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Emerald Coast Real Estate Update

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Oct. 21, 2014

Portofino is all about the view

View of Pensacola Bay from Pensacola BeachPortofino Resort Condominiums come in two and three bedroom floor-plans, but views can vary significantly. It can get a little tricky depending on the view you desire since not all condos are for sale.

Remember other towers can interfere with your view but a knowledgeable real estate professional that understands the geometry of each tower can save you a lot of frustration.

The two bedroom condo I am photographing today, unit 708, is in Tower IV and faces northwest.

The view is from West to North standing on the balcony, and in this instance the view is unobstructed by any of the other Portofino towers.

West view from Portofino 708 Tower II

Portofino is the quintessential Pensacola Beach resort condominium with dramatic water views in every home and exceptional amenities that are not found in other complexes in this area.

Condo unit 708 is currently for sale and interested buyers can contact Kim Gibbons, Broker at Emerald Coast Realty in Pensacola, FL (850) 912-9826 to arrange a viewing.

Posted in Pensacola Beach
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Oct. 20, 2014

Photo shoot at 8017 Virginia Ln in Milton, FL

Today I photographed a waterfront home in lower Milton, FL  at 8017 Virginia Lane. This property is ideal for the sportsman that wants direct access to Blackwater Bay the Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve from a private canal.

Milton FL waterfront property.
The house has a boat lift and pier, which allows you to walk out your back door directly to your boat.  What a great location for fishing or boating enthusiasts, all just five minutes from Interstate10.

What I found most appealing was how quite this location is, and the sound of birds in a serene pine forest setting was most relaxing.

The house is elevated and has three bed rooms, two bath rooms with decks to enjoy the woodland setting, and the master bed room even has a private deck.

Elevated waterfront home for sale in Milton, FL

You can see the photos I took at 8017 Virginia Lane and the Youtube video gallery I created.

This home is currently for sale, to get more details about this house call Kim Gibbons, Broker at Emerald Coast Realty in Pensacola, (850) 437-5618.

Posted in Milton, FL
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Oct. 11, 2014

Buying a home - First Steps First

Home Buying Tips

As we have all heard many times, buying a home is the single biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime. If you do not choose wisely, you will likely go through some troubles before you find the one house that makes you happy to wake up every morning. Here are some tips to help you take the right steps to buying property.

1. First, and probably the most important - Choose the right agent to help you with the purchase. You will be spending a lot of time in this relationship, and it is vital that you trust your agent completely. Interview more than one. Be sure the agent is full time in real estate, not a part-time dabbler. Choose an experienced agent that has been in the business a long time, and one that knows the area like the palm of their hand. CHECK REFERENCES!

2. Choose the right lender and get pre-approved! Ask your Realtor for advice with a lender. Most agents and agencies have a list of preferred lenders that can stream-line and close the loan, and do not add on any extra fees that are unnecessary. If the interest rate does not sound right to you, get a second quote.

3. Know and keep your Credit Score up. This one thing can save or cost you thousands of dollars over the course of a thirty-year loan. Even a few points on the percentage rate will make a big difference in the total amount you will pay. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate will be. A good mortgage professional can help you with tips to do this. Lower your debt, pay your bills on time, and do not apply for new credit for months before you buy a home.

4. Get a pre-approval letter. You should know exactly how much home you can afford before you start looking at properties. Nothing is more disappointing than finding a home you love, only to learn that the payments are way out of your price range. It also gives you an edge when you do find one and make an offer. Many sellers will not even look at an offer without a pre-approval letter.

5. Keep your bills low and try to have some savings or an emergency fund. Not only will it help your credit score, but it can make a big difference when unexpected expenses pop up. A leaky roof, storm damage, even a car accident can put you in a real bind when you have a mortgage payment to keep up.

6. Get a total of the estimated closing costs, prepaid expenses and how much you need to save for a down payment.  Depending on the type of loan you qualify for you will probably need between 3.5% to 10% down and closing costs can typically run anywhere from $1,200-$3,000 or more. Your prepaid taxes and insurance and funds to set up your escrow account will add to the amount you will need to have on hand for closing.  Even buyers that qualify for VA loans have closing costs.  Having this information will avoid problems at the closing table, and if you can put a little more down, it will keep your payments easier to maintain.

