By Mark Manning Contributer

 Next week could certainly be interesting after the Fed’s decision to stay flat failed to inspire the market and only produced a feeble attempt to rally on Wednesday. The market then sold off hard all day Thursday on very heavy volume. That certainly has taken some of my short-term sentiment indicators to extremes, and the spike low is likely to lead to a short-term bounce next week.

 The selloff pushed the Dow below its March lows that I stated in recent columns was likely to happen. Now it will be important to see if that move produces enough panic to put in an intermediate-term low. If the new low doesn’t hold and the index continues to trade below that level, then the January and March lows are liable to turn into significant resistance levels, and that could indicate another move lower is in the cards.


The key to where we’re headed is likely to appear when the market shows its hand next week, as it will certainly attempt to bounce from these levels. The strength of that bounce along with the participation of leading stocks will certainly carry a lot of information.



A bit of good news: This might be the right time to find a bargain, especially for buyers approaching their retirement years who can afford to take their time.

Not only are home prices down more than 25 percent in some parts of the country, there remains a glut of inventory on the market in traditional retirement destinations like Florida.

Of course, anyone looking to buy can also find good reasons to take a wait-and-see attitude, like the fact that good deals may not exist in every location, and no one really knows if prices will continue to decline.

“It’s like missing the top of the market — it’s the same thing with the bottom,” said Maurice Veissi, president of Veissi and Associates in Miami. “Generally you know it’s happened because you’re looking in the rearview mirror and it’s passed you by.”

According to the latest Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the average price for a single-family home is down nearly 27 percent in Miami compared with a year ago, versus a 25 percent decline in Phoenix and a 27 percent drop in Las Vegas.

Markets that were at the forefront of the recent run-up in home prices and are now leading the decline — a pattern reflected to varying degrees in other markets in all three states. But that means there are deals to be found in places where buyers previously felt priced out of the Florida lifestyle.

Home sales in the Sarasota MLS for May 2008 stood at 627 – the highest level in 14 months, and approximately 92 percent higher than the sales in January 2008. In 2008, sales have been increasing each month, possibly due to the influence of the new property tax portability law enacted in late January. Sales have climbed from 329 in January to 423 in February, 514 in March and 567 in April.
“This year, the Sarasota real estate market has been a beacon of hope as the state and national markets continue to struggle,” said Helen Sosso, 2008 SAR President. “I believe our local agents have embraced the concept of a buyers’ market, and educated sellers on the realities of pricing. We still have advantageous interest rates, and our communities’ natural and cultural amenities always attract buyers.”
The May 2008 report continued to reflect strength in pending sales, which stood at 692 – the second highest level since June 2006.  Last month’s pending sales stood at 756, the highest in the period.   In May 2007 only 541 pending sales were reported.  Like closed sales, pending sales have been edging upward since December 2007, when there were only 374 pending sales reported. Pending sales reflect contracts executed by buyers and sellers, and indicate more closings in upcoming months and an improving market in the early summer months.
Inventory levels were lower in May 2008 for the third month, and are the lowest they have been since February 2006.  Still, with 9,500 single family and 5,100 condos listed, buyers have a huge selection of more affordably priced housing to select from.  The reduced inventory is a combination of fewer properties being listed, and increasing sales numbers.  As the inventory continues to decline, the market will come back to more balance.  As we approach equilibrium, the buyer’s market we’ve been experiencing will be gone, and price appreciation will creep back into the market.
In general, the Sarasota MLS statistics show a rebound throughout 2008 – every month seeing stronger numbers than the month before. In fact, Sarasota statistics have been stronger in recent months than sales in the Miami market, which is a much bigger geographic and demographic area.
In the local Sarasota market, we have seen the trend already beginning toward lower inventories, higher sales, and a leveling of prices after several months of declines. The May figures reflect this new reality.

Jim Soda has recently received the “Quality Service Certification.” This program teaches how to deliver the best service quality and customer satisfaction. Sellers are encouraged to go online and fill out surveys about their real estate experience. Based on feedback from 250,000 consumer surveys of more than 500 participating companies and 30,000 realtors, Jim Soda and Prudential Palms Realty’s downtown office was recently voted one of the top ten offices in the country for service excellence.


