Real Estate Information Archive


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Bidding War Prep 101

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

It is a Seller's Market in real estate, and now that spring has arrived, the competition for homes is likely to get even more fierce.  If you are looking to purchase a home right now, chances are you may find yourself in a bidding war.  Be prepared! 

Here are six ways to come out on top in a bidding war:

  1. Get your finances in order and get as much cash as you can.  It is never too soon to get pre-approved for a loan. In fact, the sooner the better.  Sellers will have lots of options and will be leery of those who do not have loans set in stone.  If possible, bring cash to the table.  Sellers will fear appraisals coming in low and loans falling through, so be prepared to cover the difference with cash.
  2. Don’t hesitate!  Be the first to make an offer, and make it a good one.  An insulting offer will put you at the bottom of the seller’s list, so it is not a good time to low ball.  Come in at or slightly below asking price so that they know you are serious about purchasing their home.
  3. Offer an Escalation Clause. This is the amount of money the buyer agrees to increase the offer if there are other bids. If you offer the asking price of $400,000 on a house, but it might sell for $450,000, put in an escalation clause stating that you are willing to go as high as $460,000.  But know your limit.  Don’t offer more than you can handle.  Also, make sure the clause states that the seller can only take the winning bid up to a level just above the competing offers.  For example, if an offer comes in for $430,000, your bid would be upped to $431,000.
  4. Get a pre-inspection.  It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but it can help you in a super-tight market.  If you can make a bid that is not contingent upon inspection, sellers will look favorably on your offer versus the same offer from someone who has a contingency in their contract.
  5. Show the love!  If you have found the perfect house and really love it, don’t be afraid to let the sellers know, either directly or through your Realtor.  You can write a letter, send pictures of your family or even make a video describing why you love the house so much.  Be specific in your praise.  Sellers may appreciation the connection you feel with the house and choose you over other bidders.
  6. Think with your head, not your heart. Be smart! Purchasing a home is an emotional thing for sure, but emotions can get in the way of making wise decisions.   Make sure you have done thorough research of the market: look at the most recent comparable sales, compare prices from a year ago, visit local school, have coffee at the closest café and speak to potential neighbors.  Look at listings nearby.  Whatever you do, don’t overpay because you get caught up in the heat of the competition.  While the house may seem perfect for you, it is not the only house that will be perfect for you. So, keep a level head and make intelligent decisions.

You don’t have to face a bidding war alone. The experienced professionals at Tampa Realty Now can help you through the process of finding and purchasing the house of your dreams!  Call them today at 813-728-3880 or 813-675-5030.

House Hunting? These Are the Top Ten Things You Should Look For

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

House hunting can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when beginning the search for your first home.  Chances are you might get caught up in the process and important details might slip by you. While the number of rooms, condition of the kitchen, and size of the yard are important, there are other things to consider before you make an offer.  This list of things to look for can help you get your search off to the right start.

 1.          Location, Location, Location!

They say that the 3 most important things to look for when buying a home are location, location and location.  While a home might not be perfect, loving your neighborhood and neighbors can make all the difference in living with imperfection.  And face it…you can change almost anything about your house, but you can’t change its location or the people living nearby.  When you go house hunting, make sure to consider the home’s proximity to your work, the appeal of the neighborhood, where in the neighborhood the home is situated, ease of access, noise from neighbors, traffic, pets and access to parks, shopping, School Districts and public transportation.

 2.          Home Placement

Beyond location, look at how the home is situated. Do neighbors' windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is there safe access to the home? These are all important questions to ask yourself when determining if it is the right property for you.

 3.          Check Out the Neighborhood

While it’s important for your house to meet your expectations, it’s equally important that the neighborhood meets them too. Take a drive around the development you are interested in on week days and weekends, during the day and in the evening.  Are the homes in good repair? Are yards kept clean and tidy?  Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run or bike?  Are there children playing outdoors?

 4.           Consider a Home’s Curb Appeal

You want a home that is going to reflect your lifestyle. Do you live a    casual, laid-back life? Then you probably won’t want a formal home.  A simple, contemporary home might better suit you.  Pay close attention to exterior features.  Think about maintenance. Do you like working in the yard?  If not, you might not want a house with extensive landscaping.  Is the roof in good condition?  Attention to detail will help you choose the home with the best curb appeal for you.

