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Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates


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Tips for First Time Home-Buyers

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

In the real estate market, when there is low inventory, being a first time home buyer can be a frustrating experience.  We are going to give you some tips that will help ease the frustration by avoiding some of the problems that the unprepared buyer will run into over and over.

The first and probably most important step of the home-buying process is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start looking at houses.  Pre-qualified is good, however, pre-approval is better since the buyer is further along the process and the lender will be able to let the buyer know what the proper price range should be.  This information helps you avoid the problem of looking at houses that are really out of your price range and  keeps you from being greatly disappointed.  Pre-approval also lets the real estate agent know you are serious.  In fact, most professional real estate agents will insist on a buyer being pre-approved before even showing a house.

Second, it is very important to know what you absolutely need to have versus what you would like to have.  Is that bidet in the bathroom really a deal killer, or is it something that would pretty cool.  Or do you really have to have a two car garage for your one car family?  Is a fully outfitted workshop necessary or can you plan on that for a future project?

The best way to hone in on the house that fits our needs is to prepare your list before you actually get started.  Create a chart and put the things that you positively NEED on one side of the chart. Then, itemize the things that you would really like to have, that are not deal breakers, on the other side of the chart.  Use this as a guide when looking at houses, and since you have already put in the effort to make the determination of what you need to have vs. what would be nice to have, it will be a great tool in your decision making process down the road.

The third thing you need to consider is the neighborhood you want to live in.  There are neighborhoods that are wonderful, except they are in the wrong location, wrong school district, or too far from work, or too near a highway, etc.  Look for the things you want in a neighborhood, such as shopping availability, convenience to highways, or cultural events, or recreation, or churches.  A wise idea is to drive around the area, or even on a Saturday morning take your dog for a walk through the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors.  They will be more than happy to tell you why they live there, and just might mention a plus, or a minus, that will impact your decision.

A fourth item on your home search preparation is to choose your house style and stick to it.  If you are OK with two stories, and climbing stairs, then focus on those types of homes.  If stairs are not your thing, stick to single story houses.  Is a split plan important, so that you can have the master bedroom away from the kids, or does it matter.  How much of a yard do you need?  If gardening is important to you, maybe a condo or townhouse with tiny yard won't work.  It also helps your real estate agent to find you the right properties.  Maybe you are looking for a 55-plus community?  That is the purpose of a buyer's consultation, where the professional real estate agent digs deep into what you need and want in a home.  

People with pets and small children have very different needs than empty-nesters or people who are retired. 

And a fifth thing for consideration, and very important, is to take notes on every house you look at.  Be sure your agent gives you a print out of the listing, with details on the house along with photos to help jog your memory.  After a day of looking at 5 houses, rooms start to blend and the red house with no fireplace actually may have been a white house with 2 fireplaces.  Write your notes directly on the sheet.  After each house, make the determination of which house you liked better, the previous one or the one you just saw. The one you like goes into the keeper pile, the other one gets tossed.  This way at the end of the day, you have one or possibly two houses for consideration, and not a hodge-podge of jumbled recollections.  Believe me, this will really help you in the end when coming time to make the big decision.

After all this preparation, when you see the house you want, since you already were pre-approved, and the house hit on every single one of your need to have items, you can easily sit down and write an offer.

Take all the time you need to find a house you really like and want, however, once you find it, move quickly.  If you like the house, there is a good chance someone else will too.  In a competitive market, your preparation makes a difference and every advantage you give yourself puts you closer to your dream home.

September 2018 Existing Homes Sales

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

Existing home sales in September of 2018 declined after the month of August was stagnant for sales. According to the National Association of Realtors, NAR, all four regions of the United States, Northeast, South, Midwest and West saw no gains in sales activity. You can search for homes in Florida to see how the market looks today by clicking on this link.

We may be seeing the end of the strong seller market that has lasted for several years.

The total of existing home sales in September declined by 3.4% from August, with a seasonally adjusted number of 5.15 million homes sold in September, which included townhouses, single family homes, condominiums and co-ops.  Comparing year ago sales for September of 2017, homes sales are down 4.1%, according to NAR, 5.37 million homes sold in September of 2017 vs. 5.15 million sold in September 2018.

Watch the video of NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, deliver the housing news.

Getting into some numbers, this report discussed the impact of first time home-buyers.  Of all homes purchased in September 2018, 32% were first time home-buyers, compared to 31% a year ago.

Interest rates have edged upwards in the past year as well, according to Freddie Mac. Mortgage rates in September 2018 averaged 4.63%, August was 4.55% and September of 2017 interest rates were 3.99%. These are still near historic low rates for mortgages, so why the fuss?  Roughly speaking, this 0.64% increase in mortgage rates translates to a reduction of about 6.4% in purchasing power. In real numbers, this means that a buyer who qualified for a $200,000 mortgage a year ago, now qualifies for a house worth $187,200. This means that the buyer may not be able to buy a home in the neighborhood she wanted, meaning she may not be able to send her children to the school she wants, or even may have a longer commute to work.

In September 2018, cash sales made up 21% of all transactions. This is a very difficult market for first time buyers who need a mortgage and have to compete with cash buyers. According to Elizabeth Mendenhall, NAR president, first time home-buyers continue to underwhelm the market for the simple reason that there are not enough homes on the market in their price range.

