If you have reached this page, thank you! This page is not a public page and I only give it out to people I have had the chance to speak with. Over the years I have introduced the Emerald Coast to a lot of great people. I have recently changed the communication method I use for this introduction from email to this web page. Because there’s so much information I realize this type of communication method may not seem as personal as a handcrafted email but trust me when I tell you, I have personally typed (including any typos you find) each word and have personally seen everything I discuss on this page. In fact, let’s get personal right now, here is where and how we live, and yes we love dogs >>>
Miramar Beach Day
I moved here from snowy Utah in the spring right around the end of March. The first thing I was struck by was how vividly green everything was around here. You see, my Lady and I had never been here. We moved here sight unseen based on this Panama City Beach video. We’ve been some places in this world but had never seen anything like the white sand beaches of the Emerald Coast. And, as crazy as it sounds we moved over 3000 miles to a place we had never visited.
I wanted to give you some back story to help you understand this place was once new to me. I would Drive Down US 98 Video Tour looking at the tall pine trees with no idea of what lay beyond the tree lines. Not for long though. You see, I’m a super inquisitive guy who felt the need to see as much of our area as possible. Plus, given my chosen profession, it seemed like a good thing to do.
So what does any good agent who wants to learn about the area do? That’s right, he buys a motor cycle to go exploring. And explore I did. Between my car, motor cycle, bike, trike, YOLO board and feet I have pretty much covered every road in this area. OK, maybe not every road but let’s just say, I now know what’s beyond the tree lines. I also attached a GoPro camera to all of my transportation methods. Over time I have personally shot over 200 videos of the area, neighborhoods and units. Regarding videos, here is something to know. My team and I represent buyer’s. We are your eyes and ears here so if you ever need us to video an area or a unit, don’t hesitate to ask. Seriously, we don’t mind. It’s part of our service.
I appreciate you indulging me this far by reading about me. This page is meant to be all about you and your real estate goals. I promise we will get there but before we do I wanted to say one thing about what I do. I primarily work with buyers. As a Buyer’s Agent, I work for you to help find, negotiate and close on your property. Whether you choose me or another agent, do yourself a favor and use a Buyer’s Agent. In our area, the Seller’s Agent generally has a fiduciary responsibility to work for the seller. While they have no problem talking to you and even selling you the home they have listed, they still may need to favor the seller in the negotiations. It’s like this… if you just received a legal notice from an attorney that said you were being sued, would you call the attorney that is suing you or would you get your own representation. When you are ready to hire your agent, talk to me about a Buyer’s Broker Agreement. It’s free and can give you a $500 rebate at closing. I always wonder, if my services are free to a buyer and I am as easy to deal with as I think I am, then why doesn’t everyone hire me. Maybe they didn’t know what I just shared above?
Ok, on to some more good information. In my experience, I noticed there are three questions which, in some form or another, are on everyone’s mind.I welcome your specific questions about your purchase or about the area so get your questions ready, but first, let’s knock out three big ones here…
1 – What area is good for Vacation Rentals?
The most common scenario that many of my new real estate friends ask, or perhaps want to ask but don’t know how, is related to vacation rentals. One of the big attractions to this area and perhaps one of yours is the idea of vacation renting. That is to say, “I want to buy a condo or house close to the beach and when I don’t use it I want to rent it”. Hands down this is the most common inquiry from out of state buyers so this is a great place to start.
While this area has many great places to live, the main game around as far as vacation rentals is that little thing we call The Gulf of Mexico. The gulf and the harbor is what all this area was built around. (Check out the Destin Fishing Museum for a complete history of the harbor) If you aren’t close to the beach, rents are not as high or frequent. Think of it this way, if you were to plan a vacation to this area, what would you want to do and where would you want to stay. If you reflect on that for a moment, you can be pretty sure this is what other vacationers are thinking. So if you see a property and say to yourself “I would not vacation there” then chances are you found a property that will not be a good vacation rental. I know it’s simple but trust your gut.
To be a little more specific let’s say that any property located within a reasonable walking distance to the gulf may be a candidate for vacation renting. Now I can always find out if a project is suitable for vacation renting so never hesitate to ask. If you do some of your own research then here is a good tip. Use vrbo.com and enter the address of a unit you want to know about. If you see multiple units in the project for rent this may be a good sign the unit is a vacation rental. Furthermore, get into the reviews. Sometimes you can find project specific and even unit specific reviews. For example, I looked at one unit with a customer and it looked and smelled great, so great that something wasn’t right. Upon further research the customer found multiple reviews saying the unit had a moldy and musty smell. This could have explained the very strong good smell and how perhaps it was used to mask the mold smell.
