ANNA MARIA — Finally, Joan Dickinson was about to sell her Anna Maria home.
The island resident had her two-bedroom house on the market for about two years before buyers came forward with an offer she was willing to accept.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The buyers walked.
“In my contract, the reason they stated they were not going to close on the home was the BP oil spill,” said Dickinson, whose beachfront home is listed for $848,000. “I was supposed to close my home on May 17, and May 7, the buyers walked away. Every month I’m here in my home past May 17 it’s an economic damage.”
Dickinson said she filed a claim with BP but has gotten the “run around” from the company on whether it has been reviewed. She declined to say how much money she is hoping BP will pay.
Dickinson’s case appears to be a rare instance of the oil spill threatening local property sales. And, while Manatee County remains free of tar balls and sheen, island Realtors say the Deepwater Horizon spill has sparked concern among buyers.
“About 40 percent of the people that call in mention or ask about the oil spill,” said Liz Blandford, a sales agent for Island Real Estate. “They’re worried. I think people who don’t live here when they watch the news they make the assumption that oil’s covering our beaches. We’re just trying to let them know our beaches are clean.”
Still, Blandford said a few buyers have delayed purchase decisions.
“I think there is a real concern that the values can still drop,” Blandford said. “That’s why I think a small percentage of buyers are holding back, hoping prices will still drop.”
At Fran Maxon Real Estate, Stephanie Bell said the oil spill hasn’t led to cancellations on property purchases nor on vacation rentals listed with the Anna Maria real estate agency.
However, Bell said the images of oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico is creating a stir.
“It’s been a concern definitely,” Bell said. “Buyers are asking more and more about it. I think the European market is more worried about it than people in the U.S. But people are still looking, all my listings are being shown. I can’t say that the oil has made any big difference here at the moment.”
BP officials said the company has paid 20,909 claims in Florida totaling $16.8 million.
Nationwide, BP has paid 91,026 claims totaling $123 million, of which $131,798 has been related to a loss of income on personal real estate sales and $61,673 has been related to a loss of income on commercial real estate sales.
The oil disaster has had real impacts on the real estate market in North Florida. Panama City’s Home Builders Association reported that at least three home construction projects have been postponed since the April 20 oil spill.
And Realtors in Fort Walton Beach told The Associated Press they’ve seen a halt in sales.
To offset buyers’ fears about impacts on Anna Maria Island, Island Real Estate is using regular blog posts with photographs and videos to show clean, white sandy beaches.
“We’re using that as an opportunity to get the word out and reiterate visually as well as verbally that we are still beautiful,” said Erin Heckler, an assistant at Island Real Estate. Don Schroeder, a Realtor for Re/Max Alliance Group, said he hasn’t seen any buyer resistance due to the oil spill. Schroeder said he doesn’t expect the oil spill will steer away those looking to make the island their permanent home.
“If you’re a short-term investor looking for immediate income that’s one thing, but people who are going to buy property and retire down here they should not have that kind of concern,” Schroeder said. “That person who walked away from that home, he or she made a mistake because long term, the island is going to be fine.”