Archive for March, 2010

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: The Snowbirds are Flying North

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

 by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (

Well, after the 14th RV passed me on U.S. 1 heading north, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the snowbirds are flying north for another year.

Thanks so much for making St. Augustine your second home, for bringing us your business, and for spreading your warmth and good cheer.

Look forward to seeing you all next year, and bring some friends!

PS…what was that guy from Maine doing with a ladder strapped to his roof?  If you see him pulled off at a rest stop ask him.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Short Sale Mythbusting

Monday, March 29th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (

I just did a post on my personal site Mythbusting the Short Sale.  I hope you enjoy it!

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Temporary Bridge, We Hardly Knew Ye

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (

Well, St. Augustine’s iconic Bridge of Lions is open again after four long years and it’s good to have her back.  Next year the namesake lions will be returned to their pedestals flanking the western entrance and it will be like the bridge was never gone. 

And the Temporary Bridge that took its place for that span of time will be forgotten, dismantled and taken to sea to be sunk as an artificial reef.  It’s destruction started officially yesterday. Temporary Bridge, we hardly knew ye.

St. Augustine's Temporary Bridge and Bridge of Lions

St. Augustine's Temporary Bridge and Bridge of Lions

I loved the Temporary Bridge. 

It was always there for me when I needed to cross from the Island into downtown.  It was always reliable, never getting stuck in position, and it seemed to me that the bridge was even wider and more accomodating than the Bridge of Lions. 

On July 4th there was plenty of room for everyone to crowd on to it and watch the fireworks.  It had buttery smooth pavement that was a delight anytime I had occasion to cross it on my bike.  And with its erector-set style construction it gave a modern design flair to historic downtown. 

I wish it could have stayed, but it is gone now, and I mourn alone.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: When to Make and Stick By a Lowball Offer

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (

I just did a post on my personal site about when to make and stick by a lowball offer in St. Augustine real estate market.  I hope you enjoy it!

St. Augustine Vacant Land for Sale: We Got Your Beach Lots Right Here!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St Augustine Team Realty (

You can buy your own lot at the beach, and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying residential.  So if you plan on building or living at the beach someday, now might be the time to buy. Or if you surf a lot (like I did once upon a time) it’s just a great place to park and grill out even if you never plan to build.

We have a trio of lots at St. Augustine Beach, and none of them are more than 300 feet from the dune line.  All are on the east side of A1A, which means no streets to cross on the way to relaxing at the ocean.

Overhead of 0A 10th Street, St. Augustine Beach, Florida
Overhead of 0A 10th Street, St. Augustine Beach, Florida

The closest is 0A 10th Street, sitting just four lots off the beach, an overhead of which is pictured just to your left.  This lot is approximately 53 x 107 and shold be able to accomodate a three story structure.  It’s adjacent companion lot at 0B 10th Street is the same size.  Should you purchase both together you can have a large 106 x 107 lot with lots and lots of room.  Each lot is priced at $154,900 for individual sale.

Our next St. Augustine Beach lot is close by at 12 2nd Street, just six lots from the dune line. This lot is approximately 45 x 100 and should accomodate a three story structure.  This lot is also priced at $154,900.
If you’ve ever dreamed of a home with hammock on the patio and a cold Corona, these lots could be the first step in realizing that dream.  Give us a call at (904) 825-0099, or e-mail to find out more.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Buyer Tips to Keep You from Looking Like an Amateur

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (

So your a buyer just getting into the market, maybe for the first time or just the first time in awhile.  Here’s some helpful tips to keep you from looking like you’re just in from Amateursville.

  1. The mortgage landscape has changed a lot.  Really.  Even if you have good income and credit there are still landmines out there that will keep you from getting a loan.  Let your Realtor get you in touch with a lender now, so you can outline to them exactly what you want to buy, and how you plan to structure the purchase because you might not be able to do it the way you thought you could.  Condos, for example.  If you don’t have a big down payment then you might not be buying a condo, but not in all cases because some qualify for FHA.  It would be helpful to know this before you start really looking. 
  2. You can make a lowball offer.  We even encourage you to make a lowball offer.  But, no seller in the world cares if “some buyer just in from the world” is giving his “first and final offer.”  Here’s the deal: this is a negotiation.  If you extend an offer and it’s countered, either politely decline and walk away (if it really is your finest and best offer, or you truly feel the property isn’t worth more), or come back with a number that might work better for you than the seller’s counter.  That’s how investors do it: either the number will work or it won’t.  It’s always polite.
  3. Short sales.  We encourage you to make offers on short sales.  But even more than most transactions, have your finances and pre-qualifications ready so they may be presented to the lender with your offer.  Short sale offers are not submitted to the lender for approval without the buyer pre-qualifications.  And short sales are “as-is” deals (with the right to inspect)…if the seller can’t pay his mortgage he can’t pay your closing costs and repairs.  And be prepared to wait…if you can’t wait 90 days for an answer don’t submit a short sale offer.
  4. Look above your price range, but not $50,000 above your price range.  If your price range is $200,000, you have zero business looking at $250,000 homes. So quit insisting to see them.  Just stop it.  You’re getting no closer to finding your own dream home by doing this and taking valuable time away from people who are.

