Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Florida Real Estate Heating Up


Sick of the cold? Maybe you should buy a place in Florida, where temperatures are warm and the housing market is heating up.
The cold snap gripping much of the country is surely prodding many to dream of owning a second home someplace warm, or of moving there for good. Data show that Florida's housing market might be in a sweet spot. Prices remain low, as Florida was among the states hit hardest by the collapse of the housing bubble, but prices are on the rise, so a purchase now would appear less risky than it would have a year ago.
But Florida also offers some object lessons. Its volatile housing market demonstrates the importance of thinking clearly about the pros and cons of buying a home when you don't have to. Placing the wrong bet can be very, very dangerous.
A large portion of Florida's housing market is driven by people who don't really need to buy, such as retirees who could stay where they are in other parts of the country and second-home buyers who could wait if conditions aren't right. That makes them more fickle than people who must move for a job or growing family. As a result, Florida home prices tend to swing to extremes.
Now things are getting better. The number of housing sales that closed in December was nearly 16% higher than a year earlier, according to Florida Realtors, a trade group. And the number of pending sales, or those with signed contracts that have not yet closed, was up nearly 40%. The median sales price remained affordable, at $154,000, up about 14% from a year earlier. Nationally, the median sales price was $180,600 in November, a 10% increase from a year earlier.
Median sales prices need to be taken with a grain of salt. They don't necessarily mean the average house value has grown 14% in Florida, because sometimes it's the pricier homes that move more briskly, other times it's the cheaper ones. A year ago, sales included more foreclosed homes going for fire-sale prices.
Because of the market's volatility, anyone considering buying a retirement or second home in Florida should pay special attention to some key questions.
First, how easily can the balance of supply and demand change? On many of the barrier islands off the East Coast, for instance, there's not much room for further development, so it's unlikely a flood of new homes will depress prices in these areas. But in many areas just a few miles away on the mainland there's plenty of undeveloped land. As prices rise, developers tend to break ground on single-family homes and condos, and that new supply slows the price gains or reverses them.
In areas popular for retirement and second homes, condominiums are very popular, and condo fees can be very high. In fact, you could pay more in condo fees than you would on your new mortgage. In an economic downturn, growing numbers of condo owners stop paying their fees. The association may respond by skimping on maintenance or jacking up fees.
So potential buyers eyeing the warm winter temperatures in Florida should be especially attentive to the basic lessons of the recent housing crisis: A home is a home, not an investment. And the best way to minimize your risks is to resist the temptation to buy the most expensive home you can afford, and to plan to own it long enough to ride out the downturns.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Region's home prices up 12.2% over year earlier
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.
Home prices in Sarasota and Manatee counties rose 12.2 percent in November over the period in 2011, data provider CoreLogic Inc. reported Tuesday.
Those prices, which include distressed sales, increased by 2.6 percent in November from October, another sign of the slow-but-steady recovery the region's housing market is experiencing.
Excluding distressed sales, single-family home prices in the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota metro market climbed 10.6 percent over the year. That followed a revised 6.7 percent increase in October 2012 from the year before, CoreLogic said.
Prices for non-distressed sales, meanwhile, gained 1.6 percent in November from October.
Florida reported a 7.9 percent increase in home prices over the year, the 10th highest rate in the nation. Excluding distressed sales, the gain dipped to 6.9 percent, however.
Nationwide, by comparison, home prices rose 7.4 percent over 2011, the biggest increase since May 2006 and the ninth straight gain in prices on a year-over-year basis.
Home prices increased by 0.3 percent from October to November throughout the U.S., CoreLogic stated.
Excluding distressed sales, prices jumped 6.7 percent over the year and by 0.9 percent from October, the group noted.
"For the first time in almost six years, most U.S. markets experienced sustained increases in home prices in 2012," said CoreLogic president Anand Nallathambi.
"We still have a long way to go to return to 2005-2006 levels, but all signals currently point to a progressive stabilization of the housing market and the positive trend in home price appreciation to
As evidence the nascent residential real estate recovery is not limited to Florida, sales prices increased in 44 states and the District of Columbia, the report said. Arizona led the way at 20.9 percent, followed by Nevada, at 14.2 percent, and Idaho, at 13.8 percent.
Prices declined in Delaware, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, though home prices in those states did not fall during the downturn as far as they did in Florida, Nevada and elsewhere.
The company also predicted that December prices nationwide would likely increase 8.4 percent over the year earlier, but will fall by 0.5 percent from November to reflect the seasonal slowdown.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Retire Here, Not There: Florida

