Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sarasota...A COOL Place to Live!


My wife Liz and I spend most evenings on our lanai with a cold drink in hand, enjoying the cool Sarasota breeze…and that includes these dog days of summer evenings. The other night we started reminiscing about the summers in Sarasota when we were kids…we did not have air-conditioning then and surprisingly, we don’t remember sweltering or suffering. That’s mostly because of how homes were built back then.

Liz’s family lived in a little cottage on Siesta Key which was built in the early 1950’s. In those days, trees were left on the lots for shade and homes were built a bit up off the ground and had porches and windows all around. This allowed for ventilation from below and a cross-draft through the windows to capture the gulf breeze. The porches shielded the front rooms from sunlight, thus keeping it cooler and allowed windows to remain open, letting air circulate even when it was raining. This is how we Floridians survived before the days of the air-conditioner.

We were accustomed to a “front porch” lifestyle when our families would spend time outside of the house on the front porch where it was cooler. People would socialize while on the porch, and neighbors would often walk by and visit each other while cooling off. I kind of miss that.

When I was a teenager I worked with my dad building spec homes and again, we followed the ‘cross-breeze’ technique in these homes as well as their orientation, even when air-conditioning became more common. The invention of air-conditioning is an often overlooked factor in the shaping of the history of Florida. We are all so dependent on it now we hardly think about it. But ‘way back when’, it wasn’t the norm.
 
Decades before air conditioning became a must-have item in homes, cars and businesses, Sarasota was referring to itself as "The Air Conditioned City" because we were fanned by gentle gulf and bay breezes that blew  through the community, making the hottest day in August a pleasant experience in comparison to our northern brothers and sisters who were dropping like flies in the heat. A newspaper article proclaimed, “Records prove that while temperatures soar over the Nation, it’s comfortable here.” “Beat the Heat! Stay in Air-Conditioned Sarasota where it’s C-O-O-L!”
Air conditioning didn't become part of the average Florida home until the 1950's with the advent of the window unit, fondly know as the ‘window shaker’. That was followed by central air in the 1960's and the heat pump, which provides warmth and cooling, in the 1970's. Air conditioning marked a major cultural shift for Florida: Over 400,000 southern homes had central air units in 1960; by the mid-1960's more than 40 percent of the homes being built in the region were equipped with ‘central air’. While air conditioning of public buildings in the north began to take root in the late 1920's and 1930's, it was not until post WWII that it became more commonplace in the south. By the 1960's air conditioned hotels and motels had become more common. Motels and restaurants boasted air-conditioned facilities for their visitors. This greatly increased the tourism industry as visitors to Florida could visit in comfort during the summer months. You could say that air conditioning built Florida.

Air conditioning is thought to have played a role in the large population density boom in the South, with the population density doubling from 1930 to 1980. While you could argue that Florida has lost some of its “front porch culture”, there is no doubt that the introduction of air-conditioning has greatly shaped the recent history of Florida. Sarasota was once promoted in song as "the Air-Conditioned City." Now every Florida city is air-conditioned. Less that a hundred years ago, people had to rely mostly on architectural tricks to find relief from the heat. And, in the event that you find yourself with a busted air conditioner in these dog days of summer in Florida?  Open your windows - you might discover a cross-breeze you never knew you had!



Sources and Credits:  The Sarasota Herald Tribune/Jeff LaHurd, The Orlando Sentinel, Sun Sentinel, University of South Florida, Curbed.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wait...What? No Pre-Approval Letter?


I, like most good Realtors in Sarasota, Florida, spend most of my time either searching for homes for my buyers in MLS, setting up showing appointments and driving them around looking at homes. That’s my job and it is very time intensive. So one of my first questions to a potential buyer who will be getting a mortgage is: “Have you gotten a pre-approval from a bank or mortgage broker?” Why is this so important? Getting pre-approved for a home loan before you start looking at houses — and certainly before you make any offers — can make your life much easier. You’ll know how much money mortgage lenders will give you and you won’t waste time touring houses you can’t afford or making an offer on a house that you can’t back up. 

I can't tell you how often I am contacted by a potential buyer who wants to look at homes, yet they have no idea if they are even qualified to purchase. This is the classic case of the "cart before the horse". If you haven't been pre-approved, you're home shopping in the dark without a flashlight. You may be looking in a price range that you cannot afford. Or…you may be able to afford much more than you think!

