Thursday, September 27, 2012

A tale of two credit scores: borrowers vs. lenders

WASHINGTON – Sept. 27, 2012 – When reviewing their credit reports, one in five consumers likely see a different credit score than the one a creditor uses to price a loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The discrepancy has the agency concerned.

Lenders use credit scores to help determine the interest rate they’ll charge customers – higher credit scores often receive the best rates.

“Many consumers incorrectly believe that the scores they purchase are the same ones used by lenders,” according to a CFPB report. As such, a “substantial minority” of consumers are at risk of overpaying for credit or applying for loans they have little chance of receiving.

Even the slightest variation in credit scores can make a big difference, and the discrepancies have the potential to hamper a person’s chances for qualifying for certain kinds of home loans, according to the CFPB.

The CFPB sites FICO scores, which are widely used by lenders, as an example. FICO has different credit scoring models for lenders, and it can be different than what consumers see. VantageScore also has different types of credit scores, CFPB says.

CFPB is evaluating the accuracy of credit reporting firms’ service to consumers. It encourages consumers not to focus on a score’s number when they review credit reports, but to check the accuracy of the payment history firms use to calculate scores. Consumers correct errors on the payment histories within reports because it can help improve their scores.

Source: “Regulator Sees Flaws in Credit-Score Information,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 25, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New homes: Monthly home price increase sets record

WASHINGTON (AP) – Sept. 26, 2012 – Sales of new homes in the United States dipped slightly in August from July but the median price of homes sold during the month rose by a record amount.

New-home sales edged down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000 in August, a dip of 0.3 percent from July's revised rate of 374,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That had been the fastest pace since April 2010 when government tax credits were boosting sales.

Sales in August were up 27.7 percent from the pace a year ago. But even with that gain, new-home sales remain well below the annual pace of 700,000 that economists consider healthy.

The median price of a new home jumped 11.2 percent in August to $256,900, the biggest one-month gain on record.

The median sales price was up 17 percent compared to August 2011. The $256,900 median price in August was the highest sales price since new homes sold for $262,600 in March 2007, a period when prices were coming down from the peaks reached during the housing boom.

By region of the U.S., sales rose by the most in the Northeast, climbing 20 percent. Sales were up 1.8 percent in the Midwest and 0.9 percent in the West. However, sales in the South, which accounts for nearly half of new home sales, dropped 4.9 percent.

Robert Kavcic, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the August report was “more evidence that a recovery in U.S. housing is taking root.”

Kavcic said that the drop in sales in the South could have been influenced by disruptions from Hurricane Isaac in August.

The housing market has been making a modest but steady recovery, helped by the Federal Reserve’s efforts to give the economy a boost through lower interest rates. The Fed earlier this month announced a third round of bond buying in an effort to stimulate the economy and attack unemployment, which has been stuck above 8 percent since early 2009.

Sales of previously occupied homes jumped in August to the highest level since May 2010. Builder confidence is at a six-year high and construction of single-family homes rose last month to the fastest annual rate in more than two years. However, even with the gains, home sales and construction remain well below healthy levels.

On Tuesday, the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller home price index showed home prices increased 1.2 percent in July compared to July 2011. That was the second straight year-over-year price gain after two years when prices had fallen every month compared to the same month in the previous year.
AP Logo Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger, AP economics writer.

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Shadow inventory less threatening

ORLANDO, Fla. – Sept. 26, 2012 – Two reports – one that covers Florida and another focused on the U.S. – find that shadow inventory continues to decline.

Shadow inventory – homes not yet in the for-sale inventory but at some stage of foreclosure with a likely chance to enter the market – has been a threat to the real estate recovery for a number of years. Many experts feared that home prices would stagnate if buyers continued to avoid the market or had trouble qualifying for a mortgage as a rising number of distressed homes entered the market.

“That problem seems less of a threat as time passes,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo. In an updated report issued by Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis (IDA), Tuccillo finds that the state’s shadow inventory continues to decline.

“Lenders show an increasing willingness to encourage short sales, so they don’t have to submit properties to the foreclosure process,” Tuccillo says. “In Florida, a foreclosure must go through a lengthy – and expensive – judicial process. While waiting for a final ruling, it costs lenders money to hold and maintain property.”

Tuccillo expects the shadow inventory to continue its decline. IDA’s complete report is available on
Florida Realtors’ website. Click the “residential” box under “Research reports.”

Nationally, JPMorgan Chase released a report saying the U.S. shadow inventory declined by 1.2 million in the first half of 2012. Chase expects the trend to continue and suggests that the same number will exit shadow inventory before the end of the year, taking the complete national shadow inventory down to about 4 million – a reduction of one-third compared to the 6 million in 2010.

To calculate shadow inventory, Chase considered all homes at least 60 days late in a mortgage payment.

“Although re-defaults and new delinquencies will continue to keep shadow inventory elevated, the rapid decline should prevent downward pressure on home prices going into 2013,” Chase analysts say. “Combined with better existing home sales, investors have reason to be optimistic about running recovery scenarios.”

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Case-Shiller: Home prices up again in July

NEW YORK – Sept. 25, 2012 – The July 2012 Home Price Index released today by S&P/Case-Shiller finds solid price increases in 16 of the 20 cities studied.

“Case-Shiller looks at the same homes over time and compares historical sales prices,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo. “As a result, it’s highly accurate – an apples-to-apples price comparison. As a tradeoff for accuracy, however, it’s important to note that it’s a lagging measurement. The data released this morning are already about two months old. Still, the price increase and month-over-month upbeat data suggest that the housing market recovery seems to have legs.”

