Archive for May, 2011

American Steel: Breaking a Chinese-Made Master Lock Lockbox

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

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

Another high point in American-Sino relations.

Another high point in American-Sino relations.

I hate Chinese made junk.  What I hate even more is going in a place to buy something and finding that my only choice is: Made in China.

So this weekend a Chinese Made (the only choice) Master Lock lockbox failed.  On this type of lockbox you align a series of tumblers, press a button and the lockbox opens.  In this case the button wouldn’t depress.  It’s about two years old and in otherwise good condition.  But as I’m getting conditioned to expect that if it’s made in the PRC it will fail for no reason and fail fast.

This follows a month where a three-year-old Made-in-China toaster oven with the Oester tag failed.  The only moving part was the door, which I had to open myself.  Yet it just failed to heat one morning and that was that.  I have an Oester blender made in the USA circa 1968 that I still use and still works. 

This is topped by the failure of a no name Chinese-made alarm clock I’ve had for about a year now.  The alarm would ring, but then it wouldn’t shut off: you had to unplug it to reset it.  Now you plug it in the alarm just stays on.  The only moving part it has is an “on/off” switch.  They can’t even make a f***ing digital alarm clock that will last a year.

So getting back to the lockbox that wouldn’t work.  I decided to have some fun with it.

First I went out and bought a $54 American-made HK Porter 24-inch bolt cutter.  It applies 4000 pounds of pressure for every 50 pounds that I can generate.  It cut the hook on that lockbox like it was going through butter.

Then I took the lockbox over to an American-made Columbia 3050 vise so I could pop it open like an oyster.  And when I needed more leverage on the vise I pulled out an American-made ball joint puller and cranked down.

The poor lockbox stuck out it’s lip, quivering in supplication.  I freed it from it’s misery with an American-made Tru Temper Jet Rocket Hammer and a chislel, popping the sucker open.  With that I got my key back and an intense feeling of satisfaction.

It’s not that I don’t like China or any other country we import things from.  What I don’t like is the fact that no one in China that I buy products from will ever buy my products here.  They will never buy a home in St. Augustine.  They will never go on vacation in St. Augustine.  They will never spend a dime in St. Augustine.  Instead that wealth will go to a newly minted city of a million people in China that I have never heard of.

The HK Porter boltcutter?  I can’t find the factory that produces it…it seems to be some kind of state secret.  But wherever it is theres a solid chance that one of the workers, or suppliers, or support staff will at least vacation here and spend money here.   Which will eventually support my business.  And if they retire here that would be even better.

Keep that in mind the next time you have a choice in boltcutters, tires, cars, anything.  I even check the cans at Publix to see where the fruit is from.  It’s a matter of the job you’re saving may be your own, in fact the job you’re saving may lead you to a better job down the road.

St. Augustine Team Realty: An American-Made Company right here in St. Augustine!  Click for Buyer or for Seller and we can help!  

The Columbia 3050 vise that made life tough for a chinese-made lockbox

The Columbia 3050 vise that made life tough for a chinese-made lockbox

How Do I Make Repairs When I Don’t Have the Cash?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

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

How do you make repairs when you have no cash?

How do you make repairs when you have no cash?

So you’re selling your home.  The carpet is trashed.  It needs paint.  The windows…they’ve seen better days.

How do you make repairs when you don’t have the cash?

There may be other options but I will offer two.

The first is to replace the carpet via a 12-month no interest, no payment plan that some carpet retailers or home improvement stores offer.  You will have to have good credit to do this, obviously.  And you better sell the property before the carpet comes due, otherwise you’ll not only pay for the carpet but you’ll have to pay all the interest, too. 

The second option is to get estimates for the repairs to be done and offer that amount as a credit at closing.  You can do this if you have equity. 

If you don’t have equity and you don’t have credit, there’s not a lot you can do.  What you will have to do is sell at a somewhat discounted price, maybe at an even greater discount than if you were to offer a credit for repairs. 

