Archive for August, 2014

4 Things A First Time Buyer Should Know

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

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

Home virgin? Here's some simple tips...

Home virgin? Here's some simple tips...

Home virgin? These four simple tips will make the process easier:

Number 1: You can’t lowball your dream home.

In my experience there is a whole subset of first time buyers who look and look and finally find that perfect home … then blow it because they make a lowball offer. In most cases this person has to go through the process of losing a home once or twice with lowball offers before they get it right.

You will have seen plenty of homes when you go to make your first offer. If the home is priced right, offer a fair price for it and get the home. Keep in mind that a fair price might be full price.

Number 2: There are closing costs associated with that loan.

Some first time buyers are so fixated on rate that they totally miss the closing costs on a loan. Then in the last days before closing they realize that they will need a few more $ thousand to close … this always throws the closing into turmoil.

It’s not that their lender didn’t level with them, it’s just that the buyers only saw “interest rate” and failed to take into account “APR,” which is the actual rate you pay when you combine the interest rate with the closing costs. Had they shopped APR instead of the published rate, there would have been no shock before closing.

So make sure you ask your lender to show you the APR when you are getting a good faith estimate. Ask how much the insurance, tax, and homeowner escrows will add to closing costs.

Number 3: Your monthly payment will include taxes, insurance, and possibly HOA or condo dues.

Like number two on this list, this is another example of a buyer focusing on the interest rate alone without looking beyond it, and another example of closing day sticker shock.

Taxes and insurance will typically add hundreds of $s to a monthly payment, as will HOA dues if the home is part of a homeowner’s association.

Ask your lender how much taxes, insurance, and association dues will add to your monthly payment.

Number 4: A closing date can be more of a suggestion than a hard and fast date.

Banks are getting better these days at hitting a closing date. But there are so many moving parts to a real estate transaction that a closing date is still more of a guideline than it is a hard and fast thing.

No matter how much you caution them, some first time buyers will schedule their lease to end on the same day as the contract closing date on their new home. And sometimes they spend a very frustrating night (or weekend) in a hotel while things grind along.

Always budget for some extra time (and money) in your closing window. If you close on time, great, you now have some time to paint, put in new flooring, and decorate without the stress and hassle of moving from one place to another in the same afternoon.

We definitely are NOT virgins when it comes to buying homes. We’ll respect you and help you through it. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

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. I love the 40-Year Old Virgin (buy it here at Amazon). But now that I’m in my 40s I find I can’t watch movies like this anymore. Why? Well, the kids have to be in bed before I can turn it on, and I have no energy to even watch a movie after the kids go to bed. I put in Silver Linings Playbook the other night and had to shut it off when the language got too hot … it was another five days before the kids were in bed AND I had the energy to watch it. But it was a great movie, I’m glad I was able to make the time.

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New Native Plant Garden. Part 1: Tarping For Wildflowers

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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

Native Florida Wildflower Prep

Native Florida Wildflower Prep

The new St. Augustine Team Florida wildflower project is underway. It was a really hot day but it went really easy.

For this yard I am going to use the wildflowers as a border between a regular yard and a conservation area. It will help define where the yard ends and the forest begins. The area was previously covered with weeds–which didn’t look bad to be honest–but the wildflowers will add a splash of color with the green of the weeds backing them up.

In the last wildflower garden the weeds intermingled with the flowers. Because it was a front yard garden I had to do periodic weeding. This one is a back yard garden so I’m not sure how much weeding I’ll actually do. It depends on how well the wildflowers establish themselves, how well they reseed themselves over the next two summers, and what types of weeds pop up in between.

How I did it:

I went out and bought some survey stakes from Home Depot, and two rolls of 55 gallon contractor garbage bags (for the tarp). Home Depot actually sold 100′ rolls of black tarp for around $100 but the garbage bags only cost $9.97 a roll … quite a savings. I only ended up using one roll of the bags anyway.

Back home I mowed the area where I wanted the wildflower garden. I used the scissors to cut each side of the bags, creating long, 3′ x 8′ black tarps. Other bags I cut to fill in the gaps.

I used the survey flags to pin down the tarps. The bright orange flags will make it easy to see where the tarp is pinned down when I go to remove it.

Now I leave the tarp in place for a month. The local wildflower experts recommend doing this in August when the sun is the hottest. The heat will kill the weeds beneath the tarp. When I remove the tarp I will do some basic tilling and then sow the wildflowers.

The last time I did this I tarped one area in early August (planting in September) and one in September (planting in October). For whatever reason the October version failed even though conditions seemed identical. Since I’m doing this in late August I’m crossing my fingers and plan to double up a bit on the seeding just in case.

Let us get you planted in a new home so you too can become a Florida “native!” Hire St. Augustine Team Realty! Contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate, or call (904) 377-2276.

Broker Sean Hess of St. Augustine Team Realty Takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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


My agent Amy Capo challenged me to do the ice bucket challenge.

What is the ice bucket challenge? Well the whole idea is to dump a bucket of icy water over your head. You film it and then post it on the internet. Then you make a donation to ALS ( to fight the disease ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).

The backstory: Pete Frate, a former captain of the baseball team at Boston College, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago. Frate is only 29.

You would think that in the years since Lou Gehrig (also a young man) died we would have found a cure. But there still is no cure.

So friends of Frate devised the ice bucket challenge as a way to increase awareness of ALS and help in raising donations to find a cure. And oh boy, did they ever raise awareness!

When ever I am directly involved in a sale I donate a portion of the gross commission to a charity, so when we sold a home on Drake Bay Terrace last week I made the donation ($42) to ALS. I figured it would get me out of any Ice Bucket Challenges.

Nope, I got challenged.

But being slicker than most I decided to go out on a bike ride on a hot day before I took the challenge. After all, nothing feels better on a hot body than cool water.

Well, I wasn’t as slick as I thought. Just look at my face on that video. OOOOH! THAT WAS COLD!

My kids were LOVING it!

Want a real estate agent who appreciates a (sometimes icy) challenge? You can contact me at the email above, or email my partner Kate Stevens. We can help!

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Should I List My Home With An Agent In My Own Neighborhood?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

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

Listing your home with an agent that lives in your own neighborhood is a bit like hiring a relative: they should work harder for you than anyone else, but things could go bad fast if they don’t.

My partner Kate Stevens and I walk you through it in the short video below.

Want a real estate agent who can get it done regardless of the neighborhood? You can contact me at the email above, or email my partner Kate Stevens. We can help!

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