Lake Okeechobee Water Level Update

Southeast Florida drought conditionsJust five days after the U.S. government unveiled a new website – Drought.gov – the South Florida Water Management District announced today that “seasonal rains did not sufficiently replenish regional water supplies to meet the coming dry season’s demands.”  With Lake Okeechobee registering at 10.38 feet above sea level yesterday, it is 1.15 feet below its previous historic low for this date (26 years ago in 1981).  This time last year, the lake was 2.29 feet higher.  The SFWMD news release continues:

“Because Lake Okeechobee serves as a primary backup water supply to more than five million South Floridians in the District’s Lower East Coast, residents there must continue to observe current modified Phase II restrictions, even though local rainfall has seemed plentiful.  Residents are also encouraged to conserve water within the home to help stretch regional supplies.”  With that in mind, here are some helpful resources:

– You can get Lake Okeechobee water level updates here

– The American Red Cross offers some excellent indoor and outdoor water conservation tips

Are you water-wise?  Take the home water audit and find out! 

– Meanwhile, this list started out with 100 Water Saving Tips but somehow ended up with 111.  🙂

Broward County Events – Fair, Expo and Christmas Festivities

 ::  To view Broward County Events for DECEMBER 2007, click here.  ::

The following are upcoming Broward County events scheduled for this November.  There’s a terrific variety of events to pick from this month… you’re bound to find one you’ll want to go to!

  • Broward County FairBroward County Fair at the Fort Lauderdale Stadium (November 15-25, 2007) – over 100 rides, games and attractions!
  • Dine Out Lauderdale (October 1st-November 15, 2007) – 35 of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s top restaurants are offering 3-course menus for $35.
  • SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch – Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale (the first Sunday of every month from 11 a.m. -2 p.m.).  Jazz music performed on four stages along the historic New River.  Bring a picnic basket, blanket, chairs, children and even your dog! For more information call the 24-hour hotline: 954-828-5363.
  • The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a 90-minute production starring The Rockettes (November 8-December 2, 2007) – at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts
  • Fort Lauderdale Fall Home Design and Remodeling Show at the Broward County Convention Center (November 9-12, 2007) –  features a variety of vendors offering remodeling/home improvement services, interior & exterior home services, furnishings and accessories.
  • Christmas on Las OlasFestival of Trees (November 16th) at the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale – trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses designed, decorated and donated by supporters of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale and available for purchase.
  • South Florida Travel Expo at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center (November 17-18,2007) – various travel seminars, food & wine tastings, family entertainment, scuba diving lessons, and travel publications (including book signings).
  • The 42nd Annual Christmas on Las Olas (November 27, 2007) – Christmas festivities on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale including ‘Snow Mountain’, photos with Santa, carolers, performers and lighting displays to feed the holiday spirit.  Then “Holiday Happenings” highlights this popular boulevard every Tuesday in December.

Give Internet Home Buyers What They Want… Photos!

Search the Broward County MLS / South Florida MLS.What do home buyers want most when they’re looking at listings of homes for sale on the Internet?  Studies have shown the answer is photos… the more photos, the better!  Listings lacking in photos have a tendency to be overlooked.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, least of all those who market the majority of homes – real estate agents/brokers.  One only needs to put oneself in homebuyer’s shoes to realize this.  Yet, too many listings of homes on the South Florida MLS offer few, if any, photos of what is considered most people’s largest investment – their home.

Personally, I’ve seen new & used cars that are marketed better than some homes on the South Florida MLS and this is frustrating for both home buyers and real estate agents who work with buyers.  So, why do so many listings offer no photo or even just one photo?  Well, let’s start with the obvious… perhaps it’s a brand new listing and the real estate agent hasn’t had a chance to take and upload the photos yet.  In certain cases this is true, though a good agent will typically not upload a listing to the MLS without at least one photo.  Digital cameras are inexpensive, not difficult to learn to use and eliminate the need (and cost) to develop photos.  Unfortunately, in many cases, listings remain for months on the MLS with minimal, if any, photos.  I’ve often wondered whether the home sellers are even aware of how poorly their property is being marketed or the impact a lack of photos can have on the sale of their property.  Now more than ever, in the current buyer’s market South Florida is experiencing, photos are a very important part of the marketing mix.

