Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

May 17, 2018


Can a Hurricane affect my closing?


The answer is YES, and it likely will!

Just imagine this scenario. You and your Realtor found the perfect home.  You are scheduled to close on Friday just in time to unpack a few boxes and start your new job on Monday.  You received quotes from three insurance companies for homeowners insurance, and decided on one.   However, you decided to wait until two days before closing to finalize and bind the policy (and pay for it).  The Sunday before closing, a storm develops and looks like it may approach Florida at some point within the next week.  Your insurance company decides to stop binding policies, which means you won’t be able to get insurance the day you close on your new home.  Since the home will not be insured, your mortgage lender says they will not fund your loan until you obtain insurance.  You are now stuck finding a hotel to stay in so that you can start your new job on Monday.

This is a likely scenario during Hurricane Season in Florida, and many inexperienced real estate agents don’t advise buyers and sellers about this possibility, and how to avoid it.

If you are a buyer or seller who is working with an experienced, knowledgeable Realtor in Florida, you may have heard them mention something called “The Box.” For years, insurance companies have suspended binding coverage once a named storm enters “The Box”, which is a geographic region surrounding the State.  Between June 1st and November 30th, Florida enters our Hurricane Season.  If a named Tropical Storm or Hurricane entered a zone referred to as “The Box”, homeowners insurance companies would suspend binding coverage.

While there is no longer a “box” to watch out for, it is still surprising to many people that most insurance companies stop binding policies in the event that a named storm is threatening Florida, specifically if a Tropical Storm, Hurricane Watch or Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for any part of our state.  “It’s always a good idea to talk to the agent you’re working with when storms approach”, says Insurance Broker Zane Lefko with John Galt Insurance Agency, “Once we have a hurricane watch, most insurance companies will begin suspending binding authority on new policies.”

If the buyer of a home is purchasing the home with a mortgage or other financing, the lender most likely will require that the buyer obtain homeowners insurance on the home.   Many buyers wait to “bind” their insurance policies either the day before or the day of closing.   If the insurance company will not bind the policy because of a named storm, the closing most likely will not happen.   Fortunately, most contracts provide a clause for this situation called Force Majeure.

Force Majeure is unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.   Since the named storm is an act of nature, and not the fault of either the buyer or the seller, the Force Majeure clause in the contract typically goes into effect.   The FAR/BAR As Is Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase, a contract often used by real estate professionals in Florida, defines Force Majeure as "hurricanes, floods, extreme weather, earthquakes, fire, or other acts of God, unusual transportation delays, or wars, insurrections, or actions of terrorism" and provides that "All time periods, including Closing Date, will be extended a reasonable time up to 7 days after the Force Majeure no longer prevents performance under this Contract, provided, however, if such Force Majeure continues to prevent performance under this Contract more than 30 days beyond Closing Date, then either party may terminate this Contract..." 

This means that during an active hurricane season, it is possible for a buyer to lose their perfect home or for a seller to lose the sale of their home because a buyer didn't bind their insurance soon enough.  Of course, if this worse case scenario didn't happen, simply delaying a closing can cause hardship and issues for some buyers and sellers, even under the best of circumstances.

To prevent these issues, a good Realtor will advise a buyer to lock in their insurance and obtain an insurance binder as soon as possible, and BEFORE the closing date.  Once a closing date is scheduled, buyers should contact their insurance agent and purchase a policy as early as possible during Florida’s Hurricane Season.  Don’t delay! Bind right away!


Zane Lefko is a Licensed Insurance Broker with The Lefko Group at John Galt Insurance Agency and has worked with several of the BP Real Estate Team’s clients.


Posted in Insurance
May 17, 2018


When a property is listed for sale, the owner of the property is expected to complete a Seller’s Disclosure form. This form is signed by all parties to the transaction, including the buyer of the property.


