Pools. Are They A Wise Investment?

Living in Central Florida, pools are on many homeowners must list! But, there are still many homes that do not have a pool.

Occasionally, we have people asking if by adding a pool to their home; if they sold it, would they get their investment back?

A quick answer is, no, not typically.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add a pool. It’s just important to go into it with your “eyes wide open.”

Pools depreciate. Equipment gets old and needs replaced and the pool finish fades and needs to be refinished. Obviously, the better you care for your pool, the longer it will last.

Location also adds or subtracts from the value that your pool will add to your home. If you’re in an area of vacation rentals, for example, the pool will contribute greatly to the value of your home. Conversely, if you’re in an area where most home do not have a pool, in an area of modest homes, your pool may be worth half the value you paid for it, on the day it’s installed.

Bottomline though, regardless of what you spend on a pool and the amount you recoup upon selling your home, the number one question to ask is; will you use it? If so, how much will you use it and for how long? Then you can work the numbers backwards to see how much it will cost you for the convenience of swimming at home.

If you decide that having a pool is important, you may want to consider moving and buy a home that already has a pool. This will lower your upfront cost, how much depends on the amount of deferred maintenance.

When adding a pool, remember the cost of a fence or pool enclosure. Both of which will also require maintenance over the years. Also, how will you pay for it? Cash or financed? Or, refinance it into your house payment. There is a cost to everything.

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Local News: Current Orlando Area Housing Market

Thinking of buying or selling? Get to know the local housing market!

On these Orlando area (including Polk County) housing charts; the number of homes for sale, sold and pending (red line) are shown for a 15-year period. This time period, of course, includes the “Great Recession.”


The blue chart shows the ups and downs of real estate values for that same period (on a price per square foot basis).


When you overlay the real estate values over the number of homes for sale chart (chart 3), the part that supply plays in determining value is quite clear. You can also really appreciate how nice it is to have an extended time period where values rise and then stabilize, like we are experiencing today.


Home prices and volume closed, for April in Polk County was up, both month over month and year over year. Is there a potential for higher prices? Well, the median priced home that sold in Polk County was $192,500.00 and the nation’s median price home sold for $234,500.00 per Zillow. So yes, I think so! Of course, there are many other factors involved with whether this will happen or not.

In conclusion, if you are looking to sell, anytime this year will be a good time. Though listing in late spring and summer can help the property sell quicker. But prices appear to be remaining steady and there are not a large supply of homes on the market. Now, if you are looking to buy, now is not a bad time, the economy is releatively stable and there is a good chance that housing pricing may go up higher.

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Sharing commentary and articles of interest

 The Commercial and Residential rental industry has had relatively few changes throughout the years, especially in smaller cities and towns. But big changes are now coming! With investment into real estate tech companies up over 600%, you can bet that these changes will have an impact, even on smaller markets like the Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA.

What do tenants want

Tenant demands and innovations in IT are driving quick changes in retail and office buildings.

Shared Workspaces

Danny Rice, managing director for Colliers International in Florida and contributor to Tampa Bay Business & Wealth, listed seven commercial real estate trends to watch in 2019. Number one on his list was office flex space, including co-working space. He said, “co-working spaces with common amenity areas are doing very well, showing that this concept isn’t just a fad.” After listing many office buildings in the Tampa area that offered shared workspaces he said, “the tenants aren’t just startups: A number of larger regional and national companies are leveraging these facilities to establish satellite offices in the area, without the major overhead.”  Danny also spoke of new accounting rules being rolled out that will change how leases are reported. He says that among other things, companies will have to” list lease obligations on their balance sheet.” Of course, this will give a more accurate picture of the organization that has entered into a lease, but it will also, in many cases, encourage businesses to request shorter term leases from owners.

The Reinvention of Property Management

The following article states what I have been seeing occur in the marketplace over the last several years. Property management is being reinvented and consolidated, away from the mom and pop management companies. This is mostly due to large companies investing in new applications that cater to this market. The first apps created focused on office space, but quickly were modified and applied to residential management. This is just one more market disruption that is occurring very quickly.

The Total Business Experience

Even Home Depot, a retail establishment, is experimenting with creating co-working environments where various self-help and expert services are available.

With retail sales floundering, Home Depot is profiting from emphasizing service. They are creating within their retail space, little hubs of business activity, branding themselves as a kind of partner with small and medium businesses by helping these customers have a complete “one stop” business experience. Home Depot seeks to do this by better-utilizing resources, i.e., improving their online presence and viewing their stores as “touchpoints” where customers get most all of the assistance, they require to meet today’s demands.

Office Depot is just one company that is focusing on creating a total business experience for their customers. The harsh realities of today’s online market are causing others to rethink the way they do business.

Online, small establishments formulate their paths for progress. There, small companies find that with small monthly subscriptions, they gain access to virtually unlimited resources that help them compete with much larger companies. In turn, larger corporations are finding that to maintain their market share, they need to act like smaller businesses (minimizing their hard cost).

Many companies come to the conclusion that to expand (or to just maintain their market share) it’s not necessary to raise a lot of capital for physical locations, expensive software, equipment, etc. It’s their Online presence that builds brands and drives business. Online is where the public goes, and online is where the cash enters their coffers.

This whole process of the public’s willingness to accept the online world and businesses adjusting to it, is causing disruption throughout the economy. Finding what the right mix of virtual and physical looks like is perplexing, especially as technology changes so quickly. There are many futurists that will tell you what life will be like in 20 years, but getting there and surviving the change, is the challenge.

So, what are entrepreneurs and small businesses wanting from their physical space? They want affordable state-of-the-art technology, perhaps only paying for the actual time that it’s used. They want experts in related fields and they want to collaborate with others with likeminded ideas. They want a comfortable work environment; in some respects, even an extension of their homes. They want walking access to a variety of eateries. They want a place that is cool, that gives others (particularly their peers and investors) the impression that they have achieved some success. And, of course, they want all of this for the small price of a subscription, with no long-term commitment and only paying for the space they need when they use it. In other words, they want their physical world to mimic their virtual one.  I can’t see any disruption here, can you?  (Information is from an article on RetailDive, “Services Fuel Office Depot growth” By Daphne Howland)

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Zillow’s Zestimate… How Accurate Is It?

When wanting to know a home’s value, Zillow has become one of the go to websites.

The website is quick, easy and can even keep you constantly informed of a current value. The Zestimate (which is what Zillow’s estimate is called) median of error is the draw back of this website.  In an article recently posted on the Florida Realtors® website, Zillow spends $1M trying to improve its ‘Zestimates’, it states: “Zillow has slowly improved its Zestimate from a median error rate of 14 percent when it started in 2006 to 5.7 percent… It’s now down to 4.5 percent nationally (it’s higher in some cities and lower in others).”

4.5%, the new standard for Zestimate’s, is excellent!

Recently, I marketed for sale, two nearly identical homes in the same community. Both homes listed for $139,900.00 and pended within a few weeks of each other, for full price.

Unfortunately, one of the owners decided to reduce their contracted selling price by $10,000.00 rather than losing the contract for sale and placing their home back on the market. This decision was made after their appraisal came in exactly $10,000.00 below the other home’s appraisal. Instead of disputing the appraisal, which the procedure can take some time, the Seller lost $10,000. The Seller felt that a quick, on time closing was the most important action. For sellers to be placed in this position is not uncommon. I’ve seen differences in appraisals of up to 10%.

The reality is that two equally motivated buyers (with the same alternatives available to them) will likely have two different prices that they would pay for the same house. So, to get (on average) within 5% of the value without even seeing the interior of the property is remarkable. Of course, the more your home falls outside of what could be considered “cookie cutter,” the more likely that your Zestimate will be inaccurate.

For curious property owners, a Zestimate likely is sufficient. But, there are other similar services that you can check your Zestimate with, like Trulia. If you still want more, check with your Realtor® for information from narpr.com, where a ton of information is available including a value estimate.

