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Clearwater Beach Florida Real Estate Blog

Michelle Chenault


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10 Perfect Gifts for a New Homeowner

by Michelle Chenault

Housewarming gifts don’t have to be homemade brownies or a “Home Sweet Home” cliché.

New homeowners have just plunked down a serious chunk of their savings. Help them settle in with these practical gifts and offerings, in a range of budgets, that can truly make a new house feel like home.

1. Dinner

Seriously, moving is hard work. Who wants to cook when you’re surrounded by boxes and can barely remember where your phone is, much less a clean pot? A stash of paper plates, plastic cups and a gift card to a local restaurant can feel practically luxurious after a long day of unpacking.

2. Drinks

A six-pack of craft beer or a bottle of wine can serve as a fun way to christen a new home. Include glassware, openers and coasters for a gift that lasts longer than the consumables will!

3. Plants

Look beyond your grandmother’s ficus. If you know the new homeowner’s style, look for a fun planter that matches—farm-style wood, modern ceramics or a color that matches the decor.

Because really, unless the homeowner in question has a horticultural degree, there’s always room for a little greenery. Or, if your friend has a nice yard, a few tasteful outdoor flowers ready for replanting could have an impact.

4. New Address Items

Gift self-addressed fine stationary. Order mailing labels in fun designs or self-inking stamps.

If you feel confident in your knowledge of the new homeowner’s design tastes, order fun house numbers or a plaque for inside the home with the family name and new address.

5. Unpacking Essentials

Duct tape, extension cords … everyone needs things like this when they move.

“Our real estate agent gave us a five-gallon bucket with some mugs, tape, scissors, Band-Aids, microwave popcorn and a Pizza Hut card—sort of an unpacking survival kit,” says Camilla Powell, a homeowner in Washington.

6. Make Pictures Perfect

Beautiful frames—even basic ones—always add style. Include extra wire, picture hangers and a level to help with both the new pictures and the old.

7. Safety Devices

Think smoke detectors and fire extinguishers—especially for first-time homeowners who previously rented, where landlords usually handle such things.

“Who buys them ever?” says homeowner Beth McNally in Ontario, Canada. “But they are needed.”

While technically smoke detectors might be considered fixtures that should stay with the house, you can’t be too safe.

8. Garden Tools

A hose, good shears and ergonomic shovels never go to waste. Gift them in an organizing bin or tote with room to customize.

9. Discounts

Don’t have a lot to spend on a friend or relative? Rustle up some discounts.

“My (mother-in-law) had saved a ton of Bed Bath & Beyond coupons,” says Meredith K. in Utah. “It saved me over $300 when I got my first home and had to stock everything.”

10. Gift Certificates

The old standbys work for a reason. As new homeowners settle in, they’ll notice fixes and projects that they’ll want to make the home truly their own.

With a gift certificate, they can cover everything from new paint to caulk—their call.


by Michelle Chenault

As part of the homebuying process, your real estate agent may create a comprehensive market analysis or CMA. Later, when you apply for a mortgage, a bank appraisal is conducted by a licensed appraiser. Are CMAs and appraisals the same thing?

While both CMAs and appraisals help determine a home's market value, their purposes are not the same. The CMA is a sales tool to help you find an offer price for the home you want to buy. The homes in the CMA include the home you want to buy plus similar nearby homes. This helps you see how the home you want compares to other homes so you have an idea what to offer.

A real estate professional may prepare a CMA for their sellers to help them choose a listing price. The CMA includes recently sold homes and homes for sale in the seller's neighborhood that are most similar to the seller's home in appearance, features, and general price range.

Although the CMA is used to help determine current market value, the seller's home is typically not even featured in the CMA. The CMA is merely a guide to help the seller learn what's happening in their local market, so they can better understand where their home fits in term of price ranges, based on location, features, size, condition and other factors.

The CMA offers the same advantages to you as a buyer. They help you better understand the local market. You can expand the search and get different results in a CMA simply by changing the zip code or the price range or the number of bedrooms and baths.

Appraisals are all about risk retention for banks and their customers. If the buyer is receiving financing through a bank, the bank will order an appraisal.

