Living in Charlotte County Florida

Find the perfect home in sunny southwest, Florida

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Are you considering an investment property?

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are planning to purchase an investment property.  First of all decide how long you plan to own the property before you buy it.  The longer you own the home, the more money you will need to put into it for maintenance, repairs, and improvements.  Then decide your purpose for investing.  Is it for rental income?  Are you looking for a quick flip?  Are you looking to build up appreciation and resell?

Don’t count on appreciation.  With the market the way it is right now, appreciation is not a guarantee.    When looking at homes, you want to purchase a home that would have an attractive resale value no matter what the market is like.  Obviously you would like to make a profit if you did resell. 

If you decide to rent the property, you want to rent it for at least 1.5 to 3 percent of the purchase price.  It is necessary to make sure your rental income will cover your out of pocket expenses such as the mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs and vacancy rate.  Right now, demand is higher than supply.  Check with local real estate agents or call rental ads to see what the going rental rate is within the areas you are looking to purchase a property. 

Try an investment calculator such as the one at  Go to their web site:  This will give you a good idea of the financial situation if you decide to rent an investment property.

There are tax benefits in any real estate investment whether it be rental homes, apartments, vacant land, commercial buildings, industrial, shopping centers, or warehouses.  Check with your local tax advisor before entering into a purchase agreement for any investment property to make sure you qualify and follow the strict requirements.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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The new craze in buying office condos

If you are thinking about bringing your business to Southwest Florida, be sure to check out the many office condos available.  Office condos are designed to meet the needs of small to mid-sized businesses that want a permanent location.  Take advantage of owning versus leasing an office.  Buying an office condo also eliminates the need to purchase land and construct a building.  The work is already done and waiting for you.

What are some of the benefits of purchasing an office condo?  You are purchasing a space in larger complex where the maintenance costs are shared.  The condo association takes care of items such as mowing the lawn, removing garbage, and completing building upgrades.  Another benefit is that the mortgage payment on an office condo is quite often cheaper than the monthly payment for a lease.  You can also deduct it on your income taxes as an appreciable asset. 

What are some of the disadvantages of purchasing an office condo?  In addition to the monthly mortgage payment you will have to pay a condo association fee to cover the above mentioned maintenance costs.  When you belong to a condo association you often have to pay additional special assessment fees to cover the cost for capital improvements.

Lastly, you may outgrow your space and would have to sell the property, maybe at a lesser price than you paid for it. 

Be sure to thoroughly investigate your options and determine your long term needs before you invest in an office condo.  If you think you may grow over the next several years, it is probably not a good idea.  If you plan to keep your business the same size, it should be a good choice. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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How to sell your home yourself

Many homeowners take on the task of selling their home themselves.  It can save you money in commission but you must be willing to spend some money to market your home.  You also need to be aware of the real estate laws in your area

The first thing you need to do is prepare your home.  You need to clean it inside and out.  Make sure the yard is neatly mowed at all times.  It is also important to make repairs to anything that is not in working order.  A fresh coat of paint in stained areas wouldn’t hurt either. 

Next you will need to determine a listing price.  A lot of people don’t do the research and list a home for what they need to get out of it or what they think it is worth.  This is definitely a mistake.  You can look around the neighborhood for homes listed by an agent and call to see what those home are selling for.  You can go to your county’s public records and see what comparable homes sold for in your area.  You can also get a free comparative market analysis from a Realtor.  Listing your home at the right price is key to selling it in a timely manner.

Next you will need to market your home.  There are several ways to do this.  It is a good idea to create a flyer explaining the features of your home.  You should put a for sale sign in the front yard and purchase a container to put flyers in so that drive bys can pick up a flyer.  You can get these at your local home improvement store.  Then you will need to advertise your home.  You can find online sites to post it.  You can put an ad in your local newspaper or find local bulletin boards to post it on with tear off phone numbers.  Areas to post could be your local shopping mall, stores, libraries, and apartment complexes.

You may want to have an open house. Hand out flyers to your neighbors and invite them to your open house.  You never know who they know that might be looking for a home.   Be cautious of who you let in your home.  Since you are letting strangers into your home, it is a good idea to walk around with them at all times.  In addition to the open house, you need to be available to show your home to prospective buyers.  Plan to take calls regarding your home at all hours.  You need to have a flexible schedule.