Some good news on home sales is that the percentage of distressed properties, short sales and foreclosures, made up only 3% of sales in September, the lowest number since NAR began tracking this data in 2008, as the market crashed.  According to NAR, 2 percent of home sales in September were foreclosures, 1% were short sales.

The biggest drop in existing home sales was in the south, 5.4% decrease in home sales from September 2017. The Midwest showed flat home sales from September 2017 and that was the only market that did not show a decrease in sales year on year.

Buyers currently feel that housing prices are too high and are deciding to hold off on purchasing a home until there is a decrease in prices. Many first time home buyer are holding off for the same reasons.

Renovating seems to be a growing trend with potential buyers. According to the real estate blog, Keeping Current Matters, the overall average of buyers choosing renovation over buyers is 76%, with age breakdowns going as follows.  18-34 years, 66% are opting for renovation; 35-54 years opt for renovation 73% of the time; and 55+ year olds opt for renovation 87% of the time, instead of tying up their finances in a new mortgage. They feel they can protect their retirement income this way.

The tight inventory of available homes for sale is helping to keep sales figures low.  Again, according to NAR, housing inventory is beginning to creep up. This will create more competition for sellers to deal with, as buyers are beginning to see more homes to choose from.  The national market continues to favor sellers, for now, however, it is becoming closer to a neutral market which will give buyers more leverage in negotiations.  

Stay tuned for more information on the economics of the housing market in the coming weeks and months as most experts are predicting a recession in mid to late 2020.  This will impact housing, although they do not feel housing will be the driver of the coming recession as it did in the crash of 2008.

For people looking for single family homes in 55+ communities, Highland Lakes in Palm Harbor is a good place to look.  Of course there are other 55 plus communities with single homes for sale, including the Anchorage of Tarpon Lake.  The biggest advantage of looking for homes for sale in Highland Lakes is that there are over 2,000 homes in the community.

The majority of homes in Highland Lakes are 2 bedroom and 2 bath houses and are typically about 1500 - 1600 square feet of living space.  Also, most of the homes have 2 car garages, so there is plenty of space for a car and a golf cart, if you decide that golf carts fit your lifestyle.  Highland Lakes is a golf cart community so you can drive your cart from home to any of the three golf courses within the community.  The Highland Lakes clubhouse has plenty of parking for the golf carts of the residents.  The executive course is private and is for the exclusive use of residents of Highland Lakes.  The residents have unlimited use of the golf course and the $94 HOA fee includes unlimited golf for two people per address.  The course is quite scenic, and at certain times during the day deer can be viewed on the golf course.  The golf course meanders throughout Highland Lakes so that many homes actually are on the golf course.

If golf is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of activities within the community to keep even the shyest person busy.  There is a travel club, there are clubs for people from various parts of the country who now reside in Palm Harbor to help kick-start your social mingling, there is pickle ball - the latest hot sport to help keep people active and fit, there are of course tennis courts, bocce ball, shuffleboard and boating to those who choose to be active.  

For the less athletically inclined, the huge clubhouse pool has water exercise classes.  There are two clubhouses in Highland Lakes, the main clubhouse on 3300 Macgregor Drive, and the Lodge on Lake Tarpon, which has its own pool and dock. From the Lodge on Lake Tarpon, there are nearly daily tours of Lake Tarpon led by local captains in the community pontoon boat.  These captains will show you points of interest on the lake, osprey nests, various areas where wildlife thrive, you may even sight a bald eagle, sometimes soaring above the lake, sometimes simply perched on a tree while looking over the activity on the lake.

After cruising on the lake for a while, and learning about it and the surrounding area, the pontoon boat just might head to the Tarpon Turtle restaurant for lunch on the open air deck overlooking the lake.  Dine at the Tarpon Turtle, maybe watch other boaters dock at the restaurant, and then board the boat for a leisurely trip back to the Lodge at Lake Tarpon to complete your day.

Then, go to the main clubhouse to perhaps partake in a card game, or find someone to challenge to a shuffleboard competition.  All in fun, of course.

Naturally, with all the activity in Highland Lakes, you just might want to search for homes for sale.  At any given time, there are several single family homes, and occasional condo and even a villa for sale in Highland Lakes.  The master community is made up of single family homes, with only a $94 monthly HOA fee, which covers the clubhouse, golf privileges for two, and the boat storage at Lake Tarpon space available basis) and nearly all the activities at the clubhouse.  The condos and villas will have additional fees, mostly to cover the specific condo association, and the exterior maintenance. For specifics, you should contact the condo association or your professional real estate agent.

The condo fees often include exterior maintenance, such as the lawn, while the homeowners in the master association are responsible for their own yard maintenance, their own roof, and the insurances normally needed for a home.  The condos generally cover the exterior maintenance, the roof, and the exterior building maintenance.  Check with each condo association for the specifics of each association.

