Friday, October 28, 2011

America's Best and Worst Housing Markets, 2011

Want to know how bad the real estate market is? Just drive down almost any street in the U.S. and you’re likely to see “for sale” signs lining the road. Come back a month later, it’s a good bet the same signs are still there—and quite possibly a few new ones, too. But while there’s a lot of housing pain, there’s also some good news. That’s because in some markets across the country not only have home values improved, a few have even seen double-digit growth.
So where is this miracle occurring? Believe it or not, the city that has seen the biggest increase in home value is in Florida. That’s right—the state that has seen home values plummet 52.3 percent from 2006 peak levels. Nearly 96,000 loans were modified in Florida through August 2011 under President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program. Joblessness, foreclosures, and high inventory hamper recovery in nearly every corner of the state, with rare exceptions. In this case, the rare exception is Weston, a high-income city of more than 65,000 people near Fort Lauderdale where the median home value has risen 15.1 percent to $280,000 from February 2009 to August 2011.

A survey of the 1,000 largest cities nationwide by online real estate marketplace Zillow for identified the markets with the biggest gains and losses in home value, ranking Weston the best-performing city since Obama took office. In contrast, the U.S. median home value fell by 9.9 percent over the same period.
What’s behind Weston’s success? Ines Garcia, an agent for EWM Realtors in Weston, describes the city as “Broward County’s cul-de-sac.” “It’s like driving into a gated community: the landscaping, the manicuring all around the city,” she says. “We were very lucky. Weston was one of the last communities to fall and one of the first to recover.”
Other winners: Arlington, Mass., where the median home value increased by 14.8 percent since February 2009; Brookline, Mass., at 13.6 percent; and the D.C. suburbs of Burke, Va., at 13.5 percent, and Vienna, Va., at 12.8 percent, Zillow data indicate.
Of course, the winners are far outnumbered by the losers. The city with the worst-performing market in the survey is only 50 miles from Weston in Homestead, Fla., where the median home value dropped by 48.8 percent since February 2009. Rounding out the bottom worst-performing markets: former manufacturing city Pontiac, Mich., with a 47.4 percent decrease, and New Jersey capital Trenton, at 46 percent.
While those in depressed housing markets hope for solutions from the White House, “I don’t see how any President is responsible for the housing market in a particular area,” says Steven Blitz, director and senior economist at ITG Investment Research in New York. The federal government and national housing policies have a limited impact on a local level.
According to Zillow Senior Economist Svenja Gudell, under current conditions the median U.S. home value will likely fall another 3 percent to 5 percent and not reach trough until 2012 at the earliest. The Obama years have been bad ones for housing, yet government was not alone in breaking the housing market—and it cannot be alone to fix it.

Here's America's five best housing markets:

No. 5 - Vienna, VA | Photo: Robert Shafer/Getty Images
No. 5 - Vienna, VA
Percent change: +12.8
MSA: Washington, D.C.
Population: 15,687
One of the gems of Fairfax County, Vienna is home to such attractions as the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and the rolling greens of the private Westwood Country Club. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the median home value in the city was $638,500 in August, and the median sale price was $ 645,400 as of Aug. 31.

No. 4 - Burke, VA | Photo: Michael Melford/Getty Images
No. 4 - Burke, VA
Percent change: +13.5
MSA: Washington, D.C.
Population: 41,055
A green area of parks, cul-de-sacs, and community centers with pools on the outskirts of the greater Washington, D.C., area, Burke is an affluent community within Fairfax County. The median home value in the city was $434,200 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price as of Aug. 31 was $427,300.

No. 3 - Brookline, MA
Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
No. 3 - Brookline, MA
Percent change: +13.6
MSA: Boston
Population: 58,732
The affluent suburb of Brookline shares a border with Boston but has a unique feel, with upscale stores and cute restaurants. The town is mostly residential, with historic houses that hearken back to the Revolutionary War. It is also the site of the Country Club, the oldest country club in the U.S., which was founded in 1882. The median home value in the city was $506,900 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price was $513,200 as of July 31.

