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Remodeling and Building Permits

by Lisa Castanet

I would like to share with you a recent situation regarding home remodeling and building permits our company has experienced which may answer your questions.  We have a home for sale that is currently under contract in which the previous owner partially enclosed the garage to add interior living space.  They did not obtain the required building permits or investigate the proper code for this type of construction.  Some homeowners think they can do their own remodeling or enclose a garage and don’t need to bother with obtaining the required building permits and inspections that the county may require.  This is not necessarily the case.

We have a buyer eager to finish the approval process on their loan. The seller and buyer both would like to set the final date for closing.  However, the fact that this partial garage conversion was not permitted properly has caused a delay in the entire process.  In order for loan approval to be given, an engineer had to detail what needed to be completed to bring the improperly constructed addition into compliance with the current building code.  The project will then need to be permitted in retrospect and have a building inspector approve the job.  We are now approaching a three week delay from the original closing date and it may take another two to three weeks to accomplish all the necessary steps in order for this bank-owned home to close.  This is something to think about regarding your next remodeling project. 

When you hire a general or subcontractor to do a construction-related job, they will typically obtain the necessary permits, construct to current building codes and schedule any required inspections.  A property owner capable of doing their own remodeling should also follow the steps for permitting and build according to their local building code requirements.  Some of us plan on living in our home forever, but most of us need to consider the future sale of our home and how improper building or lack of proper permitting may affect the sale.  Requirements to reverse or remove completed remodel work may be imperil the sale of a home.  Permitting requirements could certainly delay the closing of the home for days or even weeks. 

Remember there is no substitute for educating yourself about the proper way to complete the remodeling or home addition process, it can make the difference between selling your home in the future or being stuck with a potentially costly mistake.  For more information on your local building codes visit your County’s website or call the building code department.

Freddie Mac

by Lisa Castanet

Freddie Mac has created a free consumer online training course to help people gain a better understanding of the importance of building credit and securing a better financial future.  The course is called “CreditSmart®” and is available on the Freddie Mac website at http://www.freddiemac.com/creditsmart/consumer_training.html.

The free online training features 12 complete financial education modules providing valuable information to help improve a consumer’s credit score, manage money and be a responsible homeowner.  Each module takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.  They are organized into 4 financial educational areas so that a consumer can customize their own training.  The four tracts are named “All About Credit”, “Money Management”, “Steps to Homeownership” and “Foreclosure Avoidance”.

These tools will help consumers gain insight into how lenders and banks assess eligibility for obtaining a home mortgage and steps to successful homeownership.  Homeowners can learn what they can do if they ever have difficulty making their mortgage payments and they can learn helpful tips to safeguard their home and finances against life’s unexpected challenges.

We encourage folks looking to purchase a home and existing home owners to take advantage of wonderful educational resources such as Freddie Mac CreditSmart® consumer online training.

Housing Inventory

by Lisa Castanet

The latest statistics are in for the Lakeland area housing inventory, sales volume and sales prices for March 1 to March 31, 2013.  It appears the inventory levels have dropped again and we have hit another record low housing inventory number.  Is this the new normal?  The Lakeland Association of Realtors statistics show the available market inventory at 971 homes, which represents approximately a 3.6 month supply.  In order to gauge these levels, you should know that a normal level for our local market for homes listed as “For Sale,” would be around 6 months of supply.

Currently, the average days on market for a home listed for sale  is 81 days, the average listing price is $135,219 and the average sales price is $129,486.  There was a total of 269 sales in March 2013 of homes up to a $699,999.00 sales price.  This data represents our local association of Realtors who participate in the multiple listing service, and the homes may be located throughout North Lakeland, South Lakeland, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Mulberry and surrounding Polk County markets.