The monthly “MUSIC ON MAIN” concert series falls on Independence Day holiday. The popular Music on Main is held the first Friday of each month falls on the 4th of July this summer. Main Street at Lakewood Ranch is inviting the public to a free Independence Day celebration during Music on Main in July. Lots of red, white and blue will be evident in the many patriotic giveaways that will be handed out for the holiday that night. The day begins with Little Bookworms “bubble wrap fireworks”, story telling by Granny Goose, and arts, crafts, and face painting. The Braden River VFW Post 12055 is the charity that month and they will kick-off the concert festivities with a patriotic parade down Main Street beginning at 6:00 pm featuring a military color guard. The Post Commander will lead the public in the pledge of allegiance before the band starts playing on stage. At 7:00 pm, center stage will feature the talents of “Take Three”, the sounds of the Andrews Sisters singing a tremendous, heart-felt tribute to all four branches of the service. The concert will continue through 9:00 pm when attention will turn to the large screen showing our own version of fireworks – “Virtual Fireworks” – to light up the big screen with an impressive projected fireworks show at dark (approximately 9:20 pm). Plan to spend your 4th of July this year on Main Street with children’s activities starting at 3:00 pm by Little Bookworms and the Music on Main concert beginning at 6:00 pm with “virtual fireworks” starting at 9:20 pm. **Guests are encouraged to bring chairs, but please leave coolers at home. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a short leash. Overflow parking is available at LWR Medial Center across the street. Main Street at Lakewood Ranch – Shopping that’s anything but ordinary Main Street at Lakewood Ranch is the fashionable shopping venue located across from the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center on Lakewood Ranch Blvd. 30 stylish boutiques, restaurants and specialty stores blend to make a visit to Main Street’s intimate, small-town village theme a destination worth repeating. For more information, visit

Interest rates on certain types of jumbo loans are finally dropping out of the stratosphere.

Rates on jumbo-conforming loans, which were approved by Congress in February for use through the end of 2008, are currently 6.59 percent, according to HSH Associates in Pompton Plains, N.J., compared to an average of 6.46 percent for similar loans with smaller balances. Non-conforming jumbos are averaging 7.4 percent.

At J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the volume of jumbo-conforming applications has doubled since prices began to fall in early May. For some California lenders, jumbo-conforming loans now account for as much as 25 percent of applications, says Pete Ogilvie, president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers.

“Most of the activity is in purchases, which is nice because it opens up the market for entry-level homes,” Ogilvie says

Pat Westerhouse has joined Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty as General Manager/Leasing Representative. In this capacity she will provide all property management functions for the Main Street lifestyle center of retail, office space and residential. Her duties include budget administration, coordination of marketing activities, event management, sponsorship participation, and tenant and public relations.
Westerhouse previously held the position of General Manager/Leasing Representative of Old Hyde Park Village in Tampa. She had been there for 23 years and was a key player in the success of the community. Prior to that Westerhouse served as an audit supervisor with Coopers & Lybrand (now Price Waterhouse Coopers).
“We could not find a more qualified and suited professional for this position than Pat,” states John Swart, president of Lakewood Ranch. “She brings a wealth of experience and an abundance of enthusiasm and energy to Main Street.”
Westerhouse is a graduate of the University of South Florida and also holds her license as a Florida Real Estate Broker. She is licensed in Florida as a Community Association Manager and Certified Public Accountant and is a Certified Shopping Center Manager and Certified Leasing Specialist. In addition, Westerhouse is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
“This is an excellent opportunity for me, and I look forward to the challenge of working with a new community,” notes Westerhouse. “I am impressed with the tenant mix on Main Street and the superb planning and development that has gone into this mixed use facility.”
Main Street, which opened its first shops in December 2005, is the first mixed use facility in Manatee County to offer combined residential, retail, office and commercial components. It is quickly becoming the heart of Lakewood Ranch and the hub for upscale shopping and dining in the Sarasota-Manatee community.