No. 2 - Arlington, MA | Photo: Getty Images
No. 2 - Arlington, MA
Percent change: 14.8
MSA: Boston
Population: 42,844
Settled in 1635 as Menotomy Village, an Algonquin word for rapids or swift water, and later named Arlington, the area has a rich history that includes part of Paul Revere's famous ride. The town has a high level of median income, great schools, and green parks. Home sales in this Boston suburb have increased for the last four years, according to The median home value in the city was $475,800 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and the median sale price was $468,200 as of July 31.

No. 1 - Weston, FL | Photo: Getty Images
No. 1 - Weston, FL
Percent change: 15.1
MSA: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL
Population: 65,333
The country's top-performing housing market since President Obama took office: Weston, a luxury community near the Everglades in the Fort Lauderdale area. The city has been home to such pro athletes as former White Sox player José Canseco and the Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez, according to real estate news site From April 2008 to April 2011, the population grew about 5 percent, estimates the University of Florida Bureau of Economics & Business Research. In 2006 ranked Weston one of "The Best Affordable Suburbs" in the U.S. The median home value in the city was $280,000 in August, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, and as of Aug. 31, the median sale price was $335,000.

Multiple Signs Point to Real Estate Rebound

Posted By Susanne On October 24, 2011 @ 4:15 pm In Consumer News and Advice
 The The past few weeks have showcased numerous signals that the real estate market is on the rise. Recently, we have reported statistics pointing to an industry turnaround, including a 15 percent rise [2] in housing starts in September; a surge in builder confidence [3] in October, an increase in mortgage applications [4] and a slew of regional market [5] improvements across the country [6].

A recent Marketwatch story written by Amy Hoak points out that housing markets in the Great Plains, including those in North and South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Louisiana and Iowa, are showing the most signs of strength these days, according to a recent report from Veros, a risk management and valuation services firm.

Hoak notes that Bismarck, North Dakota., is expected to be the strongest market in the country in the year ahead, with housing values appreciating at a 5.6% clip, according to Veros. Other markets projected to be among the strongest in the year ahead include Honolulu; Fargo, North Dakota.; Harrisburg/Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Pittsburgh. Washington, D.C., and Boston remain strong city markets.

Hoak writes that while not many markets are fully rebounding, at least a good number of them likely won’t see values fall at quite as rapid a pace as in recent years, according to the report.
“Overall, the recovery in the housing market is limited to just a few markets and is taking a long time to occur. The encouraging news is that many markets are no longer expected to be rapidly declining,” says Eric Fox, vice president of statistical and economic modeling for Veros.
The weakest U.S. markets are in Nevada, inland areas of California, Washington and Oregon, according to the report. The weakest market in the year ahead: Bakersfield, California, where foreclosures have been a huge problem.

Hoak wraps up the story with words of assurance; While prices aren’t on the upswing in many places, at least they’re not expected to fall that rapidly in the coming year.
RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to: [7].

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cape Coral's Oktoberfest off to a great start

