Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 10, 2012 Vol. 5, Issue 4

What are real estate professionals saying to homebuyers and sellers about current market conditions? The successful brokers and sales associates are talking about the strengths that exist in the market. Below are positive angles that appeared recently in the media and underscore why it is a good time to buy real estate.

Home Prices Stabilizing

New reports from several real estate research firms signify that home prices are finally stabilizing. The data reinforces a notion already asserted by many an economist, real estate agent and Wall Street investor: that 2012 is the year of the bottom.

The National Association of Realtors reports that in the first quarter of 2012, the median existing single-family home price, or final sales price, rose in 74 of the 146 metro areas (51%) that the association tracks.

Housing inventory levels have been shrinking across the U.S., leading to bidding wars and modest upward pressure on prices in some areas.

David Stiff, chief economist at Fiserv, notes that non-price metrics like home sales volume, increased spending on home improvement and more multi-family construction indicate that the housing sector has bottomed.

"This spring the housing market is responding to an improving balance between real estate supply and demand which is causing stabilization in house prices," notes Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, in the report. "Although this has been the case in each of the last two years, the difference this year is that stabilization is occurring without the support of tax credits and in spite of a declining share of REO sales."

-- "Home Prices Are Stabilizing, Signifying A Housing Market Bottom," by Morgan Brennan, Forbes, May 9, 2012.

Some Economists Say that It’s a Good Time to Buy a House

Mark Kiesel, the Pacific Investment Management Co. managing director who sold his home in 2006 when he deemed the market a bubble, says it’s time to buy. "I was one of the most negative on housing," Kiesel said in a telephone interview. "I finally came to the conclusion housing is looking pretty decent."

Economists including Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics Inc., Bank of America Corp.’s Michelle Meyer, CoreLogic Inc.’s Mark Fleming and Chris Rupkey of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said last month that housing prices are close to a trough.

"For those of you renting or on the sidelines, I recommend you at least consider getting ‘back in’ and buying a house," Kiesel wrote. "The future is hard to predict, but U.S. housing is healing and is probably close to a bottom."

-- "Pimco Housing Bear Kiesel Says It’s Time to Start Buying," by John Gittelsohn, Bloomberg, May 4, 2012.

For today's homebuyers, the weight of the monthly mortgage bill is the lightest it's been in decades. In 98 of the top 100 metro areas, it's now cheaper to buy than rent. "If you have good credit," says IHS Global Insight economist Patrick Newport, "this is the best time in 40 years to buy."

-- "Mortgage Payments at Lowest Level in Decades," by Beth Braverman, CNNMoney, April 23, 2012.

Fiserv Forecast: U.S. Home Prices Could Rise 4% a Year for the Next Five Years

Average U.S. home prices — down by a third since 2006 and still falling — will rise almost 4% a year for the next five years, according to a new forecast. Market watcher Fiserv sees prices stabilizing by summer's end and then climbing, quickly in some places until gains taper off. The forecast is based on an analysis of leading home price indexes. Investors will drive much of the momentum, as they are now in cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix. First-time and trade-up buyers will eventually follow.

-- "U.S. Home Prices Could Rise 4% A Year, Forecast Says," by Julie Schmit, USA TODAY, May 9, 2012.

Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Increased 4.1% in March

Signed contracts to buy U.S. homes rose more than forecast in March as low interest rates drew buyers back into the market. The index of pending home purchases rose 4.1% to 101.4, the highest level since April 2010, the National Association of Realtors reported. The median forecast of 43 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 1% rise in the measure, which tracks contracts on previously owned homes.

"It’s good news," said Sean Incremona, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York. "It does suggest that improvement in the housing market is continuing."

-- "Pending Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Increased 4.1% in March," by Lorraine Woellert, Bloomberg, April 26, 2012.

