Archive for November, 2009

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: The Buyer’s Market is Coming to an End

Monday, November 30th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager for St. Augustine Team Realty

While coming into work very early this morning (trust me, you were still in bed), I saw a beautiful golden moon setting in the west.  It gave me an idea for a post on my personal website: The Moon is Setting on the Buyer’s Market.

I hope you enjoy the post and remember to visit for great homes, special prices and great incentives!

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Sales are Up, Prices are Down

Friday, November 27th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager for St. Augustine Team Realty

Good news for home sellers (in a left-handed sort of way), and definitely good news for homw buyers this Black Friday!

Sales of existing homes jumped 45% in October compared with October of 2008, and condo sales jumped 81% compared with the same period, according to  Considering October 2008 will probably be considered the Worst Real Estate Sales Month of All Time, it’s not really a big shock.  What is heartening is that residential and condo sales were up 5% and 6%, respectively over this past September. 

So at the time of year the market usually slows a bit, sales are actually up.  Probably some of this had to do with last-buyers coming in to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit.  The tax credit was set to expire on November 30, but has since been extended to April 30 (this should help sales next March).

Even better news for buyers beyond the tax credit extension is that median sales prices are down a whopping 17% since October 2008.

While this is all good news we still have more housing inventory than needed here in St. Augustine by about 1,000 units, not including any new construction in the pipeline.  This local excess inventory is weighted more towards condos than residential as it is still very difficult to get condo financing with less than 40% down. 

So look forward to prices continuing to creep downward, but probably not at the double digit rates we’ve seen over the last two years.   Prices will be a bit lower next year but choice will be way down as the market firms up, so the time to buy is now. 

Join us on Facebook!

An old sales manager of mine used to say, “You will never get a phone call or e-mail when the market changes.” 

Well, we’ll post it on Facebook when the market changes!  Earlier in this post we said the “time to buy is now.”  If you were one of our Facebook fans you would have known as soon as we posted it. 

Just go to our homepage at and scroll down.  On the right hand side click “become a fan.”  It’s that simple. If you prefer Twitter we got that too, @SATRealty.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: A Thing to be Thankful For

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

This Thanksgiving it’s time to give thanks…for not being in retail!

I spent nearly a decade as a retail sales manager.  Right now my former colleagues are gearing up for the next 40 days without rest or sleep.  While most of us will be lying sideways in the recliner suffering from a food-and-football coma Thursday night, the sales managers will already be heading in to run the overnight stock crews for Black Friday.  Indeed they are probably there right now.

It’s one of the hardest jobs there is.  You can have every single register running and it isn’t enough.  You can have 100 sales associates on the floor and it isn’t enough to help the customers. You have to hire the marginal folks lacking in people skills just to have enough live bodies to run the place…and then you have deal with the complaints when they cock off to a customer or don’t return from lunch. 

You work 60 or 70 hour weeks for no more than you would make during the rest of the year, and your only reward is not even a thanks for a job well done, but a sigh of relief in January when its over.

Hats off to you, sales managers, CSM’s and stock crew leaders…may you have fantastic sales and God speed to New Years!

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: 408 More with a Local (?) Developer…WTF?

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

For my personal website today I did a post on 408 new homes just approved by the county commission.  My first reaction was, “WTF?”  I hope you enjoy the post!

Homes for Sale in St. Augustine: Time to Buy During the Holidays?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

I was asked this week if the holiday season was a good time to shop for houses.

My answer was, “Absolutely.”

We typically see a drop off in December sales.  The reason is that people just have too much on their plate during the month of December, with all the parties, family get togethers,  and shopping.  Even the most stalwart buyers have trouble getting out to look.

So as a buyer you will essentially have the place to yourself.  And if you’re the only one who’s out there making an offer, you can drive the hardest bargain of the year.

If you’re a seller this might not sound great, but there are some advantages for you, too.

The first is that any buyer who is out looking during December is super motivated…the tire-kickers are out of the market for a month. 

The second advantage for a seller is that, for a lot of same reasons that buyers stay out of the market in December, new sellers do, too.  After New Years a slew of new listings come on the market which as a seller you have to compete with. 

So, to recap, for buyers it means little competition and a good time to drive a bargain.  For sellers it means a super motivated buyer and less competition.  Sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Make sure you see all our great properties for sale at!

Homes for Sale in St. Augustine: a Coupon for You!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

With a lack of any fresh ideas to write about this morning, I thought I’d forward on a $100 off home inspection coupon I got yesterday.  It’s from AmeriPro, who have always done good work for my customers, it’s good until January 31, 2010, and it can be used as many times as you want.  AmeriPro’s number is 1-800-991-0142.

