Treasure Coast Insider

Helping you understand the real estate market, as well as how to best navigate it are our top priority. We'll share tips on every aspect of successful buying, selling, and investing. Learn what's happening on the Treasure Coast. You'll find everything from local real estate market statistics and home values, to community events, restaurants, beaches, golf, and much more. That’s because we care about our communities and want to help you find your place in it. As your Treasure Coast Insider blogger, and local resident for over 30 years, you'll find an abundance of information for all age groups and interests. 

If you want to know where the best local dog-friendly parks are found, or the only-known-to-locals beaches hide, you'll find them here. The best golf courses, marinas, festivals, rodeos, playhouses, senior living activities and dancing are all shared here. If state and local parks interest you, learn what each offers in amenities and uniqueness to our beautiful area. Even restaurant discounts can be found on Treasure Coast Insider.

If you're thinking of selling your home, your first step should be obtaining the current market value of your property. For an instant valuation, complete your address below...

Instant Home Valuation

 

For a free, customized, in-depth, Comparative Market Analysis, call us at 772-530-6131.

Mona Leonard is your Treasure Coast Insider Blogger. 

Sept. 22, 2022

Stuart Area Festivals And Art Shows

Mona Leonard Realtor Reviews the Downtown Stuart Art Festival

Stuart Area Festivals and Art Shows

Stuart area festivals and art shows are in full swing during "season." All along the Treasure Coast, there's something for every attendee. Whether it's jewelry, paintings, wood-working, sculpture or clothing, the beautiful surroundings and weather make for an extraordinary day. Check out these Stuart area festivals and art shows. 

Downtown Stuart Art Festival 

As a personal favorite, the Annual Downtown Stuart Art Festival offers a large variety of art and attracts artists from all over the country. This February event on East Ocean Blvd typically benefits from beautiful temperatures, with lots of sunshine. With Memorial Park and it's lovely grounds as a backdrop, and free admission, it's a great opportunity to see (and perhaps buy) some amazing art and jewelry. This February event has free admission.

Hobe Sound Art Festival 

When I first moved to Martin County at the age of 20, Hobe Sound was my first choice. It's quieter than Stuart or other cities and towns to the north. It's much less traveled than south of Hobe Sound on the Treasure Coast too.

The first home I built was in the Soundings in Hobe Sound. The "wet side" was not yet completely built out, so I was fortunate to buy a canal-front lot on Hawksbill Way. We built the house in 1987. 

Hobe Sound Art Festival is a top quality show and runs a quarter mile near the tracks on A1A. Beautiful Jupiter Island is just east of the famous Banyan trees on Bridge Rd, a stone's throw from the festival. After the festival, enjoy a relaxing day at Hobe Sound Beach, or a drive along the famous coastline. Home to golfers Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, Jupiter Island's secluded drive along A1A is breathtaking. Blowing Rocks Preserve is toward the south end and is a great place for photos or a walk. It's easy to make a day of it with the festival and a drive. This February event has free admission.

Under The Oaks, Vero Beach

Under the Oaks vero Beach

A personal favorite is Under The Oaks in Vero Beach. World-class artists with amazing, high quality pieces among huge live oak trees in Riverside Park on Vero's barrier island (Orchid Island). This March event is a stage set for success. Advance tickets, $10, $15 at the door. Children under ten enter free.

Sunfest Music Festival, West Palm Beach

Sunfest

Held rain or shine, Sunfest Music Festival along the intracoastal waterway in West Palm Beach, draws 150,000+ people annually. This family-friendly four day event has tickets available beginning at $152 for a single day. Previous performers have included Keith Urban, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Tears For Fears to name a few. The schedule is packed with back-to-back performances for hours... and days! 

Sunfest is typically held in late April. Along Flagler, between Banyan Blvd and Lakeview Ave., you'll enjoy food and wine pairing events, floating bars, the battle of the bands, a 5k event, and plenty of shopping. Fireworks are on the agenda too. 

Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival 

Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival

The Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival has become a local tradition with live entertainment, art and scheduled events. Named for the pineapple plantations that covered the landscape 100 years ago, there's fun for everyone. This 30+ year old November event has concerts, arts, crafts, street performers, bands and a midway. A delegation from the island of Eleuthra, Bahamas brings the heart-pounding sounds of Junkanoo to the festival.

Several other Stuart area festivals and art shows take place in this idyllic location including ArtsFest. Located in Memorial Park, this festival boasts culinary delights, beautiful fine art. This well-attended event began in 1988 and has grown each year.  Art in the Park, a November event is another great fine art show. Admission for either is $10.