Quick side note about the videos you find on my site. When the market was down due to economy and the oil spill, I was bored out of my mind during the slow season. I decided to use my time to help current and future buyers see our area. So as I drove around I used my GoPro Camera extensively. I had a mount on everything. I will be the first to acknowledge the production is not quite, shall we say professional but man I had fun with it and I think they are quite useful to buyers. The volume is not as consistent as I want on the videos so be prepared to turn the volume down a tad. With that said…
Here are some tour videos of areas that have heavy vacation rentals in them. When we created the videos we tried to include navigation links to adjacent streets and attractions. From what I can tell the navigation does not work on Iphones or Ipads (I could be wrong) so watching on a different platform will give you the best experience.
Okaloosa Island Tour
Holiday Isle Tour
Sandestin Tour Video
Old Scenic 98 Tour
Scenic 30-A Tour
Emerald Waters Tour
Paradise Retreat Tour
2 – How much money can I make on a typical vacation rental?
Here’s the next thing and I want to be blunt. Unless you are paying cash or putting a very large down payment, you will be lucky to break even on the unit in terms of yearly cash flow. I don’t want this statement to be a dream squasher. There is plenty of financial upside like appreciation and tax savings, but the reality is this, you should be prepared not to break even. When we have a follow-up discussions or when added to this page I will break down some common income scenarios but for now, here is a good rule of thumb. Most rental incomes advertised in listings or charged on vrbo.com are gross rents. Depending on your management preference you should count on 14% to 50% expense. Also, you will see a huge rent difference on the season vs offseason. I like using vrbo.com to see booking hot times. You will see June, July and August are generally booked far in advance and for higher rents.
Here are two scenarios I recently dealt with.
First, an investor from Texas wanted to buy a $250,000 unit in Destin as an investment property using a loan with 20% down. He did not intend to use the unit for any personal use. In this scenario, the gross rents minus the management fees, mortgage and HOA would have given a slight negative at the end of the year. While there would have still been the potential for appreciation and future rent escalations, this investor decided a single family home with long-term renters was the better move. This gentleman ended up buying in Texas in a fast growing area. I think it made sense. He still gets my updates though and says one day he will surprise me and buy something on the beach.
Second, a couple from Arkansas wanted to buy a similar $250,000 unit as a vacation/investment property using a loan with 20% down. This couple comes down two to three times per year and pays to rent a vacation condo. In this scenario, they were able to come close to break even but saved the money they would have spent on vacationing here. This scenario made sense for this couple who ended up purchasing two bedroom vacation rental on the beach. We have remained friends and they have updated me on two things I will pass. First, they invested the money they would have spent on vacation into the unit. By upgrading they were able to charge more rent. On the flip side, they were surprised at the low bookings over their first spring break.
Each financial requirement is different and only you’ll know what works for you. I bring up finance early on because it is truly one of the first things people ask me. So even though I bring it up early don’t stress about it yet. When you find a property you like just let me know and I can round up all the numbers and details that are available. I will help you understand them so you can get a good picture of the finances. Also, when you get ready to start negotiation on a property, I make it real easy and safe. Your offer will include language that gives you the chance to inspect the property and financial documents and back out for anything you find. Generally, this period is 10 to 15 days. Also, while we are on the subject, in our area, you will have 2 to 3 days after you and the seller agree on price to deposit Earnest Money to escrow. Florida Realtors have a unified sales offer and process so it is very easy and safe to enter negotiations. My point in telling you this? The market is really hot right now. Good deals sell fast and great deals most likely already sold. The safety provided in the unified offer system makes it safe to offer fast! Because I really want your mind ready to offer if you spot one, I am glad to go over a blank offer in advance. We can even do a trial run of the process so you are familiar with it. Seriously, take me up on it. You will see how easy it is.
3 – What does an Emerald Coast vacation home look like?
The next area of discussion I wanted to address is related to floor plans. I have had a variation of questions regarding layout and size and will try to communicate the general idea and concept. Through all variations of the question, it could be best summarized like this… “What does a typical vacation unit look like?”
The answer is, there is no typical…but let say there was, what would it be?
Here is my opinion. A condo would be 2 bedrooms 2 bathrooms with a bunk bed in the hall and/or fold out sleeper. The unit would be 850 to 1100 square feet and might have some type of water view. The HOA fee would be $350 to $650 which would cover amenities such as beach, beach service, pool and fitness center. House would be a 4 plus bedroom 3 plus bathroom as close to the beach as possible. Would generally include a pool. Both home and condos, to be considered vacation rental ready would convey with furniture, linens, and dishes. All current bookings would transfer to the new owners.
Here are a few videos of a few various units to give you an idea of what to expect. In my opinion, these represent the average entry-level vacation property…
Palms of Destin Condo
Emerald Isle Condo
Summer Lake Exterior
Luau Condo Drive
Check out these area videos when you have some time.
Here is a fun exterior video. We walk our dog every morning and use what we call our secret beach entrance in Miramar Beach. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you were it is if you want or you will see it in the video. Every day (when I remembered) I shot a video or picture of this Miramar Beach new construction condo. You can pretty much see the property built ground up.