For your lifestyle, there are lots of things to do outside the community. Many are free things to do and are lots of fun, besides being interesting.  The local beaches are among the very best in the nation, with Clearwater Beach a quick 20 minute drive, Honeymoon Island is only about 10-15 minutes from Highland Lakes and from Honeymoon Island you can take the ferry to world famous Caladesi Island State Park to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps buy some munchies at the snack bar, or simply enjoyy the  beach with no automobile traffic to deal with. Caladesi Island is accessible by the ferry or private boat only, making it a unique place to visit.

There is great shopping available in the area besides enjoying the great outdoors. Countryside Mall in Clearwater, only about a 5 minute car ride away, has several major anchor stores, a multiplex movie theater, great restaurants, and many boutique shops for those interesting items you need to decorate your home.  Go a bit farther away and the International Mall is in Tampa, just at the Tampa International Airport.  International Mall has many high-end retail shops, terrific restaurants and major national retail stores for your shopping pleasure.  It also is a great place for people-watching for those who prefer to sit outside the stores while their spouse invests time looking at the various wares each store offers.

Tampa International Airport has upgraded to be among the very best, and most traveler friendly airports in the entire country.  There are excellent local restaurants represented as well as several nationally known restaurants, or one can simply enjoy shopping, at surprisingly competitive prices while waiting for the next flight bringing in your friends and family to enjoy your home in Highland Lakes.

If shopping is not your cup of tea, and golf or other outdoor activities don't turn you on, you always have to eat so try some of the wonderful restaurants in the area.  There is a place to eat to satisfy every palate, from New York Pizza, to huge NY deli sandwiches, to many Italian restaurants, to fabulous Greek cuisine in Tarpon Springs, and boutique dining in Safety Harbor and Dunedin, all within just a short drive.

Take a look at life in Highland Lakes, Palm Harbor. It truly is a very active 55+ community.  And there is almost never a shortage to things to do in Highland Lakes.

2017 Real Estate Summary through November. For Pinellas County real estate for sale.

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Let's kick off 2018 with a very positive outlook. Today's Morning Coffee does that, get even with those who are good to you.  Check it out.

As for the real estate outlook for 20018, no one really has a crystal ball so no one can truly predict the real estate market, except to promise that people will be moving. causing housing to be bought and sold.

Here are some end of the year numbers, for those who really like this sort of stuff.

We are awaiting the final numbers for 2017 from our Pinellas Realtor Organization, however, here are the numbers thru November. For the first 11 months of 2017, there have been a total of 21,502 residential sales.  Of those, 40.88% were cash and 42.07% were conventional mortgages.  In addition, 56.01% were sold in 30 days or less, with another 15.94% being sold in 60 days or less.  This clearly indicates that these properties were priced at the correct market value.  The $200,000 to $400,000 price range accounted for 35.82 of all residential sales in the area. For those looking for "bargains", or at least low prices, a total of 3350 properties were sold below $100,000 for the first 11 months of 2017.

The absorption rate for November for single family homes was 36.5%, and the absorption rate for condos was 31.6%. Absorption rate is the percent of available properties that sell in a given month. Thus, a 36.5% absorption rate means that just over 1/3 of the houses listed for sale actually sold in November.  This represents a strong sellers' market, leaving buyers very little room for negotiating downward.

For more detailed information on specific markets or property types, check out our website.

Now, on to the very first trivia for the new year.

Appropriate for today, in 1913, a severe winter storm hit the mid-west, dropping temperatures in Chicago to -13F and dumped 19 inches of snow. This storm was blamed for 68 deaths.s

In 1981, British police arrest Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer.

In 1906, Willis Carrier received a patent for the world's first air conditioner. And that made Florida livable.

In 1961, the very first AFL Championship game took place, with the Houston Oilers beating the LA Chargers, 24-16.

Today's birthdays include Isaac Asimov (1920) science fiction writer, "I, Robot"; Roger Miller (1936) singer, "Dang Me", "King of the Road"; Cuba Gooding Jr. (1968), Oscar winner for his role in "Jerry Maguire".

Make it a great week.

Buyers Need to Know About Closing Costs

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

Very often buyers come to the closing table to buy the house of their dreams and there is an unpleasant surprise waiting for them. A survey by ClosingCorp of 1,000 first time home buyers revealed that 17% were surprised that there were any closing costs, and 35% were surprised at how high the closing costs were. Wow, someone is not communicating.

 These buyers got the news that it cost money to borrow money, and then other costs were added to the transaction, and they were caught by surprise. What buyers need to understand, and they should be told by the professionals, is that there are additional costs to buying a home over and above the price of the house.

When a buyer is paying cash, the closing costs are minimal. Very often under $1500. When purchasing a home for, let's say, for $250,000, costs to consider include the following.

Bank Fees, such as loan origination, loan discount or other fees unique to that lender

Title Insurance

Credit Report


Appraisal Fee

Termite Inspection

Home Inspection

Deed Recording

Balance of HOA or condo Fees for the month

Doc Stamps

Homeowner's Insurance

And others as well.

It is incumbent on the lender to provide the information well ahead of closing to their buyers that there will be fees above simply the cost of the house. It can be embarrassing for a buyer to sit at the closing table and not be aware of these charges. The lender and the real estate agent should have disclosed these fees to the buyers so they are  prepared and know well in advance.