From young to old, thousands came out in force this past weekend for the 26th annual Cape Coral Oktoberfest.
Hosted by the Cape Coral German American Social Club, Oktoberfest has become an annual tradition in Cape Coral.
Starting on Friday night, thousands poured through the gates of the social club and the crowds did not stop until the gates closed Sunday night.
The two-weekend festival started off with a bang this weekend, with club officials estimating 14,000 people going through the gates on Saturday night alone. The crowd became so big on Saturday night that it literally shut traffic down on west bound Pine Island Road from the German American Club all the way back to Nicholas Parkway, “It is amazing how many people showed up on Saturday. We could not have asked for a better turnout,” said Oktoberfest Chairman Paul Mills.
Those who braved the traffic found it worth it, as they socialized with old friends, new friends and family while enjoying German music, filling up on Schnitzel, Brats and Potato Pancakes, while washing it down with steins of beer.
The festival has been a main attraction in Cape Coral since 1985, “My grandparents had a winter home in Cape Coral when I was a kid. We would come down here from New Jersey every year since I was five years old and go to Oktoberfest,” says Angel, who now lives in Naples and is starting the Oktoberfest tradition with her own children.
Others attended Cape Coral's Oktoberfest for the first time, "We just bought a house in Cape Coral and heard about Oktoberfest from a friend. We are having a great time. We are looking forward to all of the other Cape Coral festivals we have heard about," says new Cape Coral resident Sandy Sheldone.
Whether they were first timers or Oktoberfest veterans, from the official tapping of the keg on Friday night by Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan, to the last song played on Sunday night, the good times seemed never ending by all who attended this weekend's festival.
The club, who has hosted the event for the past 26 years, ran this weekend’s event like a well oiled machine. While thousands were enjoying the festivities, hundreds of volunteers worked around the clock, ensuring everything ran smoothly. From club members to local dignitaries, volunteers worked hours ensuring everyone was well fed, and the drinks were flowing, “I enjoy coming out here working with the German American Club and interacting with people. It is a great time,” said Cape Coral City Council Candidate Lenny Nesta, who is a second year volunteer for the event.
Nesta was not the only local high profile volunteer seen at Oktoberfest this weekend. Decked out in his famous lederhosen attire, current Cape Coral City Councilman Erick Kuehn spent Friday night herding people toward the Sausage Kitchen. Another Cape Coral City Council candidate, Dave Stokes spent Friday night pouring steins of beer to the ever thirsty crowd.
The club says this year is shaping up to be another successful event for the club, “It just seems to get bigger and bigger each year. Last year we had 35,000 people. This year we are hoping for 39,000. It was not that long ago that we had 29,000 for the event. It seems the minute you think this festival cannot get any bigger. It does,” said Mills.
The festivities resume next weekend, with gates opening Friday night at 4pm and going to 12pm. Saturday hours are 12pm to midnight. Sunday wraps up the festival from 12pm to 9pm.
If you are interested in attending this year’s Oktoberfest, the festival takes place at the Cape Coral German American Club, located at 2101 SW Pine Island Road in North Cape Coral. Tickets cost $6 at the gate. Admission is free for children under 12 years of age. For more information about Oktoberfest, visit

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hoping for a quick sale? Stage your home: Furnish rooms, clean, get rid of clutter and focus on kitchen, bathrooms and closets.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Florida’s existing home and condo sales up in September

ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 20, 2011 – Florida’s existing home and existing condo sales continued their upswing in September, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Existing home sales increased 10 percent last month with a total of 15,036 homes sold statewide compared to 13,723 homes sold in September 2010, according to Florida Realtors.

“One of the most overlooked statistical trends in all of real estate is the growth in home sales, both single-family and condo, in the state of Florida,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “We’ve seen an upward trend in sales since January 2011, and September’s sales were a full 10 percent above September 2010. Even prices, which have been static over the past few months, are well above where they were in January 2011.

“One of the reasons for this is stabilization in the distressed property market. This is not a problem that’s going away, but there’s a degree of certainty that is helping the market.”

Fifteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported higher existing home sales in September; 11 MSAs had higher existing condo sales.

The statewide median sales price for existing homes last month was $133,900; a year ago, it was $135,000 for only a 1 percent decrease. According to analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in August 2011 was $168,400, down 5.4 percent from a year ago, according to NAR. In California, the August statewide median resales price was $297,060; in Maryland, it was $241,564; and in New York, it was $220,000.

In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 6,666 units sold statewide in September, a 10 percent gain over the 6,035 units sold in September 2010. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $87,200; a year earlier, it was $81,800 for a 7 percent increase.

“Historically low mortgage rates and stabilizing home prices all across Florida’s local housing markets continue to attract potential buyers – housing affordability conditions are very favorable right now,” said 2011 Florida Realtors President Patricia Fitzgerald, manager/broker-associate with Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound and Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart. “However, financially qualified buyers are still being denied home loans because of overly restrictive lending requirements, and that’s a significant obstacle to the housing recovery.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.11 percent in September, down from the 4.35 percent average during the same month a year earlier. Florida Realtors’ sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Friday, October 14, 2011

5 Things You Need to Know to Sell a Home That’s Underwater

More and more people are in over their heads when it comes to their home. In this tough economy, many have fallen behind on their mortgages and don’t know where to begin to rid themselves of the property that they can no longer afford. Real estate agent and short sale trainer Mike Cuevas of Exit Realty and Agent Redefined has five things homeowners need to consider when their home is underwater.

1. Understand the process. A short sale is when a lender agrees to discount a loan due to an economic hardship on the part of the homeowner. Typically, a short sale is used to prevent a home from being foreclosed. Usually, a bank will allow a short sale if they believe it will result in a smaller loss than the expense required for foreclosing.