A housing rebound restores some of the state’s appeal

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By Catey Hill
Retiring to Florida: It’s a move that’s been so common, for so long, that even the jokes about it feel like clich├ęs. Still, the state’s warm weather, great beaches, and lack of an income tax have allowed Florida to keep living up to its reputation as a retirement Mecca. And for newcomers, the state’s large number of retirees is a plus, since it allows for lots of opportunities to interact with others going through the same life phase, says Kathleen Campbell, founder of Fort Myers-based Campbell Financial Partners.
Florida isn’t all sunshine and sand, of course. The recent housing crash and recession hit the state particularly hard.

Editha/Shutterstock.comENLARGE IMAGE
Florida’s unemployment rate of 8.1% is still higher than the 7.8% rate for the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—which means retirees who want to work full-time may not have as many job opportunities.
For much of the year, “warm” can mean really hot, with temperatures in many towns staying in the 90s throughout the summer. Plus, residents must contend with hurricane exposure and expensive property insurance, says Tom Roberts, a financial planner at Sarasota-based A New Approach to Financial Planning.
Things do seem to be looking up where real estate’s concerned, with prices recovering in many communities. Indeed, some cities’ housing markets can strain a retiree’s budget. In Naples, which has Gulf Coast beaches, a number of championship golf courses and a fair amount of quality shopping for a town of just about 20,000, the median home goes for more than $500,000, and the cost of living is 61% higher than the national average, according to Sperling’s Best Places.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Strong Canadian dollar, U.S. real estate prices push Canadian snowbirds to South Florida

Canadian tourists have been flocking to Dairy Belle in Dania Beach all winter. It's a popular destination for visitors from the north. (Michael Laughlin, Sun Sentinel / January 10, 2013)


If he could, he surely would. Jacques Belair, a Montreal native, would live the rest of his life in South Florida.
"This is paradise,'' he said without hesitation from his Deerfield Beach condominium.
He's certainly not alone in making the trek south from Canada for the winter. As the February peak period for snowbird arrivals nears, South Florida is getting a bigger-than-usual boost from visitors leaving the cold behind, bank and tourism executives said.
More Canadians are heading south because of a "perfect storm.'' Canadian baby boomers can find great real estate deals in Florida and the strong Canadian dollar buys more in the U.S. than it could in recent years, said Alain Forget, RBC Bank's head of sales and business development. They're buying homes, enjoying the beach, having nice meals.
Simply put, they love being here.
"They want the lifestyle, they are on vacation, so they go around and shop around," said Forget. "They find everything they can buy here is so cheap."
Canadians are the No. 1 international visitors to Florida and the largest foreign buyers of second homes in the state, according to Florida government data. The latest available year-end data shows 3.3 million Canadians visited the state in 2011, up 7 percent from 2010. They spent about $4 billion, up nearly 14 percent from the year before, said Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency.
Belair chooses to spent at least six months in his homeland and only November through April at his Deerfield Beach condominium so he can keep his Canadian health-care benefits. The 65-year-old tennis aficionado recently spent thousands of dollars upgrading his condo to "mint condition," he said..
All told, snowbirds from Canada and elsewhere spend more than $2 billion in Broward and Palm Beach counties each year, according to the county visitors bureaus.
In Broward, about 500,000 snowbirds visited last year, spending about $1 billion. This winter season, their spending should rise about 2 percent, said Jessica Savage, spokeswoman for Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In Palm Beach County, snowbirds spend about $1.4 billion per year, the visitors bureau said.
That money helps business owners like Sam Kantzavelos. His Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Greek Islands Taverna on Los Olas Boulevard, sees about a 30 percent rise in sales during winter months when snowbirds are in town. He sees a lot of Canadians this winter.
"It's affordable for them to come down," Kantzavelos said. "We lost more Europeans (this winter because of financial problems in Europe) but we got more Canadians."
In Dania Beach, owners of the Dairy Belle Ice Cream restaurant are investing about $3 million to expand facilities to serve such French-Canadian favorites as poutine, which features cheese curds and brown gravy on top of french fries. They've seen business rise about 20 percent annually in recent years, said co-owner Francois Grenier, and they see many Canadian tourists every day.
"We expect this season is going to be the biggest and most impressive that we've ever seen. It's just crazy busy," said Grenier, whose business got a boost from recent TV coverage in Canada.
Real estate businesses also are benefiting. Many Canadians are buying second homes inDelray BeachBoca Raton and Highland Beach, according to Senada Adzem, director of the Douglas Elliman real estate company in Florida. She sells mainly multimillion-dollar properties, often to customers buying near the homes of their Canadian friends and family.
"They just fall in love with our weather and lifestyle," Adzem said.
Many more Canadians are buying less expensive condos. Belair said the French Alliance club of French speakers in his condo community, mainly people from Quebec, saw its membership rise about 16 percent last year. A key lure: warm weather.
"I'm just enjoying life here," said Belair. "Try surviving in minus 20 degrees."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Upturn in Florida real estate gets thumbs up from J.P. Morgan strategist