Or, if you want even more accuracy (and you live in Polk County) see realtyhighway.com for additional instruction.

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Is The School District Important When Buying A House?


A child’s early school education is very important.

It is no secret, that when buying a home, a good school district is very important.

It’s for a good reason too. Our children spend around 184 days a year for 7 hours a day for 13 to 14 years there. This means, their peers and school staff have a big part in shaping our children. With it being such a huge factor in daily life, it is no surprise that a good school zone with high grades, is high on the home “wish list” for many 18-55 year olds. In-fact, according to Realtor.com, 78% of buyers in their preferred school district gave up home features to get there.  Some of the features that buyers are willing to give up include a garage (19%), updated kitchen (17%), desired number of bedrooms (17%) and large outdoor living area (16%).

Being a parent myself, I understand making sacrifices for my children (or future kids). But before giving up all amenities for the “A” school, you may want to give a thought to a few other things besides the grade.

First, ask yourself a few questions…What does your child need? Do they need smaller class sizes?  Do they need extra help in subjects? Will the school be willing to work with you and your child? Are they self-motivators or do they need extra motivation?  Do you want a more diverse place? Will your child be challenged enough? Are there other options that for your child that does not have an assigned district like Magnet, IB, Virtual or a Private school?

Next, look at what the it has to offer. Not all schools offer the same classes, electives, after-school programs and support.

Finally, find out more “non-grade” information on the schools. School grades may not show all the information needed to make the best school choice for your family. Check out websites like https://www.publicschoolreview.com/. Websites like this can give you in site on school numbers, classroom ratios, diversity, etc.  Talk to other parents. Many involved parents will have plenty to say about the pros and cons of the school their child goes to.

When purchasing your home there are many decisions to be made. And there is never “a one size fits all” answer. What are the “must haves” on your list when purchasing a new house?

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What is your home worth?

Market Value… Is Yours Correct?

Selling a house can be a stressful event. Many questions will arise during the process. The biggest question though is “What Is My House Worth?”


A house can be worth many different values. You may believe that it is worth one price.   The value you give the property may be affected by  an emotional connection or  how much money was spent on the counter tops. But, will a buyer pay that much or are you giving it enough value? If priced too high, your house will sit on the market. If priced too low, you will lose potential profit. To find the magical price that is just right, you need to know the Market Value.

What is Market Value? How can you find it?


A partial definition of market value is “The most probable price in terms of money which a property will bring in the competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.”


The definition in itself is a mouthful! So where should you begin to get this elusive Market Value? Well… I fully recommend going down to your local trusted Real Estate Agent. But if you want to look elsewhere here is a quick summary of different options.

  • A Real Estate Appraiser gets paid to assign a single value to the property.  Appraisals usually start at around $350.


  • The County Assessors assessments. These values are not especially accurate for many reasons. For instance, it assigns a value when property is brought and this value can only go up or down a certain percentage a year.


  • Website services that offer quick and easy home market value estimates (ex. Zillow). These online companies examine data from limited sources. They apply their formula and instantly a value estimate is made.  The values are estimated with out truly knowing the area or the condition of the home. Beware, many of these services broadcast the values Online for all to see. A suite has been filed against one such company, claiming financial damage from the broadcasting of potentially bogus information. FYI, The Nolen Group and Realty Highway, keep their opinions confidential.


  • Companies that offer services that give a property value, then turn around and give a cash offer for the same amount. Remember, the companies that offer these services are investors. Investors usually pay 40% to 85% of the property’s estimated market value. There are even wholesale investors that buy at a steep enough discount to sell to another investor who repairs it and sells it to an owner occupant.


  • A Real Estate Broker generally assigns a value range knowing that 10 motivated buyers may assign a different value to the same property. A Realtor may also give a value range too, based upon condition or upgrades, such as one price if the kitchen is upgraded or another, if it is sold in as it is. Even without looking inside, a local real estate broker’s opinion may be a better indicator of market value than an automated system. If you don’t want the broker in your house for some reason, snap a few pictures of your home, including the kitchen and bathrooms. Email it to the real estate broker; then ask for their thoughts on market value.


