The Choice Is Clear

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If you are looking to sell or buy a home, you want the best people working with you to get the best deal possible. There are plenty of real estate agents in the area, hundreds in fact. So how do you determine who is the right agent for you? The answer is simple, look at their track record.

First, one would look at who industry professionals, who spend their careers charting the data on such things, consider to be the best in the field. For Hernando County, REAL Trends, the industry leader in real estate data, recently compiled their list of the best real estate agents in Hernando County. The result?

“Three agents and one team from Spring Hill’s Re/Max Marketing Specialists made this year’s list. The Hardy Team, Cheryl Burnett, Joan Herr, and Bonnie Barbieri, joined this prestigious group. Criteria for inclusion on the list  include having fifty or more transactions for the year or $20 million or more in sales.”

Top Agent Magazine is runs profiles on the best real estate agents in their regions. One of those agents, Bonnie Barbieri, has been featured on both the above list and received a profile in Top Agent Magazine. This has lead to exposure in Florida’s top newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. Not many agents receive both of those honors.

Next, one would look at tangible performance records. Only a percentage of real estate agents perform well enough to become million-dollar sellers. Bonnie Barbieri is a multi-time million dollar seller. This is another accolade that many agents never achieve.

The next thing one would look for is reviews from clients. A glance on Zillow can give you all  you need to know. Five star ratings, numerous sales, it is all right there front and center. Few agents produce these kinds of results.

The facts speak for themselves. If you want results, the first call you should make should be to Bonnie Barbieri. The current real estate market is heavily competitive. If you want to buy or sell a home, do not delay.

Dealing with HOAs

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When attempting to buy a home with any sort of Homeowners’ Association or HOA, be cautious and ensure that you read all documents that are involved in the purchase very carefully. Homeowners’ Associations have numerous rules and bylaws that you need to be aware of. This is especially true in some parts of the state, where these associations can keep you from being able to purchase your home due to numerous reasons.

Most of these associations will run credit checks and criminal background checks to see if you qualify for membership in the association. Applicants with less than stellar credit or past issues with the law are at increased risk of denial by the association. Sometimes, these groups will allow applicants the opportunity to explain themselves. However, this is not any sort of guarantee that said explanation will be enough to sway them should they choose to deny you.

These deals also tend to come with a list of rules and restrictions. These could be anything from limits on pets to how tall you can allow your grass to get. Breaking these rules can result in fines or other punishments. Being aware of these rules before purchasing a home is vitally important. Make sure you know what you are getting into in order to avoid any major problems.

Also, make sure you are aware of what your dues are and when you must pay them. In Florida, a Homeowners’ Association can foreclose on a home over past due fees. This is obviously the last thing you want happening to you, so it is up to you to ensure that these payments are made on time, every time.

Being aware of the pitfalls of dealing with a Homeowners’ Association is extremely important, but there benefits as well. You usually have access to some extra amenities such as community  pools or clubhouses. The dues typically include the cost of services such as lawn care and water. Being aware of these in advance is important as well, as you would not want to pay for something again that you already pay for with your HOA dues.

We hope this gave you a better understanding of the ins and outs of Homeowners’ Associations. For any further questions, email

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Billionaire Recommends Buying Home as Smart Investment

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Billionaire money manager John Paulson recommends putting your money into your home. The Mega-wealthy money guru stated in a recent interview that he believes that buying a home to live in is the best investment one could make today.

Citing low interest rates, affordable prices and the high cost of renting as factors, Paulson reasons that you would be ahead of the game from the moment you put in your down payment. “Today financing costs are extraordinarily low. You can get a 30-year mortgage somewhere around 4.5 percent. And if you put down, let’s say, 10 percent and the house is up 5 percent, which is the latest data, then you would be up 50 percent on your investment,” hedge fund manager Paulson explained.

We are inclined to agree with Mr. Paulson. This is especially true if you follow the added caveat we often add that you look just outside the major cities, where costs are lower, congestion is less prevalent, and you can still take advantage of most of the perks of city life. When you can get more home for your money, with less stress, yet still enjoy the benefits of big city fun, why would anyone pass it up?

Rentals are overpriced.  Unless you are trapped in one due to an inability to afford a down payment (which we have covered workarounds for), there are few upsides to the inflated cost of renting. With the money you save on your residence, any repairs a landlord may have covered will cost you less than the extra rent money in most cases. With homeownership comes freedom. If you own your property, there is no landlord telling you how to live your life. What Mr. Paulson suggests is not just an investment in your financial future, but also your emotional well-being as well.