Fannie Mae has estimated that closing costs run between 2% and 5% of the purchase price of a house. It is good for the buyer to be aware that if purchasing a home for $250,000, they may need to come up with as much as $12,500 in cash, above the down payment, to have a successful closing.

In order to avoid unpleasant surprises like this, buyers need to work with reputable lending institutions that encourage buyers to ask questions. And real estate agents ought to provide every buyer an estimate of closing costs well ahead of the closing date. This estimate is not a binding document, however, it does notify the buyer that there are costs involved when buying a home. A professional real estate agent will be careful and the estimate in most cases, will be very close to the final amount actually due for closing. 

Buyers should obtain wire instructions directly from the title company so that all funds are wired a day or two in advance of closing. This will eliminate delays at closing, as well as embarrassment.

An informed buyer is a great buyer who will have a good experience.

Get Ready to Sell Your Home

by Doug Campbell

Selling your home doesn′t just mean hiring a realtor to stick a sign out front. There are a lot of preparations you should make to ensure you get the best offer possible in the shortest time.

Repair. Just because you’ve gotten used to the cracks in the walls and the rattles in the radiators doesn’t mean a buyer will too. If you have hardwood floors that need refinishing, be sure to get it done—hardwood is a huge selling point. And typically, refinishing hardwood floors costs less than tile or new hardwood flooring. Buyers like to snoop around, so be sure to fix any sticky doors or drawers as well.That backdoor you have to kick to open, make the needed adjustment, it could cost you thousands. Finally, don’t forget to address any issues with the exterior—fences, shingles, sidewalks, etc. Electric colors for trim may have been great while you lived in the house, it just may turn off a buyer though, and they won't even get out of their car. After all, without curb appeal, some buyers may never get to see the inside.

Neutralize. You want buyers to see themselves in your home. If your living room has lime green shag, wood-paneled walls, and all your collectibles and personal photographs, this will be much harder for them to do. If the carpet is 15 years old, whether you admit it or not, it has an odor, so go ahead and replace it, or at the very least get it steam cleaned. Try replacing any bold color choices in your floors and walls with something more neutral—beiges, tans, and whites. Repainting and re-flooring will make everything look fresh and new, and help prospective buyers imagine all the possibilities. After all, repainting a room is the least expensive thing you can do to maximize your profit.

Stage. Once your house is clean and updated, it’s time to play dress up. Home stagers can add small details and décor touches that will bring out the possibilities in the various spaces in your home: lamps, mirrors, throw rugs and pillows, flowers, decorative soaps and towels, patio furniture. Home staging can be particularly useful if your home is especially old or if the exterior looks dated. Think of it as a little mascara and rouge—if it’s done right, you notice the beauty, not the makeup. If you have moved out of the house while it is still on the market, it is very important to have a professional stager come in. Empty rooms always look small and most people can't envision what it might look like with furniture. A professional stager will address the room dimensions, make the most of the colors and light, and it will almost make you wonder why you wanted to move.

A final note on appearance, be sure your Realtor has professionally done photographs of the house and yard. Most Realtors do not know how to take good photos, although some do. A point and shoot camera is not what you want for taking quality pictures for a $400,000 house.

Now, relax and let the professionals sell your house so you can move into the next phase of life.

Best Pizza in Palm Harbor and the Best Pizza in Dunedin??

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

Where is the best pizza in Palm Harbor or where is the best pizza in Dunedin is a question buyers ask all the time when looking for homes for sale in Palm Harbor or homes for sale in Dunedin. Instead of giving them my opinion, 'cuz I've never met a pizza I didn't like, we polled over 500 people for their opinions on the best pizza in the area. Below are the results of the poll, and this is not to exclude anyone, it just is a great place to get started. Notice that the big name national chains are not here. Home cooking almost always is the best. Read on, and "mangia".

Drum roll, the results of our very informal poll say that Queen's Pizza tops the list for best pizza in Palm Harbor. Not to mention it is also named best pizza in Dunedin. Queen's Pizza has three locations.  This is a family owned business that started as a corner pizza restaurant in 1978 and has grown into a very popular place to go for excellent pizza and pasta. the crust is incredible, the topping are plentiful, and the price is competitive. It is hard to get a better value for your pizza dollar.
best pizza in palm harbor

The next most named restaurant for the best pizza in the area is Galley Pizza, located in an unassuming strip mall at 509 Alt. 19 in Palm Harbor. Galley Pizza has great salads and incredibly good pizza. And practically next door is a local produce market so you can buy fresh produce on the way home right after downing your pizza.

Next we come to another local favorite, Fireside Pizza, located in downtown Palm Harbor.  Fireside Pizza is a casual restaurant that features simply delicious pizza, salads and sandwiches. You need to try the caprese salad or the garlic knots before you dive into their specialty pizza. The atmosphere is friendly, very casual, and you can order many craft beers, for those who like to indulge is such things. Or try the dry rubbed chicken wings served over fire roasted onions. You will not be disappointed.

And the list grows longer, and everyone is delicious. Personal tastes will help you decide which is really the best pizza in Palm Harbor, so give it a shot and try every single pizza restaurant we mention. Just not all in the same week.