Okeechobee Events

Okeechobee Speckled Perch Festival and Parade

Okeechobee Speckled Perch Festival

The Speckled Perch Festival and Parade is one of my favorites. If you Southern cooking, this is a fun and delicious way to spend a day. There's lots to see at this March event, including beautiful beading, leatherworks and more. The speckled perch is outstanding, and you better get there early because they've been known to run out.  

This event dates back to 1965 and is in honor of the fishing industry for the livelihoods they provided. It's in Flagler Park and you can almost feel the history. Check it out... easy day trip from anywhere on the Treasure Coast.

Top of the Lake Art Fest

Top of the Lake Art Fest hosts some amazing artisans. The quality of the works will keep you craning into each booth. This juried event has some real talent. Usually, this is a February art festival. 

To learn more about Stuart area festivals and art shows, contact Mona Leonard, your Treasure Coast Insider blogger. She can be reached at 772.53.6131

Sept. 20, 2022

Stuart Area Public Golf Courses

Mona Leonard Reviews Trump National Doral Golf Club

 

Stuart Area Public Golf Courses

These Stuart area public golf courses are pen year round and each have unique qualities, challenges and benefits. No matter what your skill level, you'll enjoy playing golf in the beautiful surroundings of any and all of these Stuart area public golf courses.

Eagle Marsh Golf Course

The first of the 5 Stuart area public golf courses is Eagle Marsh. Considered one of the most challenging courses in the area. Located in beautiful Jensen Beach, and with a signature 18th hole that has two separate greens to choose from, Eagle Marsh is nestled directly next to the breathtaking Savannahs. Enjoy the full-service bar and restaurant after your game. Priced competitively. The rest of the five Stuart area public golf courses I'm reviewing are below. 

Mona Leonard Reviews Eagle Marsh Golf Club

Palm Cove Golf Course

Beginners and seasoned players alike can improve their game at Palm Cove, in the heart of Palm City. The greens are typically reachable in regulation and the narrow fairways discipline even scratch golfers. Palm Cove is affordable with a pleasant staff that’s attentive to your needs.

Heritage Ridge Golf Course

Heritage Ridge in Hobe Sound is our third pick of five Stuart area public golf courses. With a more forgiving course,  wider fairways and fewer obstacles, Heritage Ridge is reasonably priced and favored by many seniors. If you love playing golf year round, enjoy the great summer rates.

Martin Downs Golf Course

Martin Downs Country Club is in beautiful Palm City. Near Florida’s Turnpike entrance on SR 714, this gated community has a forgiving course. The open fairways are relatively obstacle-free for your next time out. Opening at 11 am, the full service restaurant and bar will hit the spot! Good summer rates too.

Champion Turf Club at St. James Golf Course

Champion Turf Club (at St. James) sports a full-service bar, snacks and limited pro shop. With lightning fast greens and open fairways, this north Port St Lucie course has long par 4’s and is considered challenging. Competitively priced. 

Mona Leonard Realtor Reviews Champion at St James

 

As a Treasure Coast Insider (that includes you) feel free to contact Mona Leonard for additional information on these and other Stuart area public golf courses. Mona is always happy to share Treasure Coast Insider information. 772-530-6131

 

Sept. 20, 2022

Stuart FL Area Parks

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Stuart FL Area Parks

There are so many great Stuart FL area parks to choose from all along the Treasure Coast. This shortlist is based on a lifetime of living here and enjoying all that Stuart FL area parks can offer. With each unique property, comes a variety of amenities to enjoy. The abundant wildlife along the Treasure Coast calls many of these parks home. These beautiful Stuart FL area parks include state parks, preserves and wildlife areas. 

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

This personal favorite for a large park comes from years of enjoying the amenities... and the thrilling unexpected encounters. On a hike in the late eighties, in the mangroves in the park, I saw the largest diamondback rattler I've ever seen, before or since. It was as big around as a tin can. On another occasion, I got to watch a little four foot alligator mosey across the park road. He was in no hurry.

Deer, wild hog, racoons, an occasional bobcat and all sorts of birds including Bald Eagles, are within site, if you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Plenty of areas in the park are not visited by the wildlife due to the quantity of humans in those concentrated areas. So, if you're faint of heart, take heart, it's safe if you don't wander too far.

With habitats including sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps, this one's straight out of a 1940's movie of a tropical jungle and plenty of scrub area to view from the observation tower. There's canoes to rent to take down the Loxahatchee River and the park is well known for its Camp Murphy Mountain Bike Trails.

