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Category Archives: Home Buying Advice

August 1, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

The Shape & Size of Homes to Come

Homes like clothes, like hairdos, like food all have their cycles of change. I remember the colors of pink and blue bathrooms, harvest gold and puke green kitchen appliances and all those mirrored walls. Low ceilings, rooms only for company, furniture covered with plastic and tiny closets. Homes have evolved as our needs and circumstances have changed and let’s take a look at what we can expect in the future.

Green small green house with garage door.One circumstance that has caused home sizes to shrink on average is the most recent recession and bursting of the housing bubble making new home buyers to rethink how much they can and want to spend on a home and focusing more on what they really need. Also, with many people, both young and old, moving back into urban environments from the suburban sprawls, tradeoffs are being made. Home buyers are willing to give up lots of home space for shorter commute times, more community involvement and living where the “action” is. It is all part of the “buy local” movement hitting this country in a big way.

The idea of having rooms sitting vacant for only special occasions like formal living and dining rooms isn’t making sense anymore. We want multi-purpose rooms that can be shared by the whole family as well as company and allocate areas for real functionality like the “mud room”. By opening up the kitchen into a dining area and sitting area around the fireplace and large screen TV, we can have an intimate gathering or a holiday family gathering. There is the computer desk area in the kitchen, the play area in the Great Room with desks and tables for school work, crafts and hobbies and card games. And with Wi-Fi you don’t need to be chained to a desk anymore. So the idea of having a separate home office isn’t always necessary. However, with the future trend of more people working from home, I see the home office as being an integral part of the home, but it may be a multi-purpose room.

Homes today are expected to be more functional and practical for the whole family. Technology, working families and learning opportunities for children beyond the regular school day have created a need for efficiency, communication and multi-tasking..

May 2, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Still Using a Search Engine to Find a Home in Tampa?

I understand if you are new to the Tampa Bay Real Estate Market and have not been educated by another Realtor to understand how the buying and selling of Real Estate works in today’s Internet world.  I too was uneducated until I became a Realtor (back when computers didn’t exist!) and open houses were the only way to actually see a home.  Back then, things were slower and we all have time to go drive around (when gas was much cheaper) and view several open houses on a Sunday and hope to find the perfect home.  My how times have changed.  If you haven’t heard this lately, let me repeat–Everything is on the Internet–All Real Estate–All homes listed for sale or those sold can be found on the Internet.

Tony Tropical PropertyThe days of driving around neighborhoods (good still to get a feel of the neighborhood and determine if you want to live there, which I highly recommend) to find homes for sale are over—good homes go quickly and are first seen on the Internet.  ANOTHER INSIDER TIP: You don’t need to spend all your valuable time searching all over the Internet to find a home–that has even become obsolete because most of the sites you will be visiting will have old data—did you hear that?….Sites like Zillow, Trulia, Movoto etc. get Tampa Bay Real Estate data AFTER the MLS (which is for Realtors)–which by the way, if you are getting listings from me sent directly to your email, you are receiving the most accurate and current data for available homes for sale out there. ALL HOME FOR SALE LISTINGS START WITH THE MLS….and then get syndicated out there to the Internet. And you will find all the information you need about that home listed right there on the listing sheet from the MLS. So, my next question is:  Why would anyone use a basic search engine like Google, Yahoo etc to find homes unless?

  • It was really fast to download
  • It listed all the homes available
  • It allowed you to detail your specific search
  • It didn’t make you sign up with any specific agent
  • You have nothing better to do with your time

I am a Tampa Bay Realtor and find myself getting enormously frustrated and impatient by the multitude of Real Estate sites out there, giving me more information than I want and not all the information I do want.  This doesn’t make sense to me because all this extra searching takes more time, more clicking and I thought the internet was all about saving time?  I find sites that have Monopoly® pieces clutter and confuse me and if I happen to click on the wrong piece—I am redirected somewhere I don’t want to be and then there is getting back to the original map…on and on and on. Am I the only one that gets caught with the hour glass spinning on and on waiting for these huge pages to download because the site has so much advertising on it!