These tips can make buying a home fun and exciting, and help keep you from making an expensive mistake. When you find the right agent, listen to his or her advice and do not let emotions overrule common sense. The best agents have YOUR best interests in mind and will be your advocate in the search for your perfect dream home. We would love to be your advocate!

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Oct. 6, 2014

Navarre Beach Property Taxes and Land Ownership

In 1947, the Department of Interior relinquished the portion of Santa Rosa Island (Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach) back to Escambia County. Subsequently, in 1956 Escambia County began leasing Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa County for a period 99 years.

Navarre Beach homes and condos

Ever since 1947, the beach residents paid no property taxes to the respective counties. This all changed on March 20, 2014 when the Florida State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that both condo and house owners in Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach were subject to county property taxes. There were several attempts to appeal, but the decision to tax prevailed.

Congress has passed legislation in the House of Representatives and now requires approval by the Senate before the way will be clear for leaseholders in Navarre Beach fee simple title to their property (this would also apply to Pensacola Beach).

Fee simple title would alleviate the apprehension that some prospective buyers have about buying lease property on the beach. While the sale of leasehold property is not an uncommon practice, most properties sold in this country are fee simple not leasehold. This change will also in some cases make it easier to secure a loan to purchase a property there.

Posted in Navarre Beach
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Sept. 26, 2014

Maximize Your Home-Buying Power

Maximizing Affordability and Home Buying Power

As the real estate market has largely normalized after the last decade's crash, home sales have increased. New construction has started again and prices on existing property are getting back to the levels before the boom, if not higher. Foreclosures are no longer the best way to get a deal, and are even rare in some places. So what should you do to get the most home for the money now?

When the bubble burst back in the mid 2000's, the first areas to be hit were outside of the major cities. During the growth spurt, builders ran out of places to build in Pensacola. So they had moved out of the cities, marching further and further away to build new subdivisions with high-medium to very high-priced homes with their own amenities. Golf course developments, communities near equine facilities, and finally just agricultural areas provided developers with space to build exceptional homes with community pools, clubhouses, and parks.

Buyers seemed to jump on the chance to own a home that was really more than they could afford, but the banks were handing out mortgage loans to anybody at the many took the leap and the chance to live large or buy at pre-construction prices and re-sell for even more.

When it all came to a grinding halt, the trouble began. Those who had previous homes for sale couldn't sell them. Speculators who bought above their means to flip and make quick and easy money were caught with property they couldn't flip and bank notes coming due. Jobs started to suffer, which made it even harder for the new buyers to make the higher house payments.

While there will always be a market for beach property or ritzy downtown condos, it is not so when it comes to communities that are 10 or 20 miles from the business office and commuting prices are even higher. These beautiful suburban neighborhoods often were the first to suffer from foreclosures and short sales. Home prices fell like bricks, and what was a coveted luxury property ended up as a reduced-price white elephant.

The first to fall has become of the first to recover, with prices lower and mortgage loans still manageable. Down payment percentages might be higher, but the price can be half of the original, so the requirements are still about the same. Rates are still extremely low, payments are more reasonable, and buying a home outside of the city or the beach is proving to be an easy way to have the home you've always wanted. Take a look at the communities of:
Gulf BreezePace, West Pensacola, Beulah, and  Northeast Pensacola.

During the boom, builders were swamped. Supply versus demand allowed builders to increase their prices while developers designed higher-end homes to cover the higher costs of building. New home prices got higher and higher, especially near the beach or inside the city limits. Existing home prices were high, but not in the price range of the new ones. When the crash came, many half-built subdivisions and homes were left unfinished, or developing plans had to be scrapped and left to wait for better times.

Well, better times are coming back, and new subdivisions are actively under construction. If you're in the market to choose your lot, choose your home style, choose your interiors, and live in a brand new house - this is the time to do it. We can direct you to new developments in the suburbs. You won't be plagued with replacing the roof or decaying wood, an old air conditioning system going out, or even replacing old appliances. Choose an inexpensive new subdivision or a lavish lifestyle community. Buying a new or resale home in the suburbs is now not only possible, but may possibly be the best investment you can make!

For more information about buying a home in or around the Pensacola area, browse around our website or give us a call. We're here to find the perfect home for you!

