Chinese New Year 2016

Monkey is the 9th animal in 12 zodiac signs and the first of the Metal Cycle. The Chinese have Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth) that are incorporated into the lunar calendar. The Official Celebration lasts for 7 Days (February 7–13, 2016) and is a public holiday for Chinese. Cities throughout the world with large Chinese populations, like New York City, close schools for the first day.

Red is for good fortune so you will find red cutouts in windows, red lanterns hanging in doorways & in the streets, people wearing red clothes and red envelopes of money given. Traditionally, the year of the monkey is a good year to deal with finances.

It is important not only what foods are eaten this week but also how they are prepared, served & eaten. The most common Chinese New Year foods includes dumplings, fish, niangao (rice cakes) and spring rolls. In Chinese, the word “fish” sounds like ‘surplus’ and it is extremely important to have a surplus at the beginning & end of the year to ensure more surpluses.

The fruits eaten include tangerines and oranges because they are round and “golden” in color, which symbolizes fullness and wealth. Many countries eat rounded foods to symbolize coins or wealth during their New Year’s celebrations as well. It goes back to ancient times.

It’s about family. Unlike most countries New Year celebration, the Chinese New Year is not a time for parties & getting drunk. On Chinese New Year’s Eve after the parade, the streets are usually very quiet because families get together for “reunion dinners” with members who’ve returned from other areas. The day before is considered the largest travel day-like combining Thanksgiving & Christmas travel days in the USA. In mainland China officials expect 2.91 billion trips to be taken.

Supposedly, people born in the Year of the Monkey are intelligent, witty, curious and playful. The years 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004 were also assigned as the Year of the Monkey. I have a few of these in my life. How about you?

So  “May you always have more than you need!”      年年有余 (Niánnián yǒu yú /nyen-nyen yo yoo/)

Lots of luck for this Monkey year.    猴年大吉 (Hóunián dàjí)

and Happy New Year!!   新年好 (Xīnnián hǎo)

50 years up

Are you ready for some football?!?!!  It’s hard to believe that Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California is starting soon. I used to live 15 miles from where Levi Stadium now stands.  Football, Super Bowl commercials, halftime show, food, friends!! I’m ready! How about you?


I heard on the news today that one of my favorite food stores Trader Joe’s has a positive effect on housing prices. It seems that homes that are located within 1 mile of Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods are worth twice as much as the national median. In a study of home prices between 1997 and 2014, it states that within 2 years of Trader Joe’s stores opening in an area, the homes are worth 10% more than similar homes in areas without Trader Joe’s. Interesting, eh?

All I know is that I am 100% happier within 2 days of a Trader Joe’s opening near me. I lived in California for 20 years and I happily shopped there every week. When I moved back to Annapolis, Maryland no Trader Joe’s were to be found. Within a couple of years, it arrived. Now I live in St Petersburg, Florida and after 8 years of living here, Trader Joe’s opened a store within 5 minutes from my house and office. Hooray!! You see, good things happen to those who wait. Thanks Trader Joe’s! And no, I am not getting any money from them-yet-hint, hint.

TAMPA, Fla. – Jan. 19, 2016 – The Tampa metro area continues to be a desirable destination for international homebuyers.

Realtors cite a variety of reasons for the area’s popularity – the growth of direct international flights to Tampa International Airport, higher prices in South Florida sending people further north and stepped up marketing campaigns overseas by real estate companies.

Last year, international real estate purchases increased between 14 to 20 percent in Hillsborough County, according to Carlos Fuentes of Namaste Realty.

Despite an overall drop in real estate sales to international buyers in Florida last year, the state has long been a desirable market for foreign investors looking to purchase homes. With its desirable climate, the state accounts for 25 percent of all international real estate purchases in the United States. Half of those purchases have historically been in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region.

But Realtors say that could be changing in the Tampa metro area’s favor with the new direct international flights, better pricing on both lots and existing homes here, a secure environment in which to invest, proximity to beaches, professional sports, a new outlet mall and plans for a more vibrant downtown Tampa with more residential units.

“We have construction up in all sectors of real estate,” said Fuentes, past president of the regional Multiple Listing Service. “And the quality of life here versus South Florida is huge.”

Smith & Associates, this area’s leading luxury real estate broker, has been focusing on a marketing strategy for about four years to draw in more international buyers.