Unlike the CMA, a bank appraisal is a professional determination of a home's value. It's performed by a licensed appraiser, using guidelines established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates federal housing loan guarantors such as FHA, VA and housing loan purchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

An appraisal is a comprehensive look at a home's location, condition, and eligibility for federal guarantees. For example, the home you want may have porch steps but no handrail. If you want to buy the home with an FHA or VA-insured loan, your seller will have to repair or install a handrail. The FHA or VA appraiser will look at the home a second time to make sure the steps were made safe.

Appraisers use the same data in their market research to find comparable homes as Realtors do. They are also members of the MLS, but they have additional guidelines from the bank to follow to minimize risk to the bank and to the borrower. If home prices are falling, the appraiser takes the number of days a home has been on the market far more seriously.

When the appraisal is finished, the bank makes the decision to fund the loan, or it may require the seller to fix certain items and show proof that the repairs have been made before letting the loan proceed. If the loan doesn't meet federal lending guidelines, the bank will decline the loan.

Despite stricter lending and appraisal standards, most buyers' loan applications go through to closing. One reason the system works so well is that real estate agents are preparing CMAs that are better tuned to lending standards as well as market conditions. As a buyer, it's in your best interest to understand how lenders approach risk and to learn what the market is doing.

Simply put, you need both a CMA and an appraisal to determine market value. A CMA helps you decide what you should offer the seller. An appraisal determines what the lender is willing to lend to help you purchase a home.

Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes When Selling Your Home

by Michelle Chenault

When selling your home, it’s easy to get caught up in second-guessing your decisions.

You don’t want to overprice or undersell. You need to showcase your home but you don’t want to make things look forced or pressure potential buyers with a “hard sell.” You want a good listing agent who understands the market and knows what works where you live.

You’ll want to make sure that all the ups and downs, the almost-sells and the strangers’ critiques don’t become an emotional rollercoaster that dictates your life.

Work to avoid these four mistakes, and you’ll find yourself doing the right thing at each stage of the process.

1. Price Points

Your home must be priced competitively to sell. Overpricing can leave your home lingering on the market. Buyers compare your sale price with comparable homes in the area—looking at places similar in square footage, construction, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, age and condition.

Your real estate agent can provide you with a Comparative Market analysis, often referred to as comps, on your home to assist in establishing a competitive price. Comps can include homes recently sold or currently on the market.

While everyone hopes to maximize the sale of their home, pricing yourself out of the market could leave your home unsold for a long time. Competitive pricing will spark considerably more interest and can generate multiple offers—and ultimately a better sales price and quicker sale.

As for appraisals, they’re easy to misunderstand. An appraisal isn’t the market value of your home: It is an opinion on value that means one thing to a mortgage lender and another to your local appraiser, who collects real property taxes based on that assessment.

2. Showcasing Your Home

You want potential buyers to imagine themselves in your home. You don’t want any hiccups. Take the time to fix any visible issues such as broken windows and chipped or peeling paint, as well.

Removing clutter and doing simple upgrades to window coverings and counter surfaces can also make good impressions. Ditch ugly furniture and clutter that detracts from the cleanliness of each room. Consider staging each room: There’s an art to filling a space with some personality without making it too personal.

Also consider the photos, videos, and other marketing materials your real estate agent might suggest. Many potential buyers scour online listings, so photos that show off the best of your house can make the difference between full or sparse open houses. Some homeowners even start house blogs.

Your real estate agent will know professionals to consult and may offer photos and video as part of their home-selling package.

3. Customer Mindset

Don’t make the mistake of thinking each prospective buyer will be “the one”: Patience will allow you to survive the home-selling process.

Your real estate agent may suggest leaving the house when it’s time to show the home. The last thing buyers want is an owner following them, anticipating questions and pointing out each improvement and amenity. Let them discover things on their own.

Not everyone visiting your home will bid: You’ll likely have at least some lookers who just want to window shop, especially during an open house. You may also have people who want to get a sense of the area, perhaps because they’re interested in a nearby home. Or maybe they want perfection and will look at 50 homes—and not buy anything.

By keeping your expectations in check, you’ll protect yourself from disappointment.

4. The Right REALTOR®

Interview several agents before selecting one and signing a listing agreement. The more REALTORS® you interview, the easier you can evaluate their qualifications versus your needs. It’s important you choose someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident about the decisions you will make.

