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More planned construction for 4th Avenue N in downtown St Petersburg

Buildings to be cleared for Regents Lane.

The “Before” of Regents Lane

Regents Lane is the latest condo project planned for Fourth Avenue North. It’s been a busy block from Beach Drive to 1st Street N.  This appears to be on the same land as the previously announced O.N.E project (not to be confused with the ONE project).

Between Beach Drive and 1st Street North, Rowland Place, a 17 unit condo developer by JMC, was completed and began closings in March. Bliss, with 29 units, is under construction. Three units remain available at Bliss, from $846,900 to $2,915,900.  The former P. Buckley Moss museum is being transformed into a single family residence.

Between 1st Street North and 2nd Street North, Frank Menna and Steve Gianfilippo announced The Brownstones, a row of five 4,000 sq ft homes with space for professional offices below and with roof decks. Preconstruction prices are expected to be between $1.3 million and $1.8 million.

Newly announced by NJR Property Investments on that same block is Regents Lane at 141 Fourth Avenue N. These townhomes will be 2,335 sq ft in four stories. Each will have a 2 car garage, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a private elevator and a rooftop deck. Prices are expected to range from $848,500 to $928,000. Older buildings now on the property will be torn down to make room for Regents Lane.

You can contact The Simms Team at Coastal Properties Group International, Christie’s International for representation in purchasing a preconstruction or existing property.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Why does Florida have so many cash sales?

Conversation over coffee this morning included the question, “Why does Florida have so many cash sales?” He said Florida is leading the country in the percentage of real estate sales for cash.

I think it’s a combination of factors:

  • Florida has the largest percentage of international buyers and they usually pay cash for their properties.
  • Many buyers have sold a larger home up north and are paying cash here and investing the remainder.
  • Florida has been popular with large and small investors buying properties to rent – and they usually pay cash.
  • Some buyers who might otherwise have taken out a small mortgage are choosing to pay cash because then they aren’t required to purchase flood insurance.

According to recent statistics from Realty Trac, 42% of national real estate sales were for cash. In Florida, 63% of real estate transactions were cash.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

New Christie’s Affiliation for The Simms Team in St Petersburg, Florida

Coastal Propertyies Group

Christie’s St Petersburg


On January 1st, The Simms Team merged with Coastal Properties Group, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Tampa Bay.  We’ve enjoyed our five years owning ALVA International, a boutique real estate company in downtown St Petersburg, but realize that the real estate market is changing and we need to change with it. We’ll continue to operate as The Simms Team, as we have for many years, and will now have the additional resources of Coastal and Christie’s International to offer our clients.  We’ll offer the same personal service but with more tools and reach. Christie’s – yes, the same as the auction house – has provided integrity, expertise and exemplary service since  1766. Alex and Laren Jansen opened Coastal Properties Group on Clearwater Beach in July 2012 and have been making waves in north Pinellas county ever since. St Petersburg is Coastal’s sixth office, with a seventh soon to open on Treasure Island.

Come in and see our redecorated office at 238 Beach Drive NE in downtown St Pete. Join us for a cup of coffee and we can talk about everything that’s happening in real estate. We’re living in exciting and interesting times. photo 1

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Should we put our St Pete home on the market before the holidays?

Photo of a home for sale in St Petersburg that sold during the holidays

Homes do sell during the holidays


We often get the question, “Should we put our home on the market before the holidays?” or less frequently, “Should we take our home off the market for the holidays?”  Yes, and no.

Generally, although there may be less buyers looking between Thanksgiving and Christmas, those who are looking are generally more serious.  Also, people visiting relatives or taking a holiday vacation in the St Petersburg area may want to buy while they’re here.  Many sellers wait until the first week in January to put their house on the market, so there will be more competition if you wait.

A home is particularly appealing during the holidays – homes have aromas of cookies and baked goodies, of fresh evergreens, perhaps flowers and fruit. Go ahead and decorate, just don’t overdo it.  Think simple, think highlights and accents. For me, there are also memories of glogg and cardamom seeds.

If your home is listed and you have planned events that won’t be convenient for showings, tell your real estate agent so that they can schedule showing requests around your activities. If you’re going out of town,  be sure to leave a phone number or email contact so your agent can reach you with any offers that come in.

Want to get your home on the market now? Call The Simms Team at 727-898-2582 for a consultation.



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Flood insurance relief for St Petersburg and the beaches

Good news this morning for flood insurance in St Petersburg and Pinellas County! Implementation of rate increases is postponed for four years and is subject to required studies that were not completed as well as showing of affordability. Read the article on flood insurance relief.


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Progress on flood insurance in St Petersburg and surrounds

Two insurance companies plan to offer a flood insurance alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program for some homes in St Petersburg and surrounding area, according to the Tampa Bay Times.  This is progress since my report on flood insurance on Oct 15th.

One of these is Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Co., which will offer flood insurance as an endorsement to its homeowners policies. This is the company that sent letters to some Broadwater waterfront home owners recently saying that it would take policies out of Citizens. This flood endorsement would be subject to approval by the Florida regulators.

The other company, The Flood Insurance Agency of Gainesville, is offering a program backed by Lloyd’s of London. Since it is a surplus-line carrier they do not need state approval. Here you can view Lloyd’s Private Flood.

We’ll see if the federal government or the state of Florida will be offering more alternatives.