There are many other legal details that go into selling a home.  You should consult with a real estate attorney or a local title company that specializes in real estate transactions.  They can draw up a contract for purchase once you have a buyer.  Other things that come into play when selling a home are an appraisal, a title search, a survey, inspections, and setting up a closing date and time.  For more detailed information check out

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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What should I offer as earnest money when buying a home?

Earnest Money Deposit

Another term for earnest money is deposit.  Earnest money is the amount of money given by the buyer to the seller with an offer to purchase a home.  The purpose of the deposit is to show good faith that you are serious about purchasing the home.

How do you know how much money to give as a deposit?  The amount of money varies with each purchase agreement.  Generally it depends on the value of the home.  It should be an amount that is sufficient enough to indicate to the seller that the buyer will not walk away from the deal without good reason.  In Southwest Florida, the traditional amount of a deposit is $500 to $1,000.  It can be anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent of the purchase price.  You don’t want to make too large of a deposit; that is what the down payment is for.  Do not confuse the two. 

Earnest money is usually in the form of a check which can be a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order.  It is given with the offer to purchase and it deposited in a broker’s trust fund or escrow account with a law office or title company.  If the offer is accepted, the money will be applied to the down payment or other costs when the closing takes place.  If your purchase offer is not accepted, the check will be returned to you.

Florida has very strict rules for handling escrow deposits.   If the deposit amount is written on the contract, then the check must be submitted with the offer to the seller.  Another way is to write on the contract that the deposit would be collected at acceptance. 

Once the deposit is received, the real estate agent must deposit the check into an escrow account no later than the end of the 3rd business day following receipt of the check. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Simple repairs to help your home show better and sell faster

When a buyer comes into your home, they can be very fussy about small things.  If you want to help your home show better and sell faster, follow these simple repairs.

Kitchen – Replace kitchen faucets.  Replace hardware on cabinets and drawers.  Put new caulk around backsplash. 

Bathroom – Install new towel racks, lighting fixtures, and faucets.  Repair leaky faucets or running toilets.  Put fresh caulk around tub/shower.

Curb Appeal – Make sure you have fresh landscaping with no weeds.  Keep your lawn mowed and replace dead grass with new sod.  Planting a few fresh flowers will add to the appeal.

Doorways – Make sure they are working well.  Check for squeaks.  Fix any ripped screens on screed doors or lanais.  Replace old door knobs and locks.  Caulk windows and doors.

Flooring – Replace or repair cracked tile.  Clean or replace the grout.  Shampoo or replace carpeting. 

Exterior – Replace any missing shingles on the roof.  Clear gutters from leaves or other debris.  Replace mailbox and house numbers.  Caulk and paint over small hairline cracks in foundation.

Painting – Check for any cracks or holes and repair.  Paint walls, ceilings, and trim in neutral colors.  If you don’t have time to paint all the walls, at least do touch up painting.

Mechanical – Make sure major mechanical systems are working such as air conditioning/heating and plumbing as well as electrical systems.  All appliances should be in good working order.

Any repairs that you do to your home will help improve the value of your home.  Home buyers will feel safer in purchasing a home when they do not see a lot of repairs that need to be made.  If you are willing to spend a little money on completing necessary repairs, it could result in a higher selling price and a quicker sale.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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What is happening with the foreclosure mess?

If you purchased a foreclosed home in the past three years, you may have concern.  The best recommendation is to contact the lawyer or title company that did your initial closing and ask if there could be any problems.  If you are in the middle of purchasing a foreclosed home by one of the lenders that put a hold on it, you are going to have to sit back and wait.  If you are thinking of buying a home that is in foreclosure, be sure to find out who the lender is. If you do put an offer on a home, be sure to get title insurance.   

What happened?  Many of the lenders had so many foreclosures that they just started pushing them through without following required procedures for documenting and signing the paperwork. They took shortcuts and those shortcuts are causing delays now.  Another problem that happened was the large number of banks that bought other banks that were in trouble. 

According to Bob Gray, president of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors, a computerized listing of houses for sale in our area shows that, of the 2,600 houses on the market, only about 240 are bank owned.  Many of the bank owned homes were pulled off the market and who knows when they will be put back on. 