The one repair that’s tricky to get around is if the roof needs done.  Sometimes a bank needs for the roof to have 3-5 years left of expected life in order to approve the financing.  If the roof is on its last legs then it may not get through financing, thus it will have to be repaired (or you have to hope a cash buyer comes along).  In these cases sometimes the buyer will front the repairs for a discount on the price.

Do you need a real estate team that can get your home sold?  Get the St. Augustine Team working for you…email us at, or visit the St. Augustine Team sellers page!

The Dumbest Realtor Ever, and How He Saved His Customer Thousands

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

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

The dumbest Realtor I ever met actually saved his customer thousands.

Take heart, these could be your Realtors

Take heart, these could be your Realtors

This was back in the day.  For reasons known only to me, I had accumulated about 20 vacant land listings in Flagler Estates. 

I was questioning my wisdom at the time.  Flagler Estates lots started selling in the early 1970s for about $5000.  At the time this story takes place (2004 or 2005), the lots were up to a whopping $10,000 and they were sloooooow sellers.

Then the market took off in Flagler Estates.  Literally out of nowhere.  Sure, it was part of the overall real estate boom, a time when even your average canine could secure a $500,000 loan with just a paw print.  But this was weird even for the boom.  Almost overnight, buyers (mostly from South Florida) were suddenly beating down the doors to buy vacant land in Flagler Estates.

My $10,000 slow sellers were suddenly very hot, and the price shot up to $20,000 in just a few weeks. 

One of the lots that I had under contract was with a Realtor out of Flagler Beach.  His buyer was his mother.  As it was one of the first lots that went under contract, the buyer secured a good price in a market that was rising fast.

But this Flagler Beach Realtor had a fatal flaw: he was Dumb. 

If you know anything about real estate you know that to make changes to a contract both sides have to agree to the change, and then the change has to be signed off on.  Keep this in mind for later.

So he calls me one day and leaves a message, “Hey man, this is ___________, we’re gonna change that closing date on the contract.  Just wanted to let you know.”

I’m like, “Ah, we didn’t agree to any change.”  So I call him and left a message to that effect.

A few days later he calls back, “Hey, just wanted to let you know I called the title company and told them about the change in the closing date.”  So I call and leave him a message back and say, “My seller didn’t agree to any change.”  Then I call the title company to confirm.  And they confirm there is no change because there is no agreement to do so.

So he calls me again and this time I pick up, because usually he calls in the middle of the night when no human being answers their phone (but I noticed the 386 area code).  And I tell him, there is no change.  My sellers don’t want to change the date.  Your buyer better show up at the appointed time. 

No the buyer doesn’t want to do that, they would rathers show up on this other date. 


So at 5 pm, close of business on the day of closing I call to confirm that the buyer never showed up (my sellers lived out of state and their paperwork was in already).  It was confirmed: the buyer never showed up.

So I called the sellers and told them, “Well the buyer never showed up for closing, but I think I can sell it for more if I make a few phone calls.”  So I made a single phone call, found a Realtor with a buyer who agreed to a price $7000 higher than the last one (this was a rising market after all), and we had the paperwork signed by the next morning. 

The Dumb Realtor went apesh*t when I called to tell him his deal was cancelled.  He went through the five stages of grief on the phone: denial, anger, incoherence, etc.  “What am I going to tell my customer?” he said three or four times.  I don’t know, man, tell her you’re stupid.

Then the Great Flagler Estates Land Boom faded as quickly as it started.  The lots got as high as $40,000s, but then the interest cooled and then disappeared altogether.  People that bought the lots to flip them suddenly found they had no one to sell them to.  And by then I was out of the Flagler Estates business, having sold all my lots.  The Flagler Estates real estate market quietly went back to normal. 

And so it turned out that this buyer with the Dumb Realtor actually ended up profiting by not getting the lot.  Had she succeeded she may have been stuck with a poor investment.  Instead she kept her money.