The listing agreement will govern your rights and the REALTOR®’s duties and responsibilities. Be sure you understand the language of the agreement and that it contains a guarantee of performance—and a right to cancel. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you want before you sign.

Professional real estate agents understand seller anxiety and are more than happy to provide you with all the information you seek.

20 Powerful Quotes That Will Maximize Your Potential

by Michelle Chenault

20 Inspirational Quotes To Maximize Your Potential

1. “It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.” –Carlton Fisk

2. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.” – Robert H. Schuller

3. “Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.” – Tim Ferriss

4. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” – Maya Angelou

5. “If you don’t build your dream. Someone will hire you to help build theirs.” – Tony Gaskins 

6. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” – Christian D. Larson

7. “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts

8. “No man can succeed in a line of endeavor which he does not like.” – Napoleon Hill

9. “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

10. “You never stop earning when you do what you love.” – Asha Tyson



Choose a job you love quote



11. “Communication–the human connection–is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

12. “What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” – Benjamin F. Fairless

13. “I think everyone should experience defeat at least once during their career. You learn a lot from it.” – Lou Holtz 

14. “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

15. “Don’t set compensation as a goal. Find work you like, and the compensation will follow.” – Harding Lawrence

16. “Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great.” – Fernando Flores

17. “The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they’re working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.” – Rick Pitino

18. “Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

19. “The only person you are destined become is the person you decide to be.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

20. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

10 Simple Steps to Living a Purpose Driven Life

by Michelle Chenault

1. Direct Focus On One Thing

The only formula these individuals seemed to need was the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle. What it says is that 80% of your success comes from only 20% of your effort. And the principle applies not only to their business lives, but to all areas of life, whether health or relationships or anything.

They do less but accumulate more.


2. Treat Yourself With Self-Compassion

The people I studied all engaged in a simple process for being successful: Becoming a master. And the only way you become a master is through action. Perhaps you’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule, which gives you an idea of the kind of time you have to put in to become world-class at anything.

Too many individuals fear failure, but the path to success is to put in your best effort all the time. You will fail, but failure is merely a bump on the road to success. Successful people don’t beat themselves up over mistakes. They are gentle on themselves, creating an internal environment to reflect and learn, not to rant and rave.


3. Practice Self-Awareness

Self-awareness has to be accessed and cultivated daily, but once a certain level of self-awareness is attained (and for everyone that special point differs), it will bring great value and clarity to your life.

Self-awareness will give you a clear perspective of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, values, beliefs, and motivations. This awareness is how decision-making happens among those who are decisive.


4. Be Present In the Now

Successful individuals seize not only the day, but each moment. And the only moment that’s worth anything is the one happening right now!

Timing, as they say, is everything.


5. Show Up To Life With Passion

This is where it all starts.

The energy that the people I studied bring to life an energy that radiates outward, and you can actually feel it. It’s both contagious and magnetic. This energy is what attracts the people, the money, and the resources. This is what allows them to “work” long hours and still have the energy to spend time with family and friends.

This passion allows them to “show up” in all aspects of their life.



David Scott Purpose Life Quote



6. Live A Purpose-Driven Life

The successful people I’ve met all have a vision of who they want to be and what they want to do. This purpose isn’t just thought about, it’s both felt and known.

Although the specific expressions of this purpose may change over time, such as in a career path, the overall message is constant.


7. Learn to Give and Receive

They lose themselves in others. Giving and receiving in love is important to all of them.

By giving to others they became aware of their abundance and become flooded with gratitude. Appreciation of others and themselves becomes an uplifting experience. In today’s age, I’ve seen more individuals lack success because of the inability to receive anything.

Receiving the gifts of others is the only way one can create abundance in life. Accept the greatness of others when it is given to you.


8. Listen To Understand

Individuals of this caliber realize the full power that is inherent in listening. They listen to others in order to understand them, not to be understood.

Too many people fail to listen because they’re busy crafting their own response, usually with the intention of being understood, rather than first taking the time to understand the speaker. Failing to learn and live active listening is a recipe for costly mistakes in life.


9. Subtract, Not Add, to Your Lives

It’s not in adding (whether it’s cars, clothes, prestige, or money) that we find happiness and growth, but in subtracting.

Successful individuals realize this on a deep level. They also realize that the only reason they don’t have what they want is because of their own limiting beliefs about what they can accomplish.

