Thursday, August 21, 2014

Southwest Florida housing starts on upswing

Southwest Florida housing starts on upswing

Housing starts in Southwest Florida spiked sharply in the second quarter, according to a report issued Wednesday by housing data provider Metrostudy.
Overall, starts in Lee and Collier counties increased 11.4 percent from 778 single-family homes in the first quarter to 867 in the second, according to Metrostudy, which tracks new-home construction in subdivisions in the Fort Myers-Naples area and other markets around the country.
Also, Collier has almost caught up with its larger neighbor Lee, accounting for almost half of the starts so far this year, said David Cobb, Metrostudy's regional director in the Naples-Fort Myers area.
The strong showing in Southwest Florida was part of a pattern in which "some of the most 'beaten-down' markets are now doing better," Brad Hunter, chief economist and director of consulting for Palm Beach Gardens-based Metrostudy, said in a written release.
Tim Rose, president of Fort Myers-based Arthur Rutenberg Homes, said he thinks whether the good news continues depends to some extent on national factors.
"Stability is always something that makes my customers happy," he said. "We look for stability in the marketplace, the country, the world. That's what makes people comfortable."
He's hiring more staff to deal with the increased sales volume, Rose said, "and I think other people are looking at that too."
Land Solutions CEO Randy Thibaut, who specializes in brokering the large-scale land transactions necessary to create residential communities, said the second-quarter numbers are encouraging but that it's important to watch for possible obstacles to future increases.
"We do have some slowdowns in the sales centers," he said. "We do have some standing inventory that's building. My biggest concern is oversupply. Are we going to oversupply? It's something we should keep a very close eye on."
Thibaut also said it's important to remember that the current pace of new-home construction is still a shadow of what it was before the housing boom collapsed in late 2005.
"By year's end we're only going to get around 8,500 single-family permits for Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties," he said. "That's far from the 45,000 we had at the peak (2005); it's far from the 10,000 we had in the year 2000."
Cobb said that there's a possibility of an oversupply of inventory, but that it wouldn't last long.
"In the short term there might be a little too much home-building activity in the market," he said, but the supply of land is tight and increasingly expensive in Collier while in Lee, supply is tight in desirable areas.
"The biggest problem is where people want to build: Estero, Bonita and to a certain extent the Treeline area," Cobb said. "Most of what's left is either in Lehigh Acres or Fort Myers."

California property flipper moves into Southwest Florida

California property flipper moves into Southwest Florida

Published: Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 12:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 12:32 p.m.
MANATEE COUNTY - One of California's largest real estate flippers is expanding into Southwest Florida, a sign the region's housing market continues to be attractive to corporate investors hunting for bargains.
The move marks a vast shift from just two years ago, when institutional investors like Wall Street's Blackstone Group and Colony Capital acquired hundreds of properties at low prices and converted them into rentals.
By contrast, Blue Mountain Realty has acquired distressed properties at a discount, provided mainly cosmetic facelifts and then quickly resold the houses for big profits.
The firm, which also builds new custom homes, has flipped thousands of properties in California.
Its Southwest Florida push comes as local home prices have rebounded by more than one-third since the downturn, with supply at its thinnest point in nearly a decade.
But analysts say that the market frenzy has created dangerous conditions for flippers who are betting on making substantial profits with little investment and time.
“There are still opportunities in certain price ranges,” said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant. “The lower-priced homes have been dominated by institutional investors and hedge funds, but they haven't been too active in the upper ranges because prices have been pushed up pretty high.
“They must see something because they're making handsome profits.”
Blue Mountain officials declined to comment when reached late Wednesday.
A Blue Mountain subsidiary has purchased at least seven homes between Sarasota and Manatee counties, records show, spending more than $2 million.

