Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Blog Started

I recently started a new blog called Naples Florida Real Estate Homes. The website is The name refers to Naples, but the information also includes Bonita Springs and Estero.

On this blog I will be reporting real estate statistics and analysis of the market. Other useful information will also be posted there.

This blog will be used whenever I add new information to my website - Naples Real Estate

Please feel free to post your comments on either of these blog. I will be more than happy to answer any questions about the Naples, Bonita Springs or Estero real estate markets.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Increases in Condominium Insurance

As the financial affects of the previous 2 hurricane seasons are felt by insurance companies, these are now being passed onto the consumer. Recently, condominium maintenance fees are increasing significantly, due to higher insurance premiums for liability coverage (building replacement, etc. - similar to homeowners insurance).

Another reason for the increases is the increase in building supply replacement costs, as well as, property value increases.

These represent a double edged sword for the significant increase in premiums.

In one case the condominium association which consists of 5 buildings with 8 units or a total of 40 units the budget called for an annual insurance premium of $23,000 for one year. This equates to about $575 per unit annually. The current year's renewal had a premium of $48,000, or about $1,200 per unit. Or, an increase of $625 per year.

The condominium units are generally 2 bedroom, 2 bath units which in January 2005 were selling for in the $160's and $170's. In today's real estate market the estimated values are in the $210,000 to $225,000 range. This equates to about a 32% increase in estimated value. This could explain part of the increase or about $184 or the $625. The remaining portion could be attributable to risk assigned and losses incurred by the insurance industry.

When purchasing a newly constructed condominium, where the developer is still in control, there maybe some relief found by the new purchasers. A careful review of the Declaration of Condominium may reveal a clause entitled "Statutory Assessment Guarantee; Liability of Developer for Common Expenses." Within this clause, it specifically states the developer's guarantees for common expenses on a per unit basis(insurance coverage is a common expense) for a period of three years from the date of recording the Declaration of Condominium or the "turnover date" (a majority of the condominium directors are elected by the unit owners), which ever is the earlier date. The guarantee is not based on a line item basis of the budgetted expenses, but by total common fees. A condominium buyer should check the "Statutory Assessment Guarantee; Liability of Developer for Common Expenses." to determine if any increase of the common maintenance fees falls within the guarantees stated.

Buyers of condominiums, often ask, "Will the maintenance fee increase significantly after they purchase?" The "Statutory Assessment Guarantee; Liability of Developer for Common Expenses." may give a prospective buyer an indication of what future maintenance fees could be, if the condominium association directors (elected by the unit owners), continues to maintain the property in the same manner as the developer. Note - the condominium association directors need to be conservative in their goals and objectives for common maintenance.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Osprey Cove

I have created a new page for the condominium complex called Osprey Cove. Osprey Cove is located in Estero. It is strictly a condominium community with 6 distinctive floor plans. Garden style condos have either 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms or 2 bedrooms with den and 2 bathrooms in a 4 story elevator building. In addition, there are two story buildings with 2 bedrooms with den and 2 bathrooms, with a detached one car garage. A special bonus with these units is they have both a front and rear screened lanai or porch. All residences have lake views.

If you wish to view one of the floor plans for the 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with 1,194 square feet of living area.

Some of the amenities in this community are: gated, community center with state of the art fitness center, community pool and spa.

Estero is located conveniently between Naples and Ft. Myers.

You can also select another fine Estero condos for sale on my Naples real estate site.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bonita Real Estate Market - Single Family Homes

In the month of June '06 there were 44 single family homes sold with a median sales price of $492,000.

In Jume of 2005 there were 83 single family homes sold with a median sales price of $525,000.
Both sales volume and median price are down in June 2006 versus 2005.

Looking at the pending sales for Bonita Springs single family homes - there were as of June 30th - 81 homes with a median list price of $689,000. Estimated adjusted median list price to closed sales price is $659,000. These will close between 4 and 8 weeks from the date the sales contract was signed and are an indicator as to future closed sales prices.

The Bonita Springs area may have reached the bottom as far prices are concerned, however the volume of sales still remain down.

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Naples Real Estate Market - Single Family Homes

The median price for closed sales in June '05 was $505,000 (492 sales). In June '06 the median price for closed sales is $455,000 (224 sales). Thus, prices have dropped by about 10%, since last year.

The next question - will the prices continue to drop? Pending sales can tell us what "future" closed sales will be. As you are probably aware, a pending sale is one that will close between 4 and 8 weeks from the time the sales contract is signed. The pending sales as of this morning have a median price of $499,000 (385). But, we need to factor in the difference between list and sales price, because pending sales generally do not sell for list price. Based upon the difference between sales price and list price was about 94% in June 06. Using that factor - the closed sales for the future should be about $469,000.

The single family home market may have reached the bottom, due to the projected median priced closed sales in the range of $469,000 versus the June '06 median closed sales price of $455,000.

The statistics compiled within this report are from the SunshineMLS, and does exclude Marco Island and manufactured homes.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Mortgage Fraud

In yesterday's Inman News morning report there was an article on mortgage fraud. Those of you that know me, know that I want people to get a fair shake with their financing as well as a good price for either the sale or purchase of their property.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the subject, which I did share with the author of the article.

Dear Ms. Mara,

This morning's article in Inman News regarding Mortgage Fraud was most interesting (usually I say enjoyable).

I am a Florida Licensed Real Estate Broker and Mortgage Broker. Prior to entering the real estate profession my background was in Accounting and Auditing, a specialization in Accounts Receivable turn-arounds in the hospital industry. In the area of accounts receivable turn-arounds, I had to be familar with the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act as well as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. While in the role of Internal Auditor for a Greater Boston area hospital, I conferred with an agent within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Attorney General's office, Medicaid Fraud Unit, regarding silver recovery and its reimbursement. This led to 2 corporations and numerous individuals being indicted.

Being a real estate professional and with my background, I find that mortgage fraud will continue to plague the industry. Maybe, I am seeing only the 20% Fraud for Property/Housing. Here are my reasons:
1) The escalating cost of housing and the "American Dream" of owning your own home.
2) Licensure for real estate agents and mortgage brokers is much too easy. The requirements for licensure need to require a greater level of education, more than a high school degree as a prequisite for licensing and harder licensing requirements, such as more pre-licensing education and harder tests. This will result in better people and less people entering the real estate profession.
3) Lenders need to offer less loan programs, for example, stated income loans (I my humble opinion it is probably inflated income) and no doc.
4) Most lenders require an IRS Form 4506 at time of closing. Now, there is something that an underwriter or lender can request information and stop an inflated (aka stated) income mortgage application dead in its tracks. If they lie on their income tax return, is it possible that they would lie on their mortgage application?
5) Lack of educational programs in the real estate profession to identify mortgage fraud - wishful thinking on my part, due to the Privacy Act - but atleast a start. Where to report suspected mortgage fraud situations to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
6) The credit reporting and scoring system needs an overhaul. Too often, I find errors on credit reports, where the creditor is not reporting timely or accurately information. For example, a customer settled in full his collection action in the later part of February '06. The collection agency in the later part of April is still showing a portion of the account as outstanding with a current date. Yes, they reported the payment, but did not remove the negotiated portion of the balance.
7) Lack of control points within the existing system.

What could possibly be done to reduce the mortgage fraud:
1) More checks and balances within the system to identify potential mortgage fraud situations.
2) More education for all real estate professionals - real estate agents, REALTORs, underwriters, lenders, etc.
3) Greater licensing requirements for all. And maybe licensing requirements where no licensing is required at this time.
4) Implementation of a "whistle blower" protection system and telephone hotline.
5) Proactive preventative action on the part of lenders.
6) a. Enforcement of the following from the loan application (FNMA 1003):
"Each of the undersigned specifically represents to Lender and to Lender's actual or potential agents, brokers, processors, attorneys, insurers, servicers, successors and assigns and agrees and acknowledges that: (1) the information provided in this application is true and correct as of the date set forth opposite my signature and that any intentional or negligent misrepresentation of this information contained in this application may result in civil liability, including monetary damages, to any person who may suffer any loss due to reliance upon any misrepresentation that I have made on this application, and/or in criminal penalties including, but not limited to, fine or imprisonment or both under the provisions of Title 18, United States Code, Sec. 1001, et seq.; (2) the loan requested pursuant to this application (the "Loan") will be secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on the property described herein;.. (6) any owner or servicer of the Loan may verify or reverify any information contained in the application from any source named in this application, and Lender, its successors or assigns may retain the original and/or an electronic record of this application, even if the Loan is not approved; (7) the Lender and its agents, brokers, insurers, servicers, successors and assigns may continuously rely on the information contained in the application, and I am obligated to amend and/or supplement the information provided in this application if any of the material facts that I have represented herein should change prior to closing of the Loan; .. (11) my transaction of this application as an "electronic record" containing my "electronic signature," as those terms are defined in applicable federal and/or state laws (excluding audio and video recordings), or my facsimile transmission of this application containing a facsimile of my signature, shall be as effective, enforceable and valid as if a paper version of this application were delivered containing my original written signature."
b. Enforcement of the following paragraphs from the mortgage itself:
Borrower's Loan Application. Borrower shall be in default if, during the Loan application process, Borrower or any persons or entities acting at the direction of the Borrower or with Borrower's knowledge or consent gave materially false, misleading, or inaccurate information or statements to the Lender (or failed to provide Lender with material information) in connection with the Loan. Material representations include, but are not limited to, representations concerning Borrower's occupancy of the Property as Borrower's principal residence.
Acceleration; Remedies. Lender shall give notice to Borrower prior to acceleration following Borrower's breach of any covenant or agreement in this Security Instrument. The notice shall specify (a) the default; (b) the action required to cure the default; (c) a date, not less than 30 days from the date the notice is given to Borrower, by which the default must be cured; and (d) that failure to cure the default on or before the date specified in the notice may result in acceleration of the sums secured by this Security Instrument, foreclosure by judicial proceeding and sale of the Property. The notice shall further inform Borrower of the right to reinstate after acceleration and the right to assert in the foreclosure proceeding the non-existence of a default or any other defense of Borrower to acceleration and foreclosure. If the default is not cured on or before the date specified in the notice, Lender at its option may require immediate payment in full of all sums secured by this Security Instrument without further demand and may foreclose this Security Instrument by judicial proceeding. Lender shall be entitled to collect all expenses incurred in pursuing the remedies provided in this Section, including, but not limited to, reasonable attorney's fees and costs of title evidence.
7) Better and possibly required education of prospective borrowers, so they can recognize the impact and identify situations.