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Citizens is transferring St Petersburg home insurance policies

Several people in our Broadwater waterfront neighborhood of St Petersburg have been calling to say that Citizens Property Insurance dropped them and wondered what to do. We, too,received a notice from a new insurance company saying they were taking over our policy. We're referring here to general homeowner's insurance, not flood insurance.

Some people don't realize that they still have an option. They can decline the switch and stay with Citizens. That's what we decided to do. To be safe, we notified the new company by both email and regular mail that we were opting to stay with Citizens. We had to sign a notice that we knew our premiums might be higher and that our coverage may be lower if we stayed with Citizens.

In the past, some of the companies taking policies from Citizens have not been financially sound. Admittedly, I didn't check out the financial stability of this particular company. I decided that the devil I know is better than the devilI don't.

If you received a notice that an insurance company is taking you out of Citizens for your home here in St Pete – I'm not telling you what to do, only what I did. The point is, you do have a choice!

p.s. I hope Florida will opt out of the National Flood Insurance and if private insurance companies don't come forward, that Florida will set up a Citizens-like flood insurance. Florida has paid in over $16 billion in premiums and received less than $4 billion in claims. To now face some premium jumps to ten times the amount of past annual premium is incredible. People who own their home free and clear can opt out of flood insurance and self insure. Those with a mortgage cannot. So you choose to buy in a non-flood zone? You have no guarantee that when the flood maps are redrawn that you will not then be in a flood zone.


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Will Florida help with rising flood insurance premiums?

Following my recent blog post on flood insurance, which mentioned that there is some consideration of Florida withdrawing from the national flood insurance program, an article discussed a proposal by Sen. David Simmons concerning Florida and flood insurance. Simmons thinks the problem calls for a solution from the state of Florida. He suggests having private insurance companies step in to write flood insurance as an alternative to the national program. If private companies don’t do that, then he feels the state needs to step in and provide a “last-resort” market. Simmons thinks that the prospect of withdrawing our billions of dollars in premiums from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) could also be leverage to  prompt Congress to act.

Since 1978 Florida has paid $16 billion in premiums and has received less than $4 billion in claims. Yet the NFIP is now creating havoc with some premiums increasing by 1,000%. It isn’t fair that we’ve been subsidizing the rest of the country and it’s even less fair to significantly increase that subsidy!


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Flood insurance and St Petersburg home sales

Homes in flood zones

Homes in Flood Zones

What's happening with flood insurance? How is the new flood insurance affecting home prices in St Pete and on the Gulf beaches? What should I do about the new flood insurance rates? These are questions we get nearly every day.

Homes built before 12/31/74 will no longer have subsidized flood insurance rates. All flood insurance policy renewals after October 1, 2013 will need to have a flood elevation certificate in order to determine the rate for these properties. We've heard of premiums ranging from $4,000 to nearly $30,000 – and that's per year, and only provides $250,000 of coverage. Florida has more affected properties than any other state and Pinellas County has more affected properties than any other county in Florida. As you can see by the section of the Property Appraiser's map that is printed here, it's not just waterfront properties that are affected. Many homeowners paying cash or having no mortgage will opt to self insure.

We haven't had enough sales data to make any conclusions about the drop in value of homes with high flood insurance, but we do know that it means that the loan a buyer can qualify for will be reduced and that buyers are asking what the new flood policy rate will be and opting out of looking at or making offers on homes with high flood insurance rate increases. Some buyers are using the new Florida sales contract to put a maximum premium they'll pay – if the premium is higher, they can cancel the contract.

For homeowners living in their home as a primary residence, the full rates will be phased in, with premiums capped at an increase of “only” 25% per year. If your home was built before 1975, get an elevation certificate and discuss options with your insurance agent. Perhaps you can raise your deductible to lower the premium. By October 2014 homes that were built in 1975 and after that are “grandfathered” because they were built to code at the time of construction can expect to see major increases as well. FEMA is having new flood maps drawn again, so we'll have to wait and see what happens with “base flood elevation”.

Many people, including legislators, did not realize what effect the Bigger-Waters Reform Act of 2012 would have. The required affordability study has not yet been completed. Florida residents have paid in nearly 4 times as much in premiums than they have collected in claims. There is some consideration of Florida withdrawing from the federal program and setting up something for Florida alone.

As Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times.”


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Old Northeast Market Update – Conclusion

Northeast Quadrant of Old Northeast

Old Northeast Quadrant 4

For today’s final installment in the Old Northeast Market Analysis series, we’re looking at the quadrant that contains Historic Granada Terrace, from 22nd Avenue N north to 30th Avenue N and from 1st Street east to Coffee Pot Bayou. It’s a very small sample, to be sure, and very distinctive in style. Many of the homes are of the Mediterranean style, and historic guidelines ensure that new homes and additions/remodels stay true to the character of the neighborhood. The eastern border of the quadrant has sidewalks running alongside the water, ideal for jogging, walking and just enjoying the views, including lots of birds and sometimes a manatee.Old Northeast Quadrant 4 Chart 1

In addition to being a very small data sample, there’s also a big disparity in the homes – you’ll find some blocks with the large, distinctive Spanish homes we referenced above, and some blocks with small 1950’s block homes. This makes the data very hard to interpret, especially averages. For example, in 2008, the average price of 4 closed sales was $701,250, compared with the average price of 2 closed sales in 2009 at $192,500. There are only a few clear pictures we can glean. Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken by Tami Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

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