The bottom line is, it’s a good idea to collect values from various sources. However, more trust should be given to valuations from an actual person. A person, that is familiar with the local market, has viewed the interior, and carefully evaluated the property, such as your local Real Estate Agent.


Do you know your home’s market value? If not, contact me. 

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Without research and the right Realtor it is easy to loose money on your property.

Learning Lessons The Hard Way This Week

This week was a difficult week. My heart ached for a few sellers that I came across, that were in the depths of learning the lessons of why having the proper Real Estate agent is important.

Having no Realtor® or the wrong Realtor® can make for hard lessons to learn.

While showing buyers a house for sale, I learned that the homeowner had just entered into a contract to sell the adjoining lot for less than ½ its likely market value. She had gotten something in the mail from an investor, and when the pushy buyer came over with contract in hand, she signed it. Now, she may be obligated to sell the lot for well below the quick sale (5 days) price, and 70% below what she could have potentially received if it was placed in the hands of a professional for up to 210 days. Now, she’s speaking to an attorney, trying to find a way out. I wished her the best, but it doesn’t sound good.

Another homeowner, who wanted a quick sale, due to severe medical issues, placed their home in the hands of a real estate agent. Unfortunately, the price was set lower than it needed to be. What’s worse, investors (potential buyers) backed away from making offers, upon hearing that there were multiple offers already on the property. What’s more this was all occurring on a weekend. Though, it hasn’t closed yet, so I don’t know for certain what it’s selling for, a mutual friend told me a selling price that I believe could be nearly 10% below a quick sale price. According to the mutual friend, the Seller didn’t even know that there were multiple offers on the property.

I plan on following up on this, just to check the accuracy of this report. I assume that it will close in a few days.  Once closed, the County will record the price in public records. So, I’ll know soon know the accuracy of this account. For that type of property in this market, to save about 80 days in the total time it might have taken to receive full market value and to close, the Seller’s apparently gave up nearly 25% of the funds they would have received at closing. That’s a lot of money!

To make more money, Investors seek advice during every phase of the investment process.

On a happier note, we closed on an investment home that the investor purchased to flip. Even though I had no input on the purchase of the home and many of the repairs; in the final analysis, it turned out okay. They received the proceeds they counted on. But, the funds could have come quicker. The house was two-bedrooms, which is okay. Especially since it was purchased near the beginning of the winter season, the best time to sell a two-bedroom home. Unfortunately, they made many repairs themselves and they missed placing the home for sale in the quick selling winter season. Thus, it ended up taking much longer to sale.

Investors; seek out third parties with experience in every phase of the investment process. Then, seek their advice all along the investment process. You’ll likely make more money and the process will be smoother.

What are some of your experiences of buying or selling a house that you would do different the next time?

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The Best Information All in One Place

I really like search engines like Google. Information is so easy to come by. In seconds, you can find out really important information like the height of the Sears tower, 1,450ft high and that I’m only 1,145 miles away from it. Google was founded in 1998, so there’s now a whole generation whose world has never been without it. Good for them! But Google has limitations, for instance, ask it “what is the best time to sell my house in Lakeland, Florida” and what do you get? In less than a second you get 1,770,000 results. And guess what? They aren’t all the same.

And so, what’s one to do? Well, I haven’t stumbled across any crystal balls, but there are some nifty resources that can really increase one’s real estate market understanding. The public and especially real estate agents, are bombarded with loads of important real estate related information every day. Unfortunately, much of it never gets disseminated to those who really need it. Or important information is received and digested, but the timing is off. It’s no longer applicable. Or, when the information is needed, it’s lost and nowhere to be found. Then, decisions are made that can cost people 10s of thousands maybe 100s of thousands of dollars.

Witnessing firsthand the many ups and downs of the market, including the 18% interest rate era and the deep recession of 2008, I have become passionate about giving others the real estate market information they need to make timely informed decisions. Particularly data that could directly impact homeowners and would be owners. This is not real estate counseling, rather, the funneling of relevant information to land within the reach of individual homeowners and potential owners

Realty Highway, the one stop place for all of your real estate information!

