Archive for November, 2014

Holiday Happenings In St. Augustine 2014

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Christmas in St. Augustine

Christmas in St. Augustine

The Holidays are here and there are dozens of things going on in St. Augustine between now and New Years. Here are a few of my favorites…

If you are looking for some cool toys for the kids this year, head on down to Olde Towne Toys at 113 King Street, a half block west of the post office downtown between Riberia and ML King. This place has all the fun stuff like Playmobil and Thomas the Train Engine, magic tricks and science experiments, games, toys, and outdoor stuff that you won’t find anywhere else. We need this business in our town. Please support it this Holiday season! FYI: Parking looks tight in the front, but there are spaces on the side of the building and behind.

Click here to see homes in St. Augustine’s Lincolnville neighborhood, just south of King Street.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse’s Luminary Night is Wednesday, December 3rd between 6-9 p.m. If the Lighthouse isn’t beautiful enough by day, it gets even prettier at night when surrounded by hundreds of glowing luminaries. There’s live music performed by local choirs and ensembles, warm hot chocolate, crafts for the kids, and you can even climb the light at night, which is amazing if you’ve never done it. The last few years they’ve even had Santa. As it’s on a Wednesday night this is almost exclusively a local’s event and a place to let your hair down a bit. Best of all, admission is free. FYI: This is a great place to find an “only from St. Augustine” gift.

Click here to see homes in neighborhoods near the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

An event I stumbled on to a few years back that is really cool: The British Night Watch and Grand Illumination (8pm on Saturday, December 6th). Reenactors dressed as British soldiers, complete with fife and drum corps and led by torch bearers, fire a salute and then march around the plaza and then up the length of St. George Street. As a member of the crowd you can fall in behind the soldiers and follow along. It’s a little late but the kids love all the pageantry and, of course, running around the plaza at night. FYI: Many people carry a candle (that’s the “Grand Illumination” part). In past years I’ve seen people selling candles, and some years people just handed them to us!

The Garden Club of St. Augustine’s Christmas Tour of Homes is a low key event where you can see some of the Historic District’s prettiest homes all dressed up for the Holidays. This is really a couples or parents event: Get the kids a sitter for this one and have fun looking. This year’s event will be held Sunday, December 7th, from noon to 5 p.m. FYI: Tickets for this routinely sell out so it’s not too early to buy.

Click here to see homes in neighborhoods around St. Augustine’s Historic District.

The Bed & Breakfast Holiday Tour is an amped up tour of St. Augustine’s best B&Bs. Spread over two days (Saturday, December 13th, and Sunday, December 14th, from 1-5 p.m. this year), the event features the inns macked out for the Holidays replete with samples of great food from local restaurants along with live music. If you’ve ever wondered what these places look like on the inside, it’s a great opportunity to check them out in style. Like the Garden Tour of Homes, this is a couples and parents event, so get a sitter and enjoy the two days. FYI: Even though they try to keep the inns grouped close together each day, there is still a lot of walking. Also, word travels fast about which caterer is where, and the best food sees big crowds.

A December to Remember (Presented by Community First Credit Union) at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. This is not one event but a series of events spread out over the month of December. This year there are free movies (It’s a Wonderful Life) and a free holiday concert with the Manhattan Transfer. It hasn’t opened as of this writing, but at last year’s events they had an elf village for the kids to play in (as well as a train ride and bounce houses), Santa visits, s’mores and hot cocoa in the fire pit close to the stage, and of course, great entertainment. There’s lots of things going on during the month and everything is truly good for all ages. FYI: Nearly every event is free. The only ticketed event I’ve seen is the Hall & Oates concert on December 6th.

Click here to see homes in neighborhoods near the St. Augustine Amphitheater and the St. Augustine Pier.

Start the New Year off right with carnival food, live music, and fireworks at the Beach Blast Off at The St. Augustine Pier. The event is located in the parking lot at the pier, and runs from 4-10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, December 31st. Fireworks go off from 8:30-9 p.m. This is really a fun event and it’s early enough for the kiddos to get some New Year’s cheer before the ball drops at midnight. FYI: You can’t park at the pier (obviously), and many of the roads will be closed, but free shuttles run from various locations during the event. Check the website for details.

Have a Very, Merry Christmas from St. Augustine Team! Questions about any of the neighborhoods we have listed with these events? Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

Can You Buy a Home with Bitcoin?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Bitcoin, Image from wikipedia.

Bitcoin (image from Wikipedia)

I was recently invited to a seminar on Bitcoin at the Federal Reserve in Jacksonville, Florida. The speaker was David Andolfatto, Vice President and Economist for the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. It got me to thinking…

Can you buy a home with Bitcoin?

And the answer: Yes you can!