Being a Tampa Bay Realtor, I know that all of this chaos and time waste can be eliminated if, you as a buyer, would just register with me or your Realtor of choice and, low and behold, all the homes that meet your criteria, in the areas you want to live and in the price range you want, will come to your email on a daily basis automatically! Imagine that. One call or email from you, giving me your primary information of home search interest, can simplify your life and allow me to do what I do best, which is find you the home you want. This frees you up to do what you do best. There is no charge for this. We are always paid by the seller of the property you finally decide to purchase, so you have nothing to lose. While I am not a librarian or a chauffeur and only get paid when you do purchase, I only show homes to qualified buyers, who are ready financially to purchase a home. However, if you are not at that point yet, and don’t have a trusted bank or mortgage broker to contact to get qualified to purchase a home, I can have someone that is trustworthy, experienced and honest call you to make this happen. I do not work or refer anyone to someone who is not.

Now all this being said, I understand that when some people start out, they are not ready to make a commitment to a Realtor, they do not know or trust, and prefer to do the search themselves by looking all over the web.  Or maybe you are someone who doesn’t want to bother your Realtor because you want to search outside the parameters to see if you would consider another area or a higher price. My website has an easy to navigate format to set up your automatic searches without even contacting me directly. This is called IDX, which allows you to find the homes you want quickly and have them come to your email directly, without having to jump all over the Internet. ALL HOMES THAT ARE AVAILABLE and THAT MEET YOUR CRITERIA, ARE LISTED HERE. Just go to: Search for Homes on my website and start searching for your dream home.

Now once you have more questions about specific homes, neighborhoods, taxes, etc, please contact me directly with no obligation. I can send you homes directly from the MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE (MLS) where all home listings start. These also will also come to you immediately to your email and you can let me know when you see a home you want to look at in person before someone else purchases it. This is by far, the most efficient way to search for a home in today’s Internet world.

  1. You will not miss out on any good deals that go fast.
  2. You will not waste your time searching all over the internet.
  3. You will save time and gas by not driving around to visit neighborhood listings or open houses.
  4. You will not have to make phone calls from Realtor signs in front of properties only to find the home is already under contract.


Give me a call or email to sign up for direct to your email, current active homes for sale….Bill Szydlowski, 813-323-4443 or

April 14, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Ten Ways The Tampa Housing Market In 2014 Will Be Different Than 2013

We all like to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best…that is why we all love predictions.  So after doing my research out there Upscale Suburban Tropical Homefor the upcoming year, I have put together what the experts think are going to be the upcoming changes in Tampa Bay Real Estate for 2014.  That being said, and not forseeing some economic crisis that could change things, here are a few ways the Tampa Bay Housing Market will be different this coming year:

  1. It will cost more to buy a home in 2014 than 2013, because home prices are expected to continue to rise by double digits.
  2. Mortgage rates will be slightly higher this coming year due to our economic recovery and our Federal Government changing things up again.
  3. Buying a home though, will still be a better bet and cheaper than renting a home/apartment.  On average, with rents in Tampa for an economical apartment  around $900 a month, with a little money down and decent credit, a mortgage payment can be gotten for less than that.  Why pay your landlords’ mortgage?
  4. With home inventory increasing in 2014, due to increased new construction, more existing homes on the market from sellers (seeing the advantages to selling their homes now with the increased pricing) and investor competition has drastically diminished over 2013, purchase choices are numerous.
  5. Some banks have opened up their lending rules with less refinancing of loans happening.  With banks understanding their financial and lending risks with the different kinds of mortgages, there may be more opportunities for bank lending.
  6. Repeat home buyers are expected to be the ones buying the most homes in 2014.  Investors not seeing the numbers shaping up for them due to the price increases will pull out of the market.  First Time Home Buyers, needing to have more money for a down payment, a lower debt-to-income ratio and maintaining a stable job, along  with increasing home prices and interest rates, will find it a little tougher to purchase a home.  Repeat buyers, who have seen their current property values rise, will have more equity to acquire an equity or credit line for the down payment and with still affordable interest rates, will be the frontrunners in this Real Estate year.
  7. The Rental Market in Urban Markets is becoming big, while the suburban single family home rentals will decline due to the short sale and foreclosure sales are declining.  Young people, who want the convenience of living where they work, play and eat, with a less commute time and more enjoyment time, will accelerate this demand for multi-family rental communities in 2014.  The suburban single family communities will still be dominant in owner-occupied single family homes.
  8. While Tampa Bay is not considered a “local market” to watch in 2014, due to Florida having such a high foreclosure rate in years past, the “Local Market” scene in undervalued cities around the U.S. is heating up. This means that many people are choosing smaller but vibrant locales to put down roots for a more economical and better quality of life.  These local market US cities have seen a recent increase in viable jobs with good income, significant economic success in their localities, followed by real home and business construction activity, that is typical of healthy growing cities.  A few of the top 10 that made the list have been making news with their growth for some time now, notably Charlotte and Raleigh, NC; Denver, CO; Nashville, TN; Salt Lake City, UT and Seattle, WA.
  9. Now more than ever, you should be aware of and understand the fees you pay when you buy a home.  As each year goes by, and 2014 will get even more translucent, you will be seeing the fees for services that you will be paying for during the purchase process and at the closing table.  Here is a list of some of the fees you can expect to see on your final HUD settlement statement at the closing table:
  • Appraisal fee to determine current market value of your home (required by your lender)
  • Origination fee of the loan from your lender
  • Pre-paid interest because mortgage payments are paid in arrears
  • Pre-paid one year insurance premium for your home insurance
  • Flood certification or elevation certificate to determine if flood insurance is necessary
  • Real Estate Tax servicing fee to the county
  • Credit report fee to obtain your credit scoring
  • Bank processing fee to underwrite your loan
  • Recording fee to record the deed in the county of record
  • Notary fee to have a sworn statement and verify signatures
  • Title insurance to protect all parties concerning ownership of the property
  • State and County Taxes on the Deed, Mortgage, etc (Florida)