 5.           Size and Floor Plan

You may be thinking about buying your dream home. But is your dream home practical?  Do you need 4 bedrooms and 4 baths when you live alone? A spacious home may provide the extra room you've always wanted for a home office or a theater room, but you'll pay higher heating bills and have higher taxes. Additionally, it will take more furniture to furnish and money to decorate. Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future.

 6.            Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will need and only    look at homes that meet that criteria.  You don’t want to fall in love with what is otherwise a perfect house if it doesn’t provide the space needed for your family.  It’s smart to consider counting an extra bedroom in that number so that you have extra space for a home office or guest room. If you think you might add on to the home later, make sure you consult an architect who can advise you on space planning and Hillsborough County.

 7.             The Kitchen

For many people, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Don’t settle for a home with a kitchen that doesn’t work for you.  Yes, you can remodel later, but at great expense.  If it’s an easy fix like replacing cabinets or countertops, get a price quote before committing the house so that you will know if it is within your budget to take that on.

 8.              Closets and Storage

Older homes often have small closets and lack storage space.  As you’re looking at a home ask yourself where you will store your belongings.  Tiny closets don’t have to be a deal breaker.  There are ways to maximize storage without renovations. Newer homes tend to have lots of storage and you may sacrifice living space while having more closet space than you need.

 9.              Windows and Lighting

While looking at a home keep in mind your preferences regarding light and privacy.  Do you want a lot of windows to provider bright, sunny rooms?  Pay attention to the locations of electrical outlets and fixtures to make sure they will meet your lighting needs.

 10.           Finishing Touches

Even a simple home can look spectacular with the right moldings, hardware, and a fireplace.  If elements like these are important to you, look for them while house hunting. 

You may not find everything you want in one house, but keep this list handy and you are more likely to find the home that best suits your needs and desires.  The professionals at Tampa Realty Now are ready and waiting to show you the house of your dreams! Contact them today at 813-413-4343. Happy House Hunting!      

Stand Out to Sellers with a Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Across the country right now, the number of buyers seeking homes far outnumbers the number of homes available.  Because of this, the housing market is super competitive and buyers often need to do something to stand out.  One way to show that you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even in a less competitive market, knowing your budget will give you security of knowing if a home is within your reach.

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process.  Once you have chosen a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with vital information regarding your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.

There are 4 Cs that aid in determining the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

-          Capacity: Your current and future ability to make payments.

-          Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash.

-          Collateral: The home or type of home that you want to purchase.

-          Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time.


Getting pre-approved not only shows sellers you are serious, but also speeds up the process of completing the purchase once your offer has been accepted.

Many people overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage.  If you are ready to buy, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you can afford!

Tax Changes for Homeowners

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

This time of year, many people start thinking about doing their taxes.  It’s a dreaded task for some, but a necessary one that we all must do.  One of the perks of being a homeowner is that it provides the benefit of some tax deductions.  All homeowners should be aware of these tax perks to take advantage of them and maximize their financial savings.  Recently, a government overhaul of U.S. tax laws included changes that affect homeowners.  While these changes will not be in place for the 2017 tax year, it is wise to be prepared for how they will affect your 2018 taxes.

 - Mortgage Interest Deductions

The mortgage interest tax deduction is considered a way to make homeownership more affordable.  Qualifying homeowners can reduce their taxable income by the amount of mortgage interest they pay.  Currently, you may deduct the interest you pay on mortgage debt up to $1 million ($500,000 if married and filing separately) on your primary home and a second home.  Beginning in 2018, for homes purchased December 15, 2017 and after, the numbers change to $750,000 ($375,000 if married and filing separately).  There is an exception in the new tax law that allows for a refinanced mortgage loan to be given the old loan’s origination date. This means if the old loan originated prior to December 15, 2017, the old limit of $1 million would apply.

 - Property Tax Deduction

The tax law through 2017 allowed homeowners to reduce their taxable income by the total amount of property taxes they paid.  Starting next year, the deduction will be limited to a total of $10,000 for the combination of the cost of property taxes, state and local income taxes or sales taxes.

 - Home Equity Deduction

Up through your 2017 tax return, the tax law allowed for an added deduction for interest paid on home equity debt “for reasons other than to buy, build, or substantially improve your home.”  In other words, if you took out a home equity line of credit to do something like pay tuition, the interest you paid on that line of credit was tax-deductible.  Starting next year, this deduction will be eliminated.

 - Mortgage Interest Deduction for Second Homes

As stated above, you may deduct interest on mortgage debt on both your primary home and a second home.  The new law changes this a bit for 2018.  It reduces the amount of eligible mortgage debt from $1 million to $750,000.