Successful individuals consciously or unconsciously eliminate beliefs that don’t support their vision, replacing them with beliefs that do.


10. Set Goals With Deadlines

Successful individuals have a clear vision about what to focus on and how to accomplish their goals. They have deadlines and stick to them, holding themselves accountable for their progress. Their word is everything, so much so that It’s the easiest way to literally speak their reality into existence. Once they say they will do something, they do it!

The people I’ve studied aren’t successful by chance. They chose to be successful and then made it happen by first nailing down their vision. They don’t ask for permission and they don’t search for acceptance. The successful individuals I surround myself with don’t win by getting angry or using force. They win with love, which is the definitive difference between force and power.

The median list price for Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. area homes was $171,900 in March 2014, up 10.9% from March of last year, according to the National Housing Trend Report for March 2014 published by  That's below the national median of $199,900. Meantime, the market ranks sixth in the number of available listings out of 146 metropolitan regions ranked by This means relatively low prices and a fair amount of inventory – a promising opportunity for potential buyers.

The properties currently listed for sale on for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area range in price from the mid-teens for a small one-bedroom, one-bath condo in need of some renovation to $17.5 million for a 23,000+ square foot, gated waterfront home with two pools, tennis court, basketball court, carriage house and boat docks.  Of nearly 9,000 properties listed on, there are currently 82 single-family homes and condos/townhomes for sale in the $171,900 to $175,000 price range. Here's what's available for $175,000 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market.

Attention First-Time Buyers

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market is the second-best city for first-time homebuyers, according to a new report by listing the top ten metro areas for new purchasers. The only metro area that ranked better was Pittsburgh.The five key factors that make a market ideal for first-time homebuyers:

  • Market popularity. First-time buyers often "move up" to a larger house within a few years. Buying in a popular area helps ensure they can make a profit when it's time to move.
  • Prices. Buyers have to be able to afford the mortgage as well as the down payment.
  • Inventory. Markets with limited inventory (i.e., not enough homes on the market) often have bidding wars in which first-time buyers can easily be out-bid by investors or buyers who can spend more. Ample inventory reduces the likelihood of these bidding wars.
  • Time on market. The median age of inventory is an indicator of demand in a particular market. Markets where homes are on the market for a very short amount of time, typically because of high demand, can also lead to bidding wars.
  • Unemployment rates. A lower unemployment rate means first-time buyers are more likely to find and keep jobs and be able to pay their mortgages.

The largest number of real-estate markets on the top ten list were in Florida. In addition to Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, first-timers were directed to the Orlando and Jacksonville metro areas. The others in the top ten: Philadelphia, and its N.J. suburbs.; Philadelphia and its Pa. suburbs; Fort Worth-Arlington,Texas; Dallas; Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill; and Phoenix-Mesa.


What $175,000 Will Buy

There's a wide selection of homes at the $175,000 price point, including a number of short sales. In the single-family home market, buyers will find one-level, ranch style houses with between two and five bedrooms and from one to four baths. Size varies greatly; $175,000 can get you anything from an upgraded two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow with 864 square feet ($203/sq. ft.) to an older five-bedroom, four-bath house with 3,056 square feet ($57/sq. ft.). Many properties have updated kitchens, including granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and tile backsplashes, as well as hardwood/tile flooring, en suite baths with dual sinks and separate tub and shower in the owners' bedrooms, walk-in closets, and mature landscaping. Some properties are part of homeowners' associations that offer community amenities, such as swimming pools, and a few have private pools and/or spas.

In the condo/townhome market, buyers will find mostly one-bedroom, one-bath or two-bedroom, two-bath units. Properties range in size from a 731-square-foot modern condo ($239/sq.ft.) to a three-bedroom, two-bath, short-sale townhome with 1,848 square feet ($95/sq. ft.). At this price point, buyers can find hardwood/tile flooring, updated kitchens with granite countertops, and community amenities including swimming pools, tennis courts and fitness centers.

Rent or Buy?