Implementation of number 6 above will send shockwaves into the communities and cause the less desireable professionals out of business and awareness to borrowers. Many may agrue that this will be costly to the overall economy or lenders if foreclosure proceedings are needed, but in the long run there could considerable savings for all.

In summary, mortgage fraud may continue, until such time that the losses reach greater levels unless there is a proactive preventative overall program to curb it. Old country saying "you don't close the gate after the horse leaves the corral."

Question from Ms. Mara:
I've been told that stated income loans are referred to by some in the industry as "liar's loans," do you think they should be done away with?

My response:
LOL - I never heard that term used with stated income loans. Prefer the term inflated income because sometimes the borrower is not fully educated nor fully explained about the loan programs. This includes those wonderful option ARM's with the low rate of 1.0% or .95%. Just heard that about 4% of the mortgages are in arrears nationally and that some people that purchased within the past 2 years could face a situation where the market price of the property could be less than the amount owed on the loan.

Although no one has a crystal ball - someone with some common sense, during the rapid increase in property values should have tightened up credit for some borrowers or implemented a better system of checks and balances before making a loan. Could the horse be leaving the corral at this time?

With the Naples area, there is an area where 100% financing and the buyer's closing costs paid by the seller is very common. With some of the loans, there is a hard prepayment penalty of 5% for 3 years! Imagine the issues that some of those people will have to face, if they run into a bad financial stretch, relocate, or for any other reason need to sell.

You asked do I "think stated income loans be done away with?" I did not answer your question very directly - but there is a gray area that needs to be addressed - how does their stated income compare with their reported income per income tax returns or via some other independently generated documentation. Two other alternatives - credit scores above a higher than existing level or a margin above or below the reported income. Although we are discussing stated income loans (or "inflated"), what about someone that deflates their income? Question is "are they committing fraud to obtain a loan by under-stating their income?" Could this be where stated income loans really originated and for the purpose of wealthy people not having to disclose their true income?

Very interesting subject matter.

Ms Mara:
Yes, it's all very interesting! I never realized until I read your e-mail what a hardship a prepayment penalty could be. Do I understand correctly - means that if you pay the loan back before the 30 years are up, you have to pay a penalty, which means if you want to/have to leave the state for a new job or something, you have to pay a penalty?

My response:
First, there are 2 types of prepayment penalties:
1) hard prepayment - this is where regardless of a refi or sale of the property the borrower pays a prepayment penality
2) soft prepayment - this where the borrower pays the prepayment penality only if they elect to refinance.

The prepayment penality ranges from 1 to 3 years (3 years is the maximum that I have seen), not 30 years.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Highlites for May 17th

Gov. Jeb Bush signed property insurance bill SB 1980 this morning, calling it a tough but necessary choice that he and others hope will keep coverage available in Florida. He acknowledged that it won't stop rates from going up in the short-run, but said there's ''really no other option.''

The growth in single-family home prices in the U.S. continued to cool in first quarter 2006, but many metro areas are still showing double-digit annual gains, according to NAR. The national median existing single-family home price was $217,900 in the first quarter, up 10.3 percent from a year earlier.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported this morning that the number of housing starts in April dropped 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.849 million units, the lowest level in 17 months and weaker than analysts expected.

Despite the threat of hurricanes, prices for coastal property along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic continue to climb, especially in Florida, because more Americans can afford to live there, according to real estate analysts.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Market Watch

The second-home market may be solid, but economists point to three subtle signs that the overall housing market is cooling:
• The yearly increase in mortgage interest paid by households rose to 15.8% in the first quarter-a 24-year high-from 2005's annual growth rate of 14%, indicating that borrowers are using variable rate mortgages to afford costlier housing.
• The national homeownership rate slipped from 69.1% last year to 68.5% this year. "This decline in homeownership has occurred in the face of strong rental-to-condo conversions of apartment buildings, which have expanded the supply of owner-occupied units," says Jan Hatzius, chief economist at investment firm Goldman Sachs.
• The owner-occupied vacancy rate is rising sharply. At 2.1%, the current rate is the highest on record. Hatzius believes this over-supply of homes for sale has already pushed existing home prices downward, and that home price inflation will turn negative by the end of the year.

Closer to home, there are other signs of a slowing market. Jacksonville-based St. Joe Co., reported a 76% decline in first-quarter profit, which it attributes to sagging resort residential sales. In a company statement, St. Joe says speculators are "no longer a major demand element" in the Florida real estate market, and that buyers are taking more time to shop.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, agrees the market is settling but says job growth and a growing economy should offset some of the effects of rising mortgage rates. His predictions for the balance of 2006: Long-term mortgage rates will climb to 7% this summer and hold steady through December; existing-home sales will drop 6.4% to 6.62 million (after reaching a record 7.08 million in 2005); the median price for all existing home types will rise 5.7% to $232,200; new home sales will decline 11.6% to 1.13 million (after reaching a record level of 1.28 million in '05); and housing starts will fall 3.7% to 1.99 million (after reaching 2.07 million in '05).

In first quarter 2006, Florida's housing sector followed the national trend, demonstrating signs of a market adjusting to rising mortgage rates, higher inventory levels, and a better balance between buyers and sellers. Sales of single-family existing homes totaled 45,864 statewide during the three-month period, a decrease of 20 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago. The statewide existing-home
median sales price rose 20 percent to reach $248,000.

Rising costs and a shortage of construction materials continue to dog the building industry in Florida and other states, leading to price increases for new homes and home remodeling projects, as well as higher rental rates for apartments and offices.

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Blips and Burbs about real estate for May 15th

A bill that immediately limits the ability of local governments to condemn homes and other property for private redevelopment projects became law Thursday with Gov. Jeb Bush's signature.

A new survey of second-home owners by NAR shows that baby boomers continue to dominate the market, and minorities own a growing number -- more than one-in-ten. A surprising majority of respondents own multiple properties in addition to their primary residence.

Minorities own 11% of second homes-up from 6% in 2002, according to a new NAR survey.

What's more, about six in 10 respondents own two or more homes in addition to their primary residence, and a majority are interested in purchasing additional homes. An analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are 6.8 million vacation homes in the U.S. and 37.4 million investment units in addition to 74.6 million owner-occupied units. "We've always known that a certain segment has invested heavily in the rental market, and some people earn their living simply by holding and managing investment property," says NAR President Thomas M. Stevens. "What we see now is a crossover between largely vacation and investment homeowners, with people recognizing the value of those investments and pouring more assets into real estate."

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down this week, the first decline after six straight increases. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.58 percent.

Even though the insurance industry paid out billions last year in hurricane claims, insurers, as a whole, are going into the 2006 storm season riding a wave of tidy profits. Allstate, for example, had $1.55 billion in hurricane-related losses but still rang up a 26 percent profit for the year.

State Farm Insurance Co., the largest home insurer in Florida, is seeking to boost premiums by an average of about 70 percent. If approved by state regulators, the increase would be effective Aug. 15. Coverage costs for mobile homes will almost double, and about 1,500 policies held by condominium complexes will be canceled.

Seniors leaving their long-time homes for a smaller apartment or assisted-living unit now have access to companies that manage all aspects of the move. These moving specialists handle everything, including helping the homeowners choose the furnishings and belongings they will keep; donating excess belongings to charity; purchasing new furniture; and even decorating the new digs to look similar to their old house. Transitional Assistance and Design in Gaithersburg, Md., and the national Moving Solutions franchise are examples of such firms. Though the exact cost varies based on location and services performed, most charge hourly fees of $65 to $125. They believe their services are worth it, as seniors often are too emotionally tied to their homes to make the transition on their own. "We are objective, we're not family," says Sue Ronnekamp, founder of Austin-based Living Transitions. Older children generally provide financial assistance, as they may be too busy with work and childrearing to help their parents make the move.

Source: Washington Post (05/11/06)

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Today's Interesting Real Estate News

The housing market is settling but should experience its third best year in 2006, with job creation and a growing economy offsetting some of the effects of rising interest rates, according to NAR.

Southern Family, Atlantic Preferred and Florida Preferred, subsidiaries of Tampa-based Poe Financial Group, have yet to present a plan to recover from a $2 billion hit in 2004 and 2005 hurricane damage claims. Yesterday, the state asked a judge to liquidate the companies.

Economists are pointing to several subtle signs that the housing market is cooling, including a dip in the homeownership rate to 68.5 percent this year from 69.1 percent last year, and the rising owner-occupied vacancy rate, which is the highest on record at 2.1 percent.

Homebuyers are getting the big breaks in an increasing number of U.S. markets, says Tom Early, president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents. But even as the market shifts to favor buyers, to get the best deal, buyers should take the right approach. Some advice from Early:
* Tell your buyers to stifle the guilt. Remind them, if the shoe were
on the other foot, the seller would show no mercy.
* Be patient. In slow-moving markets, it is sometimes a good bet to
simply wait until a seller sees the light and drops his price.
* When a seller drops the price, it may be a signal that he is facing
a deadline and will negotiate still more.
* Take advantage of a buyer's right to a home inspection. The buyer
may find an issue that can be used to his advantage in gaining
* Insults don't work. Wounding the sellers' pride in their home is never
a good tactic.
* Also, making a ridiculously below-market bid may shock the owners
into refusing to talk anymore.

Source: The Miami Herald, Ellen James Martin (05/07/2006)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Development helps push more residential space

A likely revision to development plans on a 100-acre site north of Coconut Point in Estero reveals a subtle shift in real estate market trends in that area. The site on U.S. 41 known as North Point might get rezoned in order to build more residential and less commercial space, a vast contrast from areas such as Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres, where commercial land is scarce and commercial development is lagging behind residential growth.

The North Point land was sold in February to two new owners — a joint venture between the Lutgert Companies and the Barron Collier Companies — who are in the process of planning their new mixed-use project to reflect the changing demands of the Estero real estate market.

The site is approved as a development of regional impact, located on the east side of US 41 between Williams Road and the Corkscrew Village Shopping Center. With the new regional mall just down the road and millions of square feet of commercial space under development, this hotspot carries a lot of potential.

The original plan by Illinois-based Oakbrook Properties was to build a whopping 550,000 square feet of retail space, along with 120,000 square feet of office space, a 150-unit hotel and 150 residential units. The new owners plan to apply for rezoning in order to reduce the commercial component for more housing.

Though plans have not been finalized, the retail component might be significantly reduced in favor of more housing units, and the office component might be slightly reduced as well.

"We are not far from putting our visions to the county once we have concluded our plan," said Dougall McCorkle, vice president of commercial development for Lutgert Companies. "We are still doing a traffic analysis."

Reducing the retail component of the project is expected to generate less traffic, which should provide some relief for travelers on U.S. 41 and adjoining roadways. McCorkle said there would still be the possibility of hotel rooms on the site.

Among other projects, Lutgert and Barron Collier have also partnered on another mixed-use development, The Mercato, located on a 53-acre site that fronts and connects U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples.

There is little vacant retail space in Estero — or in most of the county for that matter — but as more is constructed or being planned, a point may have been reached where the market demand needs to catch up.

That is where more residential development comes in to balance the mix. This is not unlike how Oakbrook modified its plans for the North and South Villages in the Coconut Point DRI to match the shifting pattern in the Estero real estate market over the past couple of years.

"I think there are two principal things driving the residential market in Estero," said Don Eslick, chairman of the Estero Council of Community Leaders. "The first is that the price of housing went up faster than the cost of housing.

"The second is that the area is zoned for so much more commercial development than it needs to be, so now you are seeing more mixed-use instead."

Eslick is optimistic that a fully integrated and balanced community will further enhance Estero's property values. Apparently developers like Lutgert and Barron Collier agree.

Source: The News Press

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Models in a model !!!!

To help buyers envision life in a new community development, a builder has hired actors to "live" in a model home and portray a family going about daily activities --cooking, listening to music and hanging out. Beginning on May 20, actors will live in a model home in Centex Corp.'s Milestone community in Santa Clarita, Calif. The thespians will act as a two-child family, allowing prospective buyers to watch them as they go about their daily chores. The "homeowners" also will interact
with "guests," and provide information about prices, floor plans and local schools. This HomeLife program will be expanded to other Centex developments in the coming months. "Model complexes tend to be a bit stagnant and dry for people," says Amanda Larson of Centex. "What better way to show how someone might live in them?"

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Michael Corkery; Kemba J. Dunham;
Jennifer S. Forsyth (05/03/06)
© Copyright 2006 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD

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Natural Disasters - Good for real estate???

While much of hurricane-battered New Orleans is still without electricity and basic services, residential real estate sales are at a fever pitch. One of the ironies of natural disasters is that they are often good for real estate: It's a pattern real estate professionals witnessed in Florida after Hurricane Andrew.

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New loan programs to watch for

Freddie Mac announced yesterday that it would roll out new types of mortgages aimed at making the payments more affordable for consumers, including a new array of 40-year loan programs and 20 new ARM products. The company will also revise property
insurance requirements in coastal markets where insurers are raising their deductibles.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Large percentage not affected by interest rate increases

Mortgage rates may be hugely important for some, including families stretching their budgets to get into their first house. But 82 to 84 percent of homeowners are insulated from the direct impact of rising rates, either because they own their homes outright or because they have fixed-rate mortgages.

Have you considered converting your ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) to a fixed rate mortgage? Now might be the time to refinance or see if your existing ARM has a conversion clause. If it has a conversion clause, consider the conversion to a fixed rate mortgage - it is generally cheaper than refinancing.

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Rental prices increasing

Rental prices are rising across South Florida as the number of available apartments shrinks (largely due to the conversion of over 50 rental communities into condominiums) and the demand for them grows. Commercial ventures also feel the rental pain as a lack of land for new development increases demand for existing buildings.

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Babcock Ranch - Ft Myers

The Florida Legislature ended this year with a promise to buy the giant Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida, new wetlands rules for the Panhandle and a plan for energy. In all, environmental projects for this year totaled at least $330 million.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Issues watch: Impact fees

State and local builders have filed a lawsuit against Polk County over its $8,596 school impact fee, which they claim is unconstitutional because it includes money to meet class-size requirements. The two groups contend about 70% of the fee, or $5,778, is for the class-size amendment and that Florida law stipulates that the class-size amendment may not be funded by the local school district. They want that portion thrown out. The Polk County Commission increased the school impact fee from $1,607 to $8,596 last year.

