Archive for October, 2013

St. Augustine Team Realtors Appointed to State Positions

Monday, October 28th, 2013

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

Barb Goll at a recent continuing ed class.

Barbara Goll at a recent continuing ed class.

As Broker of St. Augustine Team Realty I am proud to announce that three of our Realtors have been appointed to state positions with Florida Realtors.

Barbara Goll will be serving on five committees including the Resort and Second Home Specialist Forum, Key Contacts Subcommittee, and Realtor Party Involvement Committee.

Winston Burrell will be serving on three committees including the Professional Standards Forum, and (with Barb Goll) the Realtor Party Involvement Committee.

St. Augustine Team owner and partner Ron Barry will be serving on the state Multiple Listing Service Practices Forum.

Locally, Burrell has been elected as Treasurer for the St. Augustine / St. Johns County Board of Realtors Board of Directors.

Barry is continuing his second term on the board of the St. Augustine / St. Johns County Multiple Listing Service.

Ready to work with the best? Click on the links above or call (904) 386-8327.

Think Pink In October is a Huge Success

Friday, October 25th, 2013

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

Ron and Kathy Barry at Think Pink In October

Ron and Kathy Barry at Think Pink In October. Image by Abundant Life Photography

Ron Barry of St. Augustine Team Realty served as organizer for the recent Think Pink In October motorcycle ride and reports it was a big success.

“We had nearly 300 indivuidual motorcycles from all over the country,” Barry said, “with another hundred or so riders as passengers. We estimated that we had about 1000 people attend either on the bikes or at the festival after the ride.

“It was amazing,” Barry continued.  “The sheriffs department escorted the ride and they told me it was about seven miles long. You couldn’t see the front from the end, just bikes.”

The event included a band and DJ, a classic car show, a stunt motorcycle rider, a pink fire truck, carriage rides, a bounce house, food and vendors. Dozens of organizations helped sponsor the event, including St. Augustine Team Realty.

Barry reported wanted to thank all of the sponsors and volunteers, but especially wanted to single out the Flagler College women’s basketball team for their help, and to the Rio Grande Band, which filled in on short notice and was a big hit with the crowd.

The ride benefited Unity Outreach. Sisters Peggy Jones and Sherry Turner began Unity Outreach in 2006, two years after Sherry’s daughter Wendy Judeen Owens lost her battle with breast cancer.

All of the funds raised by Unity Outreach go St. Johns County cancer patients and their familier with the financial and emotional difficulties that come through dealing with breast cancer including co-pays, wigs, lymphedema, prosthesis, and other medical needs related to the disease. Visit for more info.

Ron Barry of St. Augustine Team Realty can be reached at or at (904) 386-8327.

Know A Deserving Kid? Help Us Make Their Halloween Special!

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

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

St. Augustine Team's 2013 Halloween Bucket Giveaway

St. Augustine Team's 2013 Halloween Bucket Giveaway

Know a deserving kid?

St. Augustine Team Realty wants to make sure they have a great Halloween this year by giving them a free Halloween pumpkin (pre-loaded with candy, of course)!

What constitutes a deserving kid?

All kids are deserving in our opinion, but especially ones that might miss out on Halloween this year.

Parents just need to give me a call at (904) 386-8327 and I’ll get one ready to pick up.  St. Augustine Team Realty is located at 2746 U.S. 1 South in the Southgate Square plaza.  Parents can also e-mail me at

Have a Happy Halloween!

Winston Burrell Joins St. Augustine Team Realty

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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

Winston Burrell

Winston Burrell

As Broker of St. Augustine Team Realty I am proud to announce that Winston Burrell has joined our sales team.

In the St. Augustine real estate market since 2005, Winston Burrell is known for his work ethic and sterling reputation. In addition to his duties as a Realtor, Winston serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Augustine / St. Johns County Board of Realtors as its Treasurer. He also serves at the state level on four committees, including the Professional Standards Forum for the Florida Association of Realtors. He is a former publisher of five Key West, Florida, community newspapapers, as well having positions at six other papers over a 30 year career.