2. Compare it to foreclosure results. Foreclosure can be extremely damaging to an individual’s credit report and it can have long-term effects. Since we live in a credit driven society, keeping a good credit rating can save a family thousands of dollars in attractive finance rates for vehicles, home mortgages, and other large items. A negative credit report and poor score can affect everything you do from renting an apartment to buying a car.

3. Bankruptcy and its impact on your future. Filing for bankruptcy will consolidate your debt and can wipe out your liabilities, but it will not prevent an eventual foreclosure, it will only delay it. However, if all you need to do is delay a foreclosure and there is little to no other major outstanding debt which needs to be settled, then there are other methods which may be more suitable. Trying to conduct a short sale while in bankruptcy requires strategy and a plan. It is best to consult with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney prior to making any decision in order to gain the proper information and make an appropriate plan. If your home is the only debt that is creating an uncontrollable situation for you, a short sale option is likely your best bet versus a bankruptcy. If you have other debt you need resolved after filing bankruptcy, a short sale is still a necessity unless you don’t care about a foreclosure eventually being reported onto your credit.

4. Discover if you are qualified. Though the process differs based on individual, it is broadly understood that in order to qualify for a short sale, the seller/homeowner must show legitimate hardship. Common reasons include: death, divorce, loss of job, relocation, etc. As long as the property is inevitably headed towards foreclosure it will qualify for a short sale.

5. Consider the benefits. One of the major benefits of a short sale is that it ends the financial and emotional nightmare quickly. From the day a homeowner accepts a contract to the time the property will close can take up to 90-120 days. Losing one’s home is a painful process, but short sales can help families to decrease the time and frustration they spend in financial limbo, and it can help to maintain their credit and move forward into the future.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is the thought of decorating a big, blank room scary? Hire an interior decorator. They can save you time and money and enhance your style.

Cape Wants To Clean Up Downtown

Posted: Oct 11, 2011 4:45 PM EDT Updated: Oct 11, 2011 5:57 PM EDT By Alex Boyer, NBC2 Reporter CAPE CORAL, FL -
The Community Redevelopment Agency is trying to attract more customers to the area off Cape Coral Parkway, but with vacant, overgrown businesses – it's a challenge. That's why officials are trying to improve the city's image by cleaning up some of its streets.
Lou Simmons is proud of the business he's built. Simmons and his wife own the Cape Coral Dog Bakery in downtown Cape Coral.
"Just a complete success story," said Simmons.
Simmons wants to keep that success going by keeping the south Cape clean.
"There's still some very bad spots that have to be addressed," said Simmons.
And they are - one by one. 

There have been ten pages worth of code complaints in the south Cape over the past four months. People have reported abandoned businesses, overgrown grass and trash littering properties.
"If you go to a city full of trash and debris you don't want to go down the street," said Simmons.
That's why the CRA pays for its own code enforcement officer.
"We're just trying to get the best possible looking downtown as we can," said John Jacobsen of the CRA.
The officer patrols all 1900 acres in the south Cape.
His constant presence seems to be working. Jacobsen says code complaints have decreased over the past year. And in turn, pedestrian traffic is starting to pick up.
"If we can get the whole CRA district looking better, acting better and attract more people," said Jacobsen.
Almost all of the ten pages of complaints have been closed out, which means the complaints have been taken care of. The CRA hopes to continue on the positive path.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Make hanging wallpaper easier by breaking it down into three steps: prepping the wall, measuring and cutting, and hanging the paper.

Monday, October 10, 2011

City wants to attract bilingual business owners - Posted: Oct 10, 2011 5:23 PM EDT Updated: Oct 10, 2011 6:33 PM EDT By Alex Boyer, NBC2 Reporter