I decided to get some real, hard facts for this post, so this morning I searched the South Florida MLS for single-family homes in Broward County.  There are currently 17,306 listings of single-family homes for sale in Broward County.  Below is a breakdown of what I found:

Listings with…

  • NO photos:  2,158 … just over 12% of all listings – more than 1 in 8
  • 1 photo:  1,395 … listings with 0-1 photo = 20.5% or 1 in 5 listings
  • 2 photos:  423
  • 3 photos:  407 … 0-3 photos = 4,383 or just over 25% of all listings
  • 4 photos:  522
  • 5 photos:  594
  • 6 photos:  905
  • 7 photos:  924
  • 8 photos:  2,531 … 0-8 photos = 9,859 or just under 57% of all listings
  • 9 photos:  1,008
  • 10 photos:  876
  • 11 photos:  650
  • 12 photos:  755
  • 13 photos:  573
  • 14 photos:  530
  • 15 photos:  428
  • 16 photos:  2,628 (just over 15%)

As you can see, over 20% of listings had either no photos or just one photo, while just over 25% (1 in 4) had 0-3 photos.  With our current high inventory of homes for sale, properties with few (or no) photos are not as likely to get as many showings as homes with 8-16 photos.  Fewer photos = fewer showings = fewer prospective buyers… all of which reduces your chances of getting an offer sooner rather than later.  Under current South Florida real estate market conditions, it’s a good idea for Realtors to invest in the best marketing possible.  The South Florida MLS allows members to upload up to 16 photos and, yet, this is what we see in 1 out of 8 listings:

No Photo Available

If you’re considering selling your home, be sure to hire a Realtor
who understands the importance of marketing your home for sale!

Broward County Events – Art and Film Festivals and a Boat Show!

The following are some Broward County events scheduled for October 2007.  The festivities are plentiful this month and there’s something for everyone, so get out there and enjoy!

:: To view current Broward County Events, click here. ::

  • Sunday Jazz BrunchSunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch – Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale (the first Sunday of every month from 11 a.m. -2 p.m.).  Jazz music performed on four stages along the historic New River.  Bring a picnic basket, blanket, chairs, children and even your dog! For more information call the 24-hour hotline: 954-828-5363.
  • Broward Caribbean Carnival, a Celebration of Cultural Diversity (October 7, 2007) – a parade of bands and carnival show.  The parade begins at noon at the top of NW 12th Avenue and ends inside the fair grounds of Fort Lauderdale Stadium Complex.
  • Southeast Winter Sports Show – Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center (October 5-7, 2007) – for those who enjoy cold-weather sports!  For details call 954-765-5900.
  • Las Olas Art Festival (October 6-7, 2007 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) – leisurely stroll along Las Olas Blvd. and see paintings, photographs, ceramics, sculptures, jewelry and much more! This is one of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County’s most popular outdoor events offering something for every taste and budget.  For info: 954-472-3755.
  • FLIFFFort Lauderdale International Film Festival (October 15-November 11, 2007) – a 37-day event that will feature over 200 films from around the globe.  Meet the filmmakers and celebrities who will attend many of the screenings and events during the 22nd annual FLIFF.
  • Broward County Plant Affair (October 20-21, 2007) at Plantation Heritage Park (501 N. Fig Tree Lane, Plantation).  A plant show and sale, free after $1.50 park admission.  For information call 954-797-2722.
  • Viva Broward! (October 20-21, 2007 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Stranahan Park, downtown Fort Lauderdale) – the 18th annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, hosted by Bank of America.
  • Hollywood International Art and Music Festival (October 20-21, 2007; Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-5 in ArtsPark at Youngs Circle in Hollywood).  For details call 954-921-3404.
  • yachtFort Lauderdale International Boat Show (October 25-29, 2007) – this show is celebrating its 48th year and features over a billion dollar’s worth of boats, yachts and accessories. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is among Broward County’s most attended events and is spread over six locations including the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, the Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel & Marina, the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, the Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel and Yacht Club, Hall of Fame Marina and Las Olas Marina.
  • Art in the Park – Liberty Tree Park in Plantation (October 27-28, 2007) – featuring 150 artists, live entertainment, Kids Korner (with activities, crafts, bounce house and more).  Location: 7421 NW 5th St., Plantation.
  • Southern States Bull Riders Finals – Bergeron Rodeo Grounds in Davie (November 3, 2007).

Click here for a list of current Broward County Events!

Broward County Events – Enjoy Live Music and a Clambake!

There’s always some event going on around Broward County.  Now that the weather is starting to cool slightly, why not get out and enjoy some live entertainment along one of our lovely beaches?  If you’ve never been to a clambake, here’s your chance to experience one South Florida style! 

Come enjoy a clambake - South Florida style!The following are upcoming events in Broward County for the month of September 2007.

  • Broadwalk Friday Fest – Hollywood Beach Theatre at Johnson Street (the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month from 7-10 p.m.). Enjoy live music along Hollywood’s 2.5 mile Broadwalk which offers oceanfront eateries so bring your appetite! (click on the link to see a .pdf flyer that includes a listing of restaurants within a short distance of the event).
  • Jazz On The Square – Lauderdale by the Sea (every Friday night at 7 p.m. ). An outdoor music festival at Commercial Boulevard and the Beach.
  • 6th Annual Hollywood Beach Clambake – Hollywood (Sept. 28-30, 2007 – Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday 12 noon-11 p.m., Sunday 12 noon-9 p.m.). Enjoy fresh seafood, live music and entertainment on Hollywood’s Broadwalk.  Update: here’s a slideshow from this year’s Hollywood Beach Clambake!

