Archive for February, 2011

How Do I Get a Copy of the Condo Docs?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

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

Getting condo docs doesn't need to be a hassle! Buy here at Beachers Lodge: we have the docs on file!

Getting condo docs doesn't need to be a hassle! Buy here at Beachers Lodge: we have the docs on file!

So you’re thinking of buying a condo but you want to see the condo docs first.

  I can show you how to do that (at least locally).

But first I’m going to back up a bit. 

If you are buying a condo in Florida the law mandates that you get a copy of the condo docs to review prior to closing.  If it is a re-sale condo (i.e., not brand new) you have three business days to review these documents.  If you do not get a copy of these documents you can cancel the agreement with no penalty.  You also have the three days to review what is called the “Condo Governance Form,” the “Frequently Asked Questions,” and the condo’s most recent financial statement.

So you’ve got the best of both worlds here.  If you get the docs early, great.  But if you don’t get them, you don’t have to close.

Alright, now how to get the docs.  This applies to St. Johns County.

In St. Johns County, Florida, here’s how you find Condo Docs (or Homeowners Association docs) online:

  • Go to the Clerk of Courts website at
  • Place your pointer over RECORDING and click online records search
  • Put the name of the condominium community in the “Name” box, and then next to the “Document” box I click the gray box, and then scroll down and check the items between (85) and (91), most of which have to do with Covenants and Restrictions (the fancy name for condo or HOA docs).

This “Name” box is the trickiest part.  On occasion communities are chartered under different names, or with a name that’s a bit more elaborate, and the computer won’t spit it out.

Another sticky point: covenants and restrictions filed before 1990 aren’t online.  To get those you have to go to your real estate agent or the title company that will be handling the closing, or physically go into the Clerk of Courts office.  Another alternative is to get them from the property management company, but this will cost you $$$, whereas the title company that is doing the closing will typically provide them for free.

St. Augustine Team Realty is Sponsoring the Race to the Taste 5K Again!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

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

We are proud once again to sponsor the Race to the Taste 5k benefiting Big Brothers/Big Sisters of St. Johns County.  This year’s race is on April 2nd in conjunction with the 2011 Taste of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine Team Realty is again sponsoring the Race to the Taste 5K!

St. Augustine Team Realty is again sponsoring the Race to the Taste 5K!

This year’s course has been improved with an out-and-back layout, and includes a new and improved start/finish and spectator area.  This year’s cours will be certified and chip timed. For more info and to register for the race go to  Hope to see you there!

Home for Sale in St. Augustine (Elkton): 1535 CR 13A, Home with 56 Acres!

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

by Kate Stevens (, Broker Associate for St. Augustine Team Realty (   Join us on Facebook.

We just added this new listing…as soon as we get more photos and video we’ll post it here first!

The details: This is a absolutely awesome piece of Florida that can be yours! The very well kept 2,600 sq ft 3-bedroom/2-bath house includes lots of upgrades-large kitchen with island and stainless appliances, wood burning fireplace, a HUGE master suite, office and much more on 56 beautiful acres. Partly cleared and partly wooded there’s plenty of room to grow.  Approximately 18 acres of the 56 are pasture and include a 4-stall horse barn.  There’s also an additional 1,600+ sq ft 1986 5 bedroom/2-bath mobile home on the property, with 3 stocked ponds as well as a 30′ x 40′ garage with 220 power & water!

Home and 56 Acres at 1535 CR 13A near St. Augustine.

Home and 56 Acres at 1535 CR 13A near St. Augustine.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Do I Need a Home Inspection on a Foreclosure?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

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

Do I need a home inspection on a foreclosure?

Yeah, you need a home inspection.First off, you need a home inspection regardless of what you buy…forclosure, regular sale, new construction, whatever.

For three or four hundred bucks a home inspection could save you thousands and keep you from a real nightmare experience with a property.

Back in the day when foreclosures were uncommon, it was common for the former owners to trash the house.  And as an agent one of the first things you wanted to check was the plumbing (hard to do with the water shut off) to make sure the former owner didn’t pour “Quick-Crete” fast drying concrete powder down the toilet.  So yeah, you need an inspection. 

For a list of foreclosure inspection booby traps you can check out a blog post by Roger Weinke-Bardinal, a Realtor from Cape Coral.  Apparently in one of his foreclosures the former owner rewired the fuse box and put nails down the garbage disposal.  Nightmare stuff.

Ocean View For Sale in St. Augustine: And You Thought You Couldn’t Afford the Beach!

Friday, February 18th, 2011

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

The beach at Beachers Lodge 238, 6970 A1A South, St. Augustine, Florida

The beach at Beachers Lodge 238, 6970 A1A South, St. Augustine, Florida

And you thought you couldn’t afford the beach!


Ocean view in St. Augustine for under $80,000!

Willing to trade view for value? 

Enjoy an ocean view condo in a premium oceanfront building for 45% less than your neighbors paid for the same unit (and you thought you couldn’t afford a beach address)!

Snap up this stylish condo and you’ll enjoy the same oceanfront address, private beach access, and oceanfront pool as your neighbors do.  But you will have paid less.  They may have a better view, but you can use some of the dollars you saved for fabulous furnishings and still put money in the bank.