In the 1930's, Trapper Nelson homesteaded on the banks of the Loxahatchee River. He trapped and sold furs and became known as The Wildman of the Loxahatchee. After his death in 1968, the land was acquired by the state and in 1942, the park became a radar training camp during WWII.

Like many Stuart FL area parks, enjoy cabins, fishing, kayaking, horse trails, swimming and camping. With picnic tables and bathrooms, the park is a terrific stop for the day, a nice weekend getaway or to stay as long as you wish. Entry is $6 per vehicle.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park

At the mouth of the St. Lucie Inlet lies one of Martin County's most beautiful places to enjoy riverfront views and nature. The park is accessible by boat and is situated at the northern end of spectacular Jupiter Island, home to the rich and famous. You'd never know it from the park. The lush flora includes hammocks of live oaks, cabbage palms, mangrove forests and even wild lime. 

This Florida state preserve has a pristine beach on the Atlantic Ocean and a boardwalk from the docks to take you there. Summertime brings egg-laden loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles to lay their eggs and await the miracle just a few weeks later. Some environmental groups have expeditions to safely watch this miraculous event occur. 

Stuart Fl Area Parks Baby Turtle

Visitors come to swim, sunbathe, or picnic at the pavilion on the quiet beach. Others make the trip for the great surf fishing. snorkeling and scuba diving. The unmolested park is a favorite for students because of the native fauna and flora typical for a Florida barrier island. 

Hours 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. Fees $3 per boat. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required. For more info, call 772-219-1880

 

St Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

The quiet and seclusion of this scenic area attracts locals and visitors alike. These sloping wetlands offer a peaceful retreat from the world yet it's minutes from Stuart's city center. There's an abundance of sabal palms (our state tree), live oak hammocks, and wild coffee (easy to grow native flora). The 4,886-acre preserve is located between U.S. 1 (Federal Highway) and the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.

The preserve gently slopes toward the St. Lucie River changing from a hydric hammock to wet flatwood and wet prairie

The land changes from hydric hammock to wet flatwoods and wet prairie as it slopes toward the river, away from U.S. Other native flora includes saw palmetto and wax myrtle. The species of birds are numerous and you'll often see Great Blue herons, various egrets, Sandhill cranes, wood storks, red-shouldered hawks and bald eagles.  .

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park has limited access. Contact Jonathan Dickinson State Park at 772-546-2771 for the gate code. The Florida Park Service is working to allow more visitors and programming in the future. Atlantic Ridge Preserve is at the terminus of Southeast Paulson Avenue in Stuart, Martin County.

Hours

8 a.m. until 5 p.m., 365 days a year. Call Jonathan Dickinson State Park at 772-546-2771 for the gate code. Fees $6 per vehicle (2 to 8 people), $4 for single-occupant, $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required.

 

 

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

Parks near Stuart FL include this spectacular half-mile beach. It's great for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing. For every beachgoer, it's the perfect spot to catch some rays, relax, picnic or walk the beach

The Navy Frogmen trained at Dynamite Point during WWII. Now, it's an amazing bird sanctuary and will awe any bird-watcher. The south end of the park is ideal for anglers looking to bring dinner home. With delicious salt water fish in abundance, it's a favorite pastime on the Treasure Coast. 

Jack Island Preserve, just a mile north of the park, has bike and walking trails for hiking for nature study. At the west end of the Marsh Rabbit Run Trail, visitors can climb an observation tower for a bird's-eye-view of the Indian River and the Hutchinson Island. 

8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
$6 per vehicle
772-468-3985

Ft Pierce Inlet State Park Beach

Savannas Preserve State Park 

One of my favorite Stuart Fl area parks is The Savannas as we call it. The park's scenic landscapes represent what the first pioneers would have seen in the area. Prior to growth in the area, this basin marsh extended throughout South Florida.

Pavilions and picnic tables are available near the center and at trail heads throughout the park. Canoeing, kayaking and fishing in the wetlands are popular recreational activities. Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the habitat diversity this undisturbed area affords. 

The park boasts over 15 miles of multi-use trails that provide ample opportunities for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Canoe trips and scheduled guided walks are available by reservation. 


8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days a year.. 
$3 per vehicle. Use the honor box; correct change is required. 
Location2541 S.E .Walton Road Port St. Lucie FL 34952
772-398-277

Savannas Preserve State Park

 

Blowing Rocks Preserve

With over 60,000 annual visitors, this pristine preserve is the most visited site of the Nature Conservancy's 400 preserves here in the United States. The main attraction is the mile-long rock formation separating the sand from the sea. During high tide and a choppy sea, plumes of water shoot 50 feet in the air through the rocks. At low tide, comb the shoreline for shells, fossils and great photos.