The transactions ranged from a $15,200 Bank of America foreclosure to a $553,000 Bird Key estate, records show.
Since then, the company has sold three local houses, grossing $315,000. That profit figure includes a Siesta Key foreclosure it sold for $69,000 more than it paid just a month earlier.
Blue Mountain has tried to sell some of the properties through a public auction, which Realtors say is unusual for these types of sales. Area agents also say the company's offered commission structure is below market.
And the company isn't alone in its quest to make substantial profits from flipping properties in the area, of course.
This month, prolific real estate flipper Karl Helbig nearly doubled his money on a Holmes Beach condominium that he had owned for less than a week, records show.
A Helbig affiliate bought the 1,092-square-foot unit for $325,100, and then resold it for $650,000.
The former owner, who acquired the 5608 Gulf Drive condo in December 2004, paid $825,000.
But Blue Mountain's emergence here also comes as rising home prices has impacted potential profits for flippers.
“Flipping has quieted down a lot,” said Shannon Moore, broker and owner of Green Lion Realty, which works with flippers in North Port and Port Charlotte.
“Right now, the banks aren't giving them away. It's easy to find buyers, but finding properties to flip can be pretty hard, and when you're dealing with more expensive homes, you're taking a much bigger risk.”

Investors flipped 152 properties in the Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port market in the first three months of the year. That was down a modest 1.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, but it was also nearly 9 percent above levels from one year ago, according to data provider RealtyTrac Inc. Most recently, Blue Mountain acquired a Panther Ridge property containing two homes out of foreclosure for $509,250, official property records show.
The homes, at 20109 74th Ave. East, were seized by U.S. Bank National Association in March after the previous owner defaulted on his mortgage.
Former owner John Suker bought the 4.9-acre property in September 2005 for $925,000, using a $675,000 loan from Bank of America. He took out a second $675,000 mortgage 11 months later. A foreclosure notice was filed in October 2011, records show.
Built in 1999, one 3,419-square-foot home has three bedrooms and four full bathrooms. A second residence contains one bedroom and one bathroom.
“What we're constantly on the hunt for is where are the opportunities?” Rick Revetria, Blue Mountain's vice president of operations, told the Press-Democrat in California.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cape Coral-Fort Myers second in nation for cash home sales

Home buyers in Cape Coral-Fort Myers are second in the country in paying cash — stimulating the local real estate industry but creating potential dangers ahead.
The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area had 64 percent all-cash home purchases in May, according to a report released today by Irvine, Calif.-based financial data provider CoreLogic.
Florida was the No. 1 cash purchase state with 53.4 percent.
All that cash is flowing into the area because of the newly strict oversight by federal regulators of bank loans, plus low interest rates that make it unattractive to simply leave large amounts of money in a bond or a certificate of deposit, said Brett Ellis, head of The Ellis Team with Remax Realty Group in Fort Myers.
"It's easier to get a loan than it was two years ago," he said. "But there are additional restrictions they're putting on. A lot of buyers have the money, they think Florida's a good value but they don't want to jump through all those hoops."
Also, Ellis said, "A lot of people think there's going to be a stock market correction, so real estate seems to be the place to park your money."
One consequence of all this is that it's the more expensive homes that tend to be purchased with cash, he said — lower-end buyers have to take their chances with the bank loan process.
But interest rates likely will start rising in a year or two and that could be a game changer, said Bob Knight, co-owner of Cape-based Paul Homes.
The home-building industry in Southwest Florida has been trending stronger recently, but still isn't in shape to deal with a serious hit such as a sharp increase in interest rates, he said.
Higher interest rates, Knight said, could prevent some people from buying a house altogether while even those with the ready cash could decide to keep their money in the bank.
That could cause trouble for the slowly improving housing market here, he said.
"We're in recovery mode," Knight said. "We're not recovered yet. It's a fragile recovery headed in the right direction."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

South Florida home prices rising more slowly

South Florida home prices rising more slowly



South Florida’s red hot housing market continued to cool in the second quarter.
The median price of a single-family home in the metropolitan area comprising Miami, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale rose 7.6 percent in the second quarter to $270,000 from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Despite the slowdown from double-digit price spikes a year earlier, South Florida median home prices continued rising at a faster pace than national prices.
The national median existing single-family home price rose 4.4 percent in the second quarter to $212,400 from $203,400 a year earlier, NAR said. That was far slower than the 8.3 percent year-over-year increase in the median price in the first quarter.
“National median home prices began their most recent rise during the first quarter of 2012 but had climbed to unsustainable levels given the current pace of inflation and wage growth,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “At this slower but healthier rate, homeowners can continue steadily building equity. Meanwhile, for buyers, increased supply with moderate price gains is giving them better opportunities to choose.”