Located at 6970 A1A South in the oceanfront Beachers Lodge, Unit 238 will be a pleasure to own for years to come!

Find out more about Beacher’s Lodge.  A portion of the proceeds from this sale go to Homes for Our Troops, providing housing for disabled vets.

Homes for Sale in St. Augustine: Will I Get My Deposit Back?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

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

The real estate deal fell apart.  Will I get my deposit back?

What does the contract say?

Your deposit: what does the contract say?

Your deposit: what does the contract say?

First off, I am not an attorney nor have I ever played one on TV.  Contracts are the perview of attorneys, and even experienced attorneys will disagree on minor points.  So there are no pat answers.

But it is in your power to read the contract and find out what it says about your deposit. 

For example, in the current FR/BAR purchase and sales contract line 89-91 says, “If Buyer does not receive loan commitment, then Buyer may terminate this contract by delivering written notice to seller, and the deposit shall be refunded to Buyer…”

So (in this case), did you receive a loan commitment?  If you didn’t receive loan commitment did you terminate the contract by delivering notice to the seller?  In this case the solution is clearly provided by the contract.

The standard Florida real estate contracts are written for just about any eventuality that will arise regarding the deposit, so the first thing you do is look at the contract to determine how the situation pertains to you. 

What monkey’s things up a bit is that both the buyer and seller have to sign off for the deposit to be released.  So if you have a seller that is really upset about you walking away they may initially refuse to sign the release of deposit.

In my real world experience the seller will typically calm down after a few days and sign off.  But if that doesn’t happen both the buyer and seller might have to go the route of mediation, arbitration or even litigation over the deposit.  The state of Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) can even order the deposit be released to a certain party.  But the legal route and the FREC route are very rare occurances, mostly because any legal fees and/or time spent preparing paperwork far exceed the value of the deposit.

When won’t you get your real estate deposit back?

Here’s a real world example from last fall.

We received a cash offer on one of our listings that the seller accepted.  But the entire time we had an uneasy feeling about the buyer…their finances checked out okay and they paid for an inspection…but the signals they were giving us were all wrong.  In retrospect what they were doing was holding our home off the market as choice #2, while they used the inspection period to shop for something else.  Then they cancelled the contract.

But their Realtor made a fatal mistake and miscalculated the inspection period, so they had no right to cancel. 

The seller let the buyers out, but to do so he requested a portion of their deposit…these buyers agreed to it and didn’t get their full deposit back.  They were lucky they got anything after playing the seller like that.

If you are really unsure, if you are even contemplating breaking a contract, the best advice is to seek legal advice.  We know some good real estate attorneys, call us and we’ll get you in touch with one.   

Homes in St. Augustine: Are Zillow Zestimates Any Good?

Monday, February 14th, 2011

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

Are Zillow Zestimates any good?

I’ll put it this way: somebody once asked a wedding guest if so and so’s coverage of a celebrity wedding was accurate.  The answer?  “Well, the dress was white.”

And the Atlantic Ocean is blue (most of the time), and the sky is wide…the point I’m trying to make is that Zillow estimates on home prices are accurate in only the most broad sense.

We ran through a short sample of Zillow estimates this morning on homes we know the price history on.  We know the appraised value, what market activity was like when they were on the market, and what these homes eventually sold for.  In every case but one the Zillow estimate was too high. 

In general the Zillow estimate ran between 20% and 27% too high, with a few coming in around a more sedate 10%.  In one case the Zillow estimate was 7% above the appraised value of the home, but 25% above where the offers were coming in at. 

This may have helped us sell these homes (if the buyers were going to Zillow before they made offers), because they may have thought they were getting a deal…

Well, the dress was white.

Well, the dress was white.

In the one case where the Zillow estimate was low, it was 3% under the appraised and sold price.  Not only that, but according to Zillow this particular home gained and lost $30,000 in value twice in the same 12 month period…and homes just don’t do that.

What Zillow doesn’t, and can’t, take into account are things like condition, location, the neighbors, general neighborhood conditions, etc.  For example, homes just a few blocks away from each other might sell for a 10% difference in value just because of the neighbors (yeah, your neighbors really can have that much of an impact).  Or a renovated home sitting next to an unrenovated home could sell for a lot more, just based on the fact that things are newer and the buyer knows he won’t have to work on the house again for another 10 years.

Dan Tabit, a broker from Washington, summed it up this way: “In reality [the Zillow estimate] means little. It reflects that one or more homes which are roughly similar to yours recently sold and affects the data Zillow uses to create their Zestimates. Zillow recognizes that their valuations are a starting point, but not an accurate reflection of the actual value of a home…it may also be that the previous Zestimate was based on a fully updated home with additional features your home doesn’t have.

 “If you are considering buying the home in question, don’t rely on Zestimates, but get an experienced agent to provide a comparable market analysis.”

So should you stay away from Zillow?  No, it’s a fun site and it can alert you to broad trends.  But its accuracy is only broad, and very general.

