Friday, May 31, 2013

Home prices rise the most in seven years

Home prices rise the most in seven years

May 28, 2013   |
WASHINGTON — Home prices rose in the 12 months through March by the most in seven years as the recovery in residential real estate gained momentum.
The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values increased 10.9 percent from March 2012, the biggest 12-month gain since April 2006, after advancing 9.4 percent in February, a report showed Tuesday in New York. The median projection of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 10.2 percent advance.
Property values may keep climbing as cheaper borrowing costs and gains in confidence lure buyers while the number of houses on the market remains near the lowest level in a decade. Rising prices are shoring up household finances, which could give a lift to sales at retailers and help builders.
The median price of an existing single-family home in Lee County was $182,000 in April, up 29.8 percent from $140,199 a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach.
Single-family sales in Lee were up 1.4 percent to 1,172 from 1,156 a year earlier during the same time period, the association’s monthly report states.
In Collier County, 1,126 single-family homes were sold in April, up 11 percent from 1,014 a year earlier, according to the Naples Area Board of Realtors.
The median price increased 9.4 percent from $223,000 to $244,000 a year earlier.
Numbers for both counties include only homes sold with the help of a Realtor.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cape mayor wants control of vacant Golf Club

Posted: May 28, 2013 3:34 PM EDTUpdated: May 28, 2013 7:09 PM EDT
An eyesore is at the center of controversy in Cape Coral. A developer bought the Golf Club years ago with big plans. But after a judge ruled in the city's favor in a suit over rezoning the property, it's back to square one.
We found out what's next for the forgotten piece of land.
The Golf Club was once considered the crown jewel of the Cape. Tuesday, we learned the city's mayor says it may be time to take control of the land and it's fate.
"It's disheveled. It's not kept up," said Cape resident Herbert Ruescher.
Dry grass and brittle brush now cover what's left of the Golf Club. Those who live nearby, like Ruescher, say the piece of property is a source of constant aggravation.
"They get away with murder. I don't understand it," he said.

A lawsuit over the property's future ended last week - leaving the real estate in limbo again. Investors wanted a large scale development, something Cape Coral nixed from happening.
Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan says he wants change - even if that means taking the land.
"I think we could get a real pod shot, an economic shot in the arm, if we play our cards right," he said.
In an interview with us, Mayor Sullivan suggested a trade for the property with other city-owned real estate.
Once in the Cape's inventory, he says he dreams big of botanical gardens, a band shell and a satellite university on the defunct course.
"You'd add a lot of culture to the city and create a destination," he said.

And if those wishes prove to be too far-reaching, neighbors say they'd be happy to settle for a better view.
"I'd like to look out my backyard and see anything but green and a golf course," said neighbor Ron Wendy.
For now, the big question is whether the developer will appeal the court's decision, which sided with the Cape. We don't know the answer at this point.
Multiple calls to the company and their lawyers went unanswered.

But the one thing that has been made very clear is that many of those living next to the old course want it cleaned up.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Florida’s Housing Market Showed Improvement in the First Quarter of 2013

Florida’s Housing Market Showed Improvement in the First Quarter of 2013

(Source: Florida Realtors) –Florida’s housing market gained strength in first quarter 2013 with increased closed sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and a reduced supply of homes for sale compared to the same quarter in 2012, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“The first three months of 2013 demonstrate that Florida’s housing market is gaining momentum and continuing to bolster the state’s economy,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher , broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “More people went back to work as more jobs were created in Florida during the first quarter, and our population is also growing –which provide a solid foundation for growth in the housing market. It’s taking less time to sell a home and, coupled with tight inventory, that shows buyers are eager to lock in historically low mortgage interest rates and take advantage of favorable, but rising prices.”

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 48,976 in 1Q 2013, up 10.2 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Meanwhile, pending sales – contracts that are signed but not yet completed or closed – for existing single-family homes rose 26.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the 1Q 2012 figure. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in 1Q 2013 was $153,000, up 13.4 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Housing industry analysts note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 24,655 units sold statewide in the first quarter, up 3.2 percent from the first three months of 2012. Pending sales for townhouse-condos in 1Q 2013 increased 13.7 percent compared to a year ago, while the statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $116,000, up 18.4 percent over the same quarter last year.