“I have had the privilege of working with Sean Hess, Kate Stevens and Ron Barry for several years,” Burrell wrote in his bio, “and admired their work ethics. Since forming St. Augustine Team Realty, I have followed their business model. I am excited to be selected as one of their associates and working within the team concept they have established.”

Winston may be reached at (904) 669-6585 or via email at Click Here to find out more about Winston.

There Is Just No Freaking End To Real Estate Websites: Searching For Listings Online

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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

Is this home for sale or not?!

Is this home for sale or not?

Go to Google and punch in “[the name of your city] homes for sale.” There is just no freaking end to the number of websites that pop up. There are spammer sites, scraper sties, aggregator sites, agent sites, company sites, and legit sites that will pop up on a basic search.

Further down I’ll talk about freaking yourself out when you punch your own address in.

So where do you look? And where can you trust the data?

I would start at first. I don’t just say that because I’m a Realtor. I don’t particularly even like But is generally the most accurate and up to date site that exists.


Realtors have this thing called the “Multiple Listing Service,” which you probably know as the “MLS.”

A Multiple Listing Service is basically a cooperative. All of the Realtors in a given location put their listings on the MLS for their area. This allows you, the buyer, one stop shopping. You can go to a Realtor, see all of the houses that you want to see—regardless of who has them listed—and make an offer on the one you want.

Back in the old days you had to drive around, stop at each real estate company, see what listings they had, and if you didn’t like them you’d have to drive to the next real estate company. The only other option was to hope you’d be lucky enough to stumble on your dream home in a newspaper ad or while driving around. is the public’s way of seeing the live MLS. Since pulls directly from MLS systems, the listings are the most accurate that you will find on the internet.

Now here’s the disclaimer about While the name “” is owned by the National Association of Realtors, the actual website has been farmed out to some third world company (my opinion). This third world provider seems more concerned about selling advertising to the Realtors than making it the best real estate search engine for buyers (again, my opinion).

If you are Realtor that means even though your listings are there, they may get pushed to the bottom of searches unless you pay some pretty hefty fees to get them pushed back up.

The lesson for you, the consumer, is to hunt though all the pages until you find the homes you are looking for. Chances are that the homes that come up first paid to be there, and may not be the best fit for your search.

Is Zillow Accurate?

Buyers love Zillow because it gives them a sense of empowerment in the often very confusing world of real estate. That’s a good thing.

Zillow also gives the consumer a very broad idea of pricing in a particular neighborhood. That’s also a good thing.

But Zillow becomes a bad thing is when a buyer relies on to make an offer, or when sellers use it to price their house.

Let me define a very broad pricing in this way.

Somebody once asked a wedding guest if the 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.

All Real Estate Is Local

All real estate is local. That’s a truism.

Even though two homes were built in the same neighborhood at the same time by similar companies, they still might price out differently.

Zillow’s computer is going to put a price on those two homes that is very similar.

But a real estate pro who has seen those two homes, and all the homes for sale in a neighborhood over a period of years, who has seen how they show to real people in real time, and who knows the difference between what a home is worth on paper compared to what someone will actually pay for it, is going to know more about pricing than a Zillow zestimate.

Sorry, that’s just the truth.

It’s the same reason why most banks don’t rely on computerized pricing for loans and refinancing (they did before the housing crash…lesson learned). They send a real live appraiser out to physically inspect the property instead.

Getting Zillow (and Trulia, and the Rest) to Work for You

So how do you use Zillow (and Trulia and all the rest) to work for you?

I actually think all of the online estimators are great programs for just educating yourself. Zillow’s zestimates are accurate in a broad sense (for example, to find out that a certain neighborhood is in the $200,000 range, though the houses might actually sell between $170,000 and $230,000, depending), which at least gives you an idea of what it might cost to move there.

