County offers head start for homeowner-occupants


This house, located at 411 NE 18th Avenue in Ocala, lists for $83,900. The house is part of the “first look” programs, granting buyers seeking a primary residence 20 days to submit offers on REO properties.

DOUG ENGLE/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.

In November, about 34 percent of the existing home sales in Alachua County were cash transactions — a sign that investors, not potential owner-occupants, were sealing those deals.

Nationally, all-cash sales rose to 49 percent this past summer, up from 30 percent a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have programs that give potential owner-occupants a helping hand. Buyers who are looking for a primary residence get a head start to submit offers on existing homes that, for one reason or another, Fannie and Freddie have on their books and are looking to sell.

The programs, which have been around about five years, once offered a 15-day head start. This year, the number has changed to 20 days.

"That's the whole point: to help people who want to buy their home," said Fannie Mae spokeswoman Keosha Burns.

In Alachua County, the two agencies combined list almost 100 properties. HomePath is Fannie Mae's version of the program; it's HomeSteps for Freddie Mac.

With help from the programs, about 60 percent of the federally owned homes are sold to individuals and families who plan to live at the properties.

Burns said her agency's version of the program is a success and, with the extra five days, predicts it will continue strong for the foreseeable future.

"Investors play an important role, and we're not trying to discourage investors, but when you own your own home, you're making an investment in the community," she said.

Almost all government-owned properties for sale are part of the program. There are a few exceptions, such as homes that already are renter-occupied.

During November, the latest month local sales data is available, Alachua County Realtors reported 149 single-family homes sold through Realtors. Of those, 51 — 34 percent — were cash deals.

In November 2012, cash sales accounted for 31 percent of single-family home sales.

Investors are more likely to have that kind of money up front; traditional home buyers rely on mortgages or other financing.

— Fred Hiers

Smooth 100.9

Listeners expecting holiday music or smooth jazz may have had a surprise hearing Flo Rida or Nicki Minaj when they flipped on their radio Dec. 26.

Smooth 100.9 played Christmas music from November until Dec. 25 before switching its format and becoming Party 100.9. The station is in a transitional phase of taking the reins from Party 99.5 and the stations are simulcasting electronic dance music.

Both are owned by JVC Media of Long Island, N.Y., which is making the switch because Party 99.5 is popular but lacks some signal in Gainesville.

Party's format "really took off in Gainesville on 99.5, and the 100.9 frequency is a stronger frequency," said John Caracciolo, JVC's CEO. "We knew we were onto something with the format, but one complaint we would get is a lot of students in the dorm would say, ‘Hey, I can't get it in the dorm.'"

The transmitter for 99.5 is north of the city, while 100.9's is in the heart of the city and has "a better signal for Gainesville," Caracciolo said.

JVC is doing market research to establish a new format for 99.5 that should debut around March, he said.

Meanwhile, JVC is still looking to put the DJs of 99.5 and 100.9 behind windows downtown so passersby can see them at work.

JVC was originally leaning toward the former Brophy's Irish Pub location on Southwest Second Street but one of the first-floor business spaces in the Continuum apartment complex also looks appealing, Caracciolo said.

"I'm just going back and forth between the two and I'm trying to make the best deal for the company," he said, adding that JVC hopes to move in by April.

JVC took over five Gainesville/Ocala FM stations — 100.9 and 99.5, as well as 104.9, 102.3 and 92.9 — last summer from Asterisk Communications of Fort Lauderdale.

— Michael Stone

Restaurants

Gigi's Cupcakes: The locally owned sweet shop held its grand opening Saturday, featuring raffles, activities for kids and an appearance by founder Gigi Butler.

The gourmet cupcakes change in flavor daily, ranging from Chocolate Salted Caramel to Creme Brulee. Mini cheesecakes and stuffed cookies are other delicacies on the menu.

Local owner Nicole Miller said she felt like she was walking into a candy store the first time she stepped into Gigi's Cupcakes and she wanted to bring that experience to the Gainesville community.

The sweet shop is located at 3524 SW Archer Road, Suite 130.

The Coop: The Coop restaurant opened Saturday in the recently closed Kay Bros. BBQ space at 1620 W. University Ave. The menu includes fried chicken tenders, boneless wings and shakes. Owner Steven Kay said it will offer college-friendly prices and quick service.

Kay, also owner of Kay Bros., said the former restaurant's prices weren't as convenient for college students. The Coop aims to fix that.

Although Kay Bros. is no longer there, its catering options are still available.

Five Bar: Five Bar will open its doors Thursday at 104 S. Main St.

The menu will include five of everything — entrees, snacks, signature cocktails, red wines and white wines. Prices will range from $7 for snacks and up to $28 for entrees.

A brunch menu also features mimosas, caramel apple beignets and chicken and waffles, among other items. Happy hour specials will be available from 4 to 6 p.m. daily.

— Carla Vianna

Fred Hiers is an Ocala Star-Banner staff writer and Michael Stone and Carla Vianna are Gainesville Sun correspondents.

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