Tips & Advice
Have You Put Aside Enough for Closing Costs?
Have you put enough aside for closing costs? There are many potential homebuyers, and even sellers, who believe that you need at least a 20% down payment in order to buy a home, or move on to their next home. Time after time, we have dispelled this myth by showing that there are many loan programs that allow you to put down as little as 3% (or 0% with a VA loan).
If you have saved up your down payment and are ready to start your home search, one other piece of the puzzle is to make sure that you have saved enough for your closing costs.
Freddie Mac defines closing costs as:
“Closing costs, also called settlement fees, will need to be paid when you obtain a mortgage. These are fees charged by people representing your purchase, including your lender, real estate agent, and other third parties involved in the transaction. Closing costs are typically between 2 and 5% of your purchase price.”
We’ve recently heard from many first-time homebuyers that they wished that someone had let them know that closing costs could be so high. If you think about it, with a low down payment program, your closing costs could equal the amount that you saved for your down payment.
Here is a list of just some of the fees/costs that may be included in your closing costs, depending on where the home you wish to purchase is located:
- Government recording costs
- Appraisal fees
- Credit report fees
- Lender origination fees
- Title services (insurance, search fees)
- Tax service fees
- Survey fees
- Attorney fees
- Underwriting fees
Is there any way to avoid paying closing costs?
Work with your lender and real estate agent to see if there are any ways to decrease or defer your closing costs. There are no-closing mortgages available, but they end up costing you more in the end with a higher interest rate, or by wrapping the closing costs into the total cost of the mortgage (meaning you’ll end up paying interest on your closing costs).
Home buyers can also negotiate with the seller over who pays these fees. Sometimes the seller will agree to assume the buyer’s closing fees in order to get the deal finalized.
Speak with your lender and agent early and often to determine how much you’ll be responsible for at closing. Finding out you’ll need to come up with thousands of dollars right before closing is not a surprise anyone is ever looking forward to.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium – Sarasota Florida
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is located in Sarasota Florida, just south of the Skyway Bridge from us here in Pinellas County. While we have our own Clearwater Marine Aquarium with Winter the dolphin of the movie Dolphin Tales, Mote Marine is unique.
Mote Marine Laboratory began teaming with various institutes and universities back in 1955 to study our planet’s oceans and eco-systems. Innovative research is being conducted jointly with the University of South Florida and the University of the West Indies in fields the fields of marine immunology, shark biology, fisheries habitat and numerous other areas.
At Mote Marine the family can not only enjoy an educational day viewing everything from sharks, dolphins, manatee, jelly fish, coral and other sea life but also take a tour of Sarasota Bay. Whether you opt for the Eco-Boat Tour which takes you on a pontoon boat or a guided kayak trip, Mote Marine is a great destination. On the Eco-Boat Tour, nets are put down and marine life is brought onto the boat to be identified by staff. Kids love seeing what actually lives in Sarasota Bay. The guided kayak tour offers sunrise, early morning and full moon evening tours of the mangroves. Indeed, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota Florida is a destination the entire family can enjoy!
Ozona Blue Grilling – Waterfront Dining – Ozona Florida
Ozona Blue Grilling is one of my favorite places for waterfront dining and it is located in quaint Ozona Florida. Whether taking the family out for dinner or meeting colleagues for lunch, this is the place. Located at 125 Orange Street, just off Alternate 19 in Palm Harbor Florida, you want to be sure to check this great restaurant out.
At Ozona Blue Grilling you (and the kids) can come in your bathing suits and sit pool-side or under the cabana while you enjoy your meal and/or drinks. Naturally, there is also dining inside or on the terrace near the outside Tiki bar. Weekends normally offer live bands playing outside and you can dance the night away! Call to see which band is playing (727-789-4540) or to make reservations.
Ozona Blue Grilling has been around since 2006 and is one of the most popular local restaurants. Everything is excellent, from the Ahi Tuna to the Grouper dinner or the Mediterranean Flatbread! I have never had a meal there that I did not enjoy. Come live the Florida lifestyle, enjoy live entertainment and great food at Ozona Blue Grilling.
What Is A Community Development District (CDD) & A Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Clients often ask me ‘what is a CDD or a PUD’? A CDD is a Community Development District and something that you often find here in Florida. It is an independent special purpose unit of the local government that the land developer established. This is a method to provide financing for infrastructure development – things like roads, water & sewer, parks, clubhouse & pool facilities. The CDD uses bond money for building the community infrastructure and that bond money must be paid back. That is accomplished by monthly payments from each homeowner within the CDD community.