“We’ve been developing strategies, thinking about those direct flights and how to put our properties in front of these folks and build a presence,” said Bob Glaser, president and CEO of Smith & Associates, which did $1 billion in sales last year. People are a lot more likely to purchase in an area they can fly to directly, he said, and the recent addition of direct flights such as those from Frankfort, Germany could be game changers.

International buyers account for 12 percent of all sales in the state, according to the Profile of International Buyers in Florida 2015, published by Florida Realtors.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area was listed among the major destinations in Florida for international buyers, according to the Florida Realtors report. International sales in the Tampa metro area rose 6 percent during a 12-month period ending June 2015, the report shows. That figure was less than the 11 percent in 2014, which followed a similar drop in other metro areas across the state last year.

In 2014, the Tampa metro area was tied with Orlando for the highest percentage of foreign buyers in the state.

Top international buyers in the Tampa metro area in 2015 came from: Canada (31 percent), United Kingdom (19 percent) and Sweden (12 percent), according to the Realtors report.

Last year, international sales in Florida totaled 44,000 properties, or 12 percent of the state’s residential market, compared to 15 percent in 2014. Nationally, international sales accounted for just 4 percent of sales, according to the report that conducted a Realtor survey between July and August.

And when foreigners buy here, they buy more expensive real estate than Floridians. Many pay cash. The volume of international sales totaled $23.7 billion, or 24 percent of Florida’s residential dollar volume of sales (19 percent a year ago), compared to 8 percent nationally.

It’s a market worth growing, Glaser said.

The Realtors report listed the Miami metro area with 36 percent of international buyers in 2015; Fort Lauderdale got 14 percent last year and the Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach MSA getting 8 percent. The Northport-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA accounted for 7 percent of sales to foreign buyers in 2015.

The number of Realtors handling international sales went up from 52 percent in 2014 to 69 percent in 2015, Florida Realtors reports. Of those who worked with international clients 78 percent of them reported closing at least one sale with those clients. That is up slightly from the previous year.

Smith & Associates now works with Luxury Portfolio International to market its properties worldwide and has a working agreement with Mayfair International Realty, which acts as its London office, and links with the Financial Times to market properties in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Jacqueline Hutchinson, a Realtor with Smith & Associates, sold three homes to French investors last year. They found out about homes here through a website called French District, then contacted Hutchinson, a native of France.

“Florida is very popular with the French,” Hutchinson said. “Before, they always went to Miami, but because of the direct flights, they come here and they like it.” They like the Gulf of Mexico and they like the prices, she said.

And until recently, people from the United Kingdom and Germany targeted Sarasota and Fort Myers, Fuentes said. “Now, the prices have gone up down there and there are limits in land mass. You are seeing movement of Germans and British here. Prices are a big draw.”

Copa Airlines, which now offers direct flights from Panama City, brings in Latin American investors who previously flew directly to Miami. “Those flights, that is huge,” Fuentes said. “In addition, just in December Lufthansa added the direct flights from Frankfort, a hub for Asians who want to come to the United States.”

Glaser said a number of his Latin American clients come here because they consider it a safe place to invest their money and a safe place for their families, who in some cases are living behind barbed wire fences in their home countries.

The majority of Latin American buyers come from Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina.

Part of the difficulty in bringing in foreign buyers is that they are not all familiar with Tampa, Glaser said. There’s a learning curve about where it is in relation to Miami and Orlando and what this area has to offer, from condos and suburban homes to restaurants, museums and culture.

“Walkability is big with Europeans,” said Jane Gowarty, vice president of business development and relocation for Smith & Associates. “They want to be able to walk to the grocery, the museum, to look at the water. If you can get them to Tampa Bay and give them a tour, safety is a huge factor and the pricing here is right.”

Copyright © 2016 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.), Yvette C. Hammett. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The 91ST EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME will be held this Saturday, January 23 at 4 p.m. at

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida. The gates open at 2pm.

For full event details, visit

General Admission tickets are $15 each but not required for kids under age 2.

The game was first created by the Shriners in 1925 at San Francisco’s Ewing Field. The East-West Shrine Game was the country’s first college all-star football game. From that very first game, held the day after Christmas, they raised $25,000. The game supports Shriners Hospitals for Children with its mission to help children in need of expert medical care. More than 1 million children have benefited from the Shriners Hospitals which provide them and their families with hope and healing, regardless of the families’ ability to pay for services. In 1935 future President Gerald Ford played in the game. In 2012 the game was moved to Tropicana Field in St Petersburg.