Posted in Real Estate News
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Sept. 26, 2014

All About Florida USDA Loans

Florida USDA Loan Approval

When buying real estate, one of the best ways to save money on a mortgage is the often overlooked USDA home loan. Offered by the US Department of Agriculture as a rural housing program, these loans can finance up to 100% of the appraised price, and offer  low fixed rates. The catch is that the home has to be in an approved rural area, usually far from town, and the areas have already been chosen and pre-approved by the government.

In the Pensacoloa area, there are homes in northern Escambia and Santa Rosa County that qualify under this program. (Gulf Breeze 32563 is eligble but 32561 is not eligible.)

Let's discuss these kinds of loans, what they offer, and the requirements.

1. The property being purchased must be for a primary residence, and located in the Florida USDA Rural Development area. There are no exceptions to these two rules.

2. Minimum credit scores can be approved, even with previous short-sales, foreclosures, and bankruptcies on a buyer's record.

3. Interest rates are lower than most other types of mortgages, which makes the payments lower as well.

4. There are no set limits on price. Mortgage amounts are determined by income and appraised value. If the appraised value is higher than the cost of the home, the buyer can even finance settlement charges as well as 100% of the property's cost - no down payment required if the price is right.

There are come income limitations that that are not applicable in other types of mortgages.  Unlike other mortgages, USDA mortgages are based on the income of all family members, not just the borrowers. Some deductions are available that help with qualifications in this situation, however.  Most counties have a family income limit of $74,750 for 1-4 person families, and up to $98,650 for families with 5 to 8 persons. (The term "family" includes all household members, not just relatives.) If a household has 9 or more members, special limits can be allotted.

If you're looking to buy more house for the money, can commute to a job or work from home, and enjoy living in the country, please ask us about USDA homes in Pensacola, even if you have less than stellar credit. You might be very pleasantly surprised at what you can buy and how much you can save with this special government funded mortgage loan.

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July 30, 2014

Strong Real Estate Sales in NW Florida

NW Florida Real Estate Sales Are Up, Way Up!

The first half of 2014 has produced impressive gains in real estate sales here on the Florida Gulf Coast. When we look at the official MLS residential sales data provided by the Pensacola Association of Realtors, 2014 1st half year-over-year sales are up by 11.9%. If this were not impressive enough, 2014 June year-over-year sales are up by 18.8%.

Real estate sales in the Pensacola area

So, what is causing this tremendous surge in property sales?

Simply put, this is the result of "pent-up demand." The real estate market here had experienced a lower level of sales from 2008 - 2011, but in each year since 2011 we have seen significant and continued improvement. Real estate sales are gaining momentum and pricing is trending upwards in many neighborhoods.

The small Investor

There is a resurgence of small investors buying multiple properties to place on the rental programs. We see this for both long term and vacation rentals. Inventory on units that produce good rental revenue are now in short supply in some complexes.

Investors have been back in business for several years now buying lower end houses to renovate then rent. Flippers continue to target distressed homes in a desirable neighborhood to renovate then resell at a profit.

How should a buyer approach the market?

Properties that are priced to market value sell quickly so today's buyer must be prepared to act quickly when these opportunities are discovered. Opportunities are lost by buyers who procrastinate. Buyers need to be proactive in anticipation of making an offer by getting pre-approved for a loan. This shows the seller that the buyer is serious and qualified to proceed with the offer being made.

What if you have a property to sell first?

Most sellers in today's market will not accept a contract contingent upon the buyer selling their property unless that home is already under contract. Focus on preparing your home for sale and getting it listed first. Once you have your house on the market, you can begin to explore the homes available in the neighborhoods you like. Planning your move strategically can save a lot of headaches and the perception of lost opportunities during the process.

What Should Sellers Do?

The biggest mistake sellers make is listing their house or condo above market value. Sellers often want to base the sales price on personal needs "This is what I need to get", "I was told in 2005 it would sell for $$$" or the idea that the price they paid for the home should be factored into the equation "I paid that much for it in 2004." None of these things factor into the price for which a property will sell. A property is worth what the current market dictates its worth.

In conclusion:

We expect to see the second half of 2014 continuing the trend of growth in sales. We anticipate pricing for residential properties to increase in the second half of 2014.

If you are interested in buying, selling or would like more specific market information about your neighborhood or condominium, contact me.

