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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.



Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Do I need a permit for that?

One of the inevitable and often desirable aspects of home ownership is home improvement or renovation. Whether you hire a contractor or decide to do it yourself, you should know which projects require a permit so that you don’t run into trouble after you’ve already invested time or money. The standard for when a permit is required varies by municipality but here in St. Petersburg, you can find the answer on their website at www.stpete.org

“Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by the Florida Building Code (FBC), or to cause any such work to be done, shall file an application and obtain the required permit or certificate.”  –  City of St. Petersburg Planning & Economic Development Department

 In St. Petersburg, the city’s website has a very comprehensive section on permitting and home construction that provides not only applications, codes and guidelines but an entire project planning packet with checklists to insure that you have everything in order and compliant with our current codes and ordinances. Even when you hire a contractor to do the project, you should familiarize yourself with this process and follow up with your contractor to make sure that everything is handled appropriately because ultimately, you are responsible if the permit isn’t in place and properly closed when the project is complete. 

Obtaining a permit is important not just for your own safety and enjoyment of home improvements but as a record of value added to the home. Homeowners who do not think about permits until it is time to sell their home often face a costly process that might involve obtaining a retroactive permit or worse, being required to remove the “improvement.” We once represented a seller who had constructed a tiki bar on their property and when they tried to sell, learned that the permit had not been closed. It was several years after the project was complete and the contractor they had hired had passed away. Also  in the time since construction, new codes had been introduced that made the structure out of compliance and so the structure had to be torn down. Not only did they not have this wonderful feature that they had paid to construct, they now had to pay to have it removed.

Most standard real estate contracts will require the seller of a property to close all open permits prior to closing. This process may take days or even weeks to resolve so if you are planning to list your home, it’s always good to check your home’s permit history. In St. Petersburg, you can do that by visiting the city’s website here: Property Cards Not every city has them available online but they can often be obtained from the building department simply by calling  and giving a fax number or e-mail address.

Owners often get a copy of the building permit from their contractor, but often neglect to get proof of the permit being properly closed. Be sure you get evidence of the final approved inspection and permit closing before you make your final payment to the contractor.  If you get a permit for work that you plan to do, which you don’t do, you should also check to be sure that permit is closed.

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Save on cooling costs for your St Petersburg home

You can save on cooling costs in your St Petersburg home by using an attic fan or whole house fan.  Some of the older homes in St Pete already have attic fans but few of the new homes have them. An Inman article today details many benefits of an attic fan, including not only lowering your cooling costs, but extending the life of your roof. Bianchina reports that replacing the stale house air by fresh air can also provide a health benefit.

Most of the existing fans (they are now generally called whole house fans though we usually refer to the older ones as attic fans) are in the attic of a house, with a large grill exposed in the ceiling below, often in a central hallway, and louvers that open and close. The fan is framed or boxed in the attic and the louvers and fan motor are often operated by a switch in the hallway.  Here in Florida homes are generally not cooled entirely by the attic fan, though some of the older homes relied only on the fan. Usually it’s a supplement for central air conditioning. If you’re away from the house during the day, you can set the temperature up higher and then, when you get home, turn on the attic fan for 5 minutes and it’s amazing how much cooler the house is.

You can buy new fan systems, of course. You might also check to see if an existing, unused fan, can be repaired and made operational – though it might be less expensive and more efficient to buy a new unit.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Insuring your St Petersburg home

Several of our clients have had questions recently on insuring their St Petersburg home. Here’s what we learned from Wallace, Welch & Willingham:

Yes, if you cancel your Citizens (or any other company) homeowners insurance policy when you sell your St Pete home, you will get a refund for the unused portion. There is always a basic or minimum policy fee, so the refund won’t be a proration based only on the number of days insured.

If you sell your Florida home and you have a flood insurance policy, you will also get a refund on the flood insurance policy. Note that if you arbitrarily cancel your flood policy, there will not be a refund. This is to prevent people from paying for flood insurance only during the hurricane season. If you’re buying a home, you should check to see if the seller has a current flood policy. If so, you may be able to assume it. If not (some owners without a mortgage self-insure), there may be a 30 day wait after you buy the house before you are covered.

Based on the renewal date for your policies, you may need to renew your insurance while it’s under contract for sale. This is something to consider when you are agreeing to a closing date, since you  may have to renew for just 4 days but “pay for” two months of the insurance, considering the basic non-rebated fees.

It’s a good idea to review your home insurance coverage every year and discuss options with your insurance agent. What is covered can change, and companies come in and out of the market.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

How to help the appraiser of your St Petersburg home

It’s more important than ever to be able to help the appraiser of your St Petersburg home or condo. With the intervention  of the Appraisal Management Companies and appraisers who may be unfamiliar with your neighborhood or condominium building, and insufficient payment or time to do necessary research, the more information you can provide the better.

You or your real estate agent should prepare a package for the appraiser to take with him:

  • List of improvements you’ve made and dates
  • Floor plan, if available
  • Survey and flood elevation, if available
  • Copy of the sales contract, if applicable
  • List of recent sales you feel are comparable, with specific comments
  • List of recent sales you feel are not comparable, with specific comments
  • information on any unusual features or amenities

The appraiser will have access to the Multiple Listing System, but sometimes that’s insufficient or incorrect information. At a recent appraisal of one of our listings under contract, Tami was able to give specific information to the appraiser on one of the comparables, explaining why buyers objected to the layout of that home (functional obsolescence). That’s something that would not be evident in the MLS.  Yesterday at an appraisal of a condo we have under contract,  I was able to point out to the appraiser that the MLS square footage of the closest comparable sold unit was incorrect – it overstated the size by 77%. That would make a huge difference in an appraisal!