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Legislative Issues Effecting Real Estate

Hurricane season starts June 1. Brace yourself -- not necessarily for storms but for higher premiums. House and Senate leadership negotiated for three days last week an insurance package intended to bail out Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and lure private insurers back to the state. The measure passed late Friday evening (SB 1980) will result in significantly higher premiums for Citizens policyholders -- probably double in most coastal areas. "If you're longing for a short-term, three-month rate drop, it may not happen. But I think long-term we've done something good," said House Speaker Allan Bense (R-Panama City). SB 1980 also makes it easier to raise rates and tap into the state's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. And it provides $715 million in tax money to pay down Citizens' $1.7 billion deficit.

Faced with a dizzying array of portability bills, legislators bought themselves more time to work through the choices by appropriating $1 million to study the impact of portability on local governments' ability to raise revenue. The Legislature also approved a ballot referendum allowing owners of property taken by eminent domain to retain their Save Our Homes benefits.

Legislators OK'd two bills to limit the ability of local governments to condemn property for private economic development uses via statute and the state constitution.

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Hurricane Insurance

Insurers play the odds. They create hurricane models that estimate the chance of impact and, if so, the cost to fix damages. But private insurers' models are proprietary, making it difficult to assess the validity of rate hike requests. That may change, however: a public model to predict hurricane risk has been developed by six Florida colleges, including UF and FSU.

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Last week's mortgage rates

Rates on 30-year mortgages climbed this week to an average of 6.59 percent, hitting their highest point in nearly four years, according to Freddie Mac's nationwide weekly survey. It marked the sixth week in a row that rates for 30-year FRMs went up.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New mortgages - makes you feel like living longer

The 50-year home loan.
While not yet available in Florida, the mortgage company offering it says ads have yielded a lot of phone calls and "quite a few applications."

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Buying before selling?

Have you thought about buying a property before selling? Here are some interesting finding - A survey of 550 "bridging" homeowners who juggled both a home sale and a home purchase during the last five years found that 70 percent felt worried and 67 percent felt hesitant during the
transactions -- even though 62 percent successfully closed both deals. Notice that 62 percent successfully closed both deals - don't be one of the 38%.

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According to a recent Gallup poll, more than half of Americans still
believe it is a good time to purchase a home, but the percentage fell
to 52 percent in April from 71 percent in April 2005 and 81 percent
in 2003. Coastal residents are less optimistic about the housing
market than others, with only 44 percent of East Coast residents and
49 percent of West Coast denizens believing that now is a ripe time
to be a homebuyer. Given that respondents feel similarly about the
national economy, local business conditions, personal finances and
the job market as they did last April, researchers attribute the decline
in optimism to a slowdown in home-price appreciation and other
market trends. However, it is unclear whether or not these trends
will prompt buyers to hesitate and take a wait-and-see approach to
the market.

Source: Gallup Poll (05/01/06) Saad, Lydia
© Copyright 2006 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD
(301) 215-4688

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General Statistics about real estate

* 30-year fixed-rate mortgage: 6.58%, up from 6.53% the previous week.
* U.S. new home sales: +13.8% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.213 million units in March, the biggest one-month gain since April 1993.
* Florida consumer confidence index: -2 points in April to 89.
* U.S. consumer confidence index: + 2 points in April to 109.6.

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Florida Real Estate Market - Prices up, sales down

This may be the headline for Florida housing stories for some time as the market settles down after five years of phenomenal growth. In March, sales of single-family existing homes totaled 18,881, a 22% drop from March 2005 levels. The condo market experienced a decline in sales as well. Among Florida's 20 Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 6,481 condos changed hands in March, a 23% decline from a year ago. As for median prices, they're up again-17% for single-family homes (to $248,200) and 2% for condos (to $214,200). Single-family home prices are highest in Naples ($505,800) and lowest in Ocala ($161,100); condo prices are highest in Fort Walton Beach ($411,800) and lowest in Lakeland-Winter Haven ($128,000).

Same story nationally: March single-family existing home sales dropped 0.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.92 million units compared to the same period a year ago, and the median price jumped 7.8% to $217,300.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Vanderbilt Beach Road extension proposal would take 19 homes

A proposed route laid out Thursday night for an eastward extension of Vanderbilt Beach Road calls for avoiding major golf courses.

Collier County staff said the move saves potentially millions of dollars.

But the downside is some homes would have to be bought out that wouldn’t otherwise if a route slicing through The Golf Club of the Everglades and Olde Florida Golf Course were part of the extension.

The staff proposal, which was a hybrid of three finalist routes, would slice between 10th and 12th avenues northwest. It is slated to cost an estimated $150 million and involve the taking of 19 homes.

The other routes being considered would have cost in the $200 million range, according to county Transportation Planner Joe Quinty. One finalist route not chosen would have involved the taking of 49 homes. County staff weighed a variety of factors, including social, economic and environmental issues.

“This is just a planning tool,’’ Quinty told an estimated 100 Golden Gate Estates residents who turned out for the unveiling at the Golden Gate Community Center.

Another meeting is scheduled for April 10 before the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association.