Although most buyers pay for their own home inspections on the property, they also rely on the disclosure from the seller to discover any known issues or past issues with the property. We are routinely asked “Should I disclose this issue to the buyer?”, or “Can I just cover this up?” This answer is: NO! Disclose, Disclose, Disclose! Under Florida Law, in many cases a buyer can sue for damages, and even rescind a transaction, when known issues with a home are not disclosed.


We recently talked to a homeowner who had issues with a new home that she purchased. After moving into the home, the pipes backed up and flooded the master bedroom. After calling several plumbing companies, the homeowner discovered that just a few months before she closed, one of the plumbing companies had recommended (in writing) that the home’s pipes be hydro-jetted at a cost of over $2,000.00. The seller did not disclose this on the Seller’s Disclosure form, and in fact, they did not indicate that there had been any issues at all with the plumbing. The new owner has now hired an attorney to go after the former owner for the cost of repairs.


Another important point to remember is that although a seller may not have experienced any issues with the property, if a buyer’s home inspection reveals material defects in the property, and they provide the seller with a copy of the inspection but fail to purchase the property, those issues must be disclosed to future buyers. If a future owner discovers that the seller was informed of material defects and failed to disclose them, they may have a claim against the former owner.


The requirement to disclose known defects of a property even applies to properties being sold “as-is”. Selling a property “as-is” simply means that the buyer is agreeing to buy the property in its existing condition, without the seller having to make any repairs to it. This “as-is” clause does not mean that the seller is absolved from disclosing known defects, or the liability that comes with not disclosing defects.




Posted in SELLING
May 10, 2018


Every homeowner wants their home to sell as quickly as possible for “top dollar”, but they often overlook simple things that can help them accomplish that goal.   If I had a nickel for every time I was asked “Should I remodel my bathroom?” or “Should I paint this front door?” I would be able to retire quire comfortably in Costa Rica right now.   So, I have compiled a list of ten things you can do to prepare your house for its future owner.