Realty Highway is the best way to filter this mountain of real estate data. With the Realty Highway filter and my personal blog, I hope to make the real estate market real to you.

One more thing; I despise junk mail and email (it robs me of my time). Every effort will be made not to waste your time.

Now, consider this your invite to join me to secure our real estate future. As we travel along, much of the information will be organized and stored on our website for future reference. Oh, FYI … I love small business, that entrepreneurial experience and the small-town vibe. Also, it’s trilling to see what homeowners do to improve and personalize their homes. Along our way, we’ll be enjoying lots of life enhancing fun things too.

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Make Your Property More Attractive for Homebuyers

Ensure a Good First Impression

Homebuyers make up their minds about a property in the first few minutes. Make sure your home makes that vital first impression. New paint does wonders. Make sure the front yard is flawless with manicured lawns and attractive foliage. Add a hanging basket or some flower pots at the door. The front door is also critical, make sure the hardware is presentable.

Make them Feel Welcome

Don’t forget buying a home is in many ways an emotional decision, so it’s important to give buyers that warm and fuzzy feeling! Keep the temperature in the home at a comfortable level. Light some candles in the bathrooms and make sure it smells nice and clean. Have fresh flowers around the house.

But don’t make it too personal

Make them feel welcome, but don’t go too far. Too much personality, for example in the form of personal possessions and family photos makes it hard for buyers to visualize living in the space.

Clear out the Clutter

Make sure your property is clutter-free for all your viewings. This will make your home look and feel bigger, and the buyers will be able to imagine how they could make the space their own. Make sure that there is a clean, logical flow through the home by getting rid of all excess furniture. Less is more.

Improve Lighting

This is another way to make your home seem more spacious. Open all your curtains and flood the space with natural light. Make sure the darker rooms are also lit. Invest in some light fixtures and fittings, and place them strategically to illuminate even the gloomiest of areas.

Decorate to Sell That House

Slap on a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color to give it that blank canvas look but do not be too sterile. Have some contrast in the trim as well as the ceiling. Neutral colors make properties appear lighter and brighter, so take advantage of this inexpensive and easy option. You may also add color with decorative window coverings, rugs, and towels.

Clean Up Your Act

Your home should be spotless. Make sure the beds are made and the countertops are free of clutter. The dishes should be put away and nothing should be scattered on the floor. Don’t forget to tidy your garden too: Cut the shrubs back, sweep the patio, and wipe down the backyard furniture.

Those Minor Repairs You Put Off

It is easy to forget things such as broken doorknobs, cracked tiles, holes in walls and damaged but buyers will notice them first thing as they are walking around your home.

Maximize Your Space

The golden rule of selling is to make your space look and feel bigger and better than what your competitors have to offer. We’ve already mentioned that lighting your home, both naturally and artificially, can maximize your assets, but getting rid of bulky furniture can also be a great way of making the most of what you have. Large pieces of furniture make a space feel smaller, so put these items into storage and dress your home with more compact pieces.

Don’t Forget Your Floors

Make the investment of improving and investing in those floors. Worn carpets and damaged vinyl floors need to be replaced, and wooden floors especially should undergo some maintenance. This is not chap by any means, but the prospect of selling your home for the best possible price will likely outweigh the cost.

Remove Pets During Showings

You do not need to remind the potential buyer that the previous owner kept pets.

Try to remove your pets from your home when you are showing the home. Having a pet in the house or yard can create complications for your agent while trying to show the house, and puts your pet at risk of accidentally getting out during the showing. There are also liability issues to deal with as well. They may react differently to stranger and it may cause them stress. All pet-related damage should be repaired prior to showing the home. Make sure to also remove all odors and stains. New visitors will notice smells when they come to view the house. This is not something you want to happen. Have your carpet and floors professionally cleaned or replaced. Pick up any messes in the backyard and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired.

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