Much of Florida was formed on limestone. This preserve is part of the Anastasia Formation of limestone and it's unusual because of the exposure of the formation here. The rock was formed over 2.5 million years ago when Florida's sea levels were much higher. As coral reefs break down over millennia, carbonate rock (limestone) forms. This is the foundation for much of Florida. 

In fact, these limestone formations are made from quartz and carbonate rock called coquina. It's actually shell upon shells compressed together over time. This type of rock is only found on Florida's east coast and Blowing Rocks is one of the few places it's visible for us to enjoy. 

An Ecological Treasure

The preserve extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River with over 250 native plant species including hardwoods, sea oats, gumbo limbo and a mangrove swamp. A 20-year period of removing invasive plants has yielded a flourishing, biodiverse habitat. In addition to wildlife, four sea turtle species come back year after year creating over 600 turtle clutches with an average of 100 eggs per clutch. Fact: Female turtles visit the shore several times a season to lay more eggs.

Adult and baby turtles can get trapped in the craggy rock formations during the season. The Nature Conservancy manages the Florida Sea Turtle Rescue Program and every morning during nesting season, volunteers and staff search for turtles trapped in the rock formations to release them into the ocean. 

Blowing Rocks Preserve

Avalon State Park

Avalon has more than a mile of increasingly rare undeveloped beachfront. Dune crossovers protect the fragile ecosystem and the park is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers, fishermen and sunbathers. Swimmers and snorkelers are advised to be cautious of underwater obstacles left behind by amphibious warfare exercises during World War II. Visitors can enjoy a meal at sheltered picnic tables overlooking the beach. Launch a canoe of kayak No lifeguards on duty. 

Fishing here proves abundant with Snook, Red/Black Drum, Bluefish, Pompano and Whiting. Fishing license may be required. All fishing within the park must conform to regulations concerning size, number, method of capture and season. 

This Stuart FL area park offers four medium-sized pavilions with barbecue grills located off the main parking area. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Electric and water are not available. Two public showers are located in front of the restroom to rinse off at the end of the day and hop in your car.

Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity, weather permitting. Snorkelers can enjoy the beautiful sea life and most of the time, the water is as crystal clear as the Bahamas. There are no lifeguards on duty, so be careful, especially around the concrete and steel structures created for WWII training purposes. 

8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.

2.00 per vehicle. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required.

Limit 8 people per vehicle.

(772) 468-3985

Avalon State Park Beach

  

DuPuis Wildlife and Environmental Area

John G. and Susan H. DuPuis, Jr. Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) consists of nearly 22,000 acres in Palm Beach and Martin counties and adjoins the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area to the east. Originally, the White Belt Ranch, a working livestock ranch, the area was once part of the Everglades ecosystem. Drainage changed the hydrology of the area and the South Florida Water Management District has restored portions by rehydrating the interior wetlands. 

With a Cyprus swamp, pinelands and a freshwater marsh, there's something for every explorer. Only hunting is permitted during the season to quota hunt permit holders and through-hikers on the Ocean to Lake Trail. an official side trail of the Florida Scenic Trail. Turkey, hog and deer are plentiful. There are 35 miles of hiking trails and parking for hikers is at Gate 2.

An equestrian center at Gate 3 has horse barns, paddocks, campsites, restrooms with showers, a dump station, and a trailhead marking the beginning of 40 miles of equestrian trails. Children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet when horseback riding on public lands. All horseback riders must have proof of current negative Coggins Test results for their horses when on state lands.

Designated campgrounds as well as primitive campsites are available along the Ocean to Lake Trail. River otters, feral hogs, coyotes, bald eagles, alligators and white-tailed deer call this expansive preserve home.

Anyone camping on DuPuis (except hunters during the quota permit hunts) must obtain a Special Use License from the SFWMD in advance. Dogs must be leashed in this Stuart Fl area park.

Dupuis Wildlife and Environmental Area

 

John D MacArthur Beach State Park

Nestled on an Atlantic Ocean barrier island, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is the only state park in Palm Beach County.  It is an environmental treasure which has been preserved for present and future generations to experience.

With 1.6 miles of pristine beach, swimming, snorkeling, and much more to discover, the possibilities of exploration and fun are endless! Visit the Nature Center and the Beach Outfitters Gift Shop.  Discover the amazing plants and animals in the estuary by standup paddle board or kayak. Hiking trails and picnic pavilions are available. 

Take advantage of the many offerings throughout the year: daily nature walk, recreational skills lessons, MacArthur Under Moonlight concerts, school programs, summer camp, and much more. Open daily.