As a reminder, in 2009 our market inventory levels ranged from 10 months to 15.6 months of housing inventory for sale.  At the start of 2010, the available inventory of homes was as high as 14.7 months.  Inventory levels fell to a low of 8.9 months and rose again toward year end to 11.4 months of inventory.  In 2011, we finally finished a year with single digit inventory numbers and fell to a 9 month supply.  In 2012 we worked through a lot of housing inventory and the level fell to a record low of 5.3 months of inventory by year end. 

Lower inventory levels have a positive affect for owners trying to sell their home and move forward with their lives.  However, buyers are really frustrated at this point as this trend has continued for the past year.   Some buyers are searching for over six months before finding a home, submitting a contract and getting an accepted offer to purchase.  This is due to the number of buyers competing for the fewer amount of available homes.  I know some fellow agents who have shown up to 75 properties,  submitting contract offers on several homes without success because another buyer’s offer was accepted over the client they represented.  These are unique times we are experiencing in real estate, which leads us to ask the question.  Is this the new normal?  We shall see, my friends.  I personally think we are going to have similar market conditions and housing inventory over the next 12 to 24 months. Buckle up and get ready for another ride……

We really enjoyed attending the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals’ business rally this past Friday in Orlando.  There was some good information regarding the default industry and a variety of panelists spoke on such topics as Homeowner’s Associations and the short sale process for Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo. 

These three banks are the largest and represent over 5 trillion in assets.  They are focused on homeowner retention but also discussed detailed information on the best practices for a successful short sale and some key issues that real estate agents need to know. 

We also enjoyed the presentation from Alex Charfen, CEO of the Charfen Institute.  This is the organization where I receive the Certified Distressed Property Expert certification.  His presentation was packed with information and relatable stories.  He recapped the previous five years and the effects of the economic downturn on the real estate industry. 

Our current real estate market and inventory levels were apart of the discussion. For instance, Alex was citing the following statistics.  Between 1968 to 2008 the typical number of new homes built was 1.5 million nationwide.  In 1982 new home building was at the lowest point with 1,005,500 homes built and the peak was in 1973 when 2,100,500 million homes were built.  Then in 2011, new home construction hit an all time low.  The following construction levels were recorded: 2009 – 794,300 homes; 2010 – 651,700 homes; 2011 – 584,900 homes; 2012 – 651,400 homes and the projection for 2013 is 724,000 new homes to be built nationwide.  This information was preceded by a discussion on our current market and the fact that inventory levels are extremely low.  A factor that has lead to a stabilization of market values which may be good news for a home owner wanting to sell.  However, low inventory makes it extremely difficult for agents who represent home buyers wanting to purchase and live in a home. 

In fact our market has been driven by investors the past several years.  In 2012, 1 in 5 buyers was an investor. The good news for real estate agents is that 89% of buyers are working with an agent to find and purchase a home.  The home search is difficult and buyers need to be patient in the process and understand there is heavy competition out there.  However, with interest rates at 3%-4% and current home prices it is a very good time to buy real estate.  In comparing whether it is better to buy vs. rent; it is a great time to buy and perhaps hasn’t been this good since 1973.  We enjoyed the presentation and it is always uplifting to attend events like this one.

Feral Cats

by Lisa Castanet

I would imagine many of you have noticed feral cats roaming around on occasion.  You think about them when you see them but not any more than that. Well, let me share a story with you about one of our property owner’s experience that you might find a bit scary.  The owner’s of this particular property live out of state so they rely on us to handle everything.

We received a call from one of our tenants describing a funny noise they kept hearing above the ceiling.  We went to the house and looked into the attic and called an exterminating company to inspect in case there were rodents in the attic.  We were relieved to find there weren’t any rodents. What we found instead was a female feline with several kittens nesting in the insulation.  When they spotted us they went scampering across the soffit like feral cats in a circus high wire act.  You can imagine our surprise!  We couldn’t imagine how a pregnant feline got into the attic space.