Actually, you can buy a home with anything. If you want to trade a classic car (or cars) for a home you can.

Let’s say there’s a home worth $100,000, and you and the seller agree to trade 33 bitcoins for it. You can do that.

I talked with Stephen Collins at Land Title of America in St. Augustine about this. As he explained it to me, on the settlement statement you have a credit on one side for $100,000, and a debit on the other side for $100,000. However, there are closing costs that go with any transaction, and those have to be paid with cash money.

For example, in order for the Clerk of Courts to record the deed, those fees need to be paid in US dollars. So either the seller or the buyer in this transaction has to pay that closing cost. If there is title insurance issued, that will have to be paid as cash out of someone’s pocket as well.

The trickier issue is the mechanism that actually compels the seller to sell.

In a normal cash transaction a title company or closing attorney holds the buyer’s cash in escrow until the seller signs off on the deed. When the seller signs off then, and only then, is the cash transferred.

In a bitcoin transaction, the bitcoin is transferred outside of the real estate closing. You take it from your bitcoin wallet and a miner transfers it to another bitcoin wallet, and the blockchain exists to verify that. Once that’s done, however, the seller (who now has your bitcoin) still has to sign off on the physical deed and it has to be recorded.

In the real world, if I decide to trade some classic cars for a home, and I deliver those cars to the seller, and he doesn’t sign off on the deed, I can take him to court and the court can compel him to give the cars back to the point where the local police can seize the cars with a court order.

Even if the medium is electronic in nature, say stocks or bonds that are stored electronically with a broker, a court can seize those financial items and deliver them back to the buyer if the seller doesn’t deliver.

Bitcoin on the other hand … while a court could compel a seller who didn’t deliver the deed to return the bitcoin to a buyer … the very nature of bitcoin would preclude it from being seized. The court would have to almost hold the seller in contempt and jail him or her to get the bitcoin returned.

To lower the risk in a transaction it might be better to sell the bitcoin for cash, and then have the title company or closing attorney hold the cash in escrow until the seller signs the deed.

Alternatively, a savvy title company or closing attorney could act as miner for the bitcoin transaction, and only mine it once the seller has signed.

My guess is you aren’t going to find many of those. It’s my understanding that the miners have to have some mathematical and programming skill to mine a bitcoin transaction … that’s not the big deal as such. The big deal is that such transactions are going to be vary rare. So even in a big market like Miami or New York, where a bitcoin transaction is going to be more likely just based on the population and outside interest, cash transactions are still going to be the large majority. So you either have to have a miner you trust working on a per transaction basis, or somebody already in house that can learn to mine.

One last thing: In the United States, the IRS classifies bitcoin as property (not currency).  So if you earn 33 bitcoins as miner, and then trade them for an $100,000 house, the IRS may consider that $100,000 a capital gain. Since there will be taxes on that capital gain, you need to be prepared to pay those taxes.

Considering a transaction in Bitcoin? Straight up: We’ve never done one. But we are willing to learn. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

 

Condos for Sale in The Greens, St. Augustine, Florida

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Palm Trees and Blue Skies at The Greens Condos, St. Augustine, Florida

Palm Trees and Blue Skies at The Greens Condos, St. Augustine, Florida

The Greens (including The Greens II) is a quiet neighborhood of just over 230 condos located in St Augustine, Florida. The Greens include two and three bedroom units, and each unit is only one story (even though each building has two stories). Thus, if you don’t like climbing stairs the first floor units are what you are looking for. The benefit to climbing stairs is that the second floor units have cathedral ceilings, which makes each unit feel larger.

The neighborhood is tucked away within the community of St. Augustine Shores, and some of the units front the St. Augustine Shores Golf Club. Golfers and non-golfers alike enjoy living at The Greens because of its wonderful setting and its community pool. Greens is close to the best shopping and restaurants in St. Augustine, is very close to the Mayo Clinic, and is an easy drive to the beach. Parking is ample, and there are assigned spaces for residents as well as guest parking.

Click Here to see condos currently available in The Greens and The Greens II.

We can help you find a home in The Greens. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

Can I Sell a Home That Needs Repairs?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Can you sell a home that needs repairs?

Of course you can!

Two things, however.

Number one: If the home needs extensive repairs, or even a new roof (and you can’t afford to put on a roof), you may only be able to sell the home for cash. Why? Well, a bank won’t lend on a home and insurance companies won’t insure a home that needs extensive repairs (even if it’s just a bad roof). So a cash buyer is your only option.

Number two: If it’s just more aesthetic repairs (cracked tile or grout, leaky faucets, etc.), you won’t have any problem with loans or insurance. But if you don’t make the repairs you are going to sell at a lower price.