  1. Put away the nick-nacks and family photos! I know that wall covered in your daughters baby photos and awards warms your heart, but it’s just going to cause a potential buyer to think “I am going to have to repair all those nail holes!” If you do have photos displayed in areas such as a mantel, side table, etc., consider using photos of your family enjoying your home. If a potential buyer sees a beautiful family picture next to the Christmas tree in that perfect spot in your living room, or a family having fun in the backyard pool, they are more likely to imagine hosting their own family events in the same space. Use your select photo display areas to show the future homeowner how much you love your home.
  2. Clean your closets and drawers! You know that guest room closet that is bursting at the seams or “junk drawer” in your kitchen that is full of pens, notepads, receipts, and flashlights? Clean them out as if you are moving tomorrow. While you may not qualify to be featured on an episode of Hoarders, potential buyers still want to see the size of closets and picture their clothes in them. They want to open drawers and see how they close. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. If your kitchen drawers or closets explode when a buyer opens them, they will remember THAT instead of the good things about your home.
  3. Have your home “deep cleaned”. For a small amount of money, you can hire someone to come in and professionally clean your home (including that oven that has never been cleaned!). If you don’t think a potential buyer can be turned off by your refrigerator, you are mistaken. As an added benefit to a potential buyer, consider allowing your Realtor to “throw in” having your home professionally cleaned before the next buyer moves in. This can be done during negotiations if you have gotten a price that is suitable to you. A good will gesture can go a long way.
  4. Fix your mailbox and clean the front door! A dated, rusty, dirty, or dented mail box is unattractive. While it sounds like a minor detail, details affect perception and perception affects price! If your mail box is close to your front door, make sure the entrance is clear, clean, and attractive. A nice, inexpensive coat of paint goes a long way! Your front door and entrance to your home will be the first and last thing a buyer will see when viewing your home.
  5. Pressure-wash your driveway. We live in an age where most families have at least two cars in Florida. In the Tampa Bay/St. Pete area, parking is a premium! Your driveway will look larger and more inviting if it has been freshly cleaned. Your home will also look more inviting, and a potential buyer will appreciate how well your home is cared for. It’s one more thing a buyer will not have to worry about when they move in, and that is a selling feature!
  6. If you have already moved out of your home, consider having all of the interior walls painted with a neutral color (think builder beige or a clean, soft white).   While many buyers want to add their personal touch to a home, having a freshly painted blank canvass allows a buyer to personalize on their own timeline. Your home will also feel newer, cleaner, and ready to move into.
  7. Keep your yard maintained. Nothing screams “I don’t care” more than an overgrown yard. Whether you are living in your home still or you have already moved out and into your new place, it is essential that your yard stay kept. Curb appeal goes a long way when it comes to a buyer falling in love with a home- and in today’s market, one of the keys to a buyer feeling like they are getting a “good deal” is them LOVING your home.
  8. Be careful with the smells! If a potential buyer walks into a home and finds a lit candle in every room, or an air freshener in every outlet, they will assume you are covering something up. It is much better to buy a small air purifier and place it in a drafty area…or use the cookie trick! Buy some “break and bake” cookie dough at the store, and bake a couple of cookies before the buyers arrive at your home. Be sure to cover them with plastic wrap on an attractive plate before you leave the house. As long as you don’t burn the cookies, this works quite well. When a potential buyer goes to the next home they will still smell the freshly baked cookies from yours! If you want to go through the effort of making cookies from scratch, just be sure to call me to come over and discuss the showings around desert time.
  9. Give your Realtor copies of any operating manuals for your appliances, maintenance and warranty information, notes about paint colors, and recent utility bills. Your Realtor can determine which items to use to “entice” potential buyers and set your home apart from the rest. This will also let potential buyers know that you are serious about selling your home.
  10. Consider having a home inspection done. Home inspections can run anywhere from $150-several hundred dollars depending on the inspector and the size and construction of the home. If you can have an inspection done before you put your house up for sale, it is well worth the investment. Many homeowners don’t want to have this done because they “don’t want to know about any issues”, but my opinion is that this is a flawed way of thinking. Most buyers will have an inspection done, which means they will discover any issues with your house. When they discover those issues they will either ask you to repair or replace them by a licensed contractor, or they will want to deduct the cost of those repairs from what they are willing to pay for your house. If the buyer walks away, you now have to disclose those issues to all future buyers. Often, issues are minor and can be fixed inexpensively on your own (think sprinkler heads) which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars down the road. If there are repairs that exceed your budget (ex. roof issues), you can shop for quotes and be prepared for negotiations. You can then let potential buyers know of the repairs that were made and show them a clean inspection! For buyers who have been shopping for a while, this peace of mind is priceless. Remember, surprises waste everyone’s time and they cost you money in the end!


While this list is not EVERYTHING you can do to get your house ready for sale, these items will definitely help give your home an advantage above its competition.   If you are considering selling your home in the Tampa/St. Pete area, I would be more than happy to come take a look at your home and help you sell it! I can be reached at 352-697-2522 or at If you are not in the Tampa/St. Pete area, I would be happy to refer you to a qualified, licensed real estate professional in your area!


Posted in SELLING
July 31, 2017

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We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates
July 7, 2017


If you have a mortgage on your home, or plan on financing your home with the help of a bank, you will most likely be required to carry homeowners insurance on your home.   In Florida, we are vulnerable to many kinds of tropical disasters, so it’s extremely important to make sure your home is properly insured.   We get asked all the time, how much insurance should I get? We asked Insurance Agent Zane Lefko with The John Galt Insurance Agency to help clarify some insurance misconceptions for consumers.