 - Moving Expenses

While it was a complicated process that involved criteria such as distance and timing of a move, up through this year the tax law allowed you to deduct some moving expenses if you moved for a new job.  Starting in 2018, only active-duty members of the armed forces will be allowed to deduct moving expenses.

If you find the tax laws confusing, you are not alone. It is smart to ask a reputable accountant any questions you may have so that you can maximize the tax perks of being a homeowner!

Truth or Fiction? Real Estate Myths

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Whether you are buying or selling a home for the first time or you are a seasoned veteran of buying/selling real estate, chances are you think you have the knowledge needed to navigate the process based on what you have read or heard from friends and family. Unfortunately there are a plethora of myths circulating about buying and selling a home that have become prevalent, but just aren’t true.  The pitfall of believing everything you hear or read is that real estate myths can hurt you where it counts…in the wallet.  Here are eight common ones that can cause home buyers/sellers to make unnecessary mistakes:


  • Set your home price higher than what you expect to get. Setting your asking price too high, may actually net you a lower price. That’s because many shoppers and their real estate agents will not look at houses that are priced above market value. While it’s true that you can lower your price if you have not gotten offers in the first few weeks, “Buyers are highly suspicious of houses that have sat on the market for more than three weeks,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist for the brokerage Redfin.


  • You can get a better deal as a buyer if you don’t use a real estate agent.

This is a false assumption. When a house is listed with an agent, the total sales commission is already built into the price.  If the buyer doesn’t use and agent, that just means the selling agent will get the entire commission.


  • You can save money selling your home yourself.

While it is possible to successfully sell your home on your own, there is a great deal of work that goes into it. You must know how to get the home listed online, market it to prospective buyers, negotiate the contract and deal with any issues that arise during the inspection or loan application phases.  In addition, buyers will expect a significant discount, so what you might save on real estate commission may not be as much as you thought it would be.


  • The market will only go up.

Over the years, homebuyers and sellers have experienced a time of increasing home values, then a sharp decline due to the economy and then an upturn where values increase again.  But many people believe the market only goes up.  You need to be aware that prices can fall dramatically.


  • You should renovate your kitchen and bathroom before you sell.

If your kitchen and bathroom are in working order, an extensive remodel could be a mistake. Potential buyers might not like what you’ve done with the place, but they don’t want to change something that has just been renovated.  Ask your Realtor what updates they recommend to ensure that you do not over improve.


  • You’ll earn back what you spend on renovations.

Repairing things like your heating system, air conditioner or roof may help your home to sell faster, but you probably will not recoup dollar for dollar what you spend. Check out Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 cost-vs-value report.


  • All the properties listed in the multiple listing service show up online.

Your agent must choose to let the listings show up online. Most do, but it’s a good idea to verify that yours will.


  • Open houses sell properties.

Homes rarely sell to buyers who have visited them during open houses.  Agents like to have open houses because it helps them to find additional potential customers.  If you and your agent opt not to have an open house, it probably won’t hurt your chances of selling.  On the other hand, having a broker’s open house for other agents might be worthwhile.


If you are thinking about buying or selling a house, the professionals at Tampa Realty Now can assist you in the process and keep you avoid the pitfalls of real estate myths.  Give them a call today at 813-728-3880!

The Perks of Downsizing

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

Have you recently become an empty nester with a home spacious enough for a large family?  Maybe it’s time to consider downsizing.  There are numerous perks to downsizing to a smaller home:

  • Saving Money. You will not only save on your monthly mortgage payment in a smaller home, you will also save money on frivolous living.  One of the advantages of downsizing your home is that you can stop wasting money on furniture, and home décor that are used to fill space rather than to fulfill a function.  Filling a smaller space will allow you to prioritize what items are important and necessary for you.
  • Less Stress.  After working hard all week to pay the bills, it’s no fun to have to spend your weekend doing chores.  A smaller home equals fewer chores and less upkeep. This will free up time for leisure activities for enjoyment and relaxation.
  • Save energy. If you live in a large home, you know that energy costs can be expensive.  Smaller homes will not only save you money on heating, cooling and water costs, it will also allow you to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Free time for travel.  With additional disposable income and less upkeep needed, a smaller home will afford you the time and cash for travel and adventure.  Weekend getaways or even long trips are less of a hassle now that you don’t have to worry about being house-poor.
  • A new beginning. Downsizing can be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.  If being an empty nester has you feeling down, a lifestyle change might be just what you need to start focusing on how you want to spend your time, money and energy. 