Read more here:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Southwest Florida real estate briefs

Southwest Florida real estate briefs

REIS to meet, new website
Real estate economics analyst Mike Timmerman will provide current reports on Southwest Florida market trends and explain their application at the Aug. 12 luncheon meeting of the Real Estate Investment Society (REIS). The presentation will demonstrate the use of market data and studies to forecast supply and demand, recognize growth patterns, and design residential and commercial projects to meet changing market needs. The meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the Osprey Room at Pelican Preserve's Clubhouse, on Treeline Avenue at Colonial Boulevard, one mile east of I-75, Exit 136 in Fort Myers. Admission: $30 for members; $40 for guests, which includes lunch. Reservations may be made at
The Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) has launched its new website,, designed to serve the commercial real estate and development industry in Southwest Florida. The website includes a calendar of meetings, hearings, workshops, and events. There are quick links to associated professional organizations, government agencies, economic development offices, elected officials, and sources of current market information. A searchable membership directory allows members and visitors to connect with leading professionals. The site is designed for easy navigation and improved accessibility with mobile devices. Additional real estate investment and development information is presented in the REIS Report, the Society's online newsletter posted on the website every month. Breaking news, insight on current issues, and special alerts are accessible via the REIS discussion group on LinkedIn, where members share information and insight on legal issues, financing strategies, industry events, and related subjects. Information on membership and meeting programs is available at

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Today's Florida Real Estate Market – Boom or Bust?

Today's Florida Real Estate Market – Boom or Bust?PDFPrintE-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014

Today's Florida Real Estate Market – Boom or Bust?

/UCWE/ - Florida's amusement parks and real estate are a lot alike. Lots of peaks and valleys, dark tunnels, long lines and tricky turns. announces a new tool to help buyers circumvent the confusing Florida real estate market.

Florida real estate has always been different than most states - booms and busts, foreclosures and fortunes. On one hand, tiny concrete-block homes with small yards and no garage that originally sold in the 1950s in Key Biscayne for about $10,000 are now selling for well over $1 million. However, Orlando golf resort condos near Disney World that sold like hotcakes in 2006 for close to $1 million are now lucky to fetch $300,000.

Just like politics, real estate is "local" and the home buying situation varies quite a bit in Florida. Are prices going up or down? Is now a good time to buy a home? Are there any condo bust deals left? Prices are very expensive in some areas but a bargain in other parts of the state. Home selling inventory can be high in one city, but very limited in the next town just a few miles down the road.

Most of Florida seems to be in another boom period. According to the National Association of Realtors, Florida's median home sale prices have increased for 31 consecutive months. Florida real estate attracts more international buyers that anywhere else in the United States, accounting for 23 percent of all U.S. foreign buyers, and is also attractive to investors, vacation home buyers and baby boomers who are reaching retirement age. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the price discounts that were widespread from 2009 to 2012 in Southwest Florida are almost gone. The newspaper points to rising demand and fewer listings causing the price increases.

South Florida is especially hot. Based on the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index report, prices in South Florida have increased over 16 percent in the past year. The housing market in much of South Florida is almost back to the peak sales years of 2005 and 2006. Sixty new condo projects are either under construction or planned for the downtown Miami area - about the same number that were built during the last Florida condo boom. Things are so hot that even the local grocery store is getting in on the action. South Florida's popular grocery chain, Publix, recently announced plans to build condo towers above two of its new stores.

According to Robert Walsh from, the glut of unsold, new condos in most of Florida is long gone. He says the Florida recovery began in 2010 and picked up a huge head of steam in 2011 and 2012. Walsh said there are still a few bargains left in Orlando, Daytona, Fort Myers and Panama City Beach but most of the condo boom inventory has been purchased by investors, baby boomers and internationals. has been at the forefront of Florida home sale news with features such as Top 10 Florida condo bust bargains, condo pre-construction, luxury condos and sales trends. In order to streamline the search and buying process for Florida real estate, the website has just launched a new feature of Florida real estate agents that will cover the entire state. With the new site, Florida home buyers can go to one place to find expert agents from Miami Beach to Naples to Orlando and Panama City Beach, what's left of the condo bust bargains, pre-construction condos plus local agents pick their area's best home deals. is a different kind of real estate website that focuses on home news and entertainment. Their home features are seen every week on hundreds of national, regional and local websites. The website's spotlight on celebrity, historic and spectacular homes has been published in many of the country's top media websites including Time, CNBC, Yahoo, Haute Residence, USA Today, AOL and Lonny.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Improving housing market luring would-be brokers