Will other lenders follow in the footsteps of Bank of America and Chase who have frozen foreclosures and cancelled the sale of properties to re-evaluate?  Only time will tell.  When purchasing a home you will need to do your research and ask questions.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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What does it mean to be a Realtor?

According to, “A real estate agent is a REALTOR® when he or she is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, The Voice for Real Estate® — the world’s largest professional association.”  Not every Real Estate Agent is a Realtor. 

Realtors have to abide by a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.  They must take courses before they are allowed to join the National Association of Realtors and must take continuing education courses in order to retain membership.  Real estate agents cannot legally use the name Realtor unless they have joined the National Association of Realtors.  Some people mistakenly call Real Estate Agents “Realtors” without realizing what the designation means.

The term Realtor is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors.  Members are allowed to use it on their business cards and marketing materials.  They abide by the code of ethics that covers ethical requirements that deal with anything from working with customers and fellow agents to writing truthful advertising.  Realtors are also accountable for the actions.  If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, think about choosing a Realtor as your next agent. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Helpful checklists for home buyers

If you are in the market to buy a home, one of the most important things you can do is make a checklist.  Here is a list of things you should do before you search for a home. 

1.  Be an informed buyer.  Gather information about the market.

2.  Become familiar with the mortgage process.  Get pre-qualified.

3.  Put together a budget.

4.  Decide on a home buying timeline.

5.  Determine your needs and wants.

6.  Find a good Realtor.

7.  Begin your home search. 

There are many home buyer’s checklists online if you are looking for a form to print out.  They are available in a variety of formats as well.   The typical checklist will include:  property address, price, taxes, neighborhood, interior and exterior detail, construction, and other detailed specifics. 

Check out some of these web sites for downloadable forms: 


Happy home hunting!

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL –

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Home sales drop, home prices drop

When will the housing slump be over?  Home prices dropped significantly in the second quarter of the year 2010.  Many areas are still struggling to come back.  Plenty of short sales and foreclosures continue to hit the market on a daily basis.  Even with the interest rates being at a record low, homes are still not selling.  The lending standards have become much tighter.

The home buyer tax credit is over.  This was a tool for supporting the housing marketing and prices.  People are still out of jobs.  The market won’t come back until we get people back to work.  The housing market is the worst it has been since the Great Depression. 

Economists believe the housing market will not begin to recover until home prices fall far enough to revive demand.  As for now, predictions are that the prices have not hit bottom yet.  Most experts think they are going to drop more. 

Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi told home prices will fall between 5 and 10 percent more in some areas of South Florida.  Zandi expects home prices to plummet 30 percent in 2010.

Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University and co-developer of Standard and Poor’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, told Reuters that while he does not give quantitative forecasts, the futures market indicates the downward trend in home prices is far from over. 

Will we see the prices continue to drop in 2011 and possibly 2012?  We will have to keep an eye on the market. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL –

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Living in a deed restricted community

A deed restricted community is where the community has a homeowner association that has rules and regulations pertaining to the use of land and the look of the neighborhood.  Usually it is initiated by the developer.  Most deed restricted communities require a homeowner association fee to continue the upkeep of the community.

Each deed restricted community has different rules.  Deed restrictions can include the size of home allowed on the lot, paint colors for the exterior of the home, as well as lawn maintenance, landscaping, and some even regulate tree-cutting.  Some communities do not allow the storage of campers, trailers, or cars that don’t run or vehicles with company names or logos on them.  They can dictate what types of materials a fence can be made out of, or even not allow fences at all.  Another restriction might be regarding pets.  Some will only allow one pet or limit the breed and size of the pet.    Building additional structures on the lot such as a shed or gazebo can also be restricted.

Some of the benefits of living in a deed restricted community are that amenities are often included.  These can be anything from golfing, use of swimming pool, tennis courts, a fitness center,  or even a club house.  These amenities are owned by the members of the community and are common ground.  Another benefit is that communities with deed restrictions maintain their value and are more desirable to potential buyers. 

It is important to be aware of the deed restrictions on a property before making an offer.   If you are thinking of buying a home in a deed restricted community, you will want to get a copy of the deed restrictions before you buy and read it over carefully.  These can either be obtained from the seller or directly from the homeowner association. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL –