Vol. 8 No. 28 - April 2, 2008


Get in a real estate of mind

Remember Billy Joel’s masterpiece from 1976 – "New York State of Mind?" He sings about how he missed New York City and how everyplace you live has its own unique character. The lyrics are a good lesson for anyone who thinks the grass is always greener and the real estate always better somewhere else. During the past few weeks on the Island, not only is the grass greener, but the sand is softer, the water clearer and the masses of people enjoying it should put real estate front and center on everyone’s mind.

If you’ve been fighting your way through Publix, or trying to find a place to park at the beach, you might be wondering what’s going on. Well, what’s going on is real simple. We live on an Island that can only be considered heavenly. The word is finally out that Anna Maria Island is paradise, and people who weren’t sure where Tampa was are discovering it – and for good reason. What’s not to like about gorgeous beaches, dazzling warm water, good restaurants, exceptional people and a free trolley?

Anna Maria Island has been overrun with visitors since early February and it hit the pinnacle during Easter week. The real estate agents tell me they are busy with buyers looking, looking and looking some more, which has resulted in both pending sales and an already scarcity of rentals for next year’s winter season. Even though the just released February statistics are down in both numbers of home sales and price, you would never know it based on attendance at open houses and the overwhelming ring of real estate agents phones all over the Island.

Nationally, February sales were up the first time since last July, but still down 23.8 percent compared to February of last year with sale prices down 8.7 percent from last year. Locally, the number of sales were also down 10 percent compared to last February and 20 percent in sales price in the same time frame. In spite of this, our region is fourth in the number of sales in the state after Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. Be happy you don’t own property in Miami where sales were down 41% percent and prices down the same as us at 20 percent, indicating its market is still on a downward track. According to Bernard Baumohl, the managing director of the Economic Outlook Group, for the most part the hemorrhaging has stopped.

Okay, let’s analyze what we have going on here. With the exception of some unrealistic sellers, prices have probably stopped bleeding out in our area. Combine this with signs nationally and locally that the inventory of properties is starting to move, spurred on by the abundance of pre-foreclosures in the market place, my guess is that March and April’s sale numbers will reflect all the activity we’re seeing on the Island.

So if you have flat values and buyer activity, the logical calculation is that inventory will start going down. If the inventory starts to go down this will eventually result in a more normal real estate market, where, inevitably, prices will start moving up again. Naturally, everyone has an opinion on whether the market is at the bottom. Just remember that if you wait until everyone agrees the market is at the bottom, it’s probably already on its way back up.

Joel may have missed Chinatown and The New York Times, but let’s get real. There aren’t too many places in the Western world that have what Anna Maria is offering, and it’s suddenly affordable. The message is, if you’re not already in a real estate of mind better get into it fast before real estate changes its mind again.

Like Joel says "some folks like to get away, take a holiday," I say, “Have you noticed all those New York and New Jersey license plates this season?”

They must know something.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper