June, 2011:

Emerald Coast Schools Excel

Florida Department of Education says that even with an increase in writing standards, the grades of Florida’s public schools remained relatively stable. Statewide, more than seventy five percent of Florida public schools are considered “high performing”.

Okaloosa and Walton County schools have typically scored well above state averages in terms of performance. In fact, of the final scores thus far, Okaloosa and Walton have garnered nearly straight A’s, with only three B’s reported!  Just another reason that the Emerald coast is a great place to live, work and raise a family!

For more information on area schools and real estate topics, visit Ed and Terri at www.DestinFloridaRealEstate.com


What to do on the Emerald Coast over the holidays?

4th of July on the Emerald Coast

What to do on the Emerald Coast over the holidays?  Here are a few ideas:

Destin will feature a fireworks show on July 4th starting at 9:00 p.m. over the Destin Harbor. This is always a good one. Easy to watch from Emerald Grande, AJ’s, Harry T’s, Lucky Snapper, Holiday Isle and by boat!  

HarborWalk Village (Emerald Grande) will be featuring a number of events throughout the week. The July 4th Extravaganza on the Harbor will feature 5 days of happenings at 6 p.m. each day:

June 30 – Red, White & Blue Celebration on the Harbor, celebrating the efforts of people who go above and beyond to better their community. Enjoy live entertainment, free kid’s crafts and face painting, and a WWII replica flyover. The evening is topped off by a spectacular fireworks display over the Destin Harbor. 6PM to 9PM
July 1 – Family Fun Fest 6PM to 9PM
July 2 – Rock the Docks – Live music on Destin Harbor featuring local artists. 7PM to 9PM
July 3–Operation Inspiration – A powerful and unique evening of live musical entertainment to give hope and inspiration for all. Operation Inspiration begins with a Meet & Greet at 5 PM with the performing artist, and is followed by the concerts at 6. Concerts are free and open to the public.
July 4 – Hot Dog Eating Contest with Dave’s Dogs, and a spectacular fireworks display finale. 6PM to 9PM


Ft. Walton Beach has a number  of events on the schedule as well:
4th of July Celebration at The FWB Landing Park
Event Date: July 4th, 2011 – 3:30pm – 10pm
Entertainment: 3:30pm until after the 9:30 pm fireworks.
Place: Fort Walton Landing Park on Brooks Street

The National Historic Landmark Schooner “Governor Stone” is again gracing her slip at the Fort Walton Beach Landing. This two-masted schooner is the last of the coastal freighters which carried everything from oysters to produce to mail along the Gulf Coast of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This visit is sponsored by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council. The public is welcome to board the schooner on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays between 5-7 pm through July 4th.

Also featured is a Children’s Bicycle Parade –  Grand Prize: 2 Bicycles, donated by Wal-Mart. Participants are encouraged to decorate their old bikes in patriotic theme! The Bike Parade Entry Fee is $1.00. Bike parade registration is from 4:00 – 5:30 pm and entries close at 5:30 pm. Judging from 6:00 – 6:30 pm.  Parade at 6:45 pm. For more info Contact: Helen Spencer, FWB City Clerk/850-833-9509 or Laura Melendez, Bike Parade Coordinator/850-301-2122

And finally, this from Seaside:
Seaside’s annual 4th of July Celebration features a community parade and live music for the entire family. Fireworks on July 3rd and the annual South Walton 4th of July Parade. You can dance the night away with music during Stars & Stripes at Seaside; and salute the night sky with a spectacular fireworks display on the beach to end the evening!

The festivities begin on Sunday, July 3rd with a special pre-4th fireworks display from the beach in front of Bud & Alley’s at 9:00 PM. Bring your friends and family down to the water’s edge and view this stunning fireworks show amidst the backdrop of Seaside.

Families on bikes, scooters, golf carts and floats are invited to participate in the parade. Registration for parade participants is required; please visit: http://www.seasidefl.com/july4thparaderegistration  to download a registration form. Prizes will be awarded to the best parade entries in a variety of categories. After the parade has ended and winners have been announced, enjoy music in the Amphitheater from 30A Radio until 11:00 AM, along with face painting and other fun.


Casinos in Florida?

Once again, state leaders are discussing their options with regard to Las Vegas-style resort casinos in Florida. According to the Miami Herald, “South Florida voters have grown accustomed to, and tolerant of, gambling.” Florida is already in the gaming business say proponents. And at nearly $2 billion annually, gaming is already a huge industry in Florida. In fact, Florida is considered the fifth largest gaming state in the U.S. The industry employs nearly 8,800 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties alone.

During the late 40’s through early 50’s gambling thrived in Okaloosa County. At the time, Okaloosa was said to have “more neon than any other place east of the Mississippi”. No one except some fisherman and shrimpers wanted to live in Destin back then.Most notable of the area casinos was the Shalimar Club on Eglin Parkway just north of Fort Walton Beach. Easily accessible from the gate at Eglin AFB, business was said to have been “robust”. At any rate, adverse publicity (eminating from the Tampa Tribune) eventually forced then governor Fuller Warren to remove the Okaloosa Sheriff from office for failure to enforce anti-gaming laws.

While there seems to be little support for legalized gaming in Northwest Florida, with state coffers reeling from a weakened economy, we expect to be hearing more about this over the course of the coming year.

Call Ed and Terri Smith at RE/MAX Coastal Properties for more!  850-837-5500 x1 or via email at smith@realtor.com  or vist  http://www.DestinFloridaRealEstate.com

Brighter in Florida

According to Florida Trend, the revenue at the 150 largest public companies and the 200 largest private companies in the state rose more than 8.5%, which is a reflection of the improving economic climate in Florida. The Florida Trend article went on to state that new home constuction continues to lag due to lower resale prices and “a glut of supply”. Of the 13 private companies showing the biggest drop in the rankings, 10 are real estate related.

Consistent with that assessment,  new construction simply cannot compete with resale pricing here in the Destin and Emerald Coast real estate markets. You can buy a great home today for much less than the replacement cost, i.e., cost of construction.

For information on short sales, bank foreclosures and general real estate topics, please visit www.FloridaBrokers.com  or email us at smith@realtor.com

Buying Real Estate “as-is”

The term “as-is” in real estate can be misleading. Basically, if a property is promoted as such, the seller is simply stating that he/she does not intend to be obligated to make any repairs.

In such a transaction, the buyer is typically afforded the opportunity to inspect the property, and then withdraw should the inspection results not be satisfactory.

For information on Destin or Emerald Coast short sales, bank foreclosures and general real estate topics, please visit www.FloridaBrokers.com or email us at smith@realtor.com

Florida Population Still Growing

According to a study by the University of Florida at Gainsville, Florida saw the third-largest numeric increase and the eighth-largest percentage increase in population in the country between 2000 and 2010. That represents an increase of 17.6 percent and brought the state’s total up to 18,801,310.Okaloosa County and City of Destin growth rates mirror that of Florida – Okaloosa County now has a population of more than 196,200; Destin weighs in at 12,300. Of course, the Destin population swells to more than 60,000 during tourist season.

Sunshine, yes … Rain, no

Drought conditions exist over 93 percent of the state of Florida. While rainfall has increased somewhat, it will take many days of rain to benefit the region and help diminish the danger of lightning related fires. Many of the recent wildfires have been blamed on lightning.

According to the Florida Drought Monitor, Okaloosa and Walton counties are under extreme drought conditions. This includes Destin, Seaside, Ft. Walton Beach, 30-A, etc.  Locally, there have been no restrictions on water useage. In fact, the forecast calls for above average rainfall in the next 8 – 14 day range!

Housing Affordability Hits New High

According to a report issued by the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo, housing affordability hit a new record high this year, surpassing the previous high set in fourth-quarter 2010. In fact, it is the highest level recorded in the more than 20 years the index has been in existence.

In a nutshell, this means that nearly 75 percent of the homes sold in the first quarter of 2011 were considered affordable, based on the national median family income of $64,400. To put the significance in perspective, the index had never even hit 70 percent before 2009. 65 percent was rare.

Florida Takes Aim at BP

State economists convening in Tallahassee today will attempt to place a dollar amount on sales tax and other revenue losses attributed to the BP oil spill last year. State and local governments in Florida have received close to $150 million through the Ken Feinberg Gulf Coast Claims Facility so far. According to BP, $1.56 billion has already been paid to federal, state, and local governments in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. This number probably includes the tourism marketing  dollars that BP contributed as well.

Towns like Destin will see little if any BP dollars. This is primarily because Destin sees very little return in sales taxes collected here. While Destin contributes approximately 35% of Okaloosa county’s ad valorem taxes and 40% of the sales taxes, very little actually comes back to the city as expenditures are allocated based on the permanent resident population. Destin has a permanent population of 12,300.

In a nutshell, if Destin could be annexed by neighboring Walton County to the east, Okaloosa County’s budget would be would be devastated.

Property insurance companies seeking increases

More than a dozen insurance companies have asked Florida regulators to approve rate increases. Despite five years with no hurricanes, more requests are expected as insurers line up like cattle at the trough. Should rate increases be approved, it would affect inland markets like Tallahassee and Orland as well as the coastal communities like Destin and Rosemary Beach. Former health care CEO Governor Rick Scott is more sympathetic to the insurance industry than was his predecessor Charlie Crist.

For more information on real estate related issues, visit Ed and Terri Smith at http://www.DestinFloridaRealEstate.com