It is a well known fact that few listing agents will risk taking their listing off of the market unless they are convinced that you are fully qualified to make the purchase and this is especially true in a buyers market like we have in Sarasota, Florida right now. This means a lot of housing for sale could have multiple buyers considering it, and may end up starting a bidding war. You don't want to go into a transaction without pre-approval when another buyer could have that simple letter, making them a more attractive buyer to a seller. For this reason, the listing agent usually requests that a pre-approval letter is submitted with all offers. If you don't include one, your offer will most likely be rejected. If you put yourself in the seller’s shoes, an earnest money check and offer without anything supporting the qualification of the potential buyer to purchase would be a very bad risk to accept, wouldn't you agree? Especially with multiple buyers waiting in the wings.

Pre-approval typically involves pulling credit, looking at debt-to-income ratios and other financial aspects of your life. Getting on the road to mortgage-readiness could include things like paying down debt and increasing your credit score.

My advice: get in touch with a lender right away and get pre-approved before shopping for homes! If you're out looking for homes - either on the road in real life or on the internet with sites like RE/MAX.com, Homes.com or Zillow - it's a good idea to prepare yourself for getting a mortgage well in advance. I will walk you through the process and then we can hit the road and find the perfect home for you in Sarasota, Florida! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ca' d'Zan 'Sunflower'


As lifetime residents of Sarasota, Florida my wife Liz and I seldom do sightseeing in our own hometown except when we have guests from out of town. And it reminds us of what a special town Sarasota is! One of the first places we take them is to the Ringling Museum of Art and we always take the tour of John and Mabel Ringling’s home, the Ca' d'Zan. It just so happens that my late father-in-law, artist John Hardy, gave my wife a special gift that has a connection to this beautiful, historic home. 

My wife and her dad were visiting Judy Axe, a Ringling College of Art and Design classmate of his from the late 1940's. She was a very well known Sarasota artist and during their reminiscing, the topic of the Ca' d'Zan came up and Judy shared a great story. When the Ca' d'Zan was being renovated in 2002, Judy got a phone call from a friend who was working on the renovation project and was told that one of the beautiful tinted glass windows had been broken during handling. Judy, amongst her many artistic talents, created glass mosaic pieces so she rushed right over and collected the broken pieces. She showed Liz and John what she had created with the Ca' d'Zan's brownish pieces broken window glass – it was a beautiful sunflower and the brown pieces are the seeds! John knew that sunflowers were Liz’s favorite (she was even wearing a sunflower t-shirt that day!) and he bought it from for Liz on the spot. It hangs on our lanai and shines in the sunset every day in memory of John and Judy.  

My memories of the Ca' d'Zan are mischievous ones. I grew up just a few blocks from there and I used to sneak in with my boyhood friends. We could always find a hole in the fence and loved romping around in those beautiful Banyan trees!

The Ca' d'Zan (Italian for ‘House of John’) has a wonderful history. John and Mable Ringling finished the $1.5 million mansion just before Christmas in 1925. They moved in the following year and are considered among the first and most important developers in Sarasota history. Measuring 200 feet long, the sprawling estate boasted broad patios, a waterfront dock, Venetian glass windows, and a six-story tower that Mrs. Ringling kept lit in the evenings and reportedly could be seen for miles around. It was meant to look like the palaces and mansions the couple saw while traveling in Venice. The Ca'd'Zan has the oldest residential elevator in the state! Guests, including Will Rogers stayed in a bedroom on the fourth floor, and those beautiful, multi-colored glass windows on all four sides looked out over the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, by the late 1990s, the house and grounds had descended into a state of neglect and in 1998, at the depths of its dilapidation, the Cà d'Zan served as the backdrop for an adaptation of the Dickens classic Great Expectations. Its depressing appearance in the movie inspired some action on the part of the state of Florida, which transferred the property to Florida State University and provided more than 40 million dollars toward new building, renovations, and an endowment for the property. In 2002, a six-year renovation commenced which restored extravagant details like the gilded interior doors, fixed the leaky roof, and refinished the original furnishings…and the beautiful Venetian glass windows. And Liz and I are lucky enough to get to enjoy the lovely, sparkling pieces of one of those windows every day!



Sources and Credits: Ringling.org, Curbed.com, Sarsasota History Alive

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wiping Out on Roller Skates at the Stardust Rink!


I was driving down 12th Street the other day and passed by the Stardust Skate Center and was taken back to the memories of many hours spent there in my childhood…usually crashing and falling on my butt. After watching the elegant figure skaters at the 2018 Winter Olympics, roller skating for me was a far cry from that. Do you remember your first pair of roller skates? I do. I can easily visualize the bulky metal skates that clamped onto my shoes. And I was always losing the dang key that tightened them to ‘fit’ my feet! Mine were nothing like the inline skates used today. Those old clamped-on skates weren’t easy to maneuver either, especially as I navigated the uneven sidewalks of my street, but I recall a certain sense of freedom to having my own set of “wheels” at a young age. At the Stardust rink, my wife Liz remembers going round and round to the song “Pipeline” by the Ventures and “Wipeout” (which was very appropriate since she fell on her butt too) by the Surfaries. 