Be sure to discuss these costs further with your Realtor and/or Mortgage Broker/Lender.

10.  It is a SELLER’S MARKET and you will need to be ready to put your best foot forward. Here’s how:

  • If a home you like just hits the MLS today, you will need to see it today, especially if it is exceptional.  There is plenty of buyer competition and Realtors always tell the Sellers that the first offer is usually the best one–so you want to be the first one.
  • That being said, you need to be already pre-approved for a mortgage, that is talk with a mortgage broker or lender and have your credit pulled, your income and work history identified, your debt-to-income ratio calculated, etc.  Bottom line is to make sure you can move quickly to buy the home when you see it.
  • Make a clean and reasonable offer, that is, do not ask for repairs found during the inspection, home owner warranties, closing costs, etc. while giving the Seller a low ball offer.  The seller will likely just move on to the second offer.  With other offers coming in, would you work with a Buyer who is unreasonable and acting as if they were the only buyers on the planet?
  • Don’t be penny-wise and dollar-foolish: If you are asked to put in your final and best offer in a competing situation, do not be afraid to give it your best shot (your best shot is the offer, that if you do not get the property, you will say that you gave it your all and not state that you are willing to go up a couple of thousand extra).  A few thousand dollars over the course of your 30 year mortgage will not amount to much in your monthly payment, so go for it.


February 17, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Lucky You for Obtaining a Jumbo Mortgage in 2013

Florida HouseIf you were one of the lucky home buyers last year to obtain one of these loans—worth over $417,000 because of the low interest rates and attractive payment options, well things are changing this year in 2014.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will still allow lenders to offer this type of mortgages, but there will be fewer interest-only and balloon-type mortgages written, because they fall outside the safe zone of “qualified mortgages”.  Some lenders are even requiring larger down payments from these high end interest-only loans—35% vs. 20%.  Also, the new mortgage rules prohibit low and no documentation mortgages.

For other less risky Jumbo Loans, some banks are requiring a lower down payment—15% vs. 20%.   And better yet, some financial experts say lenders will likely follow that stream and lower them to 10%.  The lender strategy is to attract more applicants to pick and choose from.  This is a sign that they are loosening up their underwriting guidelines.  On the other hand, there is talk that Private Mortgage Insurance will be reintroduced for these loans.

Banks keep most jumbo loans in house and prefer Adjustable Rate Mortgages, because of the potential income from the increased rates.  However, with the tougher rules, lenders cannot just approve borrowers, based on the lower introductory rate.  Usually though, these wealthy home buyers can afford the higher rate and it would not be a deal breaker anyway.