Next on our list for best pizza in Dunedin is Tony's Pizza on Main Street in downtown Dunedin. Whenever there is a festival in downtown Dunedin, be sure to stop in at Tony's Pizza for a slice of white pizza or a stuffed calzone that is plenty of food for the biggest appetite. Tony's Pizza has a small-ish dining area and really does the take out super well. Stand on the sidewalk and watch through the front window as the chefs create your special pizza, or sandwich. The atmosphere is casual, and very friendly. Get a slice, and I mean a big slice, for less than $2.50.

Country Pizza Inn is another very popular local pizza restaurant that pops up on many of the best pizza in town lists. They have three locations, in Clearwater, Largo and New Port Richey and the locals won't hesitate to drive to the nearest location for wonderful pizza or pasta. If you like stromboli, make Country Pizza Inn a destination. The take out door is always busy, so you know that people are eating lots of pizza at home, during football games or just to have a convenient yet delicious meal.

Here's a bit of a surprise. This is the national chain that got the most mentions, the Mellow Mushroom. It is a little bit on the funky side, yet the food really is good. Mellow Mushroom is located on Gulf to Bay Blvd. (Rte. 60) in Clearwater for those who are coming off the Courtney Campbell Causeway heading west to the beaches, stop by the Mellow Mushroom for something to eat before heading to Clearwater Beach.

There were several smart alecks who suggested anyplace in Chicago has the best pizza. Well, for those of you who really want a Chicago style pizza, try Pauls Chicago Pizza in Clearwater, on McMullen Booth Road. Pauls is another family owned pizza restaurant that boasts the best Chicago style thin crust pizza in the area. For those who are really hungry,  try the lunch buffet. There are various pizza slices, home made meatballs, pasta and so much more that you cannot possibly leave wanting more. And Pauls can cater for 10 to as many as 400. 

The best pizza in DunedinAnd another outstanding pizza restaurant is Fairway Pizza in Palm Harbor on Alt. 19. Not only can you get great pizza, Fairway has multiple TVs so you won't miss any of the games that night. And there is live music every Thursday thru Saturday. Be sure not to miss the local trivia contest held every Wednesday from 7-9 pm. Or take advantage of our wonderful Florida weather and enjoy the outside deck while having pizza or a beverage while listening to the entertainment. Fairway features northern style pizza and they have a truly excellent seafood pizza. It may sound odd but really is tasty.

If you have been reading this far and are not yet hungry for a slice or a whole pie, keep reading.

The only other "national" chain that got significant mentions in our little survey is Jet's Pizza. There are a few locations in the area, including Jet's on Main Street in Dunedin, on US 19N in Palm Harbor and on Gulf to Bay in Clearwater. Jet's Pizza is strictly take out or home delivery. The deep dish crust is wonderful. Even though it is a chain, the pizza is really good and the people are super friendly. Jet's garlic bread sticks or the cinnamon bread are a nice extra treat.

The Plum Pizzeria on Alt. 19 in Tarpon Springs offers gourmet pizza.  If a shrimp florentine pizza or margherita pizza makes your mouth water, give Plum Pizzeria a try. How about something a little different and try the Tarpon Greek pizza, with feta cheese and gyro as the toppings. This gem is located in a little strip mall that also has a convenience store. So if you are going to stop to gas up the car on the way home, why not check out Plum Pizzeria and bring home dinner.

Does coal fired pizza appeal to you? It should and one of the best places for it is Cristino's coal oven pizza in Clearwater. A sure fire sign that a restaurant is a good one is when you can't get in the parking lot on a Tuesday night. It's that good If pizza isn't always on your mind, try one of their panini sandwiches. Get it served hot or cold. Either way, it is a totally rewarding meal. And when you have finished having your meal, there is always room for gelato.

What list of favorite pizza restaurants would be complete without Umberto's of Long Island, located on Patricia Avenue in Dunedin. Umberto's has been dishing out superior pizza, New York style of course, since the early 1970s. Umberto's offers both eat in and take out services and is the longest established Italian restaurant in Dunedin. And the people of Dunedin know good food!! You know they use fresh ingredients when they tell you right on the menu, you can get basil pizza - in season only.

Almost everyone of these pizza restaurants are in unassuming strip malls. Don't be fooled. Some of the very best places to eat are there. They don't focus on the glitz. They focus on the quality of the pizza, pasta and desserts, not to mention the friendly and outstanding personal service. If you are looking for the very best pizza in Palm Harbor, or the best pizza in Dunedin or Clearwater, stop in at any of these local and mostly family owned pizza restaurants. You will be delighted and your wallet will also be delighted.

As an aside, we did have several people who could not resist the temptation to name their favorite pizza places - from where they used to live. Several people said "anywhere in Chicago". That may be true, however if you are in Dunedin, FL, it is not that convenient to head to Chicago. We also got feedback that the Linwood Cafe in Randolph, MA serves great pizza in a friendly atmosphere. I would dismiss that, except I know from personal experience that is totally true. One of my personal all time favorite places for relaxing and enjoying a great pizza. 

For northern style pizza, we got a recommendation for Sofia's in Cornish, ME. 