John D MacArthur State Park

For more information about Stuart FL area parks, contact Treasure Coast Insider Blogger Mona Leonard at 772-530-6131

Sept. 20, 2022

How Is A Credit Score Determined?

Credit Score

 

HOW IS A CREDIT SCORE DETERMINED?

Almost anyone knows how important it is to have a good credit score. A good credit score helps borrowers  get access to loans and more favorable interest rates when borrowing money. A good credit score is the beginning of financial health today.

But do you know how a credit score is determined? Understanding what’s used to determine the score is half the battle towards achieving a higher credit score. Here are some of the top factors:

ON-TIME PAYMENT PERCENTAGE

Good creditworthiness means paying bills on time. This is the percentage of payments made on time for the duration of the credit history. It plays a big role in determining creditworthiness. Just a couple of late payments could significantly impact the score… for the worse. The best way to avoid late payments is to set up automatic bill paying. Another helpful way is to place a reminder on the calendar.  

CREDIT CARD AUTHORIZATION

The percent of the total credit card balances divided by the total credit card limits provides creditors with the total available credit used. The lower the credit card utilization, the higher the credit score.

TOTAL ACCOUNTS

More is better… To a point. Consumers that have more “lines of credit” can have higher scores because it shows lenders are willing to give credit. It’s best to have a good mix of different types of credit for good credit health. The caveat… Only apply for credit you need.

 

Credit Cards

HARD INQUIRIES

When applying for a mortgage or auto loan, a “hard” credit inquiry is initiated on the credit report. One inquiry has little impact on a credit score. Multiple inquiries begin to erode the score and can have a bigger impact. A “soft” inquiry occurs when you check the rate to see what you qualify for. If uncertain, check with the potential creditor or lender before applying to see if they’ll be doing a hard or soft pull on your credit.

AVERAGE AGE OF OPEN CREDIT LINES

The longer the line of credit, the stronger the credit rating. Keep older cards open and active. Start applying for credit early in life.

DEROGATORY MARKS

Negative terms on a credit report include collections, tax liens or bankruptcy. Derogatory remarks can remain on your credit report for 7-10 years. It shows a lender mismanagement of credit may have occurred. Start rebuilding healthy credit again. It will improve the credit rating and gradually weigh in your favor.

 

For more information, contact Treasure Coast Insider Blogger, Mona Leonard at 772-530-6131 or mona@stuarthousesforsale.com

Sept. 6, 2022

Home Safety Tips

Home Safety Tips

Home Safety Tips

These home safety tips can make a big difference. Sometimes it's the little things that matter, especially when it comes to safety. With many Americans spending more time at home, these home safety tips may save a life. At minimum, they'll save you time and money. 

Kitchen - Increase the life of your dishwasher by cleaning its filter. Make sure the smoke detector works and change batteries when needed. Check for leaks under the sink. These are more common than you think. Replace old pipes or tubing when needed, 

Bathroom - Manually check for leaks or add a smart sensor to monitor them in real time. Receive alerts on a smart phone app. If anyone in the home is elderly or disabled, grab bars in the bath are a must. 

Bedroom/Home Office - With more time being spent in home offices, consider replacing hot, energy-sucking bulbs with LED. Did you know they use 80% less energy? Plus, they're much cooler than incandescent bulbs, saving you on monthly cooling costs.

Laundry Room - Free your laundry sink of any clogging. Inspect the washer and dryer for cracked or brittle hoses and be sure to clean the dryer vent and keep the filter free of lint. If you have very small children, placing cleaning supplies overhead keeps them safe from harm. 

Yard/Exterior - Drainage away from your home prevents all sorts of issues. Clear and repair any drains removing water from your home. Flush them out with a hose. Keep the gutters clean and properly draining. Make sure the yard is free of poisonous plants like poison oak and poison ivy. Remove any dangerous debris, broken equipment, dilapidated sheds and other unsafe items. Ben Franklin said "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

A/C - Change or clean A/C filters once a month during the summer. Routine maintenance for A/C units is a must. Without proper care, an A/C can cause water damage and destroy walls, floors and ceilings. Maintain pans and drains to prevent water damage and expensive repairs. Water damage also invites mold and in Florida, this can be difficult to eradicate without proper maintenance and remediation. Proper maintenance also increases the life expectancy of these expensive necessities. 

Home Safety Tips Air Conditioning

Windows - Maintaining windows can extend their life for many years. Neglect them and this expensive necessity can mean thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Keeping windows caulked and repaired also increases energy efficiency saving you money. 

