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Congrats to city staff

I’ve lived in Winter Park for two years, and I feel lucky that I do. It’s obvious that our city employees put a lot of effort into keeping this such a beautiful city, with services we can count on.

This is just a note of appreciation to those employees, who I see have been in the news lately. I am one Winter Park resident — one among many — who wants to thank them and stands with them.

— Mary Wolford

Winter Park

Be a Fit Friendly company

Kudos to the Winter Park and Maitland companies that are focused on corporate wellness. Sadly, adult Americans spend most of their waking hours at work sitting at a desk. This makes them vulnerable to health risks associated with inactive lifestyles. Studies suggest that by starting a worksite physical activity program and promoting a culture of activity, you can increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, lower turnover and reduce health care costs. Besides benefiting companies, a healthier workplace helps employees live healthier, longer lives.

The American Heart Association is encouraging local companies to apply for their Fit Friendly Award. The recognition honors employers who go above and beyond when it comes to their employees’ health, rewarding companies for their progressive leadership and concern for their staff. Highlighting such companies will encourage other organizations to follow their lead and employ physical activity practices such as providing a walking program and routes, allowing staff to wear athletic shoes in the workplace on designated “sneaker days” and utilizing tracking tools to motivate employees.

The American Heart Association offers tools like the free Start! Walking Program to create a healthier workplace environment, along with customized staff support. Companies’ immediate benefits include:

• Employee access to program resources, including the MyStart! Online tracking tool

• Materials to help promote company wellness programs to employees

• Newsletter templates for internal distribution to employees

• Consultation on CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) programs

Forty-four companies in Central Florida are currently designated as Fit Friendly by the American Heart Association. It’s easy to gain recognition for the work your company is doing to help fight heart disease and promote wellness. Simply visit http://ffc.heart.org for the online application or contact the American Heart Association at 407-481-6380. An American Heart Association Expert Panel reviews applications and awards recognition to your company. Each year, companies may renew their Fit-Friendly status.

—Cesar Calvet

Chairman of the Board

American Heart Association

Housing prices are stabilizing

Central Florida’s housing slump may have bottomed out and housing prices are stabilizing though it may be some time before housing values begin to climb again.

Central Florida’s five-year market decline has left prices down 40-60 percent from the market high and many home sellers have held off placing their homes on the market hoping for a recovery.

Pricing stabilization has taken a long time, and price increases won’t be realized until sometime in the future. Home sellers who are holding off waiting for better market conditions may miss out on the greatest buying opportunity if they are looking to purchase a new residence. While sellers may realize a lower price than they might hope for, they also have the opportunity to acquire another residence for much less than they could before.

The market is adjusting, and today we are at the point where we have a new pricing normal.

Within the Greater Orlando market area, we have a variety of markets, as well as a variety of market conditions that will have an impact on what a property will sell for. Housing types that can vary greatly from a pricing standpoint are:

• Single-family homes in gated communities that may be lakefront or golf front;

• Single-family homes that are in transition neighborhoods;

• Condominiums and town houses

• Vacation homes

• Retirement homes

• Investment properties

There are also market challenges that can affect a property’s value. Generally speaking the retail home, which is not impacted by distress, will perform at the highest level. A short sale ranges somewhere in between a retail sale and a bank-owned property. A bank-owned property is generally the lowest priced property on the market.

In almost all market areas and market types, prices have varied greatly, but the one condition we are beginning to see develop in most areas is that there are signs of market stabilization and even in a few market areas, there may be properties that are slightly undervalued.

As prices begin to stabilize, we begin to see the New Pricing Normal. This is the price readjustment where a property stabilizes, and the consumer who has done his research realizes this is a fair price in today’s market, which generally results in a sale.

The markets that have experienced the least amount of distress (bank-owned properties and short sales) are performing at higher levels, and in some select neighborhoods, pricing may even be up slightly from the year before.

Real estate remains a neighborhood business, with some neighborhoods performing extremely well, while others will continue to experience distress and continue to search out the New Pricing Normal.

Property owners who are selling in today’s market and repurchasing are finding themselves in a win-win situation.

—Roger Soderstrom

Founder and owner

Orlando-based Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty

Have an opinion? Send your thoughts (400 words or less) to Managing Editor Jenny Andreasson at editor@observernewspapers.com