Because Lenders want to attract affluent buyers, most likely the rates will remain low in 2014, at least for the ARM loans, as the fixed rate ones are expected to rise.  But do not wait until 2015, as rates are expected to rise further.  With our Government Treasury Department expected to ask for a higher price from its’ investors, higher rates for borrowers will ensue.


February 10, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Current News Updates For Home Buying in 2014

Modern Home with Tropical Landscaping2013 was a banner year for housing start-ups (to compete with existing home sales) in Hillsborough County but a majority of them (2 out of 3) were in areas that may not appeal to all buyers for any number of reasons.  These new homes were built in the southern and eastern areas of the county, as well as, 1 out of 4 of them were built in Pasco county.  This leaves a whole lot of area in between, that appeals directly to plenty of buyers who want to live and work centrally in Tampa Bay.

This brings us to 2014 and there are 10 changes coming:

Federal Government Loan approval guidelines will now allow a homeowner who filed a short sale on their home to purchase again within 1 year, as long as they are current with their mortgage.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the regulatory agency established in 2010 (2 years after our economic housing bust), has new rules starting January, 2014 that will protect buyers with their home loans.  For instance:  There will be no excessive upfront points/fees exceeding 3% of the loan amount.

Not allowed are interest-only payments, balloon loans and 30 year + loans.

Debt-to-income ratio, your gross income per month in relation to the amount of debts you must pay off each month, will pay a larger role in the loan approval process.  A homebuyer’s total debt cannot exceed 43% of their total gross monthly income.

Some potential (depending which way Congress votes) discouraging news for home buyers and sellers in 2014 concerns the end of tax breaks.  What is being discussed:  Eliminating the deduction for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) provided by private mortgage insurance companies, Rural Purchase Housing, FHA, and VA Loans.

Short Sale or Foreclosure Sales that incurred a Deficiency to the lender, will no longer be forgiven, up to $2 million.  Florida does not currently have Anti-Deficiency legislation in place.

With continued unemployment descending, stable interest rates and a rising of confidence in our economy will continue our healthy Real Estate recovery.  There is talk of rising interest rates, but let’s face it, with current rates below 5%, homeownership is still a great deal.

According to Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Tampa, Florida is 3rd in the Top 10 Housing Markets to watch in 2014.

With less “cash cow” investors (who already gobbled up properties in 2013 for rentals), there will be a steady supply of homes available for buyers.

Also new rules are being enacted for investors such as:  Lenders are now also looking at the quantity (not just the equity they have) of properties an investor owns —before they will loan money to them.

For Investors, who improve and flip their purchases, FHA lowered the amount from $417,000 to $285,000, for a jumbo mortgage in Florida.  They will need more upfront cash to purchase, as well, with a minimum of 25% down.

Investors, who plan to use the equity of one purchase to refinance another one, may not be able to get a loan, even with a great credit score, low debt and high net worth.  Some lenders are even limiting this type of purchases to only 4 investment properties.

Average rents in Tampa Bay will increase 3% this year to about $900 a month, making home ownership a more attractive option for those that qualify.  In Tampa Bay, over 70% of people own homes, rather than rent.

According to the most recent Standard HYPERLINK “”&HYPERLINK “” Poor’s HYPERLINK “”home price index, home prices in the Tampa Bay area, rose almost 6 %, compared with the same time frame last year and is higher than other major cities.  Tampa Bay has rebounded since the crash of 2008.  According to the Mid-Florida Regional MLS Realtor reports, the median sales price (for existing homes) rose $35,000 since 2011 or more than 9%.  That’s good news for sellers in 2014. Buyers now know, it is currently a seller’s market.  Because of all of this, there just isn’t enough inventory availability, especially for the discriminating buyer.

FEMA, with its’ increased Flood Insurance Rates (due to low subsidized rates in zones A and V) is going to affect 35% of flood polices in Pinellas County, 20% in Hillsborough county, and 36% in Pasco county.  As of January 2014, there were 40,000 homes for sale, put on hold, due to this scare.  Fortunately, just passed by the Senate and hopefully by the House, The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act is the time-out for this flood insurance premium increase, that officially was implemented in October, 2013.  An affordability study is going to take place to realize the full impact of this increase.

All being said, Job growth at its’ current snails pace, as well as Income and Wage growth, are still hurting a full recovery from the 2008 real estate bust.  Experts say that’s not likely to change quickly…at least not in 2014.