Choosing a route has been an agonizing process, Quinty told the crowd.

“There are definitely emotional and human factors in this that are very hard to quantify,’’ he said.

The county plans to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road 10 miles eastward from Olde Florida Golf Course to DeSoto Boulevard.

Here was the route laid out Thursday night:

After Massey Street, Vanderbilt Beach Road would extend on the north side of Cypress Canal. It would then dip south of the canal after it passes the golf courses. It would then turn north and slice between 10th and 12th avenues northwest.

The county opted not to take the extension down either the north or south side of the Cypress Canal after Ninth Street Northwest.

That was a relief to Rick and Michelle Henderson, who own a home on the south side of the canal. The couple’s main concern was that the road would be extended on the north side of the canal, a stone’s throw away from their back yard.

“Either take my house, so I don’t have to look at it (the road), or go the backyard route between 10th and 12th Avenue,’’ Rick Henderson said.

Quinty noted that the route unveiled Thursday is only a recommendation and that the final decision will be up to the Collier County Commission on April 17.

“They could go with the no-build option,’’ he said referring to county commissioners.

But, he added, that would cause problems with the transportation network.

(Source: Naples Daily News 04/07/2006)

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Bonita zoning board approves homes east of I-75

The Bonita Springs Zoning Board today approved of a 500-acre rezoning request that will allow for 1,601 homes to be built east of Interstate 75.

The request to rezone came from the Ronto Group, which is seeking to develop the third portion of its 1,299-acre project. The two other segments were rezoned in June, and this final rezoning could bring the total number of new houses up to 3,600.

The few concerns raised to the presenters mainly addressed the issue of increased traffic, as the third phase is projected to bring more than 10,000 additional cars to Bonita Beach Road. The development agreement between the city and the Ronto Group requires the developer to expand Bonita Beach Road to four lanes from Bonita Grande to its phase three site, where the road will end. The cost of the road expansion and extension is estimated to cost $28.5 million.

The case will have its first reading in the Bonita Springs City Council on May 3.

(Source: Naples Daily News 04/07/2006)

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Interest rates up

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose this week to 6.43 percent, the highest level in two and a half years, as financial markets began to worry more about inflation, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac's weekly nationwide survey.

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Vacation- and investment-home sales both set records in 2005, NAR says, with the combined total of second home sales accounting for four out of 10 residential transactions. The market share of second homes rose from 36 percent of transactions in 2004 to 39.9 percent in 2005. More...

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Florida still holds the title as the hottest market in the Southeast for home prices, soaring nearly 27 percent last year, according to an analysis report issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The median price for a home in Florida rose by a record rate of $56,000 in 2005. Leading the pack was Naples at $113,000 in appreciation last year. The overall report also shows healthy job creation across the region. Florida is generating jobs at the fifth-fastest rate in the nation and tops in the Southeast. Construction, retail and temporary jobs are multiplying the most, creating pockets of worker shortages in southwestern parts of the state. As a result, the state has the third-best unemployment rate in the United States.

Source: The Florida Times-Union, (04/06/2006)

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Homeowner's Insurance

Atlantic Preferred Insurance Co. plans to begin canceling coverage for 140,000 Florida homeowners starting July 13 as the policies come up for renewal. ''With the ongoing loss activity and the uncertainty of future losses, this is action that we have to take,'' Senior Vice President David Gough said Wednesday. More..

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Naples - slow market - prices mostly up

The first 15 days of March 2006, for the Naples real estate market, transactions for both single family homes and condominiums continues to lag behind the same period of 2005, while the median prices of single family homes continues with upward movement. The median prices of condominiums for closed sales shows an increase over 2005, while the pending sales is showing a slight downward trend.

Closed sales represents those real estate transactions where the property has transferred title. In the case of closed sales the negotiation and agreement of the sales price for real estate took place generally 6 to 8 weeks prior to the actual closing. They in fact represent a current historical view of the real estate market.

Pending sales on the other hand are real estate transactions, where the seller and buyer have negotiated and agreed upon a price. The actual agreed upon price is not known until shortly after closing. Pending sales can reveal a pricing trend, but not the true trend because the actual sales price could be the same, less than or more than the list price of the property at the time the contract was negotiated.

During the first 15 days of March 2006, 127 single family homes sold with a median price of $530,000. In 2005, 214 homes sold with a median price of $427,500. The drop in sales transactions is about 41%, while the median price paid increased about 24%.

The condominium market for the same period of time shows 94 units sold with a median price of $415,000. The same period in 2005, 216 units sold with a median price of $340,750. Transaction activity dropped about 56%, while the median price paid increased approximately 22%.

Looking at pending sales, single family homes in the first 15 days of March shows 152 homes with a median price of $549,000. Compared to 2005, where 229 homes with a median price $479,900 went under contract (pended sale). Transactions are down about 34%, while median price are continuing an upward trend or an increase of about 14%.

In condominium sector, in the first 15 days of March, 98 units went under contract with a median price of $375,500. In 2005, there were 239 units pended at a median price of $389,000. The reduction in median price (3.5%) is not significant enough to say there "the real estate bubble has burst". Transactions in this segment of the market is down about 59% from last year.