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The Future of Affordable Homes

Modern Transportable House

Modern Transportable House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been a lot of talk in the past year about the possibilities for more efficiently built manufactured homes. Speculation about homes built entirely by 3D printers seemed like something that could be decent option for manufacturers a year or two down the road. Well, the reality has hit us sooner than we think.

Enter, Facit Homes in Hertfordshire, England. They have successfully built a prototype home on-site, using a digital manufacturing process. While not quite the 3D printing “push of a button” method of construction, this prototype was built using an on-site factory that was able to cut prime all of the pieces necessary for the structural necessities of the home. The frame, the walls, all of it being manufactured right there on the spot.

Facit’s Mobile Production Facility, or MPF, is capable of doing all of this right there at the job site, with a higher degree of accuracy than machines operated by human workers. The process of preparing the parts is all automated, all workers have to do is plug data into the system and get it started.

These are not just tiny mobile homes, either. The first of these projects was a 2,153 square foot home with numerous energy efficient design choices. Their current project, for which they just packed up the MPF and travelled to the new job site, 4,843 square foot home. That is a rather large structure by pre-fabricated housing standards. Yet the mechanized process performed admirably.

With advances such as this patented design and 3D printing technology on the brink of producing “printed” houses right there on the spot, the future of home construction looks to be brighter and more affordable than ever. As these new construction methods drive prices down, these new homes will become more affordable. Soon, there is reason to hope that affordable housing may in fact be within reach for anyone.

Financial Literacy Resources

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A recent article by Daily Finance shows the results of a study of eighteen different countries’ teenagers’ knowledge of financial literacy. In this study, American teenagers ranked around the middle of the pack. This is disturbing knowledge as it shows a lack of preparation for financial responsibilities. These teenagers are our future business leaders and homeowners, so it makes a great deal of sense that we do a better job of educating them on the basics of finance and financial management. So we have compiled a list of sites to help aid in establishing more financial literacy for all readers.

Daily Finance: The site this study was on features plenty of resources to help you get started on the road to financial literacy. It is a great jumping-off point for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of the basics of finance.

Investopedia: Their “Dictionary” feature is a great way to familiarize yourself with key terms in the financial sphere that you may not otherwise know.

Yahoo Finance: This is a thorough and reliable source of financial news. If you want to know what is going on in the markets and corporate sphere, this is one of the best places to do it.

The Motley Fool: Their “How To Invest” section is a great place to get started on the basics of investment. This can go a long way to helping knowledge of financial markets.

These are some of the best places to get started. Of course, knowing about your own finances helps tremendously as well, so check out our guide to checking your credit score while you are at it. Hopefully, then you will have a solid foundation of knowledge on how to manage your finances and keep from creating problems for yourself down the line. As G.I. Joe used to say, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”

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Hernando Realtors Named Among Best in Country

SPRING HILL, FL- Real estate data company REAL Trends, in partnership with Trulia, have announced their list of America’s Best Real Estate Agents. Three agents and one team from Spring Hill’s Re/Max Marketing Specialists made this year’s list. The Hardy Team, Cheryl Burnett, Joan Herr, and Bonnie Barbieri, joined this prestigious group. Criteria for inclusion on the list  include having fifty or more transactions for the year or $20 million or more in sales.

There were a total of seven agents and four teams that made the cut in Spring Hill, with Re/Max Marketing Specialists taking three of those seven and a quarter of the teams. This is out of hundreds of agents in town. For the full listing of Florida agents that received the honor, check out REAL Trends’ website at

Florida Is THE Place for a Vacation Home

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(From the Innisbrook Golf Course, one of the most famous golf courses in the country, right here in Tampa Bay)

Zillow recently published a report about what they feel are the best places to buy a vacation home across America. To those who follow this site, the results of their list should come as little to no surprise. Florida dominates the list in a big way. Out of four categories, two of them are entirely filled with cities in Florida. One more of those categories is almost all Florida cities, with only one being from outside the area. The final category lists one Floridian destination out of the five listed.

For places to live by the water, Florida takes up four out of five spots on the list. Port Salerno, Rio, Deerfield Beach, and High Point are the Floridian locations Zillow recommends. The outlier on this list is Crisfield, MD. The message to take away from this is if you are thinking about life on the beach, you are probably thinking Florida. Of course, we would also recommend places like St. Petersburg, Spring Hill, and West Palm Beach. Since most of Florida is beach adjacent, there is plenty to choose from.