1587 Timber Trace Drive, Home for Sale in St. Augustine’s Whisper Ridge

Friday, February 11th, 2011

by Kate Stevens (, Associate Broker for St. Augustine Team Realty (   Join us on Facebook.

1587 Timber Trace Drive is a well maintained 4 bedroom/2 bath home is ready for you in St. Augustine’s popular and established subdivision of Whisper Ridge. It has an open floor plan kitchen opening onto family room with vaulted ceilings, and includes a formal dining room. The upgraded master bath includes a garden tub and a stand up shower. The home has a fenced back yard and a 2-car garage.  We’ve just added some video below, and we hope you enjoy it.


Whisper Ridge, located just west of the I95/SR16 intersection on SR 16, is ideally placed for access to Jacksonville, St Augustine and all the area’s one of a kind attractions.  Built between 2004 and 2007 by national builders, this well maintained community of around 350 single family homes is established with no ongoing construction.

With street lights and sidewalks, it’s not uncommon to see residents out for a stroll and enjoying their surroundings.  There are two community playgrounds which further enhance the community.

One of the great attractions of Whisper Ridge is its very low Homeowners Association Fee and the fact that it does not have an annual CDD Fee.  This can make living in Whisper Ridge several thousands of dollars a year less expensive than other, comparable neighborhoods in the area.

 This short sale home is currently priced at $149,900.  A portion of the sale proceeds will go to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of St. Johns County.

See a virtual tour of 1587 Timber Trace Drive with larger photos on the Featured Home page at St. Augustine Team

Is a Lease Option Really an Option?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

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

 Is a lease option really worth it for buyer or seller?

Is a lease option really worth it?

Is a lease option really worth it?

Basically, a lease option works like this: The buyer and seller agree on a price for the property a year or two years out (along with the terms, inspections, who will pay for repairs and yard work during the lease term, etc).  They then agree on a rent, of which a portion goes towards down payment on the sale.  The rent is usually high for the property because it also includes the down.

For example: The buyer and seller agree on purchase price for a home of $160,000 two years out.  The buyer agrees to pay rent on the property of $1500 a month for two years (normally this house would rent for $1000 a month).  $500 of the rent will go towards the down payment if the renter decides to buy, so at the end of two years there will already $12,000 down towards the $160,000 purchase price.

There may also be an upfront, non-refundable deposit/down payment of several thousand dollars in addition to rent. 

So if the buyer decides to exercise his option and buy the home in two years, great.  If the buyer decides not to buy he loses his $12,000 to the seller, plus any additional upfront down payment, and any money he spent on repairs and maintenance.

The seller does not typically have the right to walk away from the deal except in the case of eviction/foreclosure.  You’ll need to have an attorney to draw up the paperwork on this one to cover all the variables.

Pros and cons to a lease option? 

In our current market single family home prices are appreciating, but modestly.  If a seller agrees to a lease option at today’s prices, he might lose 6% in appreciation over two years, but he’ll have cash flow.  For the buyer they lock in today’s price and will get equity when they purchase, but will pay an over-market rent for the right to do it.

A lease option may be a great solution for so many of our beach condos (above $250,000) that are still stuck in a buyers market, with buyers scarce.  In this case the seller can lock in a buyer at a favorable price, as this type of property is still expected to experience some declines in value.  The benefit to the buyer is that they can cherry pick which unit they want, and if the price they agree on is unfavorable at the end of the lease, they can walk away.  And at least for the seller an otherwise empty unit has cash flow.

The cons are typically on the seller side of a lease option.

“If the seller can only get a future contract price based on a current appraisal value,” asked Realtor John Walin in a recent online post, “why not just price the house at a fee for appraisal value now and not deal with [the buyer as] a tenant and sell it straight up as a traditional sale?”

Another con for the seller is that if he wants the whole chunk of money to invest now in another, more profitable investment, he won’t be able to while the equity in the property is sidelined.  And if the buyer does walk away from the option, the seller has to go through the process of selling it all over again.

Do Builders Negotiate the Sales Price on a New Home?

Monday, February 7th, 2011

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


We can help you negotiate the best price on your new home.

We can help you negotiate the best price on your new home.

Do builders negotiate the sales price on a new home?



In the current market they generally do…or if they won’t negotiate the price they might throw in upgrades in lieu of a price break. 

The best time to hit a builder up is on weekends and/or at the end of the month when a sales team is trying to make sales quotas.   Also, you’re going to have a better chance on a home that is finished or is nearly finished (the builder has a lot of capital tied up in a home that is just sitting empty). 

“There is no set percentage of price that can be negotiated,” said Denver real estate agent Robert McGuire in an recent online post. “That depends on how much the builder has invested in the home and how soon they need to make the sell. You need a Buyer’s Agent who is familiar with negotiating new home sales.”

What we’ve seen locally in St. Augustine is that when we start to negotiate, the sales rep on site will have to call his supervisor and we’ll have to negotiate through him (a bit like buying a car).  We actually had to walk out once last fall before the builder would budge.  But they did budge, and it was because they had a lot of existing inventory to sell a our well-qualified buyer made a fair offer in line with the market.