Do you ever find yourself looking forward to that “holiday” of the month with the same anticipation you did as a kid? For me, I think of those special days almost as the dessert after a wonderful home-cooked meal. When I think of those days I find they mean the same to me today as they did when I was a child, and perhaps are the only traditions that haven’t changed throughout the years. I think of the fun we had on Halloween trick or treating in our costumes, Thanksgiving where we played touch football games before gorging ourselves on turkey and all the side dishes until we couldn’t move, and what more needs to be said about the excitement of the holiday season and New Year! While each month brings us a unique joy in its own way, the ones I find that make us all seem to laugh and take life a little less seriously are St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your religion, ethnic background, or political beliefs, on those days we proudly celebrate with revelry as if that was part of our ancestry.
Recently we had dinner with a couple who introduced Gail and me on a blind date 35 years ago. They are from New York where the husband has had a jewelry business in the heart of New York’s Diamond District for many years. We were dining outside in St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota and this couple was looking around like two kids entering Disney World, amazed at the number of people out and about enjoying the shops, restaurants, and beautiful evening weather. They had been to Florida many times before but this time was extra special as New York has been shut down to a large degree, and according to the husband, New York City has become a ghost town of sorts with rising crime rates and the closure of many businesses. However, despite the depressing news from New York, our conversations are always full of laughter as the husband has an uncanny sense of humor and like most wives, she just rolls her eyes.
With inventory levels so low, if there was ever a time in which to sell your home, this would be it! As of July, the median is 49 days on the market, a trend that is 9 days less from last year, and I see it moving lower in the next few months. Looking at sales of homes over the last year, the market in our area is highly active. In July of 2019, there were 345 homes sold in our area where for July 2020 we had 488 sales. Recently Punta Gorda was in the top 3 cities for people who are relocating to Florida. A lot of interest in our housing market is coming from people relocating from the north looking to escape the harsh winter weather and high taxes, but with concerns from this pandemic are looking to move to areas with less congestion where they can work remotely and avoid mass transit. With the influx of those moving to the area competition is fierce which has resulted in the median price of homes rising to $237,450. So not only are our sales looking good, but the price of our homes are attractive as well. Homes valued in the $250,000-$350,000 range are the most popular among buyers right now.
With mortgage rates at record lows, some buyers who are self -employed are having a harder time qualifying due additional qualifying guidelines stemming from the impact of the pandemic. Others are challenged in trying to get pre-qualified fast enough in order to submit offers quickly on what has become a very limited supply of inventory. Buyers shopping for a home in our area should first get pre-approved so they know what they CAN buy. Second, you need that pre-approval or proof of funds letter as sellers don’t want to tie up their properties for those who can’t qualify. In short, get pre-qualified and if you see a house you better act on it. If you are someone who has a hard time making up your mind now is not the time to just be looking. Homes have hit the market and are immediately going under contract when priced well and buyers are trying to make their offers very attractive in order to outbid their competition.
An article I read recently, “More Buyers Nix Inspections as Bidding Wars Heat Up”, a Redfin agent study found that almost one in five offers (19.9%) waived the inspection contingency to make their offers more attractive. This study was done with agents in select major US markets. The previous year it was 13.2%. Although, I understand why some are doing this I do feel this is a major part of home buying not to skimp on.
We have a good education system, good government and we offer a vibrant waterfront town with many medical options nearby and our crime is low. It is just a great place to live and why we love to call it home!
If you’re like me it seems every time you turn on the t.v. or pick up a newspaper there is nothing but negative news. If it isn’t the Coronavirus it is the political and racial divisiveness that is making front page news. The left is yelling at you “we want change,” the right is screaming “come to your senses.” Can’t I just be left alone? And let’s not forget about the stock market. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think any Disney World roller coaster ride has anything over the highs and lows we are seeing in the stock market. One day it is up 800 points and the next day it is down 400. What is going on with this country we live in? Can’t we just go back to the way things used to be?Call me an eternal optimist, but for some time I decided to take a step back and take a look at things from a different perspective. Sure, I have my opinions, but what if I quieted down the entire minutia and got back to the basics of what were the most fond moments of my youth? What I found was without all the clamor the very things I held most dear I was having an opportunity to experience again. I, too, got caught up in the rat race of everyday life and the simple things I thought of most I was now being given another opportunity to enjoy.
I was forced to slow down and savor each day and the friends we have made along the way . It was the same feeling I had after working in the “concrete jungle” of New York City and coming to Florida 21 years ago. It was like a breath of fresh air that afforded us a quality of life we didn’t have in New York because of the fast paced lifestyle. Unfortunately like most, we got so caught up with work and projects around the home we didn’t take the time to savor the life we found those twenty one years ago. However, the Coronavirus changed all that and we’ve not only had an opportunity to reflect on what really matters in life, but how fortunate we really are.
Closer to home in the smaller cities like Venice and Punta Gorda you are seeing the embrace of a community and a quiet enthusiasm that is translating into new developments and business. Once seen only as places to escape the cold weather up north, we are now seeing somewhat of an exodus from those looking to escape the high taxes and congestion for a better way of life.
I sat down to interview Mark and Leigh McCann who are Captains with Allegiant Airlines . In fact, Leigh is the most tenured Captain in Punta Gorda that has 38 Captains based here and 36 First Officers. According to Mark and Leigh, air travel dropped in March, but came back in May and June very strong. Out of the 186 passengers the planes can hold, they were flying typically with 170 passengers and sometimes more!
Back in 2007 & 2008 when airlines were suffering from the downturn in the economy, Allegiant was the only profitable airline and up to this pandemic had 70 consecutive quarters of profitability. While the stimulus was supposed to keep the airline industry running through September, like many airlines, Allegiant had plans to furlough an estimated 30% of its pilots however, now there is not only no plans to furlough anyone, they are training new pilots.
Mark and Leigh continued by saying while other airlines are downsizing and pulling out of marginal routes, Allegiant will have an opportunity to pick up new routes and more equipment (planes). The attribute Allegiant’s success to tourist or pleasure travel, not business travel and said they have developed a loyal passenger base.
Turning our conversation to Sunseeker, Mark went on to say, we have a connection to this community, and for all the positives that Allegiant is doing for the community by bringing passengers from various points around the country to our area, the last thing they want is to be tied to a failed project. H e said while it was important to make sure the airline remained on solid ground during this time, which led them to delaying the development of Sunseeker , the 18 month delay was seen as a conservative estimate and that they hope to resume the project prior to then . He said as a company they are cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nevertheless!
Turning back to the real estate market and it’s upturn in activity, RE/MAX Harbor had 61 showings for the month of May, however that number dramatically increased in June to 458! Yes, people are still looking to move from the large cities where this pandemic has had them reconsider their routine of day to day activities. They are finding out what we’ve known all along…. “Quality of life.” And it comes from moving to those smaller, quaint towns with a feel of community.
In speaking with those in the RV and marine industries, sales have increased dramatically and as one representative from a local marine company said, “We just can’t find any new or used boats to meet the demand.”And most recently, Punta Gorda was named #2 in USA Today’s Readers Choice Awards for “Best Small Town Food Scene.”
All this and more is why we love living in Southwest Florida and why others are choosing to do so as well. As we soar through 2020, all the ups and downs, I think something we can all agree that truly matters is our faith, family, sense of community, and stopping to focus on all the good around us.