And Trulia has a really great Q&A section where buyers post questions and real estate professionals from around the country answer them.

The negatives to Zillow, Trulia, RealtyTrac, and the others* is that the information about the homes actually for sale can often be inaccurate. Homes that appear to be for sale aren’t actually for sale. Homes that were for sale but aren’t anymore still appear to be available. Homes that are in the very first stages of foreclosure are listed as foreclosure sales.

Freak Yourself Out: Type Your Home Address Into Google

Do this for an exercise. Type your home address into Google.

Do links to Zillow and Trulia appear for your address? Do strange websites you’ve never heard of appear? Thought so. Even though your home isn’t for sale? It’s not showing for sale, is it?

If your home is for sale is the information accurate? Is your listing agent’s name there? Look closely now, is it in there somewhere, buried in the fine print?

Did you just sell your home? Is it still showing as for sale?

Well, that’s my point. You really have to take the homes you find on these sites with a grain of salt.

Not every home is for sale. In fact most of the homes (look closely at the “listings” you see) aren’t for sale. But these engines use real addresses to lure you in.

I just punched my home address into Google and a link to Zillow popped up for it. Zillow has already assigned it a value. They’ve assigned a value to every home on the block (and the next block, and the next block…). And they’ve never even been inside.

Seriously? I can’t even do that and I’m in real estate and I live on the street! I have to look at the inside and outside of a home in person to see what condition it is in before I could ever hope of assigning it a value. Heck, I have to see what condition the neighbor’s home is in (on the exterior anyway…trust me, it matters) to place a value on it.

Here’s what you need to know: like, Zillow and all of these other sites are essentially platforms that exist to sell advertising to Realtors.

You go to the site hoping to find a home and some Realtor pays to have his or her picture on the sidebar, hoping you will think they are the listing agent. They hope you will contact them about buying the home, and if not that home, another home.

One of the search engine results that came up when I did a Google search for my own address had a picture of a different house two doors down that sold last year. Next to it were three head shots of local Realtors (one of them had 39 reviews…he must be good!). There was no mention of the Realtor that actually sold the home, even though they were using his watermarked images from the MLS and what was obviously his ad copy.

The Zillow zestimate for the property was $156,000. This home sold for $161,000 a year ago. There’s less inventory now, the home is in good shape and has a big yard so it should sell today for around $170,000. If you used Zillow to make an offer on a home like this it would leave you flat footed.

Press Here For Correct Information

Then the capper…

Underneath the watermarked image there was a button for “Correct Home Facts.”


They can’t put the correct home facts in the display?

What information are they displaying? The “Incorrect Home Facts?”

You can’t make this stuff up.

So by all means, use Zillow and the rest, but when you want the most up to date information online use

Later, when I get to the section on picking a Realtor, I’ll show you how to get the most up-to-the-minute accurate info from your agent.

*While I was writing this I got an email from a buyer interested in a home of mine that sold nearly four months ago. He found the home on a site called I’m not sure how got my listing but as you now know, the listing was already sold. On the email there was a link for “Home not for sale anymore?” And I’m thinking to myself, “If they want to advertise my homes shouldn’t they be able to figure that out themselves?”

So You’re Telling This Great Cheap Listing I Found Online Is Bogus?

The homes I list for sale end up on host of legitimate websites on purpose.

Most, if not all, of these listings get scraped off the legitimate sites and re-posted somewhere else. These fake sites are usually set up by someone trying to steal (is that too strong a word?) buyer leads and then sell them back to Realtors.

Sometimes the websites I syndicate to don’t do a good job keeping things current. When this happens I (or one of the agencies I use to syndicate through) may drop the website. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about bad information after the fact, and there’s nothing you can do about it either.

You are going to find a lot of old listings and bad data when you goldmine for homes online.

It’s like luggage stored in the closet, those things are going to be there forever.

Once you understand that you are cool.