Many PUDs in Florida have been designated as CDDs. PUDs are Planned Unit Development communities. A PUD allows the developer to meet community density and land use goals without restrictions of existing zoning requirements. A PUD is also planned and built as a complete unit. PUDs can provide more open space for development and lower costs for street and utility development. Together with bond money from CDDs, it is a combination that we are seeing more and more of here in Florida.
CDD fees are in addition to HOA fees. HOA fees cover the maintenance of the grounds and many other items. Each individual community decides what the HOA fees will cover and how high those fees will be. Some communities have only one or the other. Just having the HOA fees (Homeowner Association fees) is the most common but there are also many non-deed restricted communities that don’t have any of these fees. Before purchasing, it is best to ask your Realtor to go over what fees apply to the community you are purchasing into. That is just one more reason why it is so important to work with a Realtor when purchasing your home, townhome or condo here in Florida.
Tarpon Turtle Restaurant On Lake Tarpon In Tarpon Springs Florida
The Tarpon Turtle Restaurant on beautiful Lake Tarpon in Tarpon Springs Florida is always a wonderful destination for lunch. One of the things that makes this restaurant so special is it’s location, directly on the northern shores of Lake Tarpon.
Accessible by boat as well, this great restaurant offers seating out on the docks, at the Tiki Bar or inside where you can enjoy air conditioning. Since the restaurant is located directly on the shore of this five mile long lake, there is always a refreshing breeze blowing. You can sit outside and enjoy the wildlife that frequent the lake which includes not only a wide variety of birds but also alligators. Please remember NOT to feed the gators since feeding them makes them associate people with food. That is definitely not a good idea.
The Tarpon Turtle Restaurant is great for large gatherings, meetings and parties. The friendly staff goes out of it’s way to accommodate in every way so your event is really perfect. With a large selection of great dishes, there is something for every pallet. Be sure to check out the Tarpon Turtle Restaurant located at 1513 Lake Tarpon Avenue in Tarpon Springs Florida. Just one more reason why living here in the Tarpon Springs Florida area is truly wonderful.
Florida Boating Regulations & Safety Tips
Florida is a boater’s paradise but you need to know about the state’s boating regulations and safety tips before you venture out on the water!
Anyone born after 1/1/1988 who operates a motorboat with 10 or more horsepower must complete an approved boating safety course and carry the Boating Safety Education ID Card issued by the Florida Wildlife Commission. There are exceptions to this rule and the entire list is available through the Florida Fish and Wildlife’s website.
There are also lists of required safety equipment. What is required by law depends on the size of the vessel. Please note that even canoes, kayaks and paddleboards have minimum requirements, so please check the link for exact information.
Florida is surrounded on three sides by water and has numerous lakes. Perhaps that is why the state offers so much excellent information on their websites. One of the things boaters will find useful is a complete list of both fresh and salt water public boat ramps.
You can also sign up for updates on fishing and boating regulations. Remember, safety should be your first concern. Make the waterways a fun and safe place for all by following the state regulations.
Thai Bay & Sushi Restaurant – Largo Florida
Thai Bay & Sushi Restaurant in Largo Florida was my destination today for lunch with a close friend. We both love the food at Thai Bay and we are always sampling something different. This restaurant is also an absolutely beautiful place to dine. Thai restaurants have a reputation for their intricate wood carvings, Thai statues and orchid plants everywhere and Thai Bay Restaurant is no exception. This is the perfect location for a special occasion, a business meeting or meeting with friends.
Thai Bay has a wonderful lunch menu and a larger dinner menu. No matter which menu you use, the food is always more than enough and everything is prepared excellently. From the tasty Thai Tea and Thai Spring Rolls to the large selection of main entries, you are sure to be pleased and your taste buds will be delighted. Naturally, Thai coconut ice cream with litchi nuts is delicious end to any meal.
When looking for an outstanding location to dine, be sure to check out Thai Bay & Sushi Restaurant located at 1300 East Bay Drive in Largo Florida. The location is convenient to all sections of Pinellas County since it is in the approximate center of our county and also near the Gulf Beaches. I do indeed believe that you will be glad to have tried this beautiful restaurant.
Dunedin Fine Art Center – Where Magic Happens
The Dunedin Fine Art Center is indeed where magic happens! Located at 1143 Michigan Blvd in quaint Dunedin Florida, there is always something going on at the Dunedin Fine Art Center!
Dunedin Fine Art Center always has exhibits going on in their four galleries. They feature not only local artists but an assortment from all over the country. As far as classes are concerned, the youngest age is four years of age and the oldest can easily be a great-great-great grandma! When it comes to the arts, there are no age limits.
