Saturday, March 29, 2014

Richey Rich Orders a Home

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early…unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand… -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I must say I have ever only sold a couple of $1 million plus properties. But I thought it might be amusing to discuss what the very rich look for in a home.

First of all in general, price is no object. When you and I might say, “Don’t bother showing me property I can’t afford.” The average Millionaire/Billionaire is more likely to suggest they want a particular group of must have features.

In Florida, the number one request is a water feature. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, even poor people like water features (ponds, mini-lakes and waterfalls).  But the wealthy can specify the quality of the water-frontage.  Gulf frontage, Bay frontage, or wide water open views will all be appealing. Golf course frontage and views of wide-open land are a distant second, except for the hunters or golf nuts.

Privacy is a big request, but by privacy they don’t necessarily mean there must be a significant distance or buffer between homes. It does mean they do not want to see or hear the neighbors. Privacy can also mean security—and security is an area in which more is better. Cameras, gates, special locks and security management are all important to these buyers.  And privacy can extend into the home as well, where his and her rooms have become more of a requirement—separate closets, bathrooms and even bedrooms, plus his and her offices are not unusual requirements.

Size is also key—unless the home is a well-known (smallish) icon in the area, like, say a Frank Lloyd Wright home--size matters.  Big is good, bigger is probably better. Where the average house in the area may have 1800 feet under air, the mega rich are looking at 10-20,000 feet (that’s a half acre of house).  As a matter of fact I just heard of a mega rich couple that wanted to downsize from 10,000 feet to a home in the 5,000 square foot range.

New construction is fine, so long as it’s all finished and ready to move into.  A large home say 5,000+ square feet could take 2 years to build, and the mega rich are always in a hurry, so there’s no appeal in building from scratch, or rebuilding an existing home and the confusion of living in a construction site and freshly planted landscaping.

The rich often have requests for specialty items in their home. An elevator is a nice feature, and then there are rooms designed for special uses.  You might have a sewing room, but the rich will expect a wine cellar, an art gallery, a writing room, even a gift-wrapping room, a large garage with a half dozen stalls or more, and probably an exercise room. The biggest difference to me is the special purpose rooms that are requirements.

Things that they once looked for—like a home theatre or even a fancy kitchen—have lost their appeal. The home theatre has become less a must have with the advent of large flat screen televisions which can be wall mounted and concealed in the woodwork or a piece of furniture.  And fancy kitchens? If you were mega-rich, why would you need a fancy kitchen as long as your catering kitchen was convenient and efficient?

I once asked a very wealthy client what it’s like to be so well off.
“Look,” he said. “I think all it does is make things easier. I don’t think it changes you that much. The happy guy who later makes tons of money is still happy. But if somebody’s a jerk before he makes it, he’s a jerk when he’s got a billion dollars.”
Dane Hahn is a real estate professional affiliated with Sarasota Realty Associates. He can be reached at 941-681-0312 or by email at See him on the web at



Saturday, March 22, 2014

When do I get my Deed?

Q, We purchased a home in Englewood last April. We paid
the home off a few months ago. Will Sarasota County send
us the deed to our home or do we need to request it?
A. When you bought your house there was a brand new 
original deed created just for you, which after closing was
forwarded by the closing company to the county. In essence
 the county only borrows that deed so they can photograph
it and record it in the county records, then they return the
original to you within (approximately) six weeks or so of
the original purchase. Usually people put the deed away
and most folks forget where. Sometimes it’s someplace safe,
sometimes not, but fortunately the county keeps a copy.
Unlike cars, where the bank holds the title, with a house you 
get to hold the deed. With a car, the lender holds the title until
it is fully paid off, and then after the very last payment, they
will send you the title (this keeps you from selling the car
while you still owe money on it).
Deeds to homes are always the property of and held by 
the homeowner. If you can't find your deed, you can look it
up on line or request a true copy from the county. You
mentioned that once you paid off the mortgage nobody sent
 you your deed.  And nobody will, but since you have paid
off the mortgage, look for or ask the mortgage company for
a formal "release" of the mortgage. It’s a document they must
send to you.
You may find--even years from now--that a credit agency will 
have bad data and think you still owe money on this very mortgage,
and you may need to send a copy of the aforementioned  release
to them to prove the mortgage has been long paid off--so don't
lose it.  On a happier note, getting a release qualifies you to host
a "mortgage burning party" in which you and your closest friends
can celebrate your newly found financial independence.
When you read a copy of your deed, you'll see it has surprisingly 
simple contents. In a nutshell you will see the date, your name as
the buyer and who sold the property to you, and the legal description
of the parcel (which may be as simple as a town, lot and block, or
 can be more complicated).  It will be signed by the seller and
stamped by the county regarding transfer taxes paid and where it
is filed (Book and Page). Since there is only ever one original copy
if it's lost you can ask the county for a copy. Usually for a fee the
county will provide you a copy and certify it as a true and legal
copy. You can also download a copy for free, but while the
downloaded copy looks the same, it does not qualify as a legal copy.
One last suggestion for you and all homeowners, if there has been 
a change in your life that might affect your deed, say a divorce or
a death of one of the owners, or even an event like a new spouse;
take time to make the appropriate changes to your deed. You will
want a lawyer to handle this effort and it will result in a new
original deed, so go back and read from the top of this document.
But when you need the newly corrected document, there is never
enough time to get it done, so review your deed as often as you
review your will or trust.
Dane Hahn is a real estate professional serving clients from 
Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, Florida. He can be reached at or by phone at 941-681-0312. See him

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Need Help, Ask the Secretary

There are two kinds of training that Realtors go through.  One type is classroom work that makes you more familiar with certain issues that Realtors run into—like how septic systems work or just who is it that eats lead paint or maybe simple changes in the law.  The other type is general training to make you better at selling and encourage you to get out and meet the public. At every meeting there is a pundit or training guru talking about working smarter—not harder. And usually they have some high-priced CD’s that they will sell at a discount, “today only.”