Pool - Keep the filter clean, and chemicals and salt at proper levels. Brush the surface of the pool to loosen algae and debris. Keep the deck area clean and algae/mold free to prevent falls. Algae is slippery!

For more home safety tips, call Mona Leonard, Treasure Coast Insider Blogger at 772-530-6131 Mona@StuartHousesForSale.com

 

Posted in Selling Tips
Sept. 6, 2022

6 Ways Homebuyers Prepare Financially

Home Loans Mona Leonard

 

6 Ways Homebuyers Prepare Financially

Many homebuyers are financially unprepared to purchase a home. According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, about half of respondents report being “least prepared” to buy a home. It's a clear sign that education is needed, especially for first-time home buyers.

Here's how to prepare finances well in advance of searching for a home. 

1.    Make a Financial Plan – Knowing where to start means conducting a complete review of how your household budget is managed. Comparing income and expenses, reviewing debt, and tracking savings are just a few of the ways to measure readiness for homeownership.

2.    Review Your Credit Report and Score – A mortgage is typically the largest debt a person is likely to carry in their lifetime. Credit history plays a huge part in obtaining a loan, as well as getting a satisfactory interest rate from a lender. A credit report may be obtained without a score for free once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Review the credit report for discrepancies and dispute any differences. This should be done at least six months in advance of applying for a loan, allowing time for inaccuracies to be corrected.

Along with the free credit report, a score can be purchased for a small fee. This score is critical to mortgage approval and for a competitive interest rate. It's worth taking a look at the score before submitting an application for a loan. Lender guidelines vary, but a FICO score of 760 is typically the threshold for the most favorable interest rates. 

3.    Start Saving – A down payment is typically no less than 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, especially to avoid having to pat private mortgage insurance. Any down payment (with a mortgage) of less than 20% down will require private mortgage insurance (PMI). This alone can disqualify many borrowers. If 20% or more will be paid by the borrower at closing, it will also increase the chance of having more favorable mortgage terms.

4.    Decide the Type of Loan – After you’ve selected a lender, decide whether to take on a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan. For those planning to remain in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage helps add stability by keeping the payment the same for the life of the loan. Those expecting to stay in the home no longer than five to seven years may be better off getting an adjustable rate loan, where typically, they could benefit from lower rates in the short term.

5.    Get Pre-Approved for a Loan – Applying for a mortgage typically involves a cost and is done by supplying detailed financial documentation to the lender. The lender will use this information in conjunction with information obtained by pulling a credit report to determine the amount and terms available to the borrower. This is not a final approval for a loan but is a significant step toward that outcome.

6.    Lock In the Rate – If you like the interest rate being offered when pre-approved, lock it in by getting the commitment in writing. It can take time to find a home, negotiate a price and secure funding. Locking a rate for a reasonable period helps make room to complete the process without risking a less favorable interest rate.

 

For more information, contact Treasure Coast Insider Blogger, Mona Leonard at 772-530-6131 or mona@stuarthousesforsale.com

 

Posted in Buying Tools
Sept. 6, 2022

How the Treasure Coast Got Its Name

 

Treasure Coast Shipwrecks

 

How The Treasure Coast Got Its Name

These are Treasure Ships that sunk off our beautiful coastline. 

From Riviera Beach to north of Sebastian, the Treasure Coast is aptly named. 

Do you remember when Mel Fischer found the Atocha near the Keys? The Atocha was actually built in Havana, Cuba bound for Spain laden with precious cargo...

Columbian emeralds, gold, silver and coins. 

Of 28 ships, eight were lost. The Atocha was one of them. 

Spain sent convoys to search the area... can you imagine in 1622 trying to find sunken ships? No GPS and the maps, well, I'm not good at using a sextant!

Fisher spent 16 years looking for the vessel before discovering it's burial place just 86 miles from Cuba in 1985.

Mel passed away in 1998. His Treasure Museum is located at 1322 U.S. Highway 1, Sebastian, Florida.

It houses exhibits on archaeology and the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet. Taffi Fisher, Mel Fisher’s daughter, opened the museum in December 1992 in an old abandoned fire station after renovating the building.

The artifacts are amazing. Feeling like a time capsule guest, it propels the mind back to a different time in history. 

That's why our area is called the Treasure Coast. The Treasure Coast is a massive graveyard of sunken treasure ships from centuries ago. 