Trulia's Rent vs. Buy Report, released by online real-estate, shows it is 38% cheaper to buy than rent, on average nationwide. The report compares costs for a seven-year period using five calculations:

  1. The average rent and for-sale price for an identical set of properties. For example, the costs of buying a $175,000 home and what it would cost to rent the same house;
  2. The initial total monthly costs of owning (assuming 20% down and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.5% interest, as well as annual maintenance, insurance, utility and property-tax expenses) and renting (monthly rent plus renter's insurance);
  3. The future total monthly costs of owning and renting;
  4. One-time costs and proceeds (for owning, this includes closing costs and capital-gains tax of 15% for gains above the $500,000 annual exclusion; for renting, this includes one month's security deposit).
  5. The net present value to account for opportunity cost of money (this compares cash flows over time).

How long you plan on living in an area, the mortgage rate you secure and your tax bracket are all key factors in deciding whether it makes better financial sense to rent or buy. For example, if your target home price is $180,000 and you get a 4.00%, 30-year fixed-rate loan; are in the 28% tax bracket and plan on living in the home for seven years, it might be 44% cheaper to buy than rent in Tampa-St. Petersburg, according to the Trulia report – assuming it would cost $1,450/month to rent a similar property. If you plan to stay in place for only two years, however, renting or buying would cost about the same to rent or buy, all other factors remaining unchanged. If you plan to remain in the same area for three to five years, it is typically cheaper to buy than rent.


by Michelle Chenault

Buying a house is like having a baby: there's no absolute perfect time to do either.

The down payment-interest rate-economic factors-qualification quadrangle can be so confusing. Rising rates, loosening requirements, down payment options, buyer's markets, seller's markets - what does it all mean to you if you want to buy a home? The truth is that while the banks might have a magical formula to determine your mortgage-worthiness, determining if the time is right really comes down to three main questions:


Do you want to buy a home? 
Are you financially prepared? 
Is your credit where it needs to be?

If yes, then go for it. Here are nine reasons to do it now.

1. Prices are good. According to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller report, home prices are still gaining, but have slowed. "The 10-City Composite gained 5.5% year-over-year and the 20-City 5.6%, both down from the 6.7% reported for July," they said. "The National Index gained 5.1% annually in August compared to 5.6% in July." This is good news if you were afraid that big price gains would put homeownership out of reach and also bodes well for your long-term equity once you purchase.

2. Rates are low. "Imagine paying over 18% interest on a 30-year fixed mortgage. It's almost unthinkable. But that was the reality for home buyers in October 1981 -- a year when the average rate was almost 17%," said Yahoo Finance. "The average rate has been 5.18% since the start of this country's history," making today's rates, which hover around historic lows at 4%, sound even better.

3. Loan requirements are softening. They're not approaching the look-the-other-way-and-stamp-it-approved levels that led to the market crash, but the overly tough restrictions that followed have loosened. "Major lenders are making adjustments," said The Street. "Wells Fargo has lowered the minimum FICO score for borrowers applying for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration to 600 from 640." They also count JPMorgan Chase's lowered loan-to-value "standards in certain markets for both jumbos and conforming mortgages." For buyers that can mean an easier road to loan approval, even without a ton of money upfront and perfect credit.

4. FHA loans make it even easier for first-time buyers. If your credit is less than stellar and you don't have a large down payment, an FHA loan can get you in the door. Credit scores can be as low as 620 to qualify and only 3.5% down is required. Whether you've never bought before or have been out of the market for a few years, an FHA loan can be your answer.

5. Fewer buyers around the holidays means less competition for you and more negotiating power. "Sellers who are actively looking to sell their homes during the holiday months -- namely, October through December -- are serious about shedding the weight of their residences," said US News. "This often works in favor of savvy buyers looking to get a deal on discounted homes. Having less competition on the buyer's side can mean lower prices on homes, in addition to fewer counter-offers to compete against."

6. Rates are predicted to rise. "The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the average rate on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage to rise slowly to 5.1 percent by the end of 2015," said the Washington Post. If you want to take advantage of low rates, now is the time.

7. Pent-up demand could zap affordability. "The housing market is about to get even more competitive," said Yahoo. "The pent-up demand of younger professionals, who moved back in with their parents during the recession, is about to explode. This eager subset of buyers will create some steep competition for homes, especially if they have been saving up to make larger down payments or high ticket offers. If the current homes on the market have more potential buyers, bidding wars develop, and the purchase prices are driven up.

8. "Buying is cheaper than renting in most markets," said Housingwire. With a little knowledge of loan options and low down payment programs, you can easily flip the switch from renter to homeowner.