Ready to see what’s REALLY for sale on MLS? Email my partner Kate Stevens at or call me at (904) 386-8327.

All images, video and audio not in the public domain are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17–United States Code–Section 107) and remain the property of the film or photo copyright owners.  Look, I love the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, but please, can we have another Next Generation movie? Patrick Stewart has been off the bridge for way too long. Even seeing him in an internet meme is inspiring.

The 3 Real Estate Apps I Deleted from My Phone. Oh Heck, Make it 5.

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

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

I love this image (my sister is a flight attendant). Get over and buy one of their T-shirts at or contact

I love this image (my sister is a flight attendant). Get over and buy one of their T-shirts at or contact

Real estate websites like, Zillow, and Trulia all have apps. As a real estate broker I see real estate agents carrying around apps from Smarter Agent and Homesnap.

So are any of these any good?

My two cents: If your driving around using one of these apps you must be going crazy.

There is a lot of conflicting information, and there are so many homes for sale that are missing.

The app…the only one that should feed directly from the MLS systems (and therefore should be the most accurate) is missing at least eight homes for sale in my neighborhood.*

All eight were on the website.

None, not a single one, showed up on the app.


Zillow’s app actually had five of the eight homes that the app was missing.

Dare I say that Zillow was actually somewhat useful?

But there are also a few “pre-foreclosures” that Zillow listed as red herrings.

You can’t buy a pre-foreclosure unless the owner has it listed for sale, and if it is “for sale” it should show up as “for sale.” Otherwise the actual foreclosure action might be two years down the road. That’s not going to help your home search.

Trulia’s app had two of the eight homes available showing. Yawn.

Homesnap is an app that’s currently hot among real estate agents. Basically it claims that you can take an image of any home for sale and it will “reveal” everything about it to you. You have to enable the GPS on your phone to use it.

I turned on my GPS and took it down the street to try it out.

The Homesnap app couldn’t differentiate between four houses for sale on the same block. Instead it showed a map with four different prices and I had to choose which house it was. I knew the price of the home I was looking at and none of the four offerings was the right home.

But, at least it had four homes, unlike

Obviously Homesnap is just trying to mesh your GPS location with real estate data it’s getting from somewhere.

If it was actually trying to compare the image I took and an actual image of a home for sale it wasn’t doing a great job.

The test home wasn’t brand new, either: it had been on the market for over 60 days.

The last app I checked was Smarter Agent.

Smarter Agent reps try to sell local real estate companies and agents “territories” on their app, so it is popular with agents. When you pull up the search screen you see a banner ad with a local company or agent that doesn’t go away.

Smarter Agent came into our market a while back and tried to pitch us on the idea of branding ourselves on the app and then pushing it to our customers. To me that sounded as bad as telemarketing.

Smarter Agent showed only two of the eight available homes for sale in my test sample. I deleted it off my phone (along with Trulia and Homesnap) as soon as I was done testing it.

Quite honestly I should delete Zillow and too.

You can’t rely on these apps.  I can’t rely on these apps. These apps miss a lot of homes for sale.

Thank God I’m a Realtor…I can see everything that’s for sale. Maybe you should hire one, too.

*I did my search at 11 am on September 27, 2013. The houses I based my search on were on Winterhawk Drive/Court (1068, 1250 S, 1239 S, 1270, 1156) along with numbers 3709, 3713, and 3733 Arrowhead Drive, all listed as active and available for sale that morning in the St. Augustine / St. Johns County MLS.

Ready to see EVERYTHING on MLS? Email my partner Kate Stevens at or call (904) 386-8327.

How Do You Know When To Buy New Construction?

Friday, October 4th, 2013

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

Are you looking for a new home?

I’m not handy. That’s why I bought new construction this summer. If you’re not handy either, new construction may just be the thing you are looking for.

My partner Kate Stevens and I did a short video on the subject below:

Do you need help finding your next house? Email Kate at or call (904) 386-8327. 

Find Sean on Google+.