The first half of March is showing an increase in activity for both closed sales and pending sales over the January/February time-frame, while prices in the single home segment are increasing and the condominium segment remaining stable.

Both single family homes and condominiums on the resale market are plentiful, giving potential buyers an excellent selection properties. Buyers should be constantly aware of pricing trends along with the interest rates projections.

Sellers with their properties priced according to the market should realize optimum price.

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HSH Associates' Weekly Market Trends

HSH Associates' Weekly Market Trends - March 17, 2006: "Mortgage rates were blown backward by cooler gentler breezes this week, but those winds are uncertain things. The ten-year Treasury yield, a fair proxy for fixed rate mortgages, rose almost to 4.8% this week at one point but settled back to the mid-4.6% range. Mortgage rates settled, too, but have little room to fall significantly with a 4.5% (soon to be 4.75%) Fed Funds rate. A lighter economic calendar awaits us next week. Among the notables coming due are the Producer Price Index, New and Existing Home Sales, orders for Durable Goods and the index of Leading Economic Indicators."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

February Real Estate Statistics

The statistics presented here represent a comparision of real estate activity that has taken place through the Naples MLS for the month of February and calendar year-to-date for 2006 and 2005:

Closed sales:Feb '06Feb '05
Single family homes206372
Closed sales:YTD '06YTD '05
Single family homes440695

Pending sales:Feb '06Feb '05
Single family homes230634
Pending sales:YTD '06YTD '05
Single family homes4391,113

Real estate activity is down from last year - closings in total down about 32% on a year to date basis, while pending sales are down about 36% also on a year to date basis.

The pending sales show a slight upward trend from January pending sales. This is a good sign, that real estate transactions are starting to pick up.

Another key indicator of the market is to look at median prices of both closed sales and pending sales to get a further idea of where property values are going. This analysis will be presented in another posting.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Real Estate Blogs

Assembled here are real estate blogs from various cities and towns around the United States. You may wish to visit the blog to read about the market conditions or events taking places other than in the Naples real estate area.

Views on the Las Vegas real estate market and random thoughts from a guy in Las Vegas. Yeah its hot, but its a dry heat! With all of the new luxury high rise condos going up, soon its going to look like Miami instead.

We feature real estate news from the entire state of Arizona, special emphasis will be placed on Central Arizona and the cities we specialize in selling homes in: Carefree, Cave Creek, Central Corridor, Fountain Hills, North Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Pinnacle Peak, Rio Verde Foothills and Scottsdale Arizona. - Arizona Real Estate News

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Lee County - Ranks 10th in Nation for population growth

Last week the US Census bureau release the estimated growth in population comparing July 1, 2005 to July 1, 2004. The estimated population growth in Lee County was 29,835 or about 5.8%, to place it number 10. This shows the continued demand for residential real estate in the Bonita Springs, Estero and south Ft Myers areas.

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Collier County (Naples area) Population Grows

Recently the US Census released estimated population figures comparing July 1, 2005 to July 1, 2004, showing that Collier County is ranked 56 of all US counties in estimated population increase. Estimated July 1, 2005 population is 307,242 versus 296,675 for July 1, 2004. This results in an increase of 10,567 new residents to Collier County. Roughly it is an increase of 3.6%. Naples and Collier County still remain one of the more popular places for people to relocate to, second homes or retire.

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Housing starts down in February

U.S. housing starts: -7.9% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.12 million units.

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Interest rates down :)

30-year fixed-rate mortgage: 6.34%, down from 6.37% the previous week.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006


Flagler County was the fastest-growing county in the nation for the second year in a row with a 10.7 percent population increase from July 1, 2004, to July 1, 2005, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Florida has 14 of the 100 fastest-growing counties from 2004 to 2005, according to the estimates, even though four hurricanes struck the state in 2004. More...

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Safety Alert

Police are looking for a man who attacked and robbed a St. Petersburg Realtor® on March 3 while she was in the process of showing him houses. The suspect posed as an interested homebuyer and spent several hours viewing potential homes with Realtor Julie Roberts before he struck her in the head with a gun and threatened to kill her. He tied her hands behind her back with plastic cable ties before going to her car to get her purse and ATM cards. The suspect is described as a white male, about 26 years old, with short black hair and brown eyes, about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing around 150 pounds. He was wearing a black jacket and black dress pants, and driving a new model four-door sedan, either silver or champagne in color. Anyone with info about the suspect should call the St. Petersburg police at 727-893-7780.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Hurricanes - Not Stopping People Moving to Florida

Who said the recent spate of hurricanes would have folks thinking twice about moving to Florida? Not according to a new University of Florida study. The state's population, estimated at about 18 million people in April 2005, is forecast to reach about 20 million in 2010 and nearly 25 million in 2025, reports Stefan Rayer, a demographer with UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Among the fastest-growing counties in terms of percentage of gain: Flagler, Sumter, Osceola, Walton, Collier and St. Johns. As for the number of new residents, Miami-Dade County will lead the state in population growth, adding about 775,000 more residents by 2030.

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