We know the market is tough right now, and we’d love to help you and your buyers save a little additional money during the holiday season.

We’d like to extend a SPECIAL OFFER of $100 off EVERY full home inspection booked or referred.

This coupon can be used as many times as you like today through close of business January 31, 2010.

You or your buyer/seller MUST mention coupon code AIC100REF at the time of their booking in order to qualify for the discount.

Check out our new website at:!

St. Augustine Real Estate: Help for condo sales in St. Augustine?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

On my personal website this morning I write that help may be on the way for condo financing in St. Augustine.  I hope you enjoy it!

Social Media and Homes for Sale in St. Augustine

Friday, November 13th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

I read a post yesterday on one of the broker sites that basically said social media is a dead end for real estate. I disagree.

I think the big trick is to figure out how to use social media.  We didn’t set up our company’s Facebook page, for example, until we figured our how it would be a benefit to our customers and suscribers.

But in the end it was a no brainer.  When we offer a discount, or special or a sale, we can get the news out immediately to our circle of influence.  Unlike most real estate companies we do have specials and sales so in that way social media is very relevant for us. 

And if we have a new listing or a price change, we can get that out right away as well.  Since many of our social media friends are in the real estate business anyway, this is an added bonus.

So social media and real estate isn’t a dead end, it’s just another tool that has to be used correctly.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: The VA Loan for Veteran’s Day

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager, St. Augustine Team Realty

Happy Veteran’s Day and thanks to service members past and present for all that you’ve done for our country for keeping freedom alive!

Since it’s Veteran’s Day I thought we’d do a quick look at the VA loan and how it works.  Like all things government it gets a bit confusing.

Basically, service members who have served 90 consecutive days wartime and 181 days peacetime are eligible to get a VA loan, plus surviving spouses.  There are several exceptions and other criteria based on the time period you served.  I’ll include links at the bottom where you can see the exact VA regulations.

The VA loan guarantees up to 25% of the total loan amount if a buyer defaults.  The maximum the VA will guarantee is $104,250.  So typically, the maximum a lender will loan is $417,000. 

You have to apply for what is called a Certificate of Eligibility from the Department of Veterans affairs.  This Certificate determines your “entitlement.”  Right now the maximum entitlement is $360,000, but that does not mean you get a loan of $360,000.  Basically the entitlement is the total amount of loans you can take in a lifetime that the VA will guarantee up to 25% of.  If you’ve never had a VA loan before, chances are your entitlment will be $360,000.  If you’ve used a VA loan before, your entitlement will be less, based on the amount of any previous loans. 

Typically a lender wants your entitlement plus your downpayment to equal 25% of the loan.  It your entitlement is at or above 25% you may not have to put anything down.

Even if you have a high entitlement you still have to qualify for a loan based on your monthly income and your monthly debts.  How do you do this? 

After you get your Certificate of Eligibility you need a lender to help you determine the maximum amount of your loan.  Basically, the monthly payment on your new home loan (including escrowed taxes and insurance), along with any car payments, personal loan payments, credit card payments, student loans, etc., cannot exceed 41% of your gross monthly income.  So you almost have to figure it out in reverse by finding out what 41% of your gross income is, then subtracting car payments, etc. from that.  And then you estimate taxes and escrow (usually pretty easy), take a look what the going interest rate is, and based on that figure out how much you can be loaned.

At this point you will have the maximum amount a bank will lend you on a home.  Now it’s time to go shopping and find a home. 

There are just a few more hurdles. 

Since the VA does NOT cover closing costs you will need to cover those yourselves.  Or, you can structure the real estate deal where the seller pays the closing costs.  This is sometimes done by adding the closing costs to the price of the home, and then the seller pays for the costs at closing.  But the total amount cannot be greater than the house appraises for.

There is also a VA funding fee that will be cost the buyer anywhere between 1.25% and 3.3% of the loan amount that is paid at closing.  It varies depending on your eligibility, including whether or not  this is the first time you’ve ever used a VA loan, are disabled, or are a Native American.  For most first time users it’s 2.2%, for most second-time or “subsequent” users it’s 3.3%.   

You can visit the VA website to get eligibility requirements.  Another good resource is

That’s it in a nutshell, and again, Happy Veteran’s Day!

Homes for sale in St. Augustine: Doom Looms Says Chicken Little

Monday, November 9th, 2009

by Sean Hess, broker and manager for St. Augustine Team Realty

This weekend the local press was awash in doomsaying about the real estate market.  Their contention is that when 5-year ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) written in 2005 reset next year we will be buried in foreclosures. 

In a post I did for my personal website this morning I say “Not so fast my friends, the more likely scenario is recovery!”  I hope you enjoy it!