My partner and fellow Broker, Kate Stevens, break it down for you in the video below:

We can help you navigate repairs when you go to sell. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

Conquistador Condo Search, St. Augustine

Friday, November 14th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Water view at Conquistador Condos, St Augustine

Water view at Conquistador Condos, St Augustine

Conquistador Condos is one of St. Augustine’s best kept secrets. Tucked away on the Intracoastal behind St. Augustine Shores … if no one tells you it’s there, you don’t know it exists. It has a small-town feel, which is unusual for a condominium, and it is wonderfully, blessedly quiet.

They have three pools (one is heated for year round use), and the community is located on 56 acres (which, again, is on the Intracoastal Waterway). There are plenty of waterfront condos, but every resident can use the waterfront and see the boats sail by. Best of all each building is no higher than two stories, and has no more than four units. The trees make it hard to see neighboring buildings and there’s ample parking.

Click here to see condos currently available in Conquistador.

Let us help you find a home in Conquistador. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

Search for Homes in Gamble Rogers School District

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

Sunset soccer at Gamble Rogers

Sunset soccer at Gamble Rogers

One of the great things I get to do is coach soccer at the U-10 level. I can’t tell you how much fun I am having doing it.

Anyway, between practices and games, I am at Gamble Rogers Middle School at least three times a week. Gamble Rogers is where the soccer fields are and where the games are held. By my count there are eleven or twelve total pitches there, ranging from U-6 to a full-size field with prescription athletic turf.

I am lucky enough to live nearby, and if we stay where we are at, my kids will eventually attend Gamble as students.

Your kids can attend Gamble too. The current school zoning ranges from posh oceanfront homes and condos at the beach, all the way out to the farmland surrounding Hastings, to the winding streets and stucco homes of lovely suburbia where I live. It’s a truly all-encompassing district. Click here to see homes for sale in the Gamble Rogers Middle School district.

Let us help you find a house in the Gamble district. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.

 

FHA: The Loan of First Resort

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.

FHA: The Loan of First Resort

FHA: The Loan of First Resort

I was on long drive recently and stumbled on a show answering real estate questions.

Anyway, the idiot answering these questions glibly called the FHA “the loan of last resort.” And I started yelling back at the radio, “What the [expletive deleted] are you talking about?”

This on the heels of a good friend calling me up a few weeks back and asking if the FHA was a “bad” loan. I said, “No, it’s an awesome loan!” Where this bad information is coming from I have no idea.

The FHA is a government backed loan. It’s a great loan because it has a low down payment requirement (3.5% of the purchase price). So if you’re just starting out and are looking to buy a house, and you have very little to put down, the FHA is for you. Far from being the loan of last resort, the FHA is the loan of “first resort” because so many first time buyers use it.

The buyer using an FHA loan must put that 3.5% into the purchase of the home. However, that 3.5% can include closing costs. So if the closing costs and the down payment combined exceed 3.5%, some lenders will even allow the buyer to roll the extra closing costs into the loan.

Paying Money to Get Money

If you know anything about loans, you know that if you put less than 20% down you have to pay something called PMI, which stands for “private mortgage insurance.”

The FHA does not have PMI, instead it has something similar called a “mortgage insurance premium” (or MIP).

MIP for an FHA loan will run .5-.55% of the loan amount. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say the MPI is .5% and the loan amount is $180,000. The MPI every year will be $900 ($900 is .5% of $180,000). The bank will divide this into each monthly payment, thus you will end up with $75 more tacked on your payment each month (along with the tax and insurance escrows that are a part of any loan payment).

There’s also an FHA “funding fee” (sometimes called a “guarantee fee”) equal to 1.75% of the loan amount at closing.

So let’s take that FHA loan of $180,000 again. It will include an extra $3,150 in closing costs as the “funding fee,” and an additional $75  tacked on to your monthly payment for the MIP.

Maybe this is why some people think this is a “bad” loan.

Yes, you do have the funding fee.

But remember, you only have to put down 3.5%!

Sure, if you have 20% down, you can avoid the funding fee. And if you can swing a conventional loan without 20% down, you’ll avoid the funding fee as well.

But if you put down less than 20%, even with a conventional loan, you’ll still have PMI (which is nearly the same as MIP).

Even if you can afford a higher down payment, by going FHA you can keep more of your hard-earned money in the bank as a reserve and you won’t be so cash strapped going into your first house. As you settle in and start earning and saving, as well as building equity, you can refinance the house down the line and jettison the MIP.

So if you’re a first time buyer but don’t have a lot in the bank, the FHA is an excellent option for getting into your first house. It’s certainly not a bad loan, and not a loan of last resort.

We can help you find a house if you are using FHA. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

Yes, we know Google killed Authorship, but the best minds say Big G still looks at the code. So here it is.