9. Because you want to buy a home. There really is no more compelling reason than that. You want it. So make it happen.


2014 Turkey Trot

by Michelle Chenault

It's that time of the year when turkey lovers, runners and friends gather for an appetite-inducing morning of good-natured competition.

All races begin at Keene Road just south of Gulf to Bay Blvd. (except the 5k Fun Run) and end in Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School. 


Proceeds from the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot help support many local charities including the West Florida Y Runners Club Scholarship Programs. All collected foods will be given to the Food Pantry Program at Religious Community Services, Inc.

If you have questions not answered at this website, call 727-562-4700.Online registration begins September 1. Click here to register. 

Early T-Shirt Pick Up & Last Chance Registration 
Monday, November 24 

3 - 7:30 p.m. Bright House Networks, Westfield Countryside Mall (2nd floor mall entrance near JC Penney, 27001 U.S. Hwy. 19 N., Clearwater) Online registrants can pick up their race numbers (with confirmation number) and/or T-shirt (with race number/T-shirt tag). 

Tuesday, November 25 
5 - 7:30 p.m. Fit 2 Run (2 locations) 256 2nd Street N., St. Petersburg and 2223 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. Parking will be available at the public lot on 2nd Street, across from St. Pete College. Additional parking available in the MidCore Garage on 1st Ave N and 2nd St N. Online registrants can pick up their race numbers (with confirmation number) and/or T-shirt (with race number/T-shirt tag). 

Turkey Trot Kick-Off Party Wednesday, November 26 
5 - 7:30 p.m. Jack White Stadium, Clearwater High School It's the last chance to pre-register! (Please bring EXACT AMOUNT in cash or check.) Come out and enjoy a FREE evening of snacks, live music, fun and games. Purchase official Times Turkey Trot merchandise the night before the race. Online registrants can pick up their race numbers (with confirmation number) and/or T-shirt (with race number/T-shirt tag).