Click here for an up-to-date list of Broward County events!

Affordable 2-Bedroom Condo at SpringCrest in Sunrise, Florida

SpringCrest at SunriseThis 2-Bedroom, 2-Bathroom is in the condo community of SpringCrest in Sunrise, FL, is in true move-in condition and even offers a pool view!  It has a split bedroom floorplan for maximum privacy and was completely updated 3 years ago.  The condo has 18″ neutral tiles throughout as well as knock-down textured walls, new baseboards, new A/C, new hot water heater, new stacked washer/dryer, and new kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances! 

This SpringCrest condo has the largest 2-bedroom floorplan available with 1,154 sq. ft. of air-conditioned living space, a spacious patio and included with the condo is a large extra storage space outside the unit.  Community amenities include a pool, tennis court and fitness center with sauna.  Pets are allowed (under 20 lbs.) and all ages are welcomed.  The price has just been reduced to $167,000.  You simply won’t find another condo like this in that price range!  View a virtual tour and contact Leanne Paynter at 954-846-1600 to schedule a showing.

UPDATE:  This condo has been rented.  For more information, please contact Leanne.

IKEA opening in Sunrise, Florida this Fall

UPDATE:  The Sunrise, Florida IKEA’s Grand Opening 
is scheduled for Wednesday, October 17th at 9:00 a.m.! IKEA Sunrise Florida - opening Fall 2007

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA will have a grand opening for its first store ever in Florida this Fall.  The newest IKEA will be located at the northwest corner of I-595 / S.R. 84 and 136th Avenue in Sunrise, Florida (western Broward County) as part of the 25-acre “Gateway at Sawgrass” retail center.  This store even includes a double-decker garage which will no doubt be filled to capacity during its first few weeks, followed by the holiday rush. 

For IKEA’s loyal fans, this grand opening will mean no more need for catalogs or online shopping for their favorite furniture and accessory items.  Florida has more customers than any other state without an IKEA store. Its 293,000 square feet of space will be much like other IKEA’s in that it will offer dozens of room settings, children’s play areas, and a restaurant that serves American food as well as Swedish specialty dishes.

Some may recall IKEA’s new location was originally the site of Blockbuster Golf and Games until the late 1990’s when it became defunct. IKEA scouted for a South Florida location for two years, creating some controversy along the way before securing this easily accessible location. The store is expected to become a destination spot much like the nearby Sawgrass Mills Mall has been since its opening.  Surrounding the new IKEA store will be several high-end boutiques as well as new eateries.

The Sunrise, Florida, IKEA is expected to create approximately 400 jobs in an area that already has a low unemployment rate.  Prospective employees are welcome to apply for various store positions.   If you know anyone in Central Florida, a second Florida store – the Orlando IKEA – is scheduled to open on November 14, 2007.

Certainly, there is much competition among South Florida furniture stores but with the population of South Florida continuing to increase, I suspect one more furniture store won’t impact other area stores very much.  No doubt, some of the 396 owners of the new Tao condos (which are nearing completion) or the hundreds of buyers of Artesia condos will be visiting some of the nearly dozen nearby furniture stores.

Proposed 2007 Broward County Property Taxes

envelopeOver the past few days Broward County property owners have been opening their mailboxes only to find the dreaded “Notice of Proposed 2007 Property Taxes”.  More than a few owners of non-homesteaded properties are angry, to say the least.  I had one out-of-state client whom I sold a house to a few years ago call me yesterday to ask me what they can do to fight their fourth consecutive increase in property taxes… this time of approximately $500 due to a supposed $40,000 gain in assessed value. 

As many of you are aware, it was around late 2005 that the South Florida real estate market stalled and then started becoming a buyer’s market.  Over the past 18-22 months, inventory has drastically increased and market values have fluctuated somewhat during that time period.  To be clear, market value is what a buyer is willing to pay in today’s market, regardless of what similar properties sold for a few months ago. 

According to the Florida Association of Realtors, the median* sales price in the greater Fort Lauderdale area in year-end 2005 was $361,100.  A year later, in year-end 2006 it was $367,800 (only a 2% increase).  So, you can imagine why the out-of-state client called in amazement that his assessed value increased considerably more than 2%.  Obviously, they plan on challenging their property assessment.  Anyone wanting to do the same should read the flyer and newsletter that were included in the envelope containing your 2007 notice of proposed property taxes. 