Updated 11:56 am, Tuesday, August 5, 2014
  • This Thursday, July 24, 2014 photo shows construction cranes at the Brickell City Centre project in downtown Miami. According to real estate license applications in 2013, the number of U.S. real estate agents is increasing as the housing market recovers from the Great Recession. Photo: Lynne Sladky, AP / AP
    This Thursday, July 24, 2014 photo shows construction cranes at the Brickell City Centre project in downtown Miami. According to real estate license applications in 2013, the number of U.S. real estate agents is increasing as the housing market recovers from the Great Recession. Photo: Lynne Sladky, AP

MIAMI (AP) — To motivate a classroom packed with 87 aspiring real estate agents, instructor Keith Grandy started off his one-week, intensive course with the promise of big money: With hard work, fresh licensees in the Miami metro area could make $100,000 a year if they complete at least two transactions per month, according to current property prices and commissions.
With 67 condo towers being built in South Florida, a pace not seen since the housing crash of 2007, such a payday seems more than possible to Grandy's students, despite competition so intense that many of them will leave their new career without completing a single sale.
"If you are aggressive, you can do extremely well," he said during a break from his class at Gold Coast Schools of Real Estate in Doral, a Miami suburb.
Low interest rates, foreign buyers and a gradual end to the foreclosure crisis are driving the modest turnaround in the nation's housing market, but there might be no better evidence of it than the number of people hoping to become brokers.
In Florida, where housing prices dropped by about half when the recession hit, the number of applications for real estate licenses has almost doubled from 23,863 in 2010 to 40,901 last year. In California too, the number of people taking the license exams has doubled since 2012, respectively. Even Nevada, another hard-hit state, saw a 23 percent bump in prospective licensees last year.
The National Association of Realtors, which has more than a million brokers, salespeople, appraisers and other real estate professionals among its members, added 42,000 agents to its ranks in 2013, the first increase in seven years.
The workforce in this field tends to expand and contract violently, mirroring the booms and busts that shock the housing market and the economy as a whole.
Gold Coast Schools of Real Estate, which has five South Florida campuses, saw its enrollment fall 70 percent during the housing collapse, director John Greer said. But enrollment was up 20 percent last year, driven by students dazzled by the chance at fat commissions like the kind attached to every deal on TV's "Million Dollar Listing."
"The income is going to be great and I'm going to have my own schedule," said Katherine Sanchez, a 34-year-old nutritionist and a student in Grandy's class.
One reason many turn to real estate is that it's not a difficult field to enter: while each state has different requirements, it generally takes little time and money to get a license. On average, Gold Coast students spend two months preparing for the Florida sales associate exam and spend less than $1,000 in tuition and licensing fees.
It can be done even faster. Students in Grandy's crash course cram 575 pages in one week before taking the state exam, which tests their knowledge of real estate law, practice and procedures, and math. Florida says 51 percent of students pass on their first try.
But selling real estate is a difficult job with long hours. Studies show that most new agents quit with no or few sales. The Realtors association said the median gross annual income of its broker and sales agent members nationally was $47,700 in 2013, up from $43,500 in 2012.
Jovita Martínez, 36, who got her license a year ago, says she earned about $20,000 working full time, often seven days a week. She turned to real estate when she found herself unemployed after she married a U.S. citizen and moved from Spain to Miami. Soon after getting her license, she realized the business is not as easy as she expected.
"It is hard because I am not from Miami and do not know anybody out of the circle of my husband," she said.
Still, Martínez says her clientele is growing and she enjoys her new job. A social worker in Spain, she likes being self-employed.
"Either you sell or you don't make money. As simple as that," she said.

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...