Usually these guys start out their “teaching” by telling their group they have been a huge success and yet they started with nothing. They overcame being born without thumbs or growing up in an abusive home or having 10  kids by age 19 or some such problem—and usually a problem that you don’t have—and they became successful just by working smarter not harder.

Realtors usually work harder—not smarter—so this is notion that buying a CD  will solve our time and family issues resonates with us. Out of the 168 hours in a week, we’re guilty of working half of them at least. So when their flyers ask questions like: Don’t remember the last time you took a vacation? Do you regularly put in 80-hour weeks? Are you headed for burnout; an all too common side effect of the ultra busy work life we’ve programmed ourselves to believe is necessary to succeed.

One of these promotional flyers just came across my desk, and here are some of the questions it poses:  Do you really need that meeting or can you just walk over to someone and get to the bottom of an issue?  Do you check your e-mail all day long? Are you trying to do everything yourself? Work at home (if you can) at least one day per week.
All of these ideas sound compelling. And probably they all have good solid basis in fact, but as I used to tell my sales team, “it’s difficult to remember the goal is to drain the swamp when you are up to your waist in alligators…” Which is just another way of saying that life gets in the way of even the best laid plans.

In most real estate offices, we have terrible managers.  We never hire managers, we hire salespeople. The good ones stay, the bad ones quit, and the best ones are made managers—a job they neither trained for nor probably wanted. And I can tell you that from personal experience, most managers don’t make as much money as good salespeople. It used to be that a manager’s perks were a private office, regular hours and health insurance. But given the recent downturn in real estate and the Affordable Care Act, the only perk is the private office, unless the broker is downsizing.

So when you go into a real estate office, look around.  You will see there are workers and there are managers who once were workers, but now drink coffee and walk around. If you want to get a good agent to represent you, forget talking to the manager, just ask the switchboard operator which agent is the most successful, you should get a straight answer, and then you can decide if you need the busiest agent or one who has time to work for you.
Dane Hahn is a real estate professional at Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, FL.  Contact him at or by phone at 941-681-0312. See him on the web at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Measuring the Square Footage of a House

Clients often tell me they have seen discrepancies in the square footage in two ads for the same house. For example, the county land records will say a house has 3,000 square feet, but the sales brochure will say the same house has 3,500 square feet. The difference in measurements can seem confusing at least and maybe even seem misleading.

While I sincerely doubt anyone is purposely trying to mislead the public, it's true that not everyone in the real estate business calculates square footage the same way. Many builders include all finished "walkable" areas when totaling the square feet of a house. Prospective homebuyers want to know the total living area. It’s  important to Builders to show all the square footage they are offering—so the cost per square foot of the homes are competitive relative to other builder’s homes.

Realtors like to see the larger square footage measurements, as this makes the homes offer seem like more house for the dollar.

Buyers believe bigger really is better—until they become homeowners and get their tax bill.  Owners find their taxes are determined by square footage, and that’s when they want to sharpen the pencil to subtract the extra space out of the computation.

The square footage for condominium units is typically not questioned. These numbers are taken from the original approved condominium documents and are generally accurate. But for attached and detached single-family homes, there are different ways to calculate square footage.

Most county (tax) appraisers first measure the exterior of the home to determine the gross enclosed area. For example, a single story home that measures 25 feet by 100 feet contains 2500 square feet. Since they are measuring the exterior, that calculation includes everything under the roof that’s inside, hallways, stairwells, thickness of the walls, closets and garage—and they don’t have to get inside to come up with that gross number.

There will be times when an appraiser wants to see the inside of your house, and it’s worth letting him in—even though some folks refuse, citing a privacy issue.  If you refuse you open the door to him, you risk him being creative, which can be costly. He may imagine you have recently tiled the bathrooms, added hardwood to the family room, and installed a whiz-bang kitchen, meaning your appraisal could well be over the top in size and value. Then you will have to apply for a corrective adjustment or abatement and request he come back—which could take a year or more. Meantime your taxes will be inflated. On the other hand, if you have just done all that work—and especially without the benefit of a permit—maybe you don’t want him to come in a find out.



We have seen buyers who agreed to buy a home after seeing it two or three times, but then backed out of the deal when they learned the square footage was not what they expected. Go figure.

If you subtract out the lanai, garage, porches and ancillary areas from the gross living area under the roof, you will get “gross square feet under air”. This is the number that most Realtors will choose to use as the measurement that will be used in a listing.

You don’t have a basement, right? But a home on stilts that has a lower level used as a garage and laundry or storage room, might be considered a basement. On the other hand, what if you have a two-story house? Usually the 2nd floor is smaller than the first due to roof lines, or possibly a vaulted ceiling in the living or family room, so accurate measuring is important and remeasuring your home and correcting county data could actually save you property tax money.

Calculating the square footage of a home is often more of opinion than exact science. If you're interested in buying a particular house and want to know the size expressed in square feet, my advice would be to make an appointment to visit the home and bring your tape measure, pen, paper and calculator. 

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional affiliated with Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, FL.  You can reach him at or at 941-681-0312. See him on the net at