Neighborhood History -- Island Estates in Clearwater Beach

by Michelle Chenault

ISLAND ESTATES — Some 50+ years ago the North Bay Company, headed by a local named Wallace Skinner, began to develop Island Estates. 
In phase I, they dredged the channels and built the seawalls to create the streets known as Leeward, Midway, and Windward Islands, and Windward Passage. 
Next, they built the four Palm Islands (NE, SE, NW and SW) along with improving sidewalks in Phase II.  
Lastly, they built Phase III, which consisted of the north end of Island Way, Snug Island, Harbor Island and Harbor Passage, and included the improvements of sidewalks, trees and underground utilities. 
They opened a small development office on Windward Passage and began selling lots.  
I first became acquainted with the Island because my father, Joe King, established the first real estate company on Island Estates in 1969 known as Island Estates Realty. He bought the land where he built our office on Island Way from a man named Frank Houston, an investor. I remember Houston was an older gentleman and a close friend of the fried chicken king Colonel Sanders who started Kentucky Fried Chicken. I never knew he really existed until his death in 1980.
Looking back to my earliest memories of the Island, I recall the fresh new black asphalt roads north of the Palm Islands. There were lots for sale on either side of the roads, but they didn't look like lots because all you could see was white sugary sand, like Clearwater Beach sand, billowing across the roads.
Around the same time, local Clearwater High School students used Clearwater Point on the south end of the beach as a favorite "parking spot" after dates. The streets also had lots covered in beach sand, with lovely water vistas and reflections of  the evening stars and moon. 
At the same time Sand Key was a favorite for weekend bonfires for high school students because nothing existed there except sea pines. Both the Point and Sand Key now are home to thousands of condominiums.
Island Estates began to grow and develop, but the Island Estates Shopping Plaza had not as yet been built. The closest food store was downtown.  I remember going with my mother to shop for groceries at what was then known as Cleveland Plaza on Cleveland Street east of Missouri Avenue. 
All the residents, by then known as "Islanders," were excited and happy when the Island Estates Plaza was built in 1974, and shopping became very convenient. Soon followed by all the conveniences we enjoy today.  
St. Brendan's Catholic Church was built behind the shopping plaza in the late 1970s.
Ross Yacht, owned by a friend of mine, Courtney Ross, was established on Windward Passage just west of the Island Way intersection.  It was a well known brokerage and yacht repair establishment catering to the yacht racing community throughout the area for many years.  It was eventually sold and absorbed into the Aquarium property.
I remember the small green ceramic banks, shaped like turtles used to raise money for the Aquarium. A lady named Mary McCormick, a community activist, lived on the Island at Clipper Cove Condo.  She placed the turtles in all the local businesses to raise money for the Aquarium, among many other things I am sure she did to help the cause. The aquarium, then located in the old sewage treatment plant on Windward Passage, is today of international fame.  Home to Winter the dolphin with the prosthetic tale, and of movie stare fame in the movie "Dolphin Tale".  Winter's success has allowed the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to do the important work of rescuing and rehabilitating injured marine animals.  She draws disabled children and adults from all over who identify with her success story.   
There was a dry storage marina located on the west end of Windward Passage named High and Dry Marina which was a successful business for many years. Boaters could fuel dockside, and buy snacks and drinks for their day of boating.  There was a large metal building which housed 3-4 levels of storage racks that held boats hoisted by forklifts and stacked them on the racks.  At the end of their day on the water, boaters simply docked, and let the handlers lift and store their boats until their next boating adventure.  In 2005 High and Dry was sold to make way for a new condominium.  The developers of The Residences of Windward Passage condo purchased it and developed the last condo built on the Island.
The Island Yacht Harbor wet slip marina at the west end of Windward Passage still exists today, and was the area's first condominium boat slip product.  Next door is the neighborhood playground provided by the City of Clearwater, with a lovely waterfront vista to the southwest.
A lovely and popular restaurant known as the Seaspire was built in 1974 on the west end of Windward Passage.  The triangular shaped three story structure was two levels elevated above parking, mostly glass, capitalizing on the beautiful water views overlooking the waterways, marina and causeway to the beach.  Later it was closed when backers tried to convert it to a private club, and absconded with the monies they had collected from willing patrons to do so.  Today the site houses the lovely townhomes known as The Pools.
At the entrance to the Island the popular seafood restaurant known as The Flagship was built in 1978.  It suffered two fires, and after the second one in 1985 it underwent a major renovation, replacing the “beachy pecky” cypress with elegant rich wood finishes and leaded glass interior windows.  
In 1999 the Flagship sold to Landry's Seafood. Landry's never really took hold, and after a year, they sold to the Island Way Grill, owned by local entrepreneur and area promoter, Frank Chivas, and partners, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Alstot and Mike Moore. 
Today Island Way Grill is a local landmark, and fabulous, thriving restaurant featuring Pacific Rim cuisines.  
The first multi family structure on the Island was built 50 years ago. The Dearborn Towers at 223 Island Way was built in 1962 by the City of Dearborn, Michigan as a Florida rental retreat for its senior citizens.  It was later affectionately referred to by Island residents as the blue beast because of the unusual blue paint color of the building.
The co-op known as Horizon House located at 31 Island Way was also built in 1962. It is the only co-op on the Island, and is very popular with snow birds and second home owners due to its pricing and close proximity to shopping.
Next door to Horizon House is 51 Island Way Condominium which was originally rental units, converted to a condominium in 1978. 
Over a dozen other condos were built over the years, and the Island Estates Realty staff has sold the same condos and homes many times over.  
Today, this beautiful and vibrant waterfront community consists of over 550 single family homes and approximately 1300 condominium units.  Accessed by beautifully landscaped mediums and cul-de-sacs, the commercial and multi-family areas are appropriately designated in conjunction with the single family homes.  
Along with the casual quality of life it affords, Islanders enjoy the secure sense of community where we can walk to boutiques, restaurants, salons, banks and grocery.  Not to mention the deep navigable waterways, and proximity to beautiful, award-winning Clearwater Beach.  Everything is within walking distance, and public transportation and the Jolley Trolley run daily.  
The developers envisioned a thriving, self-contained waterfront neighborhood over half a century ago.  Little did they know that their ideas would evolve into a destination community.  
If you live on Island Estates, you'll love where you live!

Full Disclosure: Reveal Your Home's Flaws to Speed the Sale

by Michelle Chenault

~~In most states, the law requires sellers to fill out paperwork regarding their knowledge of the property they intend to sell. Many agents and sellers see disclosures as a thorn in their side. Why would they badmouth their property or listing? Why not say as little as possible and see if the buyer discovers any issues on their own?