 

Mona Leonard - Treasure Coast Insider Blogger 772-530-6131

Sept. 6, 2022

Prepping For A Virtual Showing

Prepping For A Virtual Tour

Prepping For A Virtual Showing

Prepping for a virtual showing takes a few minutes and can mean a higher selling price for you. The Post-Covid-19 real estate market is a mix of in-person and virtual showings. With people moving here from other states, it's often difficult for those buyers to physically look at houses here. The solution is a virtual showing scheduled by the buyer's Realtor. If you're selling, here are some tips on prepping for a virtual tour.

1. Make sure your front entrance is clean, tidy and eye-catching. This is the very first impression buyers will have. Pressure wash the driveway, walls and walkways, if it's needed. In the Florida humidity, this is a must. Be sure your windows are clean inside and out. This alone can increase your sale price by 10%. Well worth the effort. Touch up the paint where needed.

2. Clutter can prevent a buyer from actually viewing the property as a potential purchase. Some people are unable to see beyond clutter so remove it. Emphasize the great features in the house, not piles of paperwork, knickknacks or toys. Having a spotless house will allow buyers to view it as their own. 

3. To help buyers view the home as theirs (a prerequisite to making an offer), remove your favorite family photos, and memorabilia. It's difficult for buyers to picture living in the house if they see you everywhere. 

4. Make the atmosphere light and bright by turning on lights and opening doors. By doing this, the Realtor can video or livestream the showing without touching many surfaces. It also makes a much better virtual showing because the agent can slowly move through the rooms without video interruptions looking for light switches and unlocking doors.

5. Let the sunshine in! Open blinds, draperies, awnings and shades. Letting as much light into the house as possible gives the camera the ability to focus on all the beautiful details of each room. Let it shine!

6. Remove all signs of your pet. In the same way that you depersonalize the house, remove pet bowls, beds and toys. Not all people are pet people. You want to appeal to the largest audience possible.

7. Keep your yard mowed and your trees and bushes trimmed. 

8. If a buyer's Realtor is going to show the house virtually, tell them any unique details and personal stories they can relay that information to the buyer in the video or livestream. 

9. Safety and flow are important so plan a clear route around your home for the video. Show off each room and make sure the route is clear of any trip hazards.

Here's an example of a recent video I took for a client in New York. Real estate isn't just about the house, condo or town house. It's about the neighborhood and what makes it a great place to live. By sharing the neighborhood and other amenities, buyers get a complete feel and understanding for the area. We made three videos in this case, one of the house, one of the neighborhood and one of the day dock the community enjoys. By taking three separate videos, our customers were able to see the entire area and amenities and make a decision. Virtual showings are uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, and other social media venues so it's easy for potential buyers to see your property.

Prepping for a virtual showing may take a little time and are worth the effort when selling. Get the best possible value for your property by prepping for virtual showings. For more information, contact Treasure Coast Insider Blogger, Mona Leonard at 772-530-6131  mona@stuarthousesforsale.com

 

Posted in Selling Tips
Sept. 6, 2022

Stuart FL Area Schools

Jensen Beach High School Stuart FL Area Schools

Stuart FL Area Schools

For the 2021 school year, Stuart Fl area schools include 38 public schools serving 18,971 students in Martin County, FL. Martin County has one of the highest concentrations of top ranked public schools in Florida. Stuart Fl area schools  proudly hold a high rating academically.

Martin County’s rich tradition of academic excellence continues, as the Martin County School District has been named an Academically High-Performing School District by the Florida Department of Education for the third consecutive year. The District is one of just 16 school districts - and the only district on the Treasure Coast - to earn the prestigious award.

The top ranked public schools in Martin County, FL are Bessey Creek Elementary, Clark Advanced Learning Center, Hidden Oaks Middle School and Palm City Elementary School. Overall testing rank is based on a school's combined math and reading proficiency test score ranking.

Martin County, FL schools have an average math proficiency score of 66% (versus the Florida public school average of 59%), and reading proficiency score of 58% (versus the 56% statewide average). Schools in Martin County have an average ranking of 8/10, which is in the top 20% of Florida public schools.

With A ratings, Stuart FL area schools are some of the best on the Treasure Coast. There are great private and public schools to choose from. For several years, overall, the Martin County School District has proudly held , in 2018-2019, it was ranked 12th of 67 counties, according to a school district news release. Eleven of the 21 public schools are A-rated as of school year ending 2019. 

For many years, the Martin County School District has had a reputation of being in the top 10 school districts in the state.  In fact, in most categories, the district ranks among the top 7 districts in the state in all categories. Here's a breakdown of the educational rankings of Stuart FL area schools. Here are the Martin County School ratings. 

Bessey Creek Elementary 

Top 5%  #1 in math and reading for the district. With a student/teacher ratio of 14, attention and detail makes this school a top pick. 