MBA: Mortgage Applications Rise – Rates Fall

Applications for home mortgages rose last week, with purchase demand improving for the third week in a row as loan rates fell to new lows, an industry group said on Wednesday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, gained 1.7% in the week ended May 4.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications was up 1.3%, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases climbed 3.4%.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates fell to the lowest level ever recorded by the survey, averaging 4.01%.

-- "Mortgage Applications Gained Last Week: MBA," by Reuters, May 9, 2012.

Economists Upping Their Forecasts for 2012

The U.S. economy will grow faster than expected this year, despite the headwinds of higher gas prices and Europe's financial crisis, according to USA TODAY's quarterly survey of economists. The economy is strengthening enough that two-thirds expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than its late-2014 target, although none expects it to happen at this week's Fed meeting Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Things are getting better," said Jeff Rosen, an economist at Briefing Research in Chicago. "The economy is picking up and hiring is going to be on the rise."

-- "Economists Upping Their Forecasts For 2012," by Tim Mullaney and Barbara Hansen, USA TODAY, April 23, 2012.

Regional Update: News from Markets around the Nation

Las Vegas, Nev.

Home prices rose for the third straight month in April and the inventory of listings shrank to a five-week supply, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Monday. The median price for 3,185 single-family houses sold in April was $127,900, up 4% from the previous month and up 2.3% from April 2011.

It is the first time prices have increased on a year-over-year basis since August 2010, said Kolleen Kelley, president of the Realtors association. "Of course, this has a lot to do with our shrinking housing inventory," she said. "Based on current demand, our housing supply is down to about four to six weeks."

-- "Las Vegas Home Prices Rise with Fewer Homes for Sale," by Hubble Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 8, 2012.


The state’s resilient housing market continued to show signs of recovery in March, as buyers chased discounted prices and posted the eighth consecutive month of single-family home sale increases.

"I’m excited about what’s happening," Karl Case, co-creator of the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index told the BBJ."Over the last six months there have been lots of positive numbers: housing starts are up, inventories are down, first-time and speculative buying is on the rise."

-- "Real Estate Market Getting More Competitive," by Thomas Grillo, CBS Boston, April 23, 2012.

South Florida, a Seattle-based real estate website that reports home values aren't just stable but rising in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Prices in South Florida reached their low point at the end of 2011, according to Zillow. The optimism extends beyond Zillow. The Sun Sentinel interviewed a dozen builders, buyers, analysts, real estate agents and other local housing observers, and 10 agreed that the region has reached a housing floor, despite concern that another wave of bank-owned homes will hit the market.

"For people who have been waiting to time their home purchase close to market bottom, it's time to start shopping," said Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist.

-- "South Florida Housing Market Has Hit Bottom, Zillow Says," by Paul Owers, Sun-Sentinel, May 6, 2012.

Ocean County, Calif.

It looks like there's spring in the spring homebuying season. The Orange County home inventory report from Steve Thomas and — data as of April 26 includes – showed soaring demand and tight inventory.

Thomas calls the report "staggering." He notes that: "Listing Inventory is at its lowest point since June 2005; Demand is at its highest level since June 2005; The expected market time is at its lowest level since June 2005; Closed sales have not been this low since October 2006 (May 2010 was at a similar level, but only temporary due to the expiration of the first time home buyer tax credit); The distressed property inventory is at lows not seen since September 2007.

"The sleeping giant, housing, has awakened. The most fascinating aspect of this latest shift in the market is that absolutely nobody forecasted this major step in a housing recovery."

-- "There’s Spring in Homebuyers’ Steps," by Orange County Register, May 4, 2012.

The American Dream Gets Another Facelift

The American Dream of home ownership has taken some hits in the recession. But it remains alive and well, though with some twists that will help shape the nature of the budding housing recovery.