The long distance winner is a suggestion for Fat Olives, in Homer, Alaska. I am afraid that is one I can't testify to, although if/when I ever get to Homer, I will definitely try it out.

It looks to me like we need to plan a road trip to Chicago, Maine and Alaska to sample more pizza!!  Who's game??







Highland Lakes, Palm Harbor - a Really Active 55 plus Community

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

If you are looking for an active 55 plus community in Palm Harbor, here it is - Highland Lakes. This 55+ community has a whole lot of activity for everyone.

Of course, the biggest attraction is the 27 holes of golf offered for all residents of Highland Lakes. The monthly homeowner charge is $93, and for your $93 you get a whole lot for your money. Among the activities that are included with the fee are not only golf, but tennis, pickle ball (try it, you might like it, Google it), bocce, line dancing, shuffleboard, slimnastics, swimming and Zumba gold.

But wait, there's more!! There are exercise classes in the pool for those who may not want to golf yet want a good and safe workout. The clubhouse is home to most of the activities so for a rousing game of bingo, head for the clubhouse. There are also rooms for various organizations and functions, which may include: cards and other games, ceramics and classes for ceramic artists, a computer club where people who may be intimidated by computers can come and have savvy computer users teach new tricks.

And yet there's still more!!  The concert club lets you sing your heart out and have a great time socializing with others who love to sing. Get involved in the Highland Lakes Garden Club. Whether you are an accomplished gardener or just simply want to learn how to grow a simple shrub, or maybe you just want to chat with people who know how to grow things and not kill their house plants, the Garden Club is for you. 

All residents of Highland Lakes have free access to the boat ramp at the Lake Tarpon Lodge. Some of the amenities of the Lodge include a large banquet room with a full service kitchen, a porch with full and beautiful view of Lake Tarpon, the second largest lake in Florida, several gas grills and picnic tables just waiting to be used, and there is a swimming pool too. Residents can rent, for a very modest fee, the Lake Tarpon Lodge for functions. The lake view is spectacular, and free!!

There is a travel club, with chaperoned trips in high end motor coaches to various locales. Sometimes it will be a day trip for a nice lunch and sometimes there are trips where there may be a bit more excitement, such as Biloxi for a wee bit of gambling and catching a good show or having a really nice meal.

Just because one may live in Highland Lakes, that does not mean you are restricted to staying there. Palm Harbor proper has lots of shopping and restaurants. Find out what is surrounding Highland Lakes at this link for Palm Harbor.

The Tampa International Airport is an easy drive, only about 30 minutes, for those who want to head north for the summer, or visit family, or need to travel for business. The airport is one of the best in the country, as voted by travelers, and parking is readily available.  The airport is undergoing extensive upgrades and when completed will rival any airport in the USA.

Besides the ease of travel, there is the International Plaza, with a huge selection of stores and a marvelous food court. There are stores for every taste, ranging from the Apple Store, to Bose, or Abercrombie & Fitch, BRIO Tuscan Grill, Cheesecake Factory, Bath and Body Works, Crate and Barrell, Coach store, Michael Kors, Gucci, Burger King, Tumi, Bar Louie, Vera Bradley, Williams Sonoma and so many, many more. Of course there are coffee shops for those who simply enjoy people watching, so stop at the Coffee Bean or Starbucks, find a comfortable chair and have fun relaxing with our favorite coffee while the rest of your party spends money.

Then there is the Gulf of Mexico to consider on the west coast of Palm Harbor. From Highland Lakes to the coast is a short drive, maybe 15 minutes. Palm Harbor offers marinas for boating enthusiasts who want salt water action. Go fishing in the Gulf, catch some speckled trout, snook or flounder inshore, or go offshore for grouper, mahi-mahi and other big fish. The nearby beaches are among the best in the entire nation, with Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island state parks, in Dunedin, just a short drive from Highland Lakes. Be a "Friend of the Island" to help support the islands and the wildlife on the island while sharing with the humans who visit the island to enjoy the incredible pristine beaches. Or bring a fishing rod to surfcast and bring home a freshly caught dinner.

Just a bit to the north of Highland Lakes is the quaint village of Tarpon Springs, which is a real sponge fishing village and it has an active shrimp fleet too. The streets of downtown Tarpon Springs have sidewalk cafes where you can enjoy fresh Greek pastries and strong coffee or authentic Greek cuisine. Tarpon Springs offers charter fishing trips to head out to the Gulf for deep sea fishing, or go on a head boat with larger groups to catch plenty of fish, including grouper while having a good time.

Go a bit south of Highland Lakes to Dunedin and you will find more than enough to keep you busy with a wide range of street festivals, events, outdoor concerts, movies in the park, and restaurants. Check out our blog posts for things to do in Dunedin. Visit our site, click on the blog tab and there you are.

If you are looking for a very active 55 plus community, like to play golf, want to get involved in a myriad of other things to do, like a wide variety of restaurants and shopping and in general think a 55+ community is the right lifestyle for you, Highland Lakes is it. Check out the homeowners association website for even more details on why this is such a wonderful place to live.

Good Restaurants to Eat in Dunedin

by Doug & Gwen Campbell at Sun Bay Associates

Great Restaurants to Eat in Dunedin, FL.