Clark Advanced Learning Center 

Top 10%

Hidden Oaks Middle School

Top 10% 

Citrus Grove Elementary

Top 20%

Seawind Elementary

Top 30%

Jensen Beach High School

Top 30%

Stuart Middle School 

Top 30%

Crystal Lake Elementary

Top 30%

Felix A. Williams Elementary

Top 30%

Jensen Beach Elementary

Top 30%

Seawind Elementary

Top 50%

Martin County High School

Top 50%

Murray Middle School 

Top 50%

Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School 

Top 50%

Southfork High School

Top 50%

 

Private Schools 

In the 2021 school year, there are 10 private schools operating in Martin County. 80% of private schools are religiously affiliated. Community Christian Academy, Hobe Sound Christian Academy, and Redeemer Lutheran School are among the state's top 20% of private schools. 

Other private schools include First Baptist Christian School, The Pine School, St. Joseph Catholic School, Bridges Montessori and St. Michael's Independent School. 

Schools in the Stuart FL area have excellent reputations and the curriculum keeps them ranked highly among all Florida schools. For more information on Stuart FL area schools, contact the Treasure Coast Insider Blogger Mona Leonard at 772-530-6131 or email her at mona@stuarthousesforsale.com. 

 

 

Sept. 3, 2022

Downsizing Considerations For Seniors

 

Downsizing Considerations for Seniors

Downsizing Considerations For Seniors

Downsizing considerations for seniors can seem daunting. The lifestyle adjustments may seem uncertain and difficult. It’s also a chance to establish a healthy living environment to cope with changes life sends. Whether that comes from financial, emotional, or physical concerns, downsizing considerations for seniors means change. Enjoy the full quality of life in your golden years.  

Ensure A Safe Landing

Chances are you’re aware of the gradual changes that go hand-in-hand with growing older. Sometimes that can mean needing assistance with some daily basics, and if you should reach a point you could use a bit of help each day, assisted living can be a dream come true.

Seniors who require help with things like bathing, dressing, and getting in and out of bed can benefit from having help close at hand. At the same time, it’s a lifestyle-oriented toward freedom and self-sufficiency - you don’t have restrictions, just help when you need it.

There is a wide range of amenities assisted living communities offer. You can enjoy everything from laundry and transportation services to group activities and exercise rooms to gourmet meals to on-site beauticians.

Along with this array of options comes a broad price range, with facilities in Stuart typically costing $1500 to $8495 per month. These include memory care, assisted living, and nursing homes. independent living, and residential home care. Those prices don’t necessarily reflect quality, and since there is so much variety, your best bet is to visit communities in person. 

Smaller Home = Living Large

There are many important financial benefits seniors can gain from downsizing. For one thing, it’s a chance to release the equity in your home and apply it to your life. If you have unused space, you’re no longer tied to it - you don’t need to heat, cool, or maintain it, so it lowers your utility bills, upkeep, and taxes.  

You can move to a home that is closer to places and people that improve your overall quality of life, such as transportation services, health care facilities, and grandchildren. On top of all that, if you pay for services like lawn care or handyman help, with less property, you can cut those costs as well. If you’re tending to those things yourself, it allows you to free time and energy for other things, such as hobbies, friends and family members.  

Choosing a New Home

If you elect to find a smaller house, there are a handful of things to look for that help make aging in place go more smoothly. When it comes to the basic structure, stairs can be challenging as you age, so a one-story home is desirable. There are also several features to consider which could either be found in existing homes or easily added.

Flooring that's easy to care for is a perk, as well as wider-than-average doors and hallwaysWhen it comes to renovations, if you need to make one room your top priority, it should be the bathroomAdding grab bars, a taller toilet, and bath seating can go a long way toward helping you stay safe.  

Allow Ample Time

Moving is a funny thing. It seems like it always takes far longer to pack, make all your arrangements, and then actually manage the move, than anyone ever expects. Bearing that in mind, start planning your move well in advance. If you have a lot of belongings and have lived in your home for a long while, start de-cluttering early on.  

Cutting down on belongings can be especially difficult, as it involves sorting through emotions attached to things and deciding what is necessary for your next phase in life. Try enlisting a friend or two to provide impartial input, and pack as you go. To help you with boxing things up, use this handy packing checklist.

Downsizing considerations for seniors can bring many wonderful perks, but there are some challenges involved. Sort your options carefully and give yourself ample time for the process. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a better quality of life in your golden years.

For more downsizing considerations for seniors, contact Mona Leonard, your Treasure Coast Insider blogger.

Posted in Selling Tips