Read more:

Real Trends 500 Ranks Realogy Subsidiary NRT as No. 1 Residential Real Estate Brokerage for 15th Consecutive Year

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May 03, 2012 11:29 ET

Real Trends 500 Ranks Realogy Subsidiary NRT as No. 1 Residential Real Estate Brokerage for 15th Consecutive Year

PARSIPPANY, NJ--(Marketwire - May 3, 2012) - NRT LLC was ranked as the nation's No. 1 residential real estate brokerage company in the REALTrends 500 report. On a pro forma basis, NRT's 2011 sales volume of $108.9 billion is approximately three-and-one-half times higher than its next closest competitor, and greater than the combined sales volume of the next 13 competitors on the list. NRT also ranked No. 1 in closed sales transactions with 255,410 sides in 2011, which surpassed the aggregate total of the next five competitors on the list. This is the 15th consecutive year in which NRT was ranked No. 1 in both sales volume and transaction sides by REAL Trends.
"Being ranked as the top residential real estate firm in the country underscores the tremendous efforts our sales associates and employees put forth every day to deliver an excellent customer experience," said Bruce Zipf, president and CEO, NRT LLC. "We are proud of our 2011 results and look forward to demonstrating our continued leadership in 2012, both on a national level and in the local markets that we serve."
The REAL Trends 500 is an annual research report that identifies the country's largest and most successful residential brokerage firms as ranked by closed sales volume and separately by closed transaction sides. REAL Trends, Inc. is a leading source of analysis and information on the residential brokerage and housing industry.
NRT owns and operates approximately 725 offices and has 41,500 sales associates in 35 major metropolitan areas. NRT, its affiliated companies, marketing partners or joint ventures also provide mortgage, title, insurance, escrow, warranty, relocation and concierge services to NRT's family of companies.
A subsidiary of Realogy Corporation, NRT operates Realogy's company-owned real estate brokerage offices under the world-renowned brand names of Coldwell Banker®, Coldwell Banker Commercial®, ERA®, Sotheby's International Realty® and The Corcoran Group®. Realogy is a leading global provider of real estate and relocation services.

Hurricane warnings now come by cell phone

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 31, 2012 – At the stroke of midnight, the 2012 hurricane season begins. But with two named storms already in the books, emergency managers have a new way to warn many Americans about looming storms. The cell phone is now a link to evacuation and other emergency information, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate said Wednesday.

Fugate said that emergency managers will continue to use traditional media, particularly television and radio, to alert people to danger, but he plugged the new system available to most smart phone users that pushes geographic-specific cautions to customers in the event of a crisis.

“We’re now able to broadcast to cell phones – that’s been a huge evolution,” Fugate said during a White House briefing Wednesday. “They’ll be able to get information in a push system … we have implemented the technology nationwide to begin pushing information to cell phones.”

Fugate, the former director of emergency management in Florida whose tenure in that job included the monster hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, also reminded Americans to make sure they have a cell phone charger as part of their emergency supply kit. While landlines are usually fairly reliable, so many people rely on mobile phones now, Fugate noted, and many people who haven’t been through a hurricane recently may not remember to make sure they have a charger, particularly a car charger, so they can charge their phone if the power is out.

The Federal Communications Commission announced earlier this year that the PLAN system (Personal Localized Alerting Network) also known as CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) now allows emergency officials to send targeted alerts to specific areas through cell towers to users near that tower.

The system could be used for any imminent threat, not just dangerous weather, including terrorist attacks or criminal activity alerts. Because it is based on the location of cell towers, only people in that immediate area would get an alert. For example, a customer in Miami who is visiting Tampa would get alerts about Tampa while there, not about Miami.

Participation by cell phone users is automatic if their carrier participates, meaning they don’t have to do anything to sign up.

The alerts come into the phone and will appear similar to a text message, though the actual technology is different to prevent a slowing of the messages in congested areas. The customer won’t be charged for receiving the messages.

Wireless phone companies were required to enable phones to accept the messages in early April, though their participation in the system is voluntary. The alerts are only those involving imminent threats to safety, alerts issued by the president or Amber Alerts.

FEMA also has a separate service whereby cell phone users can text their zip code to FEMA and get a message back with nearby shelter locations.