Zane Lefko with The John Galt Insurance Agency says Many consumers are often misinformed regarding insurance, the amount that is needed on their home and the many different things that influence the cost of insurance. Often, when buying a new home, the purchase price comes into the mix as far as how much coverage is required. Something that most people don’t realize is that for homeowners insurance, we do not take into account the value of the land (something that the sales or appraisal price does) which is why your coverage amount might be less than your purchase price or loan amount.”  Buyers, especially first time buyers, often have a difficult time understanding why their insurance limits may be lower than the appraised value of a home.  A quality insurance agent will help a home buyer determine the proper amount of insurance needed to ensure that the home is protected, but not over insured.


So what happens after you purchase your insurance policy and move into your new home? Most homeowner insurance policies renew on an annual basis.   Instead of automatically renewing your policy year after year, it’s wise to have your policy needs reviewed by a professional from time to time.  Zane Lefko says “Just because your agent is telling you that your insurance is the best option available, that may not be entirely true. As an independent agent, I have access to all of the available companies in the state. I recommend my clients contact me to shop their insurance every two years to make sure you are still getting the best option.” Questions suggested by some insurance experts include:  Has the company made any changes in coverage since last year?   Does my policy include a separate deductible for risks like hurricane or hail? Should I raise my deductible to save money? Do I need flood, earthquake, or an umbrella policy?


Other good times to review your policy are when you make major improvements to your home, make your home safer (alarms, new plumbing or electrical, new roof, etc.) or major lifestyle changes such as divorce or additional people living in your home.   Consumers should also evaluate their insurance coverage when they do any major renovation, upgrades or additions to their home. We spend so much money on our homes to make them nice, new and modern but unless you are updating your agent or insurance company, you may not be covered correctly for these additions or upgrades to your home” says Lefko. Additionally, Lefko says that major improvements could even decrease your insurance premium These upgrades sometimes may even help to lower the cost of your insurance! Hurricane shutters, hurricane impact windows, new doors and so on are all things that may help to lower your insurance premium”.


Like most insurance policies, there simply isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to homeowner insurance policies. At Poth & Associates, we suggested that our clients ask their insurance agent for multiple quotes, and ask them to help determine the proper amount of insurance needed to make sure that they are protected, without wasting money.


Zane Lefko is a Licensed Insurance Agent at The John Galt Insurance Agency.   Zane has helped several BP Real Estate Team clients with their insurance needs.   Zane can be reached at (954) 283-7496 or at


Posted in Insurance
June 2, 2017


I want to buy a condo, but the condominium association is exercising a right of first refusal.  Is this legal?


While we cannot provide legal advice, many local law firms assert that the short answer is, Yes, if their governing documents allow it.


Many community associations have specific clauses in their governing documents that allow them to do everything from collect assessments to approving future residents in the neighborhood.   While an association cannot prevent a property owner from selling their property, they often have clauses such as a “Right of first refusal” that allow them to determine whether or not a potential buyer can purchase the property.


A right of first refusal is a “a right to elect to take specified property at the same price and on the same terms and conditions as those contained in a good faith offer by a third person if the owner manifests a willingness to accept the offer.”   Meaning, if an owner accepts a buyers offer, the association may have the right to purchase the property with the same terms of the buyer’s offer, thus keeping the buyer from purchasing the property.    In some situations, depending on the language of the associations governing documents, the association can find another buyer instead of purchasing the property.


Here is a good link to a reputable community association law firm referencing this issue.


Posted in Condominiums
March 4, 2017


FSBO. That’s the acronym used for For Sale By Owner, the terms used to describe a home that is being sold by the homeowner without the services of a licensed real estate agent or broker. There are a few reasons homeowners attempt to sell their homes themselves. Sometimes they have a friend, relative or neighbor who successfully sold their own home, they have a relative in another state who is in the real estate business and is willing to give them advice, or they just don’t want (or can afford) to pay the “commission.”


I have been in the real estate industry since 2004, and I still hate the word “commission.” I prefer to refer to my compensation as a Professional Service Fee. Many homeowners feel that real estate agents simply put a sign in the yard, post some photos in the multiple listing service, and then let other agents come inconvenience the owners to show the house. I will agree, this type of service warrants a “commission”, not a Professional Service Fee. Often times the “savings” a homeowner thinks they are receiving is not actually savings at all. In fact, in many cases they are losing money.


When interviewing real estate agents, here are some things to remember.


  1. Buyers are smart bargain hunters. A buyer who is looking at your home knows that you are not paying a Professional Service Fee, and they know that standard industry rate. Most buyers will factor this in when they are making an offer on your house. If you are saving the money, they want to save it too.
  2. It’s simple economics—real estate brokers will get you a higher price. By attempting to sell your home on your own, you are exposing it to a limited pool of buyers. Real estate agents who are members of the local MLS, and state and National Association of Realtors have access or a much larger pool of buyers and network of professionals who are working with buyers ready to buy.
  3. Time. Would you rather be sitting at your open house, or shopping for furniture for your new home? I definitely miss my Saturdays and Sundays being free to enjoy the beach, but it takes a lot of time and commitment to sell a house!
  4. Safety. Do you normally open your door and invite strangers in? Buyers who are working with Realtors are more likely to be serious buyers who are vetted.   As a Realtor, we are held to a strict code of ethics. Your Realtor will “set the rules” for any showings and other real estate professionals must follow them. This means you won’t risk strangers making you uncomfortable in your home, imposing when you aren’t ready, or worse, harming you. Unfortunately, the world is a scary place and we should all take extra precaution to make sure we are protected.
  5. Negotiating. A good real estate professional is a seasoned negotiator. As an expert in the market, we know how to get a seller the highest price possible for their home. It’s what we do every day!
  6. Marketing. A good real estate agent or broker will effectively market your home. Marketing costs money and the cost is generally absorbed by your Realtor.
  7. Enticement. Let’s face it, we all work for money. We may love our jobs, but would we really be able to do them for free? While a professional service fee may be 6–7%, most real estate agents offer half of that fee to other real estate agents or brokers to bring a qualified buyer and acceptable offer. That big check you thought we were skipping down the street just got cut in half. After we deduct the cost of marketing your home, calculate time spent showing your home, negotiating, handling inspections, and guiding the sale to closing, it really is fair compensation.


In most cases, a real estate agent or broker will not get paid until you have accepted an offer that is satisfactory to you, and the sale has successfully gone through closing. You know your bottom line, so when you are entertaining offers, keep that in mind.


Posted in SELLING
Feb. 1, 2017


Years ago the “norm” was that families would save for a 20% down-payment to buy a home. In 2016 this is no longer the norm, and hasn’t been for some time. There are hundreds of loan programs available to buyers in today’s market, some that offer financing with as little as 3.5% down (or zero down for Veterans!).


One of the most common types of mortgages is called an FHA Mortgage. An FHA Mortgage is a mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Buyers who purchase homes with an FHA mortgage pay for mortgage insurance, which protects the lender (Bank) from a loss if the borrower defaults on the loan. FHA mortgages have become increasingly popular because of the lower down payment requirements, often as low as 3.5% or the purchase price, and less stringent lending standards.


With an FHA mortgage, approval is conditioned upon the lender verifying that the down payment has come from an “Approved source”. A buyer can acquire the down payment using their own savings, gift from a family member (if approved by the lender), or a grant from state and local government down-payment assistance programs. FHA does specifically insist that a down payment gift cannot be given by the seller, real estate agent or broker, builder, or an associated entity.


While the FHA does not allow sellers, real estate agents or brokers, builders, or lenders to pay any portion of the down payment, assistance with closing costs is allowed. The FHA does allow some concessions in closing costs from sellers, agents, brokers, and lenders and this is often discussed during price negotiations.


If a home buyer is a Veteran, a VA loan is a good option. Some VA programs offer financing with as little as zero dollars down. As a Realtor with the Military Relocation Professional certification offered by the National Association of Realtors, I can connect Veterans with VA approved lenders who can advise them on the loan options available. It is important to make sure you have all paperwork needed for this financing option.


