess

Though it’s improving and light years ahead of where it was even last year, the real estate market isn’t as well as we’d like it to be and a lot of folks are feeling the pinch.  Besides your friendly neighborhood Realtor, the title companies, home inspectors, appraisers and pest inspectors are feeling that tightening of the wallet too.

For the Realtor, title company, home inspector, and appraiser it just means we have to work harder.  On the other hand, I think I recently had a pest inspector try to squeeze me for unneeded services.

I say “I think” because I don’t know.  It was never said so explicitly.

There was some wood that the inspector indicated was damaged and needed replaced.  And each time he came out for a re-inspect he would amzingly find some “new” damage, and fail the house again.  This was until we threteaned to go to the state about his license, because either he was blackmailing us or he was just plain incompetent. 

The sticking point, you see, was that he wanted to sell us a very expensive treatment package that…as best the seller and buyer could determine…the home didn’t need.  

The seller and buyer made the call on this particular property in terms of pest inpections.  Here’s what you can do to avoid a wonky pest inspector and a delayed closing:

  1.  Work with an inspector who is licensed to provide the wood-destroying organism report (WDO), but doesn’t do treatment.  This way the inspector doesn’t have a vested interest in finding anything wrong. More and more home inspectors are licensed to do this nowadays.
  2. Check references and reputations. The company that this pest inspector came from is notorious in real estate circles for finding things wrong that only they can provide the treatment for. 
  3. Ask your Realtor about their experience with termites, fungi and rot; though their information is anecdotal, they can break through some of the mystery of the pest inspection, and point out good inspectors as well. 

Short Sales Options on St. Augustine Real Estate

Monday, August 24th, 2009

by Sean Hess

Short Sales and foreclosures represent about half the sales in St. Augustine right now.  If you owe more than your home is worth and you need to move (note I didn’t say “need to sell”) check out this white paper on Short Sale Options in St. Augustine to find out your options.

St. Augustine Real Estate: Neither Upgrade nor Liability

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

by Sean Hess

Okay, last week we hit sellers with what is really an upgrade, and what is not an upgrade.  This week: what’s a push.  In other words, three things that Realtors pitch as “upgrades” but that don’t really affect the sale either way.

  1. Swimming Pools: Now a pool usually adds a little value to a home, on the average home probably $20,000.  So it’s an upgrade, right?  Not so fast my friend!  If you’ve ever owned a pool you know how expensive they are to maintain and how little you actually use them. Or, if you have little kids like I do, the idea of a pool 24/7 is something that scares you.  So it affects the sale of the home by reducing the buyer pool (no pun intended).  You get a sale that’s a little higher than your neighbors, but it’s a sale that can take much longer to achieve, eating into your bottom line with carrying costs.
  2. Kitchen and/or bathroom remodels:  Supposedly these remodels get the most return for the dollar, but the truth is they rarely will get you a dollar-for-dollar return.  For example, you have a home worth $140,000 and you do a $10,000 bathroom upgrade.  Now you can sell it for maybe $148,000 at a net loss of $2,000.  The benefit? A faster sale that will improve your bottom line with reduced carrying costs.  Three months less house payments and association fees could be a big deal. 
  3. Zoned for horses: Look I’m not a horse person, but for the sheer amount of property that is zoned for horses, it’s just not a sales driver.  Fenced and cross-fenced?  Typically just not a big deal to the average buyer, and it’s usually the average buyer who buys these properties.  Now, if it’s a large farm with barns and stalls (not a two stall shed and attached tack room) that’s a different story, and a different price range.  But on your normal one-to-five acre lot the buyer is much more interested in what the property is not (NOT in the city, NOT besieged by traffic, NOT five feet from their neighbors), than what it is.

St. Augustine Real Estate: These are Upgrades, We Promise!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

by Sean Hess

Here’s a post from my own website on What REALLY constitutes an upgrade. Click on the link and enjoy!

It’s Not an Upgrade, at Least Not for St. Augustine Real Estate

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

by Staff

Okay, here goes.  We rapped the buyers on the knuckles yesterday so now we’re going to hit the sellers…nice, aren’t we?

As Realtors we are blessed to have listing appointments.  On listing appointments we are sometimes subjected to an overzealous Seller’s long list of “upgrades” that often aren’t upgrades.