Source: News Service of Florida, David Royse

Apartments becoming more urban

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WASHINGTON – May 31, 2012 – The location of an apartment building remains the most important feature for renters when choosing where they want to live, according to industry experts during a recent webinar hosted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The experts also discussed key market trends emerging in interior, exterior and outdoor living, and how generational differences affect apartment design.

Multifamily builders and developers are focusing more on urban projects near public transportation hubs because Millennials – the largest segment of the renting population – want to spend less time commuting and more time creating a balance between career and lifestyle.

“It’s all about the lifestyle for today’s renters. They want the urban experience of less commute time and immediate access to various activities,” said Jeff Kayce, vice president at Bozzuto Development Company and one of the webinar’s presenters. “Because of this, many developers are building near transit hubs and along transit lines. Bozzuto, for example, has been building many of its new apartments along DC’s metro line to create easier access for its renters.”

Another trend in apartment living is the design of a unit’s common areas. The areas are designed to have one space bleed into another, creating a more open feel.

“In the previous design cycle, we saw separate, distinct rooms,” said Rohit Anand, AIA, and principal of the KTGY Group and webinar presenter. “Now we have the computer room, media center and lounge all part of the same room, for example. This type of design helps foster interaction among residents.”

A focus on fitness also remains a top priority; however, the design of the fitness center has changed over the years. The fitness center is much more than a dark room overlooking the parking lot, according to the presenters. The size of the room is important – 1,200 to 1,500 square feet is the minimum – as well as the view from the center. Having state-of-the-art fitness equipment along with a yoga and Pilates area is also something many renters consider.

Blurring the lines of indoor and outdoor spaces is another trend in apartment design. The use of outdoor gathering areas is extended by incorporating heating elements and covered areas in the colder months, for example. The location of the pool has become important and often used as a design element.

In specific locations, niche amenities like dog runs, pet-washing stations, garden plots and bike storage/workshops are becoming more popular. Presenters agreed that it’s important for builders and developers to know their clientele before incorporating niche amenities like these.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

$30M investment to boost Fla. housing market

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MIAMI – May 31, 2012 – Wells Fargo brings its NeighborhoodLIFT program to Miami this week, calling it “a major effort to help stabilize neighborhoods deeply affected by the foreclosure crisis.” It has a five-year goal of $300 million in mortgage purchase loans by Wells Fargo, and a $9 million investment in downpayment assistance grants and homebuyer support programs. Homebuyers could qualify for up to $15,000 in downpayment assistance.

Wells Fargo will collaborate with the City of Miami, the non-profit organization NeighborWorks America and its local Miami affiliate Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida to execute the program.

The program launches tomorrow and Saturday through a free large-scale homebuyer workshop at the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC) from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Prospective homebuyers can register and learn more about the NeighborhoodLIFT program at or by calling 866-858-2151. Wells Fargo says pre-registration is encouraged but walk-ins are welcome.

The company says it plans to bring Florida NeighborhoodLIFT to three more Florida cities in the future with $7 million spent at each location:

• Tampa, June 22-23
• Orlando, July 13-14
• Jacksonville, July 27-28

All four Florida cities were chosen based on their high concentration of homeowners, foreclosures, delinquencies and overall housing inventory, Wells Fargo says.

Miami is the sixth city to launch the NeighborhoodLIFT program, following Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.

The June 1-2 NeighborhoodLIFT event in Miami is for anyone interested in buying and living in a home in the City of Miami. Downpayment assistance of up to $15,000 is available to those who qualify, buy and reside in a home in Miami. To qualify for downpayment assistance that may be applied to mortgage purchase loans with any lender, applicants must meet certain criteria including annual income not exceeding 120 percent of the area median income; completion of an eight-hour homebuyer education session with the approved NeighborWorks America affiliate; a commitment to stay in the home for five years; and qualification for a first mortgage on the property.