Posted in Real Estate News
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June 6, 2014

Perdido Key Photo Gallery

Perdido Key Welcome Sign

This is the first thing you will see once you cross the Theo Baars Bridge as you arrive on Perdido Key.

condo pool near beach

This beautiful pool and deck area at Indigo condominiums are overlooking Perdido key beach and the Florida Gulf beyond.

Lost Key Golf Community

Perdido Key is home of the Lost Key Golf Course and golf community homes.

Purple Parrot Pool

The Purple Parrot swimming pool here on Perdido Key captures the tropical feel of island living.

The beach at Perido Key

Looking to the west on the beach near several beach front condos. The beach at Perdido Key is never crowded allowing you unwind and enjoy the natural sights and sounds.

Gulf Island National Seashore, Johnson Beach

Johnson Beach located at Gulf Islands National Seashore on Perdido Key. This beach is named in honor of the first casualty of the Korean War.

The jellyfish on Perdido Key

The Jellyfish is a great store that specializes in beach merchandise. Conveniently located less than a half mile after the crossing the bridge onto Perdido Key. Located across the street from the Indigo and Perdido Sun Condominiums.

Posted in Perdido Key
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May 24, 2014

Navarre Beach Photo Gallery

The photos in this gallery represent the Navarre Beach sights and activities that so many people come here to enjoy. People choose to live here because of the quiet and slower beach environment. There are only 650 people that live here year-round. Of the many beach communities on the Emerald Coast, Navarre Beach offer waterfront living without the crowds. Send us any photographs you would like to have included in the gallery.

Welcome to Navarre Beach sign

This iconic sign is located at the base of the Navarre Beach Bridge and is the first thing you see as you approach Santa Rosa Island.

Navarre Beach Pier

A lone person sits on the beach enjoying a beautiful day near the Navarre Pier.

Visitors to the Pier

Navarre Beach Pier is the longest public pier in the Gulf of Mexico, 515 yards long. This is great location for great fishing and spectacular views of the gulf and beaches. You can even rent a fishing pole if you choose.

Navarre Beach Pier Resaurant

Many people that are out for the day at the beach choose to have lunch at the Navarre Beach Pier Restaurant.

Condos and beach umbrellas

A busy day at the beach as many folks rent chairs and umbrellas. The condos seen here from east to west are the Navarre Beach Regency, Beach Colony Resort, The Pearl and Caribbean Resort.

People on beach in Navarre

This is what people love about Navarre Beach, a relaxing beach life. This is how many residents and visitors choose to spend their free time.

Santa Rosa Island Condos on Navarre Beach

The view of the island, near the bridge, in Navarre on Highway 98. The condos seen here (from left to right) are Summerwind, Navarre Beach Regency Resort, Beach Colony, The Pearl of Navarre Beach and the Caribbean Resort.

Navarre Beach County Park

This is one of the many picnic pavilions available at Navarre Beach Marine Park. The park has three reefs for snorkeling and the shallow water areas and beaches are prime locations for bird watching.

Santa Rosa Sound beach visitors

Small beach on Santa Rosa Sound at Navarre Beach Marine Park.

Navarre Beach Bridge

Island view of the Navarre Bridge from the park.

Rocco's Bistro

Rocco's Bistro is a favorite Navarre Beach restaurant and night spot.

Posted in Navarre Beach
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May 19, 2014

Home Buying in Pensacola High Water Areas

Recently the Greater Pensacola area was deluged by a record rainstorm that dumped twenty inches of rain in a 24 hour period. This was a flood from above and while most homes fared well others did not. You may have seen news coverage of subdivisions and neighborhoods engulfed by these storm waters.

House damaged during the May Pensacola flood

Interestingly enough, beach areas generally did not have any of the flooding issues that affected homes or condos in town. Other areas you might think of as high and dry were devastated. It all had to do with storm runoff and ponding in local low lying areas. Homes built with good drainage and higher physical relief did quite well.

Some homes that were for sale had water damage and are now undergoing clean-up and repair. Some roadways through the area  were damaged here and there; some severely and will take months to be fully repaired.

What should you consider while looking at homes for sale as a Pensacola area home buyer? First keep in mind that this storm produced the most rain ever recorded here. So, this is not a typical occurrence by any stretch of the imagination but you should evaluate the likelihood of the property flooding when choosing a new home.

The first person you should speak with is a real estate agent that knows the community where you are interested in buying. The knowledge a good Realtor has can save you a lot of heart aches and a pile of money.

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