How often do you visit a community and need to find a restaurant that will serve a good meal at a fair price. Do you automatically head to the closest national franchise place, where you know the food will be decent, the prices will be generally reasonable and the service may be pretty good? Or do you prefer to be a bit more adventurous and seek out a good place where the locals like to eat and sometimes treat it more as a social event than just a place to go eat.


If you are one of the latter, and you are ever in the Dunedin area, here are some really good establishments that provide a nice local flavor. And the locals love them!!

Casa Tina Gourmet Mexican and Vegetarian Restaurant in the heart of downtown Dunedin on Main Street. The food is wonderful and fresh and authentic. Javier, the co-owner with Tina, is from Mexico and the food is true to his heritage.  If you are in town on Cinco de Mayo, the block of Main Street in front of Casa Tina is closed for the day long festival of music, fun, and food.  Visit or call 727-734-9226.

Sea Sea Riders Restaurant is just west of the immediate downtown area of Dunedin, and only a block from the Gulf of Mexico. There is dining on the porch, where you can have a drink and dinner while you watch the people walking by on their way to whatever event is happening in town that evening, or enjoy the newly remodeled and expanded bar inside. The seafood is fresh and the service is really friendly. Come in for a friendly beverage and enjoy the live music. Visit the website for this week’s activities  or call 727-7347-1445

Bon Appetit Restaurant is right on the Gulf of Mexico at the marina in Dunedin. The outside bar is covered and has several TVs so you can watch our local teams, Rays, Bucs or Lightning when in season. It is a favorite gathering place for locals to meet, have a beverage and catch the sunset. The outdoor dining area is another place to enjoy the Florida lifestyle, have a delicious meal, and again, catch another free and spectacular sunset provided by nature. You can take advantage of the valet parking service too so your evening will be all the more carefree. Bon Appetit has been voted as Tampa Bay’s best waterfront restaurant.  Visit  or call 727-733-2151

Cafe Alfresco is right in the mix of what’s happening on Main Street in Dunedin AND it is at the crossing of the Pinellas bike trail and Main Street. Enjoy the sidewalk cafe for the alfresco dining experience.  Watch the bicycle traffic whizzing by on the Pinellas Trail, or dine inside. The food is really good, the servers are excellent with personality, and the prices are very reasonable. Just outside the entrance is one of several custom made bicycle racks you can find all over the city. This one looks like a locomotive. Watch around town for these interesting bike racks, made by the local Institute for Creative Arts. Visit the website or call 727-736-4299.

For a dining experience that will be a highlight of your visit to Dunedin, make reservations at the Black Pearl of Dunedin.  This is a Mobil Guide rated restaurant with limited seating.  It is worth it!! The food is freshly prepared and it is high end quality. The Black Pearl is also right on Main Street in Dunedin so after dinner, stroll the downtown area to get a true taste of what makes Dunedin so special. Visit the website at  or call 727-734-3463.

At the other end of the spectrum, visit the sometimes raucous Flanagan’s Irish Pub. The food is hearty, the drafts are cold, and the music is Irish. Flanagan’s is Dunedin’s oldest and best Irish pub. Locals flock to this colorful pub, and if you want to have a seat on Friday or Saturday evening, get there early. Visit the website at  or call 727-736-4994.

Kelly's Chic a Boom Room is casual chic. It is also a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner. The outdoor patio is wide open for a wonderful dining experience. Lots of space so you won’t feel crowded by other tables, and at the same time the friendly atmosphere will make your meal fun and entertaining. Not to mention that the portions are more than enough and delicious. Kelly’s is most assuredly a favorite of the locals in Dunedin. For Sunday brunch, get there early or be prepared to wait. The good news, the brunch is worth the wait. Kelly’s is in the heart of downtown Dunedin on Main Street.  Visit the website at  or call 727-736-5284.

Umberto's of Long Island is a little bit off the beaten path. This family owned hidden gem is on Patricia Avenue. The pizza is terrific New York style.  Visit their website, or just call them at 727-736-3138. It’s worth a little drive from the downtown area. You won’t be disappointed.

If you like comfort food that is served with a smile, try Country Boy Restaurant. This is yet another restaurant that the locals flock to, and Sunday morning brunch is very busy. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, stop by and enjoy a really solid meal.  This gem has been a family owned and operated establishment since 1985. Visit their website at or call them at 727-734-9108. Country Boy is on 1353 Main Street in Dunedin.

Our Place Restaurant of Dunedin is an unassuming eatery in a little strip mall on 1336 Main Street. The food is fresh, the servers treat you like family, and the owner will seat you and fill your coffee cup all the while making you feel like you’re a long lost friend. Don’t be misled by the not flashy decor, the food is great and the prices are unbelievable. Watch for the daily specials. And be sure to stop at the bakery display case. The pies, oh my, the pies. The cinnamon buns are only a taste of heaven. Our Place is a winner of the 2015 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. Visit the website or call 727-239-7886.

Olde Bay Cafe is the definition of Florida’s casual lifestyle. Stop in for dinner on the open air patio, which is also dog friendly or just enjoy a beverage and the fresh catch of the day while sitting literally over the water of the Dunedin Marina.  In the evening, while having the freshest fish or one of Dunedin’s local micro-brewery products, enjoy yet another sunset. The atmosphere is as friendly as you could ask for, and just as casual. Watch the boats coming into and going out of the marina while you contemplate your next day’s activities. Visit the website or call 727-733-2542.