Another benefit is that usually over 300 NFL scouts and agents attend the practices throughout the week as well as the game on Saturday. On average, more than 265 East-West Shrine Game alumni are on NFL teams each season. About 90 players from last year’s game signed with professional teams and more than 70 of them made the final NFL rosters.


sailboats & sunset

Imagine relaxing on your own balcony watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico  while the boats cruise past. Welcome home to your own private paradise on Tierra Verde, in St Petersburg, Florida. Enjoy beautiful views of the Intracoastal waterway from the front balcony or the Gulf of Mexico from the back balcony of your corner penthouse.

view of the Gulf of Mexico from your balconyThe semi-private elevator opens up into your own private foyer.  This meticulously maintained 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo has an additional bonus space that could be use as a den or office.







Flooded with light from windows on two sides and the open floor plan, the living room is great for entertaining.

kitchen1   kitchen



The spacious kitchen has a breakfast bar with views of the Gulf of Mexico.



In the formal dining room, there is enough space for a corner cabinet.

dining room 2

The master bedroom has superb water views of the Gulf of Mexico and a door that opens up to the balcony plus a walk-in closet. The master bath has a large skylight.

master bedroom


master bath with skylight vertical



community pool 1

The current owner has replaced all of the windows and sliding glass doors with impact glass. The newer A/C unit has a UV light for cleaner coils which improves the cooling efficiency and therefore reduces the electrical costs. Another special feature is the reverse osmosis water system.

3rd bedroom

3rd bedroom


front of buildingFishing pier & boat docks






See what’s happening in St Petersburg, Florida’s Old Northeast neighborhood and downtown St Pete by checking out the latest issues of the St. Petersburg’s Northeast Journal . There are articles on local events, people, history, real estate, the arts, restaurants and much more. The journal is bi-monthly and has been published since 2004.


January 2016-Here’s an upcoming issue for homeowners in Florida.

When you’re selling or refinancing your home, if you’re part of a condo association or a homeowners’ association, you need to provide the buyer or lender with something called an “estoppel certificate”. That is a statement of your financial status with the association: Are you current on your association dues? Are there any liens on your home? Since buyers and lenders don’t want to be surprised, providing them with an estoppel certificate is reasonable and a good business practice.

Florida law does allow condo and homeowner associations to charge a “reasonable” fee to prepare one of these estoppel certificates. The issue is what exactly is “reasonable”.

Condo and homeowner associations are required by law to maintain current records of any assessments or liens on the properties they oversee. So the work required to put together an estoppel certificate is fairly minimal. Many associations charge a reasonable fee – $50 or $100 – to provide the certificate. Others, however, have turned this into a revenue stream, charging over $1,000 in some cases to provide a simple piece of paper.

Well, during the 2015 session, Rep. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven) have introduced bills to cap the amount charged by condo and homeowner associations. They’re looking to reintroduce that bill in the 2016 session. The pertinent facts are:

  • $200 cap on fees for any homeowner who is not delinquent on paying association dues and fees;
  • Up to an additional $200 if the homeowner is delinquent; and
  • Up to $100 for an expedited certificate.

Plus, the bill would require associations to provide the estoppel certificate within 10 days, and have the certificate be valid for 30 days.

On the one hand, this seems like a no-brainer to ensure that consumers aren’t being overcharged. $1,000 just to prepare a piece of paper, with information the association already has, does seem like a stretch. On the other hand, there are people who wonder if this isn’t just another example of government intervention and regulation into private businesses. And of course, there are people who think that the bill doesn’t go far enough: even $200 cap seems too high for them.

If you’re a homeowner who belongs to a condo or homeowner association, I’d love to get your take on this. You can email me at or call me at 727-804-6566.