Another surprise came when the exterminating company said they do not remove feral cats.  Who in the world do you call to resolve this dilemma?  We searched on the internet and found a couple of companies that specialize in the removal of unusual critters or nuisance animals.  The process to remove these creatures takes 1-2 weeks.  The technician must place bait traps to lure the animals and monitor the traps for several days until every one is caught.  Then they must deliver the cats to a facility that will take the animals in and there are related fees.  In addition, there are several issues to be concerned about such as possible infestation of fleas, mites or ticks.  The company we spoke to said the area must be treated with a special pesticide or the infestation may lead to the interior of the home.  Finally, the entry point or any possible future entry point must be sealed.

One neighbor suggested that a fellow neighbor liked to feed the stray cats. Perhaps, that could have lead to this feline’s curiosity and finding the attic space. We have no idea if this is indeed the case, however, it does make you pause.  I have seen feral cats around my own neighborhood and felt sorry for their life of struggle.  We have even placed a bit of food for several days in a row for a small, newly weaned kitten we saw around our house.  We were able to catch her and took her to the SPCA in hopes they could place her for adoption.  During that time, we had to fend off a male feral cat.  What an adventure, whew!  Luckily, our efforts paid off.

As I write this, the feral cats are still around and the removal is in process.  There is always something new to deal with when you handle property management.  We enjoy what we do and realize how important it is to help owners with a variety of situations.

Sun N Fun 2013

by Lisa Castanet

We are getting ready for the kick off another year for Sun N Fun 2013.  The event begins next Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.  The show runs through April 14, 2013 and promises to be another great event year.

Many corporate exhibitors stay with us as guests each year and we welcome them to Lakeland.  It really is fun and enjoyable to learn about their individual company within the avionics industry.

We hope for good weather and safe flying for arrival, departure and throughout the week for all attendees.  The Sun N Fun website lists rates for General admission for adults daily is - Daily $37.00/Weekly $150.00, youth (ages 11-17) - Daily $15.00 /Weekly $60.00 and under 10 years age is free!  For other rate information on VIP upgrades or discounts certified pilots, members of Florida Air museum/EAA and active U.S. Military members please see the Sun N Fun website admission rate page.

Welcome to Lakeland, again and have a wonderful show!

Home Inspections

by Lisa Castanet

Many buyers ask why we recommend they get home inspections.  This is the best way to know what you are getting into when purchasing a home.  The majority of homes in our current market are being sold “As-Is” by sellers.  This is beneficial for a seller who may not have lived in the home as in a bank-owned home that is listed for sale.   In this case, the seller is advertising that they are not going to make any repairs to the home and the buyer may get inspections at their own expense to determine the condition of the property prior to purchasing. 

The buyer’s contract offer will include a time frame for the buyer to get these home inspections completed.  For example, a buyer may make a contract offer and ask for 7 to 14 days in which to have home inspections completed. Within this time frame they must notify the seller whether or not they intend to remain in the contract and close on the purchase of the home.  A buyer may decide to back out of the contract if they find something within the inspection report that concerns them.  This notice should be in writing from the buyer to the seller.  This is beneficial to the buyer because if they give written notice cancelling the contract during the inspection period then the earnest money deposit can be returned to them.  The only money they may have lost is the cost of any inspections. 

The cost for a general home inspection is usually based on the square footage of the home and prices generally start around $200.00.  A termite inspection generally costs $75.00 to $100.00. We recommend buyers get both of these inspections.  Depending on the property, the buyer may also want to have inspections performed on a septic tank, well water or the roof; to name a few.

We have worked with several different companies and they usually provide a written report with pictures and description of their findings or recommendations.  The piece of mind is well worth the cost of these inspections for the buyer.  The buyer must pay for the inspections at the time they are done, however, it is far less expensive than buying a home that may end up being a ‘money pit’ down the road.

For more information on home inspections, please feel free to contact one of our agents

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

Contact Information

Photo of Native Palm Team Real Estate
Native Palm Team
Native Palm Properties
5925 Imperial Pkwy, Suite #111
Mulberry FL 33860
(863)647-1679
863-838-1318
Fax: (863)701-8309