No Need to Panic

No Need to PanicRealtors weather the storm and see blue skies ahead

By John Eric Vona

It has been a busy year for real estate agents and brokers along the Forgotten Coast. Economic recession has stretched to every corner of the country and, after listening to the relentless bad news, one might think the real estate outlook would be grim. Realtors in our area, however, are optimistic or at least fending off the doom and gloom attitude with a good, common sense business outlook.

“Serene awareness of a bad situation is the sound first step toward making it through tough times,” says Oliver Monod of Weichert Realtors in Carrabelle. “The worst approach is to say or think, ‘Tomorrow
everything is going to come back,’ because it won’t.”

“We are hopefully near the bottom or at the bottom now,” says William J. “Jay” Rish, owner of Century 21 Gulf Coast Realty Inc. in Port St. Joe. Rish is hopeful that the recent increase in activity is a good sign that economic recovery is on the way.

Helen Spohrer, owner of Prudential Resort Realty of St. George Island, cites the same increase in activity, reporting a 12 percent uptick in Franklin County in 2008, and expects another increase this year as the number of foreclosures and bank-owned properties drive prices down.

“It’s difficult to predict anything right now because of the national and global financial situation,” Spohrer says, echoing Monod’s caution.

Constant national reports of shaken consumer confidence and corporate layoffs may have scared off many potential customers. However, there is no need for those in decent financial shape not to look for sound investments in Forgotten Coast property. There are many reasons they should.

“This is the best time I’ve seen in my career to buy,” Rish says. “Inventory is huge and prices are as low as 50 percent off their peak a few years ago.”

The reduced prices in real estate have attracted a lot more interest in the Forgotten Coast. The market has opened to new prospects, as well as potential buyers who previously couldn’t afford the astronomical prices of property in the area.

“It’s a very good time for people looking,” says Paula Ramsey Pickett, director of Gulf County’s Tourism Development Council. “Our product has really improved.”

Pickett says the surprising increase in recent tourism revenue over this time last year, and the $21 million beach re-nourishment project that added seven and a half miles of beach to Cape San Blas, may entice people to take advantage of the current low prices. “There are more people in the area looking so maybe they’ll ultimately buy.”

Those new to the area or looking for a good investment or a vacation home aren’t the only ones benefiting from the present real estate market.

“We do have buyers on St. George Island and in Apalachicola who love the area and are looking for vacation homes,” says Spohrer. However, “Across Franklin County, permanent residents who were previously priced out of the market are now able to buy due to the lower prices.

“Savvy buyers are making offers now,” she says, “and not waiting to time the market at its lowest point. That’s a moving target impossible to hit. Once you know the market has bottomed out, it’s too late and prices are increasing again.”

If you have to sell now though, all of the real estate professionals agree you need to be realistic in your expectations and that the need for common sense is paramount.  

“Don’t be too greedy,” Monod warned. “Surround yourself with level-headed advisors.”

“If you want to sell now, you must lead with your pricing and stay ahead of the curve,” says Spohrer. “Your property should be the lowest priced in its category. If you don’t have to sell now, consider taking the property off the market.”

Monod says that although the outlook may seem grim, “it does not mean that opportunities do not exist for both buyers and sellers.”