Ever wanted to own a home in the prestigious area of Lincoln Heights by Wichita Developer Walter Morris? Here’s that rare opportunity to do so!  From the moment you step onto the paved walkway, you realize that this 5 bedroom, 4 ½ bath, 2 ½ story traditional brick house with its authentic mahogany woodwork, trim, and crown molding is something special. There is a covered entry with an arched doorway and a solid mahogany door accented with arched leaded glass window. A wide foyer and hardwood floors welcome you in where you see the original staircase, a hallway with three large closets, and a ½ bath with a pedestal sink, a custom tile scene, custom-made brass fixtures
from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The formal dining room has hardwood floors and ornate chandelier.
Do I have your interest yet?
512016-12[2]Beyond the formal dining room,  you enter the remodeled kitchen with its solid granite countertops, maple cabinets and large island counter. To complete the kitchen there are stainless appliances, a large ceiling fan and space for a table beside a bay window with slate stone tile across from the original butler’s pantry.
The formal living room (25 x 15) has high ceilings, several windows offering natural light and mahogany fireplace. The custom made French doors lead to an atrium addition, with 3 arched stained glass windows and exposed beams, a stone waterfall encompassing a wine cabinet, and a spiral staircase which leads up to the master bedroom. The atrium has a grand bay transom window, floor-to-ceiling shelves and antique
library ladder and track, brick flooring and independent climate-control.
On main floor, adjacent room currently being used as office, could be used as additional bedroom.
The second floor has the carpeted master bedroom featuring a fireplace and walk-in-closets. The master bath showcases Mexican natural tumbled stone with a private toilet, standing shower, Jetta spa
tub with granite surround, and marble-topped pedestal sink. There are also 2 carpeted bedrooms with walk-in closets and a full bathroom. A large hallway closet is great for storage. Just above the second floor is a spare room and another bedroom with white laminated wood floors, full bath, closets and an independent air-conditioning system.
The basement has a bonus room with a full bath. The large family room has a fireplace and workout area. A storage closet and an under-stair faux wine closet. Laundry facility with shelving and storage, new 2014
boiler, 100 gallon water heater, new utility sink, floating floor. Sewer lines replaced in 2000. Two-car detached garage, electric doors replaced in 2014. Electronic rod iron gates. And much more..
Pease feel free to contact me to see more photos, for information or to set up an appointment to view this unique Wichita home. Thank you.

Buy or Sell?  The conundrum for Foreign Property Investors in the U.S.A.


The following informative article was recently written by a dear friend of mine, David Nixon-Business Development Executive at Currencies Direct.

When you buy an investment property in the US you’re probably motivated by a number of reasons.

Perhaps you want a destination for family vacations, maybe it gives you an additional income from rentals and – of course – there’s always the likelihood of your property increasing in value.

Buying a property in the US is, in effect, an investment in the US economy. That’s why Wednesday’s Federal Reserve announcement of the first interest rate rise since the birth of the iPhone is not necessarily a bad thing.

With economies all over the world in turmoil, the US dollar continues to be a safe haven. The decision to raise rates was data dependent, and that data has been positive enough to bring about this change: Compare that to the Europe, Canada, Brazil or China where troubles in the respective economies have been well reported.

If you want to buy an investment home in the US, it means you should be keeping a close eye on not just the fluctuating property prices, but also on the strength of the US dollar. The US economy has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months, especially when compared to the countries of some other major currencies.

Take this example:

In the last 18 months, property prices in the vacation property haven of Polk County in Florida have gone up 8.6%. For a realtor this is an excellent selling point to attract new international clients.

It means that a property bought in June 2014 for $200,000 is now worth around $217,200. Typically, expectations are that property values will continue to rise steadily.

The currency rates are far more volatile. They can go in your favor or just as easily move against you. Look at the difference of major currencies in the same time frame (June 2014 – November 2015):

Great British Pound Sterling

US$200,000 in June 2014 was worth around £117,647. Today, it’s worth about £133,333 – an increase of 12%.

Canadian dollar

US$200,000 in June 2014 was worth in the region CA$216,000. Today, it’s worth approximately CA$268,000 – an increase of 20%.


US$200,000 in June 2014 was worth roughly €146,000. Today, it’s worth around €188,000 – an increase of 22%.

Brazilian real

$200,000 in June 2014 was worth somewhere around R$440,000. Today, it’s worth about R$830,000 – an increase of 53%.

This data could be great for those realtors who want to attract listings, and could also be an indicator to those of you who are foreign property investors that now is an excellent time to sell.

However the same data, coupled with continued uncertainty in the rest of the world, may also be a persuasive argument for now being the right time to invest in a property in the US.

David Nixon

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

(727) 804-6566

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