Date: Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 9:46am EST
A gradually improving economy, boosted by low interest rates and little risk of inflation, is on the horizon for 2013, saidStuart SchweitzerJ.P. Morgan Private Bank vice chairman and global markets strategist.
Real estate, technology and industrial companies are the investment sectors where Schweitzer sees the most potential in 2013. Schweitzer, who has a home near Naples, is especially bullish on Florida real estate.
While Florida was hit harder than the rest of the nation in the downturn, “there’s clear evidence on the ground that real estate is turning slowly,” he said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Business Journal, citing a 50 percent increase in building permit activity statewide in 2012 compared to 2011. Although building permits are still below their peak levels in 2005, “we are beginning nationwide and in Florida to make progress,” Schweitzer said.
“I think housing will be more of a plus for Florida and for the nation in 2013 than it was in 2012,” he said.
That creates opportunity for investors in housing-related stocks. Schweitzer said he was not surprised by the TBBJ’s Jan. 4 report, showing triple-digit gains in stock price in 2012 at three local companies with business models tied to the residential real estate market.
While there has not yet been a material increase in applications for home mortgages, “I think that will change in 2013,” he said.
Technology is poised for gains in part because it remains a key way to cut costs in the business world, including at manufacturing firms, where the use of robotics allows them to operate with fewer workers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Terence Trombetti | Gulf Coast Realty Network | terencetrombetti@gmail.com | (239) 560-1574
1923 SE 31st Ter, Cape Coral, FL
Gorgeous Pool Home in SE Cape Coral
3BR/3BA Single Family House
offered at $199,900
Year Built 1981
Sq Footage 2,312
Bedrooms 3
Bathrooms 3 full, 0 partial
Floors 1
Parking 2 Car garage
Lot Size 10,018 sqft
HOA/Maint $0 per month

DESCRIPTION

Raised panel cherry cabinets, beautiful granite counter tops and tile floors, stainless steel appliances are negotiable, carpet bedrooms, shower only in 2nd guest bath, ceiling fans, huge family room with cathedral ceiling, and large heated pool, newer roof, large paver lanai and pool deck, paver 'courtyard' at entry, HVAC air system has a $4,000 UVPhotoMax Advanced Oxidation Household Air Purification System - it decomposes odors reduces allergens, kills airborne viruses, kills airborne bacteria and breaks down smoke. Upscale neighborhood opposite waterfront homes, convienently located off Cornwallis Pkwy.