So in a nutshell, get your financing in order, be polite, and look closer to your price range.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Tales from the Subprime Mess

Monday, March 15th, 2010

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

I watched a story on 60 Minutes last night chronicling the subprime mess.  I wrote a post about it on my personal site, about how subprime mortgages looked to us here on the ground during the housing boom.  It turns out the easiest explanation for the mess is the correct one: loaning money to persons with bad credit was a bad idea.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Two Great Properties in Conquistador

Friday, March 12th, 2010

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

View from 43 Veronese in St. Augustine, Florida

View from 43 Veronese in St. Augustine, Florida


We have two great listings at Conquistador Condos we’d love to tell you about. 

If you don’t know anything about the community here’s the skinny:  Conquistador fronts the Intracoastal waterway off of Christina Drive in St. Augustine, and is built underneath a canopy of majestic live oaks and sabal palms, giving the place a wonderful Florida feel.  There are three pools (one heated), with tennis facilities on grounds.  As Conquistador is part of the St. Augustine Shores master development, residents can take advantage of the Shores golf course and Intracoastal pier. Fees run about $220 for the condo plus another $28 for the master development.  Conquistador had full time, on site management.  There is no covered parking, but there is plenty of parking for residents and guests. 

43 Veronese Court is a direct Intracoastal front condo with an amazing view…you can literally watch the boats sail by.  It’s also a first floor unit with no stairs to climb.  With two bedrooms and two baths, this unit is in fantastic condition and includes all appliances. The community pier on the Intracoastal is just a short walk away, as are the clubhouse and playground is a short walk away.  You can enjoy the serene and peaceful water view from a long screened patio, from the kitchen and from the living area. This is truly a gem and we hope this one won’t last long at $119,00.

38 Tarragona Court is a comfortable 2nd floor corner unit in wonderful condition. It includes all appliances, and the refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove are brand new and have never been used.  The living areas and kitchen are completely tiled, with new carpet in each of the two bedrooms (there are also two baths).  Though this unit doesn’t front the water, it is just steps away from the pool and some beautiful views of the ICW.  This unit also has a long, screened patio for easy living and relaxing!  $79,900. 

Both 43 Veronese Ct. and 38 Tarragona Ct. can close quickly (no short sales here), and are ready for immediate occupancy.

St. Augustine Homes For Sale: First Time Buyer, First Time Mortgage

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

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

So you’re a first time buyer and you want to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit which expires on April 30.  Where do you go from here?

St. Augustine Team Realty will handle the helping-you-find-the-real-estate-in-St.-Augustine part (that’s a no brainer).  But first we’ve got to get you qualified for a mortgage.

Get ready for paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.  In most cases you’ll need your last two years bank statements, W-2′s, tax statements, and pay stubs.  You have any stocks, bonds or other assets?  Have a list of those organized as well, because they will help your net worth.

The next thing to think about is your credit score.  The FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850, is the credit rating lenders use to help determine if you get a home today (or not), and what rate you’ll have to pay (if you’re a good risk versus a marginal risk).  

The FICO score is based on the information contained in your credit report, and you can get your credit report through Equifax.  If there’s anything that reflects badly on your credit report you may have to get it cleared before a lender will lend you money for a home. 

At this point we’ve got the paperwork together and credit looks good.  Now you need a down payment: a minimum of 3.5% for an FHA loan (10% if your FICO is below 580), and probably a minimum of 10% on a conventional loan.  If you’re going VA you may not need a down payment at all (we did a post on the VA loan back in November which you can access here). 

If you’re going FHA for example, and the house you plan to buy is $150,000, you will need to put at least $5250 down.  This can go towards your closing costs (which will run $4000-$5000 depending on your loan and the lender). 

Sometimes you can get a seller to contribute to your closing costs.  If you pay full price for your $150,000 house, you may get the seller to contribute up to 3% ($4500) for your costs, leaving you $750 to contribute at closing. 

Just on a procedural note, if you only have $750 in the bank, you probably shouldn’t be buying a house, even if you have great income/credit and can get the loan.  The  market is full of foreclosures from those type loans.  If you need to make an expensive repair, if you lose your job and there’s no savings to fall back on you too will join the ranks of the foreclosed, with the resulting deficiency judgement and credit that will be bad until the end of time.  Take some time and squirrel away a down payment and some savings. 

Also, if you put less than 20% down you will need to pay for something called mortgage insurance, which will add $50-$100 to your monthly payment.

Now we have to find a house and have it under contract by April 30 to take advantage of the $8000 tax credit (we can close on it anytime up to June 30).  You have to take this credit off on your 2009 taxes (2009 amended tax form if you’ve already filed) or your 2010 taxes.  You do not get it at closing, you cannot use it as part of your down payment. 

First time buyers love to lowball their first offer and they always lose the home.  You will too.  Let’s just get it over quickly and move on to the next home where you will offer a more reasonable price.  A note: you can’t lowball if you need closing costs help from the seller, and you can’t lowball on a VA if the seller will need to make repairs.  For those think: “Full Price.”

Now we’ve found the second house, you’ve made a reasoable offer.  The sellers have accepted.  Congratulations!

St. Augustine Homes For Sale: Some People Don’t Deserve a Home.

Monday, March 8th, 2010

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

The asset-less, the credit-less, the income-less are now out in the market clamoring to be let in again.

But the days of the no-income, no-asset, no documentation loan are dead…because the result was massive foreclosures.

I just did a post for my personal site: as much as we want to be all-inclusive in home ownership, some people don’t belong there.  For my income-less, asset-less, credit-less friends…LET THERE BE RENT! 

Enjoy the post!