According to the “News for Broward Taxpayers” Summer-Fall 2007 newsletter, “For non-homesteaded property, the assessed value is always identical to the property’s market value as of January 1, 2007. […] In most instances, our market values are determined using a mass-appraisal process based upon multiple sales of comparable properties in the same or similar subdivisions.  BOTTOM LINE: If our market value of your property […] is higher than you believe a buyer would reasonably pay for your property on the open market, either call or email our office or file a value petition by the September 18, 2007 deadline.”  Learn more about how to challenge your 2007 property value assessment and the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) appeals process.

The Broward County Property Appraiser’s main office is located at 115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 111, in downtown Fort Lauderdale (just south of Broward Blvd.).  Here are three phone numbers you may find useful:

  • 954-357-6830 for Exemptions and General Info
  • 954-357-6831 for Residential Property Values
  • 954-357-6832 for Condo and Co-Op Values

*Median is the price at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

:: Read all posts tagged with South Florida Real Estate Market Conditions – 2007. ::

Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida

Flamingo Gardens is located in Davie, Florida – the heart of Broward County – and encompasses 60 acres.  This South Florida attraction features a wildlife sanctuary and botanical gardens.  Their 25,000 sq. ft. “free-flight” aviary which represents five eco-systems is unlike any other I’ve seen. Throughout the park you can see some of Florida’s native wildlife including flamingos, peacocks (roaming the park freely), birds of prey, alligators, river otters and bobcats.  You can tour the historic Wray home (built in 1933) which was built on one of the highest elevations found in Broward County or meander through trails full of lush gardens that showcase rare exotic and native plants.  Their narrated 25-minute tram tour is worthwhile and takes you through the tropical rainforest, native hammock, wetland areas and groves.

Flamingo Gardens even has a charming wedding gazebo where many have exchanged vows.  In an area just outside the ticketed entrance, Flamingo Gardens also has a nice gift shop with more than the usual tourist-y souvenirs (and includes a well-stocked bookstore), as well as a garden shop with a variety of plants and garden decor to pick from. 

Flamingo Gardens is also well-known locally for its fruit stand which offers freshly squeezed juices and fruit smoothies, and they’ve been shipping Florida citrus and gift fruit since 1928. 

Whether you are just visiting, new to Broward County or South Florida, or a long-time resident, I highly recommend a visit to Flamingo Gardens… a glimpse into “Old Florida”.

Location: 3750 S. Flamingo Rd., Davie, FL  |  Phone: 954-473-2955  |  Map

Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida

Whether you’re a resident or visitor to South Florida, you’ll find an abundance of places to go and things to see.  This post marks the beginning of a series titled “Things to do in South Florida“. 

South Florida’s Butterfly World – located in Coconut Creek – has been open since 1988.  This South Florida attraction offers over ten acres of aviaries and botanical gardens to explore.  Butterfly World is also a center for research and education and includes a living butterfly farm.  Other park features include the country’s largest free flight hummingbird aviary and a lorikeet encounter, resulting in the park also having an aviculture care and research staff.  Butterfly World has also been instrumental in saving an endangered species of butterfly that is becoming re-established in South Florida. 

Their website offers a very nice virtual tour of what you can expect to see and do at Butterfly World as well as a beautiful photo-filled butterfly guide and bird guide.  If you’re passionate about butterflies, they even offer a butterfly gardening workshop and a downloadable computer desktop calendar every month.

If you go, be sure to take your camera with you to capture all the colorful butterflies and plants found throughout the park.  The gift shop can be accessed without admission to the park and is full of interesting and unique gifts and books for butterfly and bird enthusiasts.

Location: 3600 W. Sample Rd., Coconut Creek, FL |  Phone: 954-977-4400 |  Map

The Sewell Lock and Broward County’s Canal System

Sewell LockThe Sewell Lock is one of those sights seen by thousands of drivers along I-595 on a daily basis but mostly goes unnoticed.  It is located on the N. New River Canal near the intersection of Davie Road and S.R. 84 and is part of the canal system run by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).  The Sewell Lock was completed in 1912 and is Broward County’s oldest water control structure. 

waterBroward County’s canal system is all about water management via a complex network of canals and operational infrastructure managed for both drainage and recharge purposes.  Curious?  Learn more about how the water flow system works.  Water management in Broward County is so important that a free half-day “Know the Flow” course has been developed to help Broward County property managers, landscape service providers, as well as Broward County homeowner associations and residents understand what they can do to manage and conserve water resources.

If you happen to be in the area and would like an up-and-close view, there is a small park located immediately next to the Sewell Lock where you can occassionally find people fishing.  There is a plaque at the park that reads:

THE SEWELL LOCK

These gates were restored by the South Florida Water Management District in 1992 as part of the G-54 Sewell Water Control structure replacement project.  The lock has been preserved as a historical site in cooperation with the Broward County Commission, the Broward County Park and Recreation Division, the Broward County Historical Commission and the Green Team.