For locations near amusement parks, Florida owns the list. Davenport, Holly Hill, Kissimmee, Citrus Ridge, and Loughman are all on the list. There really is not much to be surprised about here. Florida is basically the amusement park capital of the country. Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Weeki Wachee Springs, Silver Springs, the list goes on and on. Florida has more amusement parks than pretty much any place else in the United States, and possibly more than almost anyplace else in the world.

Florida also seems to be the destination of choice for avid golfers. Haines City, Citrus Ridge, Daytona Beach, Port Salerno, and Loughman all come up on the list. Several of the more famous golf courses in the country are in Florida. Beyond their list we would add Tarpon Springs or Palm Harbor based on the famous Innisbrook course.

Locations suited to the outdoors nature enthusiasts are where Florida takes a back seat to other parts of the country, with Thousand Palms and Palm Desert, California along with Marblemount, Washington and Deal Island, Maryland beating out Oak Hill, Florida to top the list. We have long touted the attractions for nature lovers in the northern Tampa Bay area, so do not discount Florida there either.

So, from both our perspective and those at Zillow, Florida is pretty much the place to be when you are looking for a vacation home.

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European Buyers Bolster Florida Home Market

The NAR building and the U.S. Capitol in the b...

The NAR building and the U.S. Capitol in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The real estate market in Florida is recovering quicker than in many parts of the country, and it owes much of that momentum to a rather unlikely source. The Florida housing market is being bolstered by buyers from Europe. This information comes from a study produced by the National Association of Realtors and published by Yahoo Finance.

The article points out that many coastal states are receiving a boost from foreign buyers. Many cities on the West Coast are being bolstered by Chinese buyers as proximity to IT and technology companies are providing families moving from China with new opportunities for professional advancement. Florida, along with Arizona are states being aided by buyers from European nations who want to live in warmer climates.

The benefits are mainly being felt by four states, Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Many other parts of the country are still struggling as the middle and northern areas of the country are not as attractive to foreign buyers and investors. These deals have really kickstarted the markets where they are active though, as the majority of these sales are cash deals.

The Chinese buyers flocking to California are also trying to hedge their finances in the seemingly increasingly likely event that the Chinese real estate market suffers setbacks like the U.S. market did in the past few years. European buyers are already starting on the road to recovery after their own real estate woes. While the Yahoo Finance article does not state this, it would stand to reason that many of the European buyers are looking for investment or vacation properties.

How long this trend will last is anyone’s guess at this point. It is hard to predict how long conditions will persist in a foreign market, but an educated guess would assume that with the European markets beginning to recover and the Asian markets continuing to grow, the first real challenge to this trend is the perceived instability of the Chinese real estate market. That could provide a short term boom as people may look to flea a bad situation, but those left behind could feel the financial crunch from that, leading to problems down the line. Of course, this is all purely speculation at this point. The only thing we can really do is wait for more clear signs of activity before jumping to judgement.

Rate Increases Coming For HAMP Loans

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If you modified your mortgage early in the lifespan of the government’s HAMP initiative, watch your interest rates, as they may be climbing soon. The Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP was a program put into place by the federal government to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. The program began in 2009, although the first big wave of homeowners enrolled in the program did not come until the following year.

What many people may not realize about the program is that at the five-year anniversary of the modification, the interest rates are designed to go back to the market average rate. This could result in increased payments of up to a few hundred dollars for many homeowners who may still be struggling to make their current, reduced payments.

This increase will begin for the first wave of enrollees in HAMP around October. Banks must warn homeowners of the increases 120 days in advance, which means that some may have already received their first notices. Another wave of notices should be due around Labor Day.

Those who waited until 2010 to get in on the deal will see their rates increase in 2015, during what is expected to be the largest glut of increases. The Treasury Department is said to monitoring the situation, and is ready to take further action if they see signs of another housing crisis looming due to these loan resets. They claim they are working with servicers to provide loss mitigation options should the need arise.

So for those who modified their mortgages under this program, keep an eye on your mail for those warning notices, and do not ignore them. Be prepared for when your rates increase and plan accordingly if you are able. If you are not able to handle the increase, open a dialogue with your mortgage provider and see what options may available to you. Whatever you do, do not just ignore the issue.

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