It is important to remember that both the FHA and the VA loans have certain requirements that the property must meet in order to qualify for financing. A good real estate agent will know these requirements and be able to guide a home buyer in the appropriate direction. For more information about FHA loans, visit For more information about VA loans, visit or call us at 727-859-7684.


Posted in Buying
Sept. 1, 2016


The simple answer to this question is:  “Yes, but…”


Almost every time I speak with a potential client about FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans, there seems to be a tremendous amount of misinformation.   In fact, even among real estate professionals, many do not fully understand the process.   Every day I see a condominium being marketed to potential buyers as qualifying for FHA financing when in reality it does not.


The FHA loan program has been in place since the 1930’s.  An FHA loan is obtained through a traditional lender or mortgage broker, and it is “insured” by the FHA.  FHA loans have historically been used by first time homebuyers, but these loans are not restricted to just first time homebuyers.  Almost anyone can purchase a home with an FHA loan — if they qualify.


Let’s start with the definition of a “condominium” according to the FHA:  A “condominium project” refers to a multi-unit property in which persons hold title to individual units and an undivided interest in “Common Elements.”  Common elements (areas) include underlying land and buildings, driveways, parking areas, elevators, outside hallways, recreation and landscaped areas and other elements described in the condominium declaration.  Common areas are typically managed by a condominium association.


While it is possible to purchase a condominium with an FHA loan, it is important to know the FHA rules on condos to save both time and heartache.   The rules for a buyer are quite simple:  In order for a buyer to purchase a condominium with an FHA loan, the condominium association/development must be on the list of approved condominium projects.   The FHA has made it extremely simple for buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals to determine if the condominium is approved by publishing a searchable list here:


The process for a condo project to be approved is called the HUD Review and Approval Process (HRAP). Typically, the FHA requires the following before approving a condominium project for FHA financing:


-The condominium association must have at least two units. -The association and buildings must have appropriate insurance. -The condominium association/project must meet all state and local requirements and regulations. -Business space in the condominium must not be larger than 25% of the total floor area. -Ownership by investors in the condominium must not exceed 50 percent. (Think rental units) -More than 50% of the units must have been sold prior to FHA approving the first FHA loan. -No more than 15% of the total units can be in arrears on their mandatory condominium assessments and fees. -The property must not be located within a designated coastal barrier (there are interactive maps to find coastal barriers). -Developer “turnover” must have occurred. -Request for approval must be submitted by the builder, developer, condominium association, management company, or designated project consultant or attorney. -Other factors may also impact the FHA decision.


As you can imagine from the list above, the approval process can be a daunting one for many condominium associations and the majority of them never apply for FHA approval. Unfortunately, applications for project approval that come directly from borrowers (buyers), homeowners, sellers, or real estate professionals generally are not processed and are simply returned to the submitter, although these can be addressed on a case-by-case basis, according to HUD.


So if the condominium you want to purchase is not on the approved list, is the answer a solid NO?  Not really!  There are some lenders out there that are qualified and approved to do what is referred to as a DELRAP.   DELRAP stands for Direct Endorsement Lender Review and Approval Process.  This means that a lender that has received Direct Endorsement (DE) authority and meets the criteria can process an individual loan for a borrower for a condominium that has not yet been approved through FHA and submit the project for FHA approval through the DELRAP process.   Lenders that offer this must meet strict criteria, and many do not offer this. Approval of these loans is never guaranteed, and the DELRAP lender will likely require that the same criteria be met by the condominium association.   Once a unit in a project is approved through the DELRAP process, typically the project is approved and viewable on the FHA search tool for future buyers.


If you are considering purchasing a home or condominium with the use of an FHA loan/mortgage, it is important to work with both a real estate professional and lender that have experience with these types of purchases.  Our real estate team is happy to meet with you for a free consultation.


Posted in Buying