Magdiel “Mike” Rosario has been in the real estate business for 20 years. He started out working for Continental and People Express airlines, but changed careers after moving to Sarasota. Word got around, and pilots and flight attendants who wanted to buy homes here kept asking him for advice.
At first he referred them to an agent; then he decided to get his own broker’s license. In the entrepreneurial spirit he had acquired at People Express, Rosario started his own company, Rose Bay Real Estate, in 1994. With about 60 agents and offices on Cortez Road in Bradenton and in Southside Village in Sarasota, it is one of the few midsized, independent companies left locally after the housing boom and bust.
Correspondent Chris Angermann interviewed Rosario at his Sarasota office on South Orange Avenue.
Q: How did you manage to weather the storm?
A: We cut costs. We used to have three offices, but closed one. We did a lot of automating, got better computer systems and programs, so we’ve grown internally and gotten smarter. And I’m enjoying myself right now: I don’t have all that pressure. The need to leverage everything, left and right, is gone.
Q: Where do you see the market now?
A: There is more activity than even a year ago. I’ve seen increases of about 14 percent to 15 percent in volume, and that’s a good thing. It’s a different type of activity than before. I see a lot of cash buyers as opposed to loans. Initially, that happened more in the $200,000-and-less price range, because the investors and institutional buyers were getting interested, but now I see it everywhere. Even regular clients are getting money from somewhere like their IRAs and money-market accounts.
I think what’s happening is that, with the banks not lending as freely as they did before, and the fact that we have lower prices throughout the market, people are getting creative.
Sarasota is such a wonderful area. We still have the beautiful beaches, the culture — they haven’t gone away. People love that and want to be here. They’re coming from everywhere and every segment of the economy. I’m selling to young people now, who have pristine credit and are getting mortgages. They didn’t get caught up in the leverage craziness of the past years.
Q: What about low inventory?
A: That’s a hurdle now. We’re getting multiple offers and bidding wars. That makes it difficult, because we go around with good clients and they see a home they like, but they may not get it. It’s also increasing prices. Anytime you have that kind of competition, prices will go up. We’ve had increases of 3, 4, 5, as high as 6 percent, in some areas.
A lot of people still come here thinking, “I’m going to get the deal of a lifetime.” That’s gone. But you can still buy a house and get a return of 10 to 15 percent on your money, because rents are high — they have maintained. We do property management, and it’s been crazy. We don’t have enough property to meet the demand. And we’re getting good, quality renters — people accustomed to taking care of their own home, but unfortunately got caught up in the whole fiasco.
Now, with inventory being down, you have to be aggressive: Don’t low-ball anymore. I have a good friend who has lost out on three deals. Each time, her offers went up a bit on the next one, but not enough. I told her, “You’re chasing the market upward.”
I’ve also been working with an investor for three years now, and we’ve seen the difference. He doesn’t bargain anymore. He wants to know, “What is the seller asking for the property?” And then he says, “OK, let’s go $2,000 above that.” And even then we’ve lost some deals.
My advice is: Don’t waste time, and give it your best shot.
Q: And in the future?
A: Everything is looking positive. The numbers for employment are good again. Our economy is moving forward, even though we, the real estate housing construction segment, have not been a big part of it. We, as an industry, are doing better, and once we get to a higher level again, that’s going to be an added benefit for the economy, as well, and that’s a good thing.