So the moral to this story is: If You Are Going to Make an Incompetent Real Estate Investment Decision, Hire an Incompetent Realtor, And The Two Will Cancel Out.

224 Brantley Harbor Drive, Reduced $10,000!

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

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

I am proud to announce that our home for sale at 224 Brantley Harbor Drive in St. Augustine has a NEW PRICE of $219,000!  This is a $10,000 reduction from the previous price. 

Talk about a house with ALL the bells and whistles. Built in 2006, this 3 bedroom, 3 bath home sits nicely on its lot and has over $75,000 of builder upgrades – from the gourmet kitchen with high end stainless appliances, to an extended size garage – no detail was missed. There is a huge amount of living space – formal living room, dining room, office and family room (could be used as a first floor bedroom), large breakfast area, loft PLUS the 3 bedrooms.

224 Brantley Harbor Drive, Home for Sale in St. Augustine

224 Brantley Harbor Drive, home for sale in St. Augustine, just reduced $10,000!

This home is a short sale and is back on the market after a previous buyer backed out.  We expect to have a more extensive library of video and photos in the coming week.

There is also a bonus for the community you live in.  When you purchase this home a portion of the sales proceeds with go to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of St. Johns County!

Vacant Land! We Got Vacant Land!

Monday, May 16th, 2011

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

132 E. Escambia, vacant land for sale.

132 E. Escambia, vacant land for sale.

We got vacant land: three new vacant land listings for sale!

132 E. Escambia in Palatka, Florida. This lot is over an acre and could be used for a nice retreat.  It’s a very quiet and serene place with an excellent price tag.  Just minutes outside Palatka, just south on 19 about 5 miles past Wal Mart. $10,500.

245 and 00 St. Johns Ave in Satsuma, FL.  These two adjacent lots are each available.  The first is a beautiful .97 acre parcel, the second is .93 acres.  Both are in the country, close to Crescent City, Bunnell, Flagler Beach and Palatka. Trail riding, water sports, hunting nearby. The buyer will need to install septic for waste and well for water. $20,000 for each of these lots.

801 Alicante Road in St. Augustine, Florida.  This beautiful corner lot is just waiting for a home in one of St. Augustine’s most popular and established neighborhoods: St. Augustine South.  Measuring 100 x 100, this lot is bigger than the average lot in the South, and close to the water as well.  $42,000.


St. Augustine Team Realty Opens Property Management Department

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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

St. Augustine Team Realty's Property Management Department is Now Open!

St. Augustine Team Realty's Property Management Department is Now Open!

St. Augustine Team Realty is proud to announce that we’ve opened a department just for property management.

Sean Hess, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty, is also the Property Manager.

We also do tenant placement for owners who would like to still manage the property but need help finding and screening a tenant.

Our commitment: the most rental income for our owners.  We do this better than any other company, large or small, regardless of market condtions.

We meet with each of our owners to help determine the best possible rent for their property.  We advertise the property, list it in the two largest MLS systems in the region, as well as syndicate it to all of our internet feeds that accept rentals.

We arrange all showings, screen all applicants, process the leases, security deposits and any advance rents, and do the walk throughs, all so you don’t have to.  

If you’d like to know more, please email us at or just call Sean at (904) 386-8327.

To Replace the Fridge or Not Replace the Fridge? That is the Question.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

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

To replace the fridge or not replace the fridge?

It depends, does it clash with your kitchen?  Does it not match the other appliances?  Is it very, very old and you can tell just by looking that it’s very, very old?  If so then replace it to match, or not clash, or just to update.

Nice appliances can sometimes help, but a sale always comes down to price.

Nice appliances can sometimes help, but a sale always comes down to price.

It terms of sales appliances are usually a non-issue.

For example, if you have stainless appliances that will not create a sale.  But if you have stainless appliances in a newer kitchen, the two together have a harmonious effect, create better ambiance…and that could lead to a sale. 