Those memories piqued my curiosity and I did some digging...here’s a little history about roller skating!

Roller skates existed for almost 200 years before I ever tried on a pair! The first documented use of a roller skating device occurred in 1743 during a theater performance in London, England. However, it wasn’t until 1760 that roller skates received their public introduction, credited to inventor John Joseph Merlin. Further innovations followed. In 1863, James L. Plimpton of New York City produced a design that allowed the skater to turn and glide in a curved pattern using a rocking motion of the feet. However, one of the biggest advances in roller skate design and construction came with the 1881 inclusion of ball bearings that enabled the skate’s wheels to glide smoothly. 

Whether metal skates, sneaker-style skates, boot-style skates, or in-line skates, roller skates offer entertaining physical activity. Skating fell out of favor in the 1900’s until the waitresses at drive-ins started wheeling meals to customers. Remember that? Roller-skating quickly rose in popularity, hitting its peak in the roller-disco era of the 70’s and 80’s. Inline skates took over in the 90’s, but quad skating has once again hit its stride. Here's some more fun facts about roller skating:
  • The first public skating rink opened in 1866.
  • Did you know there’s a National Museum of Roller-Skating? It’s in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Plenty of celebrities have gotten into roller-skating. Skating is featured in several famous music videos, from Cher’s 1979 hit to Beyonce’s 2013 chart-topper.

I was a lucky kid back then, carefree and skate-happy! So if you are interested in buying a home in Sarasota and have kids, be sure to call me to find the perfect home for your family and then pay a visit the Stardust Skate Center, 2571 12th St., Sarasota; 941-365-6888. 




Sources and Credits: Wikipedia, rollerskatingmuseum.com,The History of Roller Skating by James Turner

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Showing and Selling a Home with Pets



In a previous Sarasota Home Town Blog, I discussed home buying tips for those of you with dogs. We love our pets, whether they be dogs, cats, hamsters, hedgehogs, or pygmy goats—but that doesn't mean that potential buyers want to see those pets (or any evidence of them) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. According to Realtor.com, "Pets are either an attractive distraction, so cute they distract prospective buyers from looking at the real estate, or completely the opposite—smelly, frightening, or otherwise off-putting." So why don't home buyers like your pet? There are several reasons:


  • Nervousness-pets make some people very uncomfortable. Not everybody grew up with a family pet or enjoys outings at the zoo. Fur and four legs does not a human make.
  • Inexperience-Pets are not always predictable.
  • Your pets aren't their pets. They imagine that yours bite, jump, vomit, claw, or are just plain hyper and bad, which is not all like their pets. Their pets are perfect.



Here are some tips for selling a home with animals:

  • Cat Litter Boxes & Dog Potty Pads -Keep them out of sight and impeccably clean. Nothing turns off buyers faster than opening the door to the laundry room and being greeted by a full or stinky cat box. And...please do not put a litter box in your bedroom closet!
  • Carpet & Floor Pet Stains and odors-Hire professionals to remove the stains. Buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the house. If the stains can't be removed, then remove the floor covering and replace it.
  • Pet Odors and Smells-Cat urine is the worst. Bring in a neighbor to do a sniff test. Dog odor gets into carpeting and pet beds, too. Do not use air fresheners. People with allergies will react. Try enzyme cleaners or call a professional ozone company.
  • If you have a dog, decide whether Fido will be okay to stay in a crate while your home is being shown, and attach a note warning buyers not to disturb them. If possible, remove your pet – take him for a walk or to the dog park. Do not leave your pets running free when you know your home has a showing. Did you know that you could be held liable for your pet biting someone while on your property? If you own a pet and are leaving them in your home during showings this should be a real wake up call! I know you are probably thinking Fido would never hurt a flea. Is it really worth taking a chance?
  • Clean your yard - Pick up any messes in the backyard, fill holes and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired as necessary. You may be the kind of person who picks up after your pet regularly, or you may have a cat that causes very little impact to your yard. However, a large number of dog owners give their pets free reign of the backyard. This is a great life for dogs and cats, but it can be hard on the look of your lawn. One of the best tips, when selling a home with pets, is to make sure you don’t neglect the yard as this is just important to some buyers as the inside of the home.
If you have any questions at all, please call Ron Beahm at RE/MAX Alliance Group in Sarasota, Florida!




Sources and Credits: Realtor.com, The Washington Post

Monday, January 22, 2018

Gone to the Dogs!