Southwest Florida is seeing a boom is its Hispanic population. The latest numbers show a 170-percent increase in Lee County. The city of Cape Coral is looking at ways to capitalize on that untapped market.
Along busy Del Prado Blvd. there are several Hispanic-owned businesses, but they make up just a small fraction of the businesses in Cape Coral. 
Carlos Rendon owns Prestige Automotive. The Cuban-American set-up shop in Cape Coral three years ago and business is good. 
Rendon credits his success to being bilingual.
"A lot of my clientele some of them don't speak the language. I'm able to provide the second language," said Rendon.
Rendon is exactly the kind of business owner the city of Cape Coral is looking to recruit.
"We want to extend the hand that we are friendly to all businesses," said Business Economic Coordinator Christy Vogt.
The city's Economic Development Office is looking for bilingual business owners, like Rendon, to serve as volunteer translators for Hispanic business owners looking to start a business in the Cape.
"Quite a few Hispanic business people don't speak the language that well to understand legal-ease and regulation," said Vogt.
Juan Ruiz thinks it's a great idea and is willing to help.
"Some people don't speak English like I can help other Spanish people open up business," said Ruiz.
Ruiz opened a Boost Mobile cell phone branch two and a half years ago. He says it would have been nice to have a fellow Latino help him through the start up process. 
"The City of Cape Coral is doing better with the small business," added Ruiz.
Alfredo Chumanciero, who is organizing the Hispanic Business Liaison Committee, says he plans to unveil the list of volunteer bilingual translators on October 28th.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Housing Slide Declared Over

The housing industry has bottomed out, but still hasn't shown signs of bouncing back, Wells Fargo Bank senior economist Mark Vitner told an audience of the bank's Southwest Florida business customers Tuesday.
"We haven't seen the beginnings of a real recovery based on demand," he told an audience of about 100 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Myers. And that's bad news for the economy, he said: A normally functioning home-building industry would add 3.5 million jobs, half the number lost since the recession began.
Vitner expects the country to avoid a recession but not by much: 1.5 to 2 percent growth for the next two years.
Fort Myers-based real estate broker Tom Pepitone of Pepitone Properties Corp. said he agrees with Vitner's prediction and has seen it start to play out already.
"In talking to all my tenants in the buildings I manage, they all see a better year than last year but they're worried the next years aren't going to be great here," he said.
The biggest problem locally, Pepitone said, is getting financing for new construction. "People can't get financing, even if they're strong."
Vitner said that though the United States isn't in great shape, things are much worse in Europe as the financially weaker countries start to implode.
"The euro currency is going to fail. It's doomed," he said. "They're somewhat in denial about that."
First to fall, Vitner said, will be Greece.
"Greece is absolutely going to default" on its debt no matter what it does, he said. "They can't fix it. It is not a fixable situation."
The United States could still correct course, Vitner said. He suggested a stimulus program based on spending to improve the country's infrastructure in ways that would improve the economy - improved intersections or "smart traffic lights" to make traffic flow more efficiently.
If this country does avoid another recession, he said, there's a little good news for Floridians. The state's economy historically grows 1.5 times the rate of the national economy.
Even so, Vitner acknowledged, "It's still not much to jump up and down about."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound track to debut new look

The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track has a new look.
Over the past few months, the Bonita Beach Road race track began extensive remodeling of its interior as well as a new roof.
When gates open on a new racing season Nov. 2, handicappers will notice the completion of a new restaurant called the Hold-Em Grill on the first mezzanine.
“The popularity of the first mezzanine with simulcasting and the Poker Room will be enhanced with the expanded food choices and daily specials at the Hold-em Grill,” said the track’s general manager Juan Fra.
Updating the entire facility, includingnew roofing, allows the track to have a new and modern look, Fra said.
“The clubhouse dining room, for example, will be more appealing with seating allowing patrons a better view of the live racing,” Fra said.
Handicappers and poker players will also notice new carpeting in the Poker Room and clubhouse areas, a redesigned clubhouse dining room and a new color scheme throughout the facility.
“With these additions and improvements we’ll have one of the most modern entertainment facilities in Southwest Florida,” said the track’s general manager Juan Fra. “Our high standards ensure the patron experience will be rewarding and fun.”
While the live racing has been dormant throughout the summer, the Poker Room and thoroughbred simulcasting from tracks nationally are open daily.
The track opens at 11:00 a.m. daily with thoroughbred simulcasting from over a dozen tracks. The Poker Room features weekly tournaments with a guaranteed $25,000 daily jackpot.

Housing Market In South Florida Ripe For The Picking

  Housing market in South Florida ripe for the picking By Todd Wilson | September 16, 2020 at 12:05 AM EDT - Updated September 16 at 9:42 AM...