It’s much more constructive to be proactive than reactive. Don’t try to influence the appraiser on value – just provide as much factual information as you can.


Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Consider downsizing now before you retire

Are you cliff living? Jeffrey Christakos uses this term when you stay in your big house waiting for retirement, then to change work, finances and home all at the same time.

Should you wait to downsize? Too many people compare today’s prices to those at the market high and hope that by waiting a few more years prices will return to that level. Not so fast. If the value has dropped 50%, it now has to increase 100% to get back to that level. There’s no guarantee how soon the economy will recover nor how long low interest rates will continue.

New homes being built are smaller than a few years ago. There’s been some cutback in the extent of luxury options.

Would you buy your current home today? That’s the magic question. If, due to family size, location, finances, changing interests, you wouldn’t – then consider right sizing now. It may also reduce your expenses, helping you transition to lower income when you retire or semi-retire. There are many options from a downtown St Petersburg condo to a waterfront home, from Snell Isle to Costa Rica.

If you aren’t ready to move, you may want to consider buying your retirement home today while prices are low and renting it out in the meantime.

Want to talk abut these options? Call the Simms Team at 727-898-2582 or email us.


Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Is an “as is” offer good for a St Petersburg home seller?

 Often, when a Seller receives an “as is” offer on his home in St Petersburg, his first thought is, “Great. That means I won’t have to make any repairs.”  Well, not necessarily.

In most cases the contract will provide for the buyer to have a home inspection done. In the typical Florida FAR/BAR contract, there is a clause that “If Buyer determines, in Buyer’s sole discretion, that this property is not acceptable to Buyer, Buyer may terminate this contract”. So, it’s correct that the Seller isn’t obligated to make any repairs, but the buyer also isn’t obligated to buy the property. Rather than just walking away, (though that happens sometimes, too) the Buyer may point out things that he’s not satisfied with and offer to go ahead with the purchase if the Seller fixes certain things, or if the Seller reduces the price or gives a credit for certain repairs. This often leads to a second round of negotiating. In effect, then, with an “as is” contract, the buyer is getting a 10 day “free look” at the property, to decide if he really does want to buy this house for the price already agreed upon.

In addition to buyer requests, other parties may get involved in repair issues. If the purchase is subject to a loan, the underwriter – who often doesn’t get involved until a day or two before closing – may require certain repairs to be done before closing, even if the buyer and seller have agreed that those repairs don’t need to be done. 

The insurance company may also get involved. On older homes, the insurance company will require a “four point inspection”. The insurer may object to the type of wiring in a house, or the estimated remaining life of the roof (even though the roof doesn’t leak). If the purchase is subject to a loan, the lender will require insurance on the home. If the insurer won’t insure without the repairs, the lender won’t loan the money, and the closing won’t happen.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Photos for elevation certificates

 There’s always something new in the process from contract to closing on a property in St Petersburg. A survey company that is preparing the elevation certificate on one of the properties we have under contract called us this morning. They were calling for access to the property, telling us that they now have to take a photo of the finished floor, the appliance at the lowest elevation, etc. 

A flood certification is often a requirement by the insurance company before issuing a flood policy. Since insurance is required by the lender, it’s good to get these details done early in the contract process. It’s less expensive to have the flood elevation done at the same time as the survey is done, rather than ordering it separately later.

That’s one more item for our Contract Checklist. We like to be proactive. 

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Is this a good time to downsize in St Petersburg Florida?

Downsizing in St Petersburg

 Yes, it’s a good time to downsize in St. Petersburg Florida. True, you won’t be able to sell your current home for as high a price as you could have in 2006-2007. I think it will be a long time before we see those prices again, and your cost of getting there may be much more than the difference in sales prices. You also should consider how the value of what you’re purchasing will change. 60% of buyers in the US are considering downsizing. If the demand is for smaller homes, the cost of those should rise faster than for larger homes.

Often downsizing means downpricing as well. If you’re going to spend only a portion of the proceeds from selling your current home, then you’ll have the difference to invest, save for a rainy day, or use for vacations or living expenses. Sometimes downsizing means decreasing the size of your home but increasing the amenities. In that case, you wouldn’t gain any cash, and may even spend more money on your new home.

There are still advantages to going smaller: your utility costs should decrease (you may even get a greener home that’s more efficient); your maintenance costs should decrease. If you also downsize your “stuff” you’ll have less to clean and maintain. It can be refreshing to clean out and live with less. You can increase your free time.

If you’re moving from a house to a condo, you no longer need to coordinate everything that needs to be done around your house and yard. You may save money because of group discounts on things like cable and internet. Common areas may provide activity space that you didn’t have or need before, such as a billiard room, a gym, library or card room.

If you’re thinking about downsizing but concerned about current property prices, let’s talk about your options. Call us or email us to set up a time to talk about it.


Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: No Comments »

Renting with a dog

I'm a dog. Will you rent your condo to my owner and me?

I'm a dog. Will you rent your condo to my owner and me?

Renting with a dog is often a problem and most owners don’t want to rent to people with pets. A condominium rental we’re marketing in downtown St Pete is no exception. The owner has requested “No Pets” as there are new hardwood floors in the unit.  So – a prospective tenant sent this photo to Rob this morning, along with a description of both the tenant and the dog.

We couldn’t resist. Nor could the owner of the downtown St Pete condo.  Yes, you irresistible dog with your pleading eyes,  you may rent the condo.

Spoken by Sharon Simms | Discussion: 1 Comment »

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