My wife Liz and I are dog lovers and we recently got a new puppy after the loss of our 18 year old Yorkie. Our new furbaby, Tiki, is a Yorkie-poo and is the center of our life (or so she would like us to think!) Did you know that about 68% of American households have pets, 60% of which are dogs?. There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in the United States. 

Home buyers with dogs, whether they are looking for a condo or a house with a yard, often place a high priority on their pets’ happiness. Some communities have become more pet-friendly than they had been by developing dog parks where canines can run free. Condominiums and apartments are also catering to the needs of pet owners.

If you’re looking for a single-family house, your focus is most likely to be on finding a place with a fenced yard. Don’t assume you can add a fence. You may need to get the approval of an architectural review board and get permits. It’s important to get that information before you sign a contract.  

Most homeowner associations and condo associations, even if they are pet-friendly, have pet regulations, some to do with the number of dogs and some have restrictions on the size or breed of the dog. It’s essential to ask your agent to get that information for you ahead of time or be sure or your Realtor put language in the contract to address questions regarding your pet and leave you an 'out' if there's not a good solution for you. But it’s better to know about it before you get that far into the contract. Sometimes you’ll need to pay a special fee for having a pet or need to make a special request for your pet to be approved. That, too, is something it’s best to know about before you make an offer on a home or condo.

Tips for dog owners who are buying a home:

  • Know the policies in the jurisdiction and homeowners or condo association to be sure you can comply.
  • Look for a neighborhood where many residents have dogs — they’ll be more accepting of your pet.
  • Look for a neighborhood with pet-friendly retailers and restaurants.
  • Look for the closest dog parks.
  • Check out doggy day-care options in the area if you’ll need them.
  • If you opt for a high-rise, know where you can walk your dog and whether your dog is comfortable in elevators.
  • If you can’t find a yard with a fence, find out how much it will cost and whether you are allowed to build one.
  • Be careful to check out the stairs if your dog has trouble climbing them.

In a future Blog, I will discuss selling your home if you have pets because there’s a lot to be aware of there too! I have to sign off now because there are two little doggie eyes begging to go to the dog park! If you are looking to buy a home in Sarasota, Florida and you have a dog, call me and we can find a dream home for you...and your furbaby!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sarasota Snowflakes…Wait...WHAT?


While the weather might be frightful in many parts of the country this time of the year, it is truly delightful here in Sarasota, Florida! If you are looking to leave the snow and the cold behind, you can’t beat the weather here. Usually the words “snow” and “Florida” don’t go together. As you may know, it’s quite rare for it to snow in Florida, especially in South Florida and Sarasota…until it really did! It’s so rare that it’s one of those memories that you know exactly where you were and what you were doing on that day. The news that dominated The Tampa Tribune on Jan. 19, 1977, was the snowfall in Tampa — that rare occurrence when a blast of Arctic air and our high humidity came together to make for an unforgettable experience. Real snow fell across almost all of Florida — even as far south as Miami.

It was the only time in South Florida history that snow fell from the skies, swirling over palm trees, dazzling school children and surprising the region’s normally sun-baked residents. That was 40 years ago. Officially, the National Weather Service recorded it as only a trace of snow. The moment it hit the ground, it quickly dissipated. Yet many people vividly remember that day. To them, it was akin to a raging blizzard. Some motorists pulled to the side of the road in wonderment. Teachers allowed school children to break out of classes to let flakes fall on their faces.

But for most, it was as awesome as watching a space shuttle launch up close and personal. The bold headlines in the Sarasota Herald Tribune the next day: "RECORDS TUMBLE, CITRUS IN PERIL AS SNOW, ICY WEATHER HIT FLORIDA"!  My wife remembers that she was at 7-11 buying milk, walked out and there was snow falling!  It was so exciting! But by the time it hit her hand it melted. She said she put her face to the sky, held out her arms, and whirled around in something completely foreign to her, a light snow. Other people got out of their cars in amazement, and looked at one another as if they were experiencing some kind of miracle.

Today's forecast, which calls for highs in the high 70s and low 80s across South Florida, doesn't include snow. Come on in, the water is fine! (It really is a matter of perspective but many of our Northern visitors repeatedly tell us the water here is warmer in the winter than it is back home in the summer). Our visitors find it hard to believe that our average water temperature from December to March is 65 degrees. Sure, there are days of “sweater weather” and there are days with a slight breeze coming off the Gulf. Either way, it is almost always sunnier here than it is back at home. However, when we drive by that 7-11, we still remember day it snowed in South Florida!


Liz and I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and that you stay warm and cozy! And...If you are looking to buy a home in sunny Sarasota, Florida, call me and we will enjoy the warm winter weather and find your dream home in paradise...and we will tell you about the day it snowed in Home Town Sarasota!