This is a penny-wise and pound-foolish mentality. Non-disclosure can lead to major headaches during escrow. You could lose the buyer, be forced to renegotiate the price or have to put the property back on the market. Non-disclosure can also lead to litigation months or even years after the sale.

Self-disclosing, pre-inspections and putting it all out there prior to a buyer making an offer helps to usher the sale along and make the process simpler. It’s smart business, and ultimately saves time and money.

If handled well, disclosures and calling out known issues helps inform your pricing and marketing strategy. Here are five tips to use disclosure to your advantage.

Order a building report

Each municipality has a building department that keeps records on every property. For a small fee, they provide building reports that contain valuable information about the home, such as the building’s history, permits issued, closed permits, violations, zoning information and sometimes landmark or historic status.

Buyers or their banks will likely request this report. When they see open permits or violations, you better believe they are going to ask you to cure them, request a credit or walk away.

Be prepared by ordering a building report early in the selling process. If you have issues to address, you can take care of them before you list the property. The potential buyer will then see a clean report, which will inspire confidence — not only in the property, but also in you as a seller.

Have inspections done prior to listing your home

Most sellers balk at this idea. Why pay to have the home inspected if you plan to sell?

The answer is so that you can ultimately make more money. A home listed for sale at a great price gets a buyer in the door to make an offer, but that buyer will have his or her inspection regardless. It they find dry rot in the garage, they will either walk away from the deal or ask you for money.

If you lose the buyer, the property goes back on the market with a stain on the listing. Everyone will ask what happened to the first deal, and you will likely be forced to disclose this new, known issue.

If you credit the buyer, your ultimate net proceeds will be lower than if you had priced the termite work into the asking price and let buyers know about the issue up front.

Be the bearer of the bad news

Provide buyers with disclosure documents before they make an offer. Let them know you recently replaced the roof, completed some electric work without a permit or once had a window leak but remedied it by replacing some flashing.

By revealing these issues, you’ll let the buyer know they are working with a fair and honest seller, and they will know more about the home. They will likely pay more for that piece of mind, and might even feel more comfortable moving ahead — even with some issues.

Arm your agent with knowledge

The listing agent is the only person who sees, meets and knows every member of the transaction. They should know as much about your home as possible before taking the listing.

Knowing about defects helps the agent advise you on price and strategy for going to market. If your home needs a new roof and some electrical updating, the agent will likely factor that into your list price.

Your listing agent is your team member. Keeping information from them will make you appear to be dishonest when the issue eventually comes up.

Get buyer sign-off on disclosed information

Nobody wants to be bothered with a legal issue after the sale. But when markets slow, or a buyer feels remorseful about their purchase for any reason, it’s not uncommon for them to go after the seller.

To avoid post-sale legal hassle, document any issues in writing, and get the buyers to sign off on all reports, inspections and disclosures. This step is especially important with known issues or big-ticket disclosure items.

No one likes surprises and you, the seller, ultimately lose when you don’t properly disclose information about your property. Think of the buyer as your customer, and treat them well. You’ll be better off in the long run.

•5 Steps to Selling Your Home
•Why You Should Have Your Home Inspected Before Selling
•8 Home Improvements To Boost Your Chances of Selling

 Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.



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Michelle Chenault  is your ultimate resource for Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Belleair Bluffs, Island Estates and Tampa Bay real estate. Michelle Chenault helps people with all of their Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Belleair and Tampa Bay real estate needs. Michelle Chenault helps people who are: relocating to Clearwater, relocating to Clearwater Beach or relocating to Tampa Bay . She can help you if you are: buying a home in Clearwater, buying a home in Clearwater Beach or buying a home in Tampa Bay, selling a home in Clearwater, selling a home in Clearwater Beach or selling a home in Tampa Bay, buying a waterfront condo in Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay or selling a waterfront condo in Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay. Michelle Chenault is an expert in Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay foreclosures and Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay short sales. The website is dedicated to helping you search all Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay homes for sale and any other types of properties available for sale like Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay condos, land and luxury real estate in the Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay area MLS. You may also use this site to find out everything you need to know about living in Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay, relocating to Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay, a Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay real estate search and finding things to do in Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Tampa Bay.