Right at the gateway entrance to Dunedin’s Main Street is the Clear Sky Draught Haus. This is so much more than a draught haus, serving 37 craft beers on tap and another 60+ brands of bottled beers and a full bar. And the food, awesome. The lobster mac ‘n cheese is divine, maybe not heart healthy, but, we all need a little temptation once in a while. Besides, it really is worth it. Everything for breakfast is really tasty, from the Mexican flatbread to lox and bagels. There is something for everyone at the Draught Haus. Visit the website or call 727-286-6266.

With all these restaurants, you have a wide range of delicious eateries in Dunedin. So whenever you are in the area, pick one of these places. We feel they are among the very best places to eat in Dunedin. We are locals, and lots of other locals feel that these are among the very best places to eat in our little town. These eating establishments are one of the many reasons we love living here. Check it out. If you are looking for a house, you might find a place you want to call home.(727) 286-6266(727) 286-6266


Luxury Homes for Sale in Palm Harbor

by Doug Campbell

Luxury homes for sale in Palm Harbor are plentiful, if you want a luxury home in Palm Harbor.  Based on the latest statistics for Pinellas County, the absorption rate for luxury homes is 13%. This simply means that if there are 100 luxury properties for sale, that 13 will sell. We are defining a luxury home as a house priced at or above $500,000. 

There are homes on the Gulf of Mexico, for those who love boating and related water sports. There are homes on Lake Tarpon, with scenic vistas of the lake, boating, great bass fishing and just enjoying the quiet of a large lake. There are golf course homes, in Innisbrook. Innisbrook has 4 golf courses, great restaurants, tennis courts and much more. The Copperhead Course is home to an annual PGA tournament.

So, for those of you who are numbers lovers, keep on reading. If details and numbers bore you, time to check out now, because today we are talking numbers,and specifics.

One interesting item is that in the last 30 days, covering the month of June, there were 5 sales of luxury homes in Palm Harbor. There are now 105 houses on the market at that price range. Of these, 27 are under contract and 78 are actively listed. As you read this, and if you have already clicked on the link above for a search of luxury homes in Palm Harbor, because this is a fluid market, the numbers in the search link reflect real time values, and this paragraph shows a moment in time.

For our purposes, we are going to be talking about numbers based on today, although the search link will show homes for sale in Palm Harbor at the time that you visit the link.

Of the active listings, effective today, there are 78 houses listed for sale. The averages for these houses are 4 bedrooms, and 4 1/2 baths, with just over 4,000 square feet of living space.  The average price per square foot is $249 and the average list price is $959,753.

If you delve a little deeper into these figures, we will find that there are 61 houses for sale, of which 39 are active listings in the $500,000 to $750,000 price range. 22 of the luxury houses for sale are under contract. The good news is that in the last 30 days, 5 houses have sold in the $500,000 to $750,000 range. The average list price for the homes for sale in this price range is $584,000, with an average of 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths. The average price per square foot is $181. The average Days on Market (DOM) is 58. 

Of the homes under contract, the figures are a bit different.  The pending contract price average is about $621,000, an average of 4 bedrooms and 3 baths, and the average price per square foot is $201. These figures are not the final sales figures, so these may change, some significantly. One house in this price range is currently a short sale, and 2 of these homes are bank owned, or foreclosures.

For luxury homes for sale in Palm Harbor priced between $750,000 to $1 million, 

there are 20 homes for sale, of which 4 are under contract. In this price range for luxury homes, none are either a short sale or a foreclosure. Of the 5 sales in this price range, 4 were funded with conventional mortgages and one was a private sale.

As of today, there are 25 homes for sale above $1 million in Palm Harbor. Of these luxury properties, 23 are active listings and 2 are under contract. The two properties under contract are on the Gulf of Mexico waterfront. The average list price for these luxury homes is $1.636 million, with an average of 4 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths and an average price per square foot of $330. The average DOM is162. None of the 25 homes priced above $1,000,000 are distressed sales (short sale or bank owned).

Overall, in the Pinellas County real estate market, there is a 3.4 month inventory and an overall absorption rate of 29.5%. In all of Pinellas County, there were 1567 homes sold, down slightly from April when there were 1768 homes sold. The median and mean sales prices for homes sold in Pinellas County were 96% of list price. And an interesting note, if you happen to be looking at foreclosed property, the mean and median sold price was 100% of the list price. This indicates that banks are not negotiating much on foreclosures.

If you would like to learn more about the Palm Harbor luxury home market, be sure to contact us at Sun Bay Realty Group. We have been in the market for over 18 years.



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Contact Information

Photo of Gwen and  Doug Campbell - The Campbell Team Real Estate
Gwen and Doug Campbell - The Campbell Team
at Keller Williams Realty
30522 US Hwy 19N, Suite 107 S
Palm Harbor FL 34684
Doug's Cell 727-741-4189
Gwen's Cell 727-741-7260
Fax: 888-447-7908