DFAC offers classes in pottery, pastels, acrylic painting, oil painting, drawing, digital imaging, glass and enamel art, jewelry making, fiber arts, metal arts, mixed media, photography, print making, sculpture, water media, and even classes specifically for teens and the little ones. Naturally, the summer camps fill up quickly, so it is always best to register as soon as possible. There are also special weekend workshops taking place throughout the year in a variety of areas, so be sure to check out their entire schedule of offerings.
Classes are scheduled between the hours of 9 am and 10 pm, so there really is a wide range to choose from. If you cannot find something in a time that works for you and you have a group of friends also wanting that class, chances are good that DFAC will attempt to accommodate you. They will certainly try to get an instructor for your group if it is large enough.
The Palm Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 2 pm. Here you can get a snack or something to drink and sit with friends to chat. The children’s museum, exhibits and gallery gift shop hours are 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, 10-2 Saturday and 1-4 Sunday. This is truly an art center that is almost always open!
All levels of classes are also available, from beginner to advanced, so be sure to check out their offerings. Once you take your first class, you will find yourself addicted to the Dunedin Fine Art Center!
Dunedin Causeway & Sail Honeymoon
Dunedin Causeway is a great destination for summer fun! At Sail Honeymoon you can rent kayaks, trimarans, a 17-foot Windrider or a stand up paddleboard! Located directly on Dunedin Causeway’s south side, Sail Honeymoon has been a local business renting kayaks for years but in the last couple of years they have expanded and now also rent trimarans, catamarans and the ever so popular paddleboard. Along with the rental comes instructions if needed and the staff will also supply you with life jackets, paddles and a dry bag to keep your belongings safe during your excursion out on St Joseph’s Sound. Sail Honeymoon is located a short distance from Caladesi Island State Park and off the causeway on your way to Honeymoon Island State Park. Caladesi Island is only accessible by boat, there are no cars on the island. There are kayak trails wandering through the mangroves and over 6 miles of inland waterways waiting to be explored!
You can rent a sit-on-top kayak or a sit-in kayak and even use the kayak to go fishing for the day! The single kayaks start at $30 for 2 hours but are only $55 for the entire day! The doubles are $40 for 2 hours and $70 for the day. The 16 foot long Windrider Trimarans are perfect for up to 3 people. These are $75 for 2 hours and $150 for the entire day. What better way to enjoy the beautiful waters of St Joseph’s Sound? If you are interested in the 17 foot Windrider, which has a capacity of up to 5 people and a cooler, they are $95 for 2 hours and $175 for the day. All of these kayaks and sailboats have a four hour price as well and you can get that information by simply calling Sail Honeymoon at 727-734-0392. Oh, and the stand-up paddleboards are only $25 for an hour or $35 for 2 hours! How could I almost forget these popular boards? Sail Honeymoon just received the ‘green light’ from the City of Dunedin to extend their contract for having this location on the Dunedin Causeway for another ten years, so they are not going anywhere. This is great news since this is a popular destination for young and not so young alike! If you are looking for something to do during the long hot summer, consider renting one of these great kayaks or sailboats and really getting out on the open waters off the Dunedin Causeway!
Sea Critters Cafe & Hurricane Seafood Restaurant – Pass-a-Grille, St Pete Beach
Sea Critters Cafe and the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant, are fantastic summer destinations on St Pete Beach’s Pass-a-Grille. Located on the southern-most section of St Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille offers pristine beaches and a great selection of locations for dining on local seafood.
The beaches are never as very crowded and what better place to take a long walk than along the miles of white sandy beaches that run north and south here in Pinellas County? With the combination of turquoise water, pure white sand and the pale blue skies, it is indeed a little piece of Paradise on Earth!
One of my favorite locations for dining on Pass-a-Grille Beach is Sea Critters Café, located at 2007 Pass-a-Grille Way. You can dine inside or out at the docks where locals come to tie up their boats for lunch. Either way, you will find a friendly staff and first rate dining. Fresh fish is served daily and you can have it blackened or grilled. Their grouper is fantastic but so is the red snapper or the blackened shrimp!
If you are looking for nightlife, be sure to check out the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant. Built in 1912, the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant offers homemade conch, bisque and clam chowder along with a wide range of other seafood dishes. In 1991 the Hurricane added a second floor and this became Stormy’s Nightclub. The Hurricane Watch Roof-top offers live entertainment and some of the best views around of the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico!
The Hurricane Seafood Restaurant is open seven days a week beginning at 7 am. A great meeting place for breakfast, it is really one place you need to check out while enjoying the beaches on Pass-a-Grille.
There are also numerous short and long term beach rentals available on Pass-a-Grille Beach, so be sure to check the area out for your next beach holiday! You will be glad you did!