At the event, potential homebuyers can find out if they qualify for the downpayment assistance program for a mortgage purchase loan with any lender and reserve funds for 60 days – even if they have not yet found a property. They can also get pre-approved for a mortgage and, if they face credit challenges, they can sign up for free counseling.

In addition, prospective homebuyers may stop by the Wells Fargo Affordable Home Tour viewing center to preview the features and prices of about 100 homes available for sale in each city. And they can board a tour bus for a free ride to see and go inside the homes. Buses will depart from noon to 5 p.m. each day to the neighborhoods. Self-directed tours are also encouraged.

“This is a tremendous commitment by Wells Fargo to support homeowners and communities,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks America, the national non-profit collaborating with Wells Fargo on NeighborhoodLIFT. “This is the kind of public-private collaboration that can help communities tackle difficult challenges and families realize their goal of sustainable homeownership.”

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Home prices rise in most major U.S. cities

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WASHINGTON – May 29, 2012 – Home prices rose in March from February in most major U.S. cities for the first time in seven months. The increase is the latest evidence of a slow recovery taking shape in the troubled housing market.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index shows that prices increased in 12 of the 20 cities it tracks.

Three of the weakest markets reported signs of improvement. Prices increased in Tampa and Miami, while prices in Las Vegas were unchanged.

The biggest month-over-month increases were in Phoenix, Seattle and Dallas. Prices dropped sharply in Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta.

The increases partly reflect the beginning of the spring selling season. The month-to-month prices aren’t adjusted for seasonal factors.

The overall index of 20 cities was essentially unchanged in March, after falling 0.8 percent in February.
AP LogoCopyright 2012 The Associated Press, Christopher S. Rugaber (AP Economics Writer). All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

UF: Consumer confidence in Florida jumps three points in May

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – May 30, 2012 – Consumer confidence among Floridians rose three points to 77 in May, reversing a three-month decline, according to a monthly University of Florida survey. The latest figure is nine points higher than it was a year ago.

“This is a welcome turnaround in consumer confidence,” says Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “The rise in confidence in May was particularly strong among those under age 60 and those with household incomes above $30,000.”

Three of the five components in the study showed rising confidence. For example, the overall expectations among respondents that their personal finances will improve in the coming year jumped eight points to 87 from last month. Confidence in the U.S. economy in the coming year went up one point to 74, while trust in economic conditions over the next five years rose five points to 81.

Perceptions of whether now is a good time to purchase big-ticket items such as houses, automobiles and refrigerators remained unchanged at 80. Only one component showed a decline: Respondents’ assessment of their current financial situations compared with a year ago, which fell one point to 62.

The sudden rise in consumer confidence is strange given “the potential ‘fiscal cliff’ due at the beginning of 2013 that is now being reported in the news,” McCarty says. Several pressing economic issues, unless acted upon by Congress and the president, could dampen the current optimism, notably expiring Bush tax cuts. In addition, mandated automatic cuts in domestic and military spending and yet another battle over raising the debt ceiling could shake consumer confidence.

However, several trends should give Floridians something to cheer about, McCarty says. For instance, the cost of gas has dropped almost 33 cents a gallon in Florida over the past month.

“This reversal is due in large part to decreasing demand internationally as Europe struggles with a recession and China’s economy slows,” McCarty says. “Lower gas prices not only help Floridians at the pump but should result in more Florida vacations this summer that will keep the tourist sector busy.”

In addition, unemployment continues to fall in Florida. The rate is now 8.7 percent, which is only six-tenths of a percent higher than the national unemployment rate. Recent Florida labor data also reveals an encouraging rise in jobs in the professional and business services sectors. “This is a welcomed change from last year when job gains were concentrated in tourist-related industries,” McCarty says.

Nonetheless, some employment problems linger in Florida. The construction sector, for example, remains in the doldrums, a casualty of the housing bubble. Governments, too, have seen substantial job losses, resulting from ongoing budget cuts.