In 1Q 2013, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 60 days for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties.
The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.3-months’ supply for 1Q 2013; inventory for townhouse-condos was at a 5.8-months’ supply for the same period, according to Florida Realtors.
Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo said, “In a sense, these numbers are old news since we release the monthly numbers separately. But they are important in that they confirm the sales and price trends we have seen shaping up in the market. If you look back at the quarterly numbers, comparing year to year, you see, at least in single-family sales, the steadiness of the market since 2009. We expect that the year-over-year increases we have seen for the past several years will continue into 2014.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.50 percent for 1Q 2013 down from the previous year’s average of 3.92 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Media Center at and look under Latest Releases, or download the 1Q 2013 data report PDFs under Market Data at:

Florida Realtors®, formerly known as the Florida Association of Realtors®, serves as the voice for real estate in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 118,000 members in 63 boards/associations. Florida Realtors® Media Center website is available at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Citizens reform to have big impact on coastal homes

Senior Reporter-South Florida Business Journal
Real estate and insurance experts say the state’s reforms to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will have a big impact on coastal real estate in South Florida.
The legislature approved changes to the state-run insurer designed to reduce enrollment so it is not as vulnerable to a major storm. Citizens would still be limited to 10 percent annual premium hikes, but new enrollees would have to go through a "clearinghouse" of other insurers before choosing Citizens.
Jay E. Mack, CEO of Deerfield Beach-based Mack, Mack and Waltz Insurance, said rates would increase over time because homeowners in the clearinghouse would have to elect for private coverage within 15 percent of the Citizens policy.
“The prices will rise up and someday settle in to where they are actuarially sound and will attract other private insurance companies back to Florida,” Mack said.
Shares of Fort Lauderdale-based Universal Insurance Holdings (NYSE: UVE), the largest private insurer in Florida, hit a 52-week high on Friday and again on Monday in the wake of Citizens reform passing.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Florida Buyers Find Alternative Funding

By Jennifer LeClaireMiami
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Jeff Bartel
MIAMI—Florida’s commercial and residential real estate markets continues its winning streak. Well-capitalized investors are pouring in. Home prices are on the rebound. New construction is coming out of the ground and domestic buyers looking to seize upon value-driven prices and historically low interest rates.
So says Jeff Bartel, managing director of Hamptons Group LLC and chairman of Benworth Capital Partners LLC, a South Florida-based private equity firm focused on real estate finance and related real estate services. He points to both numerical data and anecdotal evidence that show positive indicators for South Florida, especially in Miami-Dade County.
“While demand for real estate is strengthening and the values of assets—particularly improved assets—are trending upward, significant obstacles to borrowing remain,” Bartel tells “Regulatory constraints remain an impediment for accessing debt financing that borrowers require to acquire or develop property under the traditional levered model.”
For some institutions, lending has all but dried up amidst the global financial crisis and tightened regulations, with home mortgage lending falling from $2 trillion in 2009 to $966 billion last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, Bartel says, there are worthy borrowers seeking capital for creditable investments. This leaves alternative sources of financing, such as private mortgage lenders providing bridge, hard money and other alternative lending models, in position to fill these gaps.
“These positive indicators do not paint a full picture,” he says. “High-end buyers often have more equity at their disposal, and we have seen many instances of all-cash deals, particularly in the slowly rebounding condominium market in the South Florida area. Meanwhile, middle-market buyers—and even luxury buyers who require a second mortgage—are challenged to secure financing.”
Despite signs of stabilization on the commercial front, Bartel says the capital markets remain in a state of flux amid turmoil overseas. This uncertainty is taking a toll on available financing among large and mid-size institutional lenders. As a result, some of the most valuable deals taking place in South Florida are being fueled by inbound international investors flush with cash.
“The domestic market tells a very different story, with many U.S.-based buyers and developers still requiring debt financing. Even then, securing favorable loan terms remains a challenge,” he says. “Against this backdrop, borrowers are increasingly turn to private mortgages and alternative lending as a source of funding that enables a residential or commercial property purchase or the start of a new development.”
As Bartel sees it, South Florida remains an attractive real estate investment target among worthy borrowers despite tightened bank regulations. With opportunities knocking for value creation and loan-seeking buyers faced with persistent obstacles, private asset-based lenders are filling the gaps.
“Qualified borrowers are partnering with private lenders that have operational expertise, underwriting discipline, and a track record of performance to fund and manage residential and commercial loans,” he says. “This model can provide sustained value creation while helping to avoid the ‘Wild West’ environment that precipitated the mortgage crisis.”

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