see additional photos below
PROPERTY FEATURES

- Dining room - Family room - Laundry room
- Living room - Master bath - Walk-in closet
- Dishwasher - Dryer - Garbage disposal
- Microwave - Refrigerator - Stainless steel appliances
- Stove/Oven - Washer - Balcony, Deck, or Patio
- Lawn - Porch - Sprinkler system
- Swimming pool - Yard - Air conditioning
- Ceiling fans - Central A/C - Central heat
- Cable-ready - High-speed internet - Garage - Attached
- Granite countertop - High/Vaulted ceiling - Skylights
- Tile floor

OTHER SPECIAL FEATURES

- Gourmet Kitchen and Beautiful Living Areas

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS


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Contact info:
Terence Trombetti
Gulf Coast Realty Network
terencetrombetti@gmail.com
(239) 560-1574
For sale by agent/broker

Posted: Jan 2, 2013, 4:36pm PST

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

U.S. REAL ESTATE ADVICE


It’s not too late to buy cheap property in the U.S. Sun Belt


Garry Marr | Jan 2, 2013 7:46 AM ET
More from Garry Marr | @DustyWallet
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesCanadians represent 25% of foreign real estate purchasers in the U.S., whether in Miami, or the rest of Florida, or Texas, Arizona and California.
You’ve probably missed the bottom of the U.S. housing market, but the question for Canadians is whether it’s too late to jump in now.
Maybe it’s the strength of the loonie, the increasing value of their principal residences or the lure of still deeply discounted housing, but Canadians love the United States — especially the Sun Belt — where we remain the No. 1 foreign buyer of property.
Prices won’t likely go lower, says Beata Caranci, deputy chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. However, based on the 5% year-over-year growth that the United States has seen in average property values, they’re not returning to 2006 levels anytime soon either.
“If you were trying to get in at the very bottom, you missed it,” Ms. Caranci says. “You are still pretty darn close to skimming the bottom, and the more you wait, you can expect about 5% price growth every year.”
If you were trying to get in at the very bottom, you missed it
Just to keep things in perspective, average prices in Florida remain about 50% off their peak. She says states such as Nevada and Arizona have worked through their foreclosures, thereby removing some of the best deals.
But even with the recovery, Ms. Caranci says it will take until 2017 for Americans to recover all the real estate wealth they lost in the housing crash — based on that 5% annual increase in property values.
“That’s 11 years. It’s very much like Canada. Remember we had our real estate bust in the 1980s and it took until 1995 until prices climbed again. It was a long and extended boom-bust cycle,” she says. “You are talking about a 10-year cycle.”
Canadian activity in the U.S. is impressive in its own right, but the transaction volume is hardly enough to be the only reason behind the modest turnaround in the moribund U.S. housing market.
The latest survey from the Washington-based National Association of Realtors showed foreigners purchased US$82.5-billion in residential real estate in the 12 months before March 12, 2012. It was a significant chunk of the US$928.2-billion in total activity for the period.
Foreign purchasing, led by Canadians’ 25% share, is clearly on the rise, having been only $66.4-billion a year earlier. And the top four destinations for foreigners are the warm-weather states of Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.
Richard Levert, a 57-year-old from Sudbury, Ont., in the recruitment business who has been vacationing in Naples, Fla. since 1991, is one of those who pulled the trigger on a recent deal by upgrading his vacation home.
He bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the Naples-area in 1997, but this past June he decided to upgrade to a villa, which has about 2,000 square feet.
“I am above water [on the 1997 property],” says Mr. Levert, who is now selling that unit to pay for his new purchase. He looked around at the housing market and decided it was time to buy.
“I also have a piece of property [in nearby Cape Coral] I’ve never developed. It’s just a lot,” he says of the land purchased in 2005.