Finally, many job seekers have become discouraged and quit seeking work. “As the recovery takes hold, some of those will come back into the labor force resulting in an increase in unemployment,” McCarty says. “This will actually be a sign of healing in the job market.”

“The increase in confidence this month reversed the trend we were repeating from last year,” says McCarty. “If we can continue this trend, it will bode well for Florida’s economy. Increased confidence typically means increased consumer spending that will result in more jobs.”

Conducted between May 12 and 24, the UF study reflects the responses of 411 individuals who represent a demographic cross section of Florida. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Florida’s housing market continues positive signs in April 2012

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Florida’s housing market continues positive signs in April 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. – May 22, 2012 – Florida’s housing market had increased pending sales and higher median prices in April, along with a greatly reduced inventory of homes and condos for sale, according to Florida Realtors® latest housing data.

“Here in Florida, we’re seeing some strong numbers that show positive momentum for the state’s housing recovery and our economy,” said 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene, regional manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale. “Home prices continue to rise in many markets. Inventory is down to extremely low levels while pending sales are on the rise – almost 38 percent for single-family homes and 25 percent for townhomes and condos. It is not unusual to see multiple offers.

“Now the challenge will be for appraisals to catch up. Overall, we are very happy to see the market move in this direction and expect this trend to continue.”

Pending sales refer to contracts that are signed but not yet completed or closed; closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in April was $144,350, up 10.2 percent from the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department, and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing. The statewide median for townhome-condo properties was $108,000, up 16.1 percent over April 2011.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in March 2012 was $163,600, up 1.9 percent from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in March was $291,080; in Massachusetts, it was $267,500; in Maryland, it was $225,601; and in New York, it was $215,000.

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 continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.

Statewide sales of existing single-family homes totaled 17,544 in April, down slightly, 0.7 percent, compared to the year-ago figure. Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhomes/condos, a total of 9,765 units sold statewide last month, down 4.9 percent from those sold in April 2011. NAR reported the national median existing condo price in March 2012 was $165,200.

In April, there was a 5.8-month supply of single-family homes in inventory and a 5.7-month supply for townhomes/condos, according to Florida Realtors.

“The housing numbers for the state of Florida continue to signal recovery,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Sales in 2012 are above where they were in 2011, a harbinger of a third straight year of improvement. More importantly, pending sales are up dramatically, and inventory is still falling. Financing constraints still mean that a significant percentage of these will not lead to closed sales, but with the numbers up, we are confident that closed sales will continue to rise.

“The increase in both median and average prices suggests that investors are having a strong impact on the market, soaking up lower priced inventory and causing buyers to move up the price ladder.”

The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.91 percent in April 2012, down from the 4.84 percent average during the same month a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

To see the full statewide housing activity report, go to Florida Realtors website at, and click on the Research page; then look under Latest Housing Data, Statewide Residential Activity and get the April report. Or go to Florida Realtors Media Center at and download the April 2012 data report PDF under Market Data at:

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Market Watch: Great News!

Sales + Prices = Great News
April’s housing numbers add up to great news for buyers, sellers and Realtors who help facilitate sales. Pending sales are up, prices are rising, and the inventory rate is nearly reaching a balanced market. It appears that the housing recovery – even if slow – is here. These trends suggest that Florida is on the right path.

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Officials say $25 million condo sale sets record

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Officials say $25 million condo sale sets record
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) – May 25, 2012 – The Miami Herald reports a three-story penthouse with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Miami has sold for a record $25 million.

The newspaper reports the five-bedroom condo with a private pool at 100 South Pointe Drive in South Beach recently sold to a buyer who plans to “rip everything out” and spend $2 million to finish it.

Officials say the price breaks the previous record set in January when a Miami Beach penthouse sold for $21.5 million.

The South Beach condo last sold in May 2009 for $9.9 million.

Julian Johnston represented the owner and signed an agreement not to reveal the name. Johnston says the condo was not even listed when the buyer asked to see it.