On the other hand, if you have a really nicely decorated interior, but your kitchen appliances are all dated, that can create a kind of negative ambiance.  We had a furnished condo for sale once that was beautifully decorated, nice dark leather furniture, elegant decor, very modern…with a robins egg blue kitchen and contractor-grade white appliances, topped by an old coil top stove.  It was just such a conflict of styles that it turned buyers off.   

But if you really want to know what turns buyers off…drumroll please…it’s a bad price.  Price is everything.  It’s a good price that will get them through the door and get them to buy.

Email the St. Augustine Team ( when you want to get buyers through the door…we promise we’re even better add than a new stainless fridge!

Why Bad Realtors Don’t Get Weeded Out.

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

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

Why bad real estate agents don’t get weeded out…

This struck me when attending a recent property management seminar.  The property managers were all on point, professional, asked good questions.  The property management field is highly regulated, highly structured, and the losers get weeded out fast.

Then there were the agents who were involved exclusively in sales (as I’ve always been).  There were several people in this group that seemed out to prove the saying, “There are no dumb questions, just dumb people who ask questions.” Many of these folks have been in the business for years.

So why don’t they get weeded out? Because sales agents are in…sales.  And that idiot at the other end of the line may just sell your listing.  Or has the listing that your buyers want to buy.  And you never get in the way of that. 

I simply can’t out a bad agent because that agent my boycott homes for sale.  But what I can do is make fun of them, leaving out their names of course.

Here’s a nearly verbatim conversation my partner Kate had with a hooter from Fleming Island a few weeks back:

Outing a bad realtor

New Listing for St. Johns / St. Augusine: 915 Brookhaven Drive

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

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

We are proud to announce that our “Mystery Listing” has been revealed!  It is 915 Brookhaven Drive in the St. Johns Golf and Country Club.

915 Brookhaven Drive, Home for Sale in St. Johns Golf and Country Club

915 Brookhaven Drive, Home for Sale in St. Johns Golf and Country Club

This extremely nice 4 bedroom / 2.5 bath home on a golf course lot boasts a large open ground floor with formal living and dining rooms as well as a family room opening up to screened porch.

A nicely upgraded kitchen includes granite counters, 42″ cabinets and a commercial-style gas range. All wet areas are tiled. All bedrooms are upstairs.

The large master bedroom features sitting room-slash-den area. Convenient location for access to both Jacksonville and St Augustine, this short sale home won’t last long. 

Click the image to get more info and to see a virtual tour. 

Please enjoy a video of the home below.

How Long Should a Broker Listing Agreement Last?

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

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

How long should a broker listing agreement last?

How long should a broker listing agreement last?

How long should a broker listing agreement last?

Well, ideally if the home is priced right it will be under contract in two or three weeks and sold no later than 90 days.  QED.

But in the real world many sellers want to “try it” at a price that it won’t sell at.  So Realtors have to build in time to the listing for market reality to sink in to thick skulls.

The typical listing is between six months and a year.  As a broker I look at days on market on other comparable sales and base it off that.  In other words, if it looks like all the comparables went under contract in about 90-100 days, then I’ll use a six month agreement, because you still have 40-60 days beyond the contract for financing, inspections and closing.  If it looks like a home will go beyond 180 days, I write it for a year for the same reason.

That being said, there are segments of homes and/or condos that have such a low buyer pool that they sit, and sit, and sit.  It could be that the homes are so unique that you can’t get a good feel for price at the start and you have to see how the buyer traffic reacts and then adjust price that way.  These homes typically compete with a lot of inventory as well.

For example, beachfront homes.  Everybody seems to think their beachfront home is worth over $1M.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a broken down ranch, a cube on stilts that looks like something the Borg in Star Trek dreamed up, or a genuine palace.  The upshot is that it’s pretty much a buyers market in that price range.  You may have 10 homes in that class for every buyer and maybe only 14 sales in  a year with an inventory of over 100.  There simply are not physically enough buyers to buy all the inventory.  These homes will sometimes see two year listing agrements.

So it gets down to pricing again.  Make it an appropriate price, but so it stands out from all the others as well.