“It’s just an investment,” says Mr. Levert, “it hasn’t gone too well. That one I’m under water on.”
But his confidence in the market was hardly shaken. His upgrade has given him an apartment on the inter-coastal waterway of Florida, second to the beach in terms of expense. Generally, the further inland, the cheaper it gets in the Sunshine State.
He’s not retired full-time yet but hopes to spend up to six months a year in Florida once he reaches 65.
So why now?
“I just think the price was right. How are we going to see better values?” says Mr. Levert, who had been looking at the same property for months before the owner finally agreed to his offer in the falling U.S. market. “To me, Naples is just paradise.”
The perceived value is what drove Ottawa resident Don Briscoe, a 67-year-old executive director of a not-for-profit security company that provides employment for military veterans, to close on a home in Sarasota, Fla. in October. He’s not fully retired, but says prices made him want to buy now.
“An opportunity just came up and it’s just such a good time. It’s not just the real estate; the exchange rate was a driver,” says Mr. Briscoe, adding it doesn’t hurt that his Ottawa home has risen sharply in value.
Canadians are helping things pick up in Florida, says Phil Wood, an agent with Naples-based John R. Wood Realtors, who has 35 years in the real estate business in southwest Florida.
“I have seen the ups and downs and everything in between. I feel like I’ve seen it all,” says Mr. Wood, whose region is filled with Canucks. “I’ve just seen a little more urgency in the last months with [Canadians]. They seem to realize that certain areas, like southwest Florida, prices are heading up. They want to buy sooner than later. We have clients who won’t use the property for 10 years but want to lock in at current price levels.”
But even he says you need a plan and not just some trophy asset you can brag about. He says the majority of his Canadian clients are buying a second vacation home that will be used on a more regular basis once retirement hits.
Meantime, renting the property is an option. November to April is prime time for renting, although many owners want to use their property for three or four weeks during that period.
Mr. Wood says a typical US$200,000 condominium — a 1,200-square-foot apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms “near the water but not on the water” — may cost between US$1,000 and US$1,200 per month to carry in maintenance, condo fee, tax and utilities costs.
That doesn’t include debt carrying costs. But Mr. Wood says about 90% of Canadians pay cash even though they can finance for up to 65% of a home’s value — albeit, such financing is hard to come by, according to most experts.
“They’re ripe,” he says of Canadian buyers. “Your economy is good, the exchange rate is good, mortgage rates are good, our prices are good. It’s just a great time to reach out.”
That US$200,000 apartment, Mr. Wood notes, would have been worth close to US$400,000 at the peak of the housing market.
Mike Belmont, president of Minto Communities LLC, which builds in Florida but is a well-known name in Canada, says it’s still a battle for builders to sell in a market loaded with foreclosures for sale.
“There were a lot of homes on the market that quite frankly were a better deal than, say, a new home,” said Mr. Belmont. “You read a lot down here about the more affordable homes going to Canadians. What has been popular has been discounted condos on the beach that have gone into foreclosure.”
Asked if there is urgency to buy today — given parity of the dollar, low interest rates and depressed U.S. home prices — he points to the deals.
“Our price points today are where they were in 2003,” said Mr. Belmont. “It is a great time to buy. The discounts and some of the incentives we saw last year, those have stopped and we are seeing some price appreciation.”
Prices are up but you have to think about the context.
“Last year was horrendous,” says Mr. Belmont, noting that in his Sun City development in Tampa, homes sell for US$100 a square foot. Compare that to, say, $500 to $600 a square foot for a condo in Toronto.
“It’s a real bargain. You’re getting an 1,800-square-foot home with four recreation centres and six golf courses.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Florida has a lot at stake in fiscal cliff outcome


Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau
Washington — 
Florida stands to lose 80,000 jobs, long-term unemployment benefits keeping families afloat and tax breaks worth about $2,000 for a middle-income family as leaders in Washington charge to a New Year’s deadline with no deal to stave off historic tax increases and spending cuts.

Representatives in Congress and the White House have known for months that this deadline, known as the fiscal cliff, was coming. Yet politics have gotten in the way of any meaningful compromise.
Leaders of both parties met at the White House on Friday. Senate leaders emerged saying they’d try to draft a short-term deal they could bring to Congressional Democrats and Republicans over the weekend.
As the deadline has ticked closer, consumer confidence has dropped and Americans are feeling a familiar sense that Washington may fail them again.
The uncertainty poses particular danger in Florida, where the health of the economy relies so heavily on spending. With no income tax to fill state coffers, use and sales taxes fund 74 percent of Florida’s general revenue, according to Florida Tax Watch.
And when residents don’t know how much of a tax hit their paychecks will take and business owners don’t know which tax breaks might expire, they don’t spend, said Jerry D. Parrish, director of The Center for Competitive Florida at the Florida TaxWatch Research Institute.
“The U.S. going over the fiscal cliff would place Florida’s economy and recovery in peril,” Parrish said.
If Washington does not reach a deal, in 2013 Americans will face an unprecedented tax increase of $500 billion, as most of the tax breaks enacted since 2001 expire. At the same time, the national budget will take a hit of about $109 billion in across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs.
Even with the cuts set to take effect in a matter of days, some members of Congress suggest going over the cliff won’t be so bad. Some of the tax breaks that expire, for instance, won’t hurt Americans until they file their income taxes in 2014.
Former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said he just doesn’t understand the mindset of his one-time colleagues.
“I think it’s just a leadership failure across the board,” said Martinez, who is co-chairman of the Florida chapter of the Campaign to Fix the Debt.
He noted that most analysts predict that the mix of spending cuts and loss of income to families will drive the economy back into recession.
Janee Murphy, another member of the Florida chapter, said many cuts will also quickly affect working families.
“We here in Florida will immediately feel this,” she said.
Murphy points to programs funded by federal grants, such as those that support public housing, loans for college students and nutrition programs for low-income women and children. There’s also the expiration of a payroll tax holiday that would affect most Americans.
“Unfortunately, our Congressional members are in the bubble,” she said. “For anyone to say we’re not going to feel this immediately, shame on them.”
State budgets are also at risk with the loss of federal funding.
“States have to balance their budgets,” said Anne Stauffer, project director for the Pew Center on the States. “They can’t run a deficit like a federal government.”
The automatic cuts are expected to shave roughly 8 to 9 percent off programs across the board. In Florida, federal grants that are subject to the cuts make up about 7.7 percent of the state budget, a disproportionately high share. On average, states get about 6.6 percent of their total funding from such programs.
“It puts state policy makers in a tough position of making difficult budget choices when they’ve had several years of tough budget choices,” Stauffer said.
If there is a silver lining for Florida, a Pew Center study found that compared with those in high tax states, residents of Florida may see less of an assault on their paychecks. Some states that levy an income tax tie their tax policy to federal law, meaning residents will face not just a federal tax hike if there is no deal in Washington, but a state increase, too.
Some of the automatic spending cuts may also affect Florida less than other states, the report found, because federal spending on salaries and equipment, as an example, make up just 3.6 percent of the Florida budget, compared with a national average of 5.3 percent.
But even the loss of some defense spending could be critical, particularly in north Florida where there are many defense jobs and military bases, said Parrish.
“It’s some of our highest paying jobs that we’re likely to lose,” he said.
Plus, Florida has already suffered a significant loss of defense spending in recent years.
Between 2009 and 2011, Florida lost more than $984 million in defense contract awards, he said.
“Further cuts will place even more pressure on defense contractors and their subcontractors, many of whom operate small businesses that would likely be put out of business,” Parrish said.
He quoted a Center for Regional Analysis report that found Florida risks 41,905 defense jobs if Congress and the White House cannot reach a deal.
Florida will also see less of a pinch if Congress cannot put off the application of the Alternative Minimum Tax on millions more American households. Congress has repeatedly patched this tax, which does not take inflation into account, to ensure that it does not weigh on middle class families. If that patch expires, it will disproportionately affect states with higher wages.
While some wealthy families would surely be affected, the median income in Florida is too low to make that tax a big issue for the state, analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation said.
But Florida still has plenty at stake.
The state fell into recession faster than most of the nation and it lagged there longer.
“Ours was 35 months versus the 19 months” the nation experienced, Parrish said.
Improvement in the real estate market, a linchpin of the Florida economy, could also stall if spending does, Martinez said.
Movement toward a deal is now in the hands of Martinez’ former colleagues. For the good of the nation, he hopes members can lay their differences aside.
“I’m like everyone else, disappointed, frustrated,” he said. “It just seems to me we should be able to put politics aside.”

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