It’s not often the Seller’s fault.  Typically the home is newer and the builder sold the Seller on the idea that $50 a yard was a fair price to pay for the “upgrade” of crown molding.  The builder didn’t tell the Seller it was a cheap piece of yellow pine cut on an industrial router somewhere on the outskirts of Columbus, Georgia, and nailed up by a half-stoned temp worker with little supervision.  We’re just saying…

So, here are some things that we don’t consider upgrades on a listing appointment.  Later this week we’ll tell you what we think ARE some pretty cool upgrades (things you may not have ever thought about).

  1. NOT AN UPGRADE: Crown molding (we covered this above).  Unless it’s made of teak and hand routed by a finish carpenter.  If that’s the case, the rest of the house will show the same workmanship and the quality of everything else will be so fabulous you’ll never even notice the crown molding.
  2. NOT AN UPGRADE: Wainscoting.  Like crown molding it’s typically industrially made and cut.  Think of it like paint or wallpaper or any other design element.  It can be elegantly done, yes, but does it really add extra value, well, no.
  3. NOT AN UPGRADE: Tray ceilings.  You see this feature a lot on newer homes built during the boom.  These cost more to produce because the tray actually had to be built into the trusses, but that being said, it doesn’t add any value to the home.  It’s benefit to a home sale is that it can help contriubute to the overall atmosphere of a home in that it is a little more upscale.  As a Realtor, however, you don’t want buyers to notice ceilings and closets.  These items should be check offs as acceptable positives and move on.  “Big closets? Wow, yes I love it.” Unless it’s got stained glass, any ceiling that illicits a conversation is a bad thing. 
  4. NOT AN UPGRADE: The garden tub: another builder “upgrade” hoisted on the starry-eyed. Really, who takes a bath anymore? Kids, that’s who, and you don’t want the water bill for filling up one of these suckers week after week. You want a tub that’s an upgrade, get one like they have at the Ritz Carlton and other upscale resorts…long enough for a person to lay out in, with arm rests and martini holders.  A buyer for one of these can afford the high water bill.   
  5. NOT AN UPGRADE: Raised panel cabinets.  Taking cheap wood and adding a raised panel just adds to the “contractor grade” feel of a lot of newer homes.  When you see a hardwood cabinet it’s unmistakable, and usually goes with a kitchen that’s just as beautiful.

Ways the Buyers Kill Thier own Real Estate Deals in St. Augustine

Monday, August 10th, 2009

by Sean Hess

5 Ways Buyers Kill Thier Deals is the latest post on my personal webiste.  You can read it now at .

St. Augustine Real Estate and the Using the $8,000 Tax Credit as a Down Payment

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

by Sean Hess

Here’s a link to the article I just wrote for my own website at  It’s about using the first time buyer tax credit as a down payment for property in St. Augustine.

Bono’s At the Beach Goes Under: Commercial Real Estate Vacancies in St. Augustine

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

by Sean Hess

Bono’s at the Beach has gone under. And is anyone surprised?

When I moved here 15 years ago Bono’s was the one must-stop place after a long day’s surfing session.  The place was always packed, there were always plenty of servers, the food was great, and the service was fast and friendly.

The food was/is still some of the best barbeque around.  But the service…well, it was never bad exactly.  Whenever I’ve been there in the last five years it was always as if the general manager had just stepped out for the day.  You’d wait at your table, wonder if the lone waitress saw you.  Then after five minutes, after she’d broken off the conversation with the guy in the back she would come over.  And maybe she’d get your order right.  And maybe you’d get a refill.  And everytime I went in there, there were less and less people.

I was going to eat there last week, but it came down to taking my 3-year old to McDonalds for 6 or 7 bucks, or ordering take-out at Bono’s and being assaulted by the tip jar.  I hate feeling obligated to tip someone for just handing me my order.  Bono’s even has a tip jar at the drive-thru window of the U.S. 1 location.  So we hit McD’s.

Vacancies in St. Augustine Commercial Real Estate

Bono’s adds another empty storefront at the beach.  Just take a drive down A1A near Crescent Beach sometime and look at all the empty retail space. You can find the same thing up and down the U.S. 1 South corridor, and on State Route 207 as well.

A lot of the newer space came on line in 2006 just as the residential real estate market was crashing.  Some of it has been empty since inception (most of the newer retail space in Crescent Beach), and some are chewing up and spitting out their first generation of tenants.

So what’s the upshot?

This is a great time to get in business in St. Augustine.  Rents are available and cheap, there are plenty of people who need work, and you can’t ask for a better climate.  For goodness sake, we (The St. Augustine Team) are in real estate…if we can prosper in this economy, anyone can.