If you are thinking about downsizing, the professionals at Tampa Realty Now can help you get your current home on the market and sold.  We can also help you find your new home.  Now is a great time for new beginnings, so call today! (813) 413-4343

‘Tis the Season…Tax Season!

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are over and a new season has begun…tax season.  Now is the time to start preparing to complete your 2017 tax return.  Here is a list of things you can do this month to make tax time a little less stressful:

  • Contribute to retirement accounts.  If you haven’t funded your retirement account for 2017 yet, now is the time to do it.  For a traditional or ROTH IRA the deadline to do so is April 17, 2018. But if you want to start compounding tax free interest as quickly as possible, make those contributions now!
  • Make a last-minute estimated tax payment.  If you didn’t pay the IRS enough money throughout the year, you may have a hefty tax bill coming your way.  You might owe some interest and penalties as well.  If you make an estimated payment by January 15, you can avoid a penalty for the fourth quarter and save money.  Try not to pay too much though.  It’s better to owe a little money than to get a refund.  The IRS doesn’t pay you any interest on money they are borrowing from you.
  • Organize your records.  Yes!  Do it now!  Good organization may not change the amount of money you must pay, but it will certainly make the process of filing your taxes easier.  Prepare a tax checklist to get all your ducks in a row.  Have a tax folder or binder in which you keep all documents and receipts.  Taking the time to get organized now will save you time and energy when it is time to file your taxes.
  • Find the right tax forms.  You can view and download tax forms on the Internal Revenue Service web site or you can have them mailed to you.  The IRS can also provide you with a private web site that lists state government sites where you can pick up state forms and publications. 
  • Itemize your tax deductions. While it may be easier to take the standard deduction, you may save money if you itemize.  Especially if you are self-employed, own a home, or live in a high tax area.  It is worth the time and effort when you see how much money you can save.  This list of the Top 500 Itemized Deductions will come in handy for that!
  • Decide if you need help.  Avoid the panic of last minute calls to accountants by preparing in January.  You will have plenty of time to determine if you are going to need help completing your taxes and won’t be scrambling for assistance as the deadline looms.

How to Negotiate for the Best Deal

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

It seems that negotiation has become a lost art in the world of real estate, and that’s unfortunate because the truth of the matter is, if you don’t ask…you don’t get. While sellers want the highest price and buyers want the best deal, they must meet somewhere in the middle for the deal to close. Negotiation is a vital part of selling or buying a home because it is the largest asset people own and there is a lot of money at stake. Here are some guidelines for what sellers and buyers might ask for in real estate negotiations:


Negotiating the best price means different things for sellers and buyers.  The seller wants the highest price and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible.  For a successful transaction, they must compromise and come up with a price that is acceptable to both.

Closing Costs

Prepaid closing costs are paid by buyers for their mortgage.  These are funds that the mortgage lender holds in escrow for expenses like taxes and insurance.  A buyer may ask a seller to cover some or all their closing costs either with a flat dollar amount or up to a percentage of what’s an allowable contribution for a lender.  If a buyer asks the seller to do this, they are likely going to pay a higher asking price.

Closing Date

Sometimes sellers want to get out of a home quickly because they need the capital from that house they are selling to put toward a new real estate purchase.  The closing date will also affect they buyer’s monthly cash-flow because when a buyer closes on a house, they skip the next month’s mortgage payment, therefore they may want to negotiate to close at the beginning of a month.

Financing Contingencies

When there is a financing contingency in place for a real estate transaction, it can tie up a seller’s property for a required 30 to 60 days.  For this reason, many buyers prefer buyers coming to the table with cash offers. If you are competing with cash buyers, you may want to figure out if you can drop the financial contingency, which will shorten the closing time line. You can do this by getting pre-approved for a home loan prior to making an offer.  Mortgage preapproval shows that your finances are in order and you can afford the home.

Home Warranty

As a buyer, you can request a home warranty. As a seller, you can offer one.  This home protection plan covers things like appliances and systems such as the hot water heater or air conditioning, in the event they repair or replacement.


The moving process is stressful and labor intensive.  Sometimes a seller will need extra time to get into their new home.  When this happens, buyers can offer a lease-back for a reasonable period of time to persuade the seller to accept their offer over others. 

Home Repairs

With a home that needs a lot of updating there comes ample opportunity for negotiation. Buyers need to consider the cost of bringing the home up to current standards and use the estimate of that cost to request a lower asking price.  The seller, on the other hand, can specify that the house is being sold “as is” and not offer any repairs. 