This video is somewhat related so I thought I would share it. This was a rare Gulf Front town home that was in foreclosure and available for cash buyers. This is a good example of an old town home that was fixed up. Not available for sale but a neat old place to see. This construction type, I am told, is designed for water to pass completely through in case of high waves. I don’t know this to be a fact but sounds pretty cool.
Since I went video crazy some years back, here are a few real estate related and non real estate related videos you might want to see. This is most definitely a really interesting and cool place to live, work and play.
Finally, my lady Megan reminded me to include the shopping. Thanks Megan. For you shoppers, I don’t have many videos but here is what I have.
OK, hopefully, that knocks out three good questions to start. I would love to know what questions you have during our next conversation. At the same time I hope to know more about your specific property requirements as well. For the time being, I hope this page serves as a good starting point for your Emerald Coast real estate hunt. I hope that we can get deeper into your requirements soon.
Some people ask me how I would buy a vacation condo if it was me?
It’s really a good question because as a day to day real estate practitioner, I pretty much see the market in real time. So here is a quick summary of the steps I might take if I were buying a vacation property on the Emerald Coast…
- I would evaluate my goals in purchasing property here and decide how much will I occupy the property. Understanding your proposed usage will make it easier to arrive at realistic income and expense expectations.
- I would decide on the area that is best for my rental goals. Hopefully, the videos above will give you a start. When we start looking at property and if you are a Buyer’s Broker Customer, I would love to take you on a tour. Even if you are not buying right away, I don’t mind showing you around. I know it is an important part of the buying process and it might help you connect the listing updates with geographical locations. Plus it’s a really cool way to get to know one another.
- Make a list of properties I like. This can be as simple as a handwritten note with addresses or a spreadsheet with all the property data. As I mentioned I built my site with buyers in mind. So as you look at properties, try this. Hit the save search button/link when you spot a property of interest. This way we will have a running list of properties of interest.
- Familiarize myself with the process of purchase so I am ready to move swiftly and confidently when I am ready to offer. Again, I am pretty inquisitive so I would want the test run of the offer process, as mentioned earlier. If you want to test it, I’m ready. Even if you don’t, rest assured we have done this a time or two or fourteen hundred. Buyers Tip: When choosing your agent, ask to do a test run of an offer. If an agent cannot perform a test offer, how fast will they perform when you find your dream place.
- Take action. Sometimes when I get a little stuck on decision making, I tell my self “fortune favors the bold”. Right now more than ever it’s true in real estate. If you want a good deal you and your agent will need to be bold and ready.
Again, this would be my personal plan. Feel free to use it as a guide but above all, be sure your questions are answered. Regardless of the agent you choose, never feel bad about asking as many questions as you need. A good agent should never be frustrated with questions. My team and I welcome questions. Regardless of which team member you work with, I will personally answer your questions in the easiest to understand way I can.
If you are reading this page then you’ve most likely already signed up for an account at my850.com. So when you search just use your email address as your Login username if the registration/login screen pops up. This site was built to be simple to use with accurate listing data updated every hour. On this page, I have included links to the first searches I would make if I were looking for vacation properties. I think these listings will help you get a feel for the area market and start you on the way to refining your search.
Vacation Condos For Sale
Speaking of new listings. On the home page of my850.com you can see the daily new listings. You can see the different areas scroll across the top section. You can SAVE SEARCH and SAVE PROPERTY on these lists as well. There are some pretty cool search tools on the home page as well. Our site currently works good on mobile phones and is constantly being improved. Here are some cool links that might help you from your phone.
As you near the end of this page I hope you have a better idea of the area, the process and really, the whole thing. Please take a moment to read this page and give your plan some thought. Start asking questions by phone, text or email, whichever is good for you. As I mentioned earlier, my services are free to buyers. Also, I hope my level of commitment and knowledge shows through in the tools I have created for buyers, for you. In summary, maybe you can help me with a question I wonder about. If my services are free, if I work for buyers and if I am super knowledgeable, why would a buyer not want to get me involved sooner vs. later? If you have a good (or really funny) answer feel free to share it but please keep it G rated.
Here is why I think we should talk sooner than later. This is one of the biggest purchases you will make. It cost you nothing to walk through your plan with me in advance. As we talk, I will use my Sherlockian powers of perception and attempt to understand your needs as much as I can. Unless we want to type 1000 word emails, there truly is not a better way for me to understand your needs. I wake up between 4 and 5 am. Really, feel free to text or call as early as 5:00am. I review data from 6 MLS’s as well as off-market data feeds. As I review the listings, I have a list of my Buyer’s Broker Clients open and I think about what properties match the customer’s needs. Then, just about when my competitors wake up, I send you a text with today’s hot deals.
My team and I are on standby to assist with your real estate needs.