Information from: The Miami Herald,
AP LogoCopyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

South Florida's real estate market looks hot again

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MIAMI – May 24, 2012 – Bidding wars are erupting from Homestead to Weston, as home sales and prices take off, further reinforcing the end of a prolonged market slump.

A two-bedroom, two-bathroom, bank-owned condominium in Coral Springs sparked 64 offers within 10 days – selling for $71,000 on Tuesday, or 34 percent over its $53,000 listing price.

“It was a feeding frenzy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Marta DuPree, broker associate and vice president of the Keyes Company in Coral Springs. “It was a rentable building, so all the investors were out.”

In Broward County, the median sales price of single-family homes rose 17 percent in April to $205,000, and condominiums jumped 17.4 percent to $84,300, compared to prices in April 2011. And in Miami-Dade, home prices continued a five-month ascent – up 30 percent for condos, to $150,000, and 8.2 percent for single-family homes, to $183,000, compared to a year ago, according to figures released Tuesday by the Miami Association of Realtors.

Across South Florida, higher demand is leading to multiple bids and, in turn, elevating prices – as the real estate market keeps turning around.

“We have a very limited amount of inventory at this point and there are a lot less foreclosures on the market,” said Tony Garcia, district sales manager for the Keyes Company in Homestead. “What we are seeing is that people are going again to bidding wars ... We’re in a situation where for 80 percent of contracts there are at least three or four offers for the same property.”

Realtors say the inventory of residential listings is way down. It has decreased 34 percent in the past year in Miami-Dade, from 17,897 to 11,878, and down 4 percent since March, the Realtors’ Association said.

Similarly, in Broward, the inventory of residential listings has dropped 30 percent in the past year, from 15,781 to 11,086, also down 4 percent from March.

With a housing stock of 16,000 homes and condos in Weston, only 254 single-family homes and 91 condos are currently for sale, said Chip Rowand, assistant district sales manager for the Keyes Company’s Weston office.

Neighboring areas of Southwest Ranches, Pembroke Pines, Davie and Cooper City are all experiencing a similar dearth of inventory, said Fritz Hawkins, general manager for the Keyes Company.

“We can put a property on the market and we can have multiple offers in one day,” he said.

Investors with cash – predominantly foreign buyers – continue to fuel the market.

In both Miami-Dade and Broward, 64 percent of closed sales in March were all-cash sales, with the vast majority to international buyers, the Miami Association of Realtors said.

“We’re at a point where builder inventories are low, and in fact, for some builders, sales are proceeding faster than they can build,” said Brad Hunter, South Florida director for Metrostudy, a housing market advisory firm headquartered in Houston.

“For those who are waiting four or five or more years for home prices to stabilize and start edging back upwards, we are essentially there,” he said.

Meanwhile, distressed properties still make up a large number of sales.

In April, 47 percent of all closed residential sales in Miami-Dade were distressed, including REOs (bank-owned properties) and short sales, compared to 59 percent in April 2011 and 49 percent the previous month.

In April, 38 percent of all closed residential sales in Broward were distressed, compared to 50 percent in April 2011 and 41 percent the previous month.

Even more distressed properties are sure to hit the market, which could still dampen prices, analysts say.

“We still have 52,000 foreclosures that haven’t been sold, and it is still taking 809 days to process a foreclosure in Florida,” said Jack McCabe, chief executive of McCabe Research & Consulting, based in Deerfield Beach.

When those distressed properties become available, they may be sold online, rather than through Realtors, he said.

“Things are better, but they are still not great, and there is still a flood of distressed property yet to be sold,” McCabe said. “And that will have an impact on the marketplace.”

Statewide median sales prices in April increased 10.2 percent to $144,350 for single-family homes and 16.1 percent to $108,000 for condos, according to the Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $177,400 in April, a 10.1 percent increase from April 2011.

Copyright © 2012 The Miami Herald, Ina Paiva Cordle. Distributed by MCT Information Services.