Appraisal Contingency

A seller can push for a buyer to waive the appraisal contingency,  however, if for some reason the appraisal falls short of the expected amount, they need to be prepared for the amount of cash they might have to pay should the bank only be willing to lend them money based on the appraised value.


Personal property such as patio furniture, window treatments and chandeliers is all up for grabs.  The buyer can ask for these things to be included in the contract.  Sellers need to determine what they are willing to leave behind.  And any exclusions need to be specifically listed in the contract as well.


Depending on the market, sellers don’t always leave every appliance for the buyer.  They may include the dishwasher, stove and built in microwave in the contract but not the refrigerator, washer and dryer.  Sometimes they don’t want to give everything away up front so that they can use these as items for negotiation.


When sellers waive inspection, they often find themselves with "buyer’s remorse", but they can try to shorten the time frame for inspection, from 15 days to 7 days.  However, today’s lending practices and the TILA RESPA  Integrated Disclosure (TRID) make this hard to do.

Condo/Co-op Assessments

These are fees that are used to maintain common areas in a community. If there is an open assessment, it can become a negotiation between the buyer and seller as to who will pay for it.

Advantages of being in a Homeowners Associations

by Craig & Linda Nowicke

There are many positive aspects of living in a neighborhood that is governed by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Finding the right one for you and your family may take some research, but if you’re looking for a managed area, it could save some headache in the end.

            What is an HOA?

●     And HOA is an organization that creates and enforces rules in a subdivision or condominium. When you purchase a home in an HOA community, you are, by default, a member of that HOA, and must pay fees and follow their bylaws.

●     Most HOA’s now have their information, some complete with neighborhood photo galleries, available online, making it easy to start your research.

●     Fees and their due dates vary by neighborhood, depending on amenities.

●     Research the amenities that a neighborhood's HOA focuses on.  Whether it’s community beautification, a neighborhood gathering place, or a neighborhood walking path and gym, there are many options available.

●     After you look at the qualities of an HOA and narrow down which ones you like best, find out what the fees are and how they’re paid.  HOA fees can be high, but in comparison with what amenities they offer, it could save you money in the end.

●     Most HOA’s have rules and regulations that go beyond your local municipality.  These bylaws are in place to protect your property value, and maintain a certain quality of life for the homeowners.


            HOA Benefits

●     The amenities that some HOA communities offer can save a member money in the end.  A community center means a gathering place for members, saving rental fees for party venues. A walking track or swimming pool can save residents from joining private gyms and health clubs.

●     HOA neighborhoods in general are more appealing aesthetically, because member fees go towards keeping the common areas clean and landscaped.

●     Some HOA organizations provide security, trash pick-up, pest control, as well as street sweeping and snow removal. Your property is your responsibility, but the shared areas are taken care of.

●     If you choose to live in a condominium community, the organization usually handles all landscape maintenance, as well as exterior home maintenance: for instance, if a shutter blows off the building, it’s taken care of.  All the homeowner needs to do is notify someone on the property management board, and they handle the rest.

●     The community organization board members live in the neighborhood, so they are aware of needs specific to the area, and can better handle solutions to any problems.

●     Homes in HOA neighborhoods protect your investment in a fluctuating market because of their home-maintenance regulations.


Don’t let bad press shy you away from considering a home in an HOA.  If a house you absolutely love is in an organized community, do careful research, talk to residents in the community, then make your decision.  There are many different aspects to different organizations, and finding the right one for you and your family just takes a little research and thought.

Photo credit: 

Tampa Luxury Home Housing Report - September 2017

by Craig & Linda Nowicke


The charts below show the 7-day and 90-day rolling averages for list pricedays on market, and inventory for the metro area's luxury market (e.g. top 10 zips with median prices above $500k)


The charts below compare the ilhm-tampa luxury market with the ILHM National Luxury Market Index and show 90-day rolling averages for Median List Price and Days on Market.

The chart below shows the Altos Market Action Index for the metro area's luxury market and the National Index.

Statistics provided by the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

Courtesy of Tampa FL Realtor Linda Nowicke.

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Photo of Linda and Craig Nowicke Real Estate
Linda and Craig Nowicke
RE/MAX ACR Elite Group
14823 N. Dale Mabry
Tampa FL 33618
Linda: 813-728-3880
Craig: 813-675-5030
Fax: 813-961-6016

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