Case-Shiller’s July report found a 1.5 percent price increase in its 10-City Composite, and a 1.6 percent increase in its 20-City Composite. For the third consecutive month, all 20 cities and both composites recorded positive monthly changes. It would have been a fourth month had April prices not fallen by 0.6 percent in Detroit.

Tuccillo offers another note of caution: “The Case-Shiller Index provides an accurate reading for home prices using a cross-section of U.S. cities,” he says. “However, only two Florida cities are included in its data – Miami and Tampa. As a result, the data can’t be extended to cover statewide home price changes. As every Realtor knows, each market is unique.”

In Miami, the data show that home prices rose 2.1 percent from June to July. The June report found a one-month increase of 1.6 percent. Year-to-year, Miami prices rose 5.3 percent.

In Tampa, home prices rose 0.9 percent from June to July compared to 2.0 percent in its June report. Year-to-year, Tampa prices rose 3.6 percent.

“The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Single family housing starts are well ahead of last year’s pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing. All in all, we are more optimistic.”

Federal Housing Finance Agency

A second home price index released this morning also shows positive data, though the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Index looks only at mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – roughly half of all outstanding mortgages.

FHFA’s July House Price Index found that home prices rose 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from June to July, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s monthly House Price Index. For the 12 months ending in July, U.S. prices rose 3.7 percent. The index is 16.4 percent below its April 2007 peak and roughly the same as June 2004.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

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Mayorism: Marketing Yourself and Your Community

You need to promote yourself online, but you can attract more consumers by being a resource on real estate transactions and your local area. Learn how.

You are your niche: Your personality, expertise, and knowledge of your local market and community is what gives you the opportunity to earn commissions once you are in front of a potential buyer or seller.
You already leverage this skill set every single time you have an in-person conversation with a potential client. But why wait for the opportunity to have a discussion about real estate or your community? If you publish your expertise online as part of a long-term, hyperlocal marketing strategy, you will leave your competition in the dust.
Your content on the Web can be your voice to consumers you haven’t met in person. Here are a few strategies you’ll want to use to promote yourself on the Web to your local market.

Writing “You” Content

This content comes from you sharing your personal and professional experience as a real estate salesperson and a member of the community. Probably the most simple and almost endless source of content for your Web site is the Sent folder in your e-mail.
How many times have you answered the same types of questions from buyers or sellers? You can almost cut and paste a dozen of these e-mails (and let’s be clear: e-mails are content marketing) and post them on your site. If you do just one a month, you have a year’s worth of content in there already, and maybe much more.
If you’re really up for a challenge, be proactive and educate yourself about aspects of the buying and selling process that you are not completely confident about right now. Do a series breaking down every single aspect of the RPA, disclosures, inspections, making offers, competitive selling strategies ... the list goes on.

Creating and Curating Community Content

Community content is how you establish yourself as a local expert, the go-to source for information about the community.
Let’s take a look at a couple of great sources of community content.
Local Restaurants and Bars
What are your favorite places to eat and drink? As a networking opportunity, chumming up with the owner of a place that has thousands of people go through it a month is a pretty good one.
You probably already know the owner or manager or have a favorite waiter or waitress at a local eatery or watering hole. Publish nice things about them on your site and they will tell everyone they know!
Additionally, info on new restaurants coming to your community can be a huge driver of traffic to your site. This information isn’t hard to come by. Spend a half hour a week doing Google searches for new restaurants or bars coming to your community and write a few paragraphs about these new businesses.
For a more advanced approach, negotiate discounts or specials at these locales for mentioning your Web site. Provide information to servers and employees of the restaurant so that they can instantly recognize that you referred someone to them.
Events and Cultural Institutions
A great way to get readers coming back to your site is to stay on top of what to do. This includes churches, civic organizations, fairs, fireworks displays, local historical events, and other activities.
Most of these events and activities are already posted online. By searching for and consolidating this information in one place, you are giving consumers a convenient way to find community information and helping search engines understand where you do business.
Spend 30 minutes a week researching things to do in your community. Post contact links and information about the event (activities, times, dates) in your article. Write a couple of short paragraphs about your experience with this event or organization and why people might want to participate. Use this information to build your readership and e-mail list.
How many people you drive to an event or activity is really not nearly as valuable as the fact that you’re trying to promote it for them. You will earn major karma points and build great reciprocal referral relationships this way.

Your Mayorism Campaign

As candidate for “mayor” of your community (see my first column for more information), it’s important that voters (consumers) know you for who you are, what your experience is, and how you contribute to or help the community.
Being an authority on real estate transactions and the local housing market is one way to do this. Creating allies with local businesses and influential people in the community is another. If you can spend a few hours a week doing this for at least the next year, you can strengthen both.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Picture perfect iPhone 5 camera

NEW YORK – Sept. 24, 2012 – The iPhone isn’t just the world’s most popular tech device, it’s also one of the most used consumer cameras.

Sure, there’s no zoom, and the flash is inferior. But as the go-to device that accompanies so many folks – nearly 250 million iPhones have been sold – it’s the camera we always have with us. Out it comes at parties, weddings, dinners and other real-life events.

So Talking Tech was eager to take the new iPhone 5 out for a photographic field test over the weekend to see how it fared. Is the camera truly new and improved, like Apple says? Can you really ditch your point-and-shoot camera for important shots – even treasured vacation photos?

The verdict: The iPhone 5’s camera is a major winner and held up well against a point-and shoot-camera. It is easily Apple’s best camera to date. We compared it with the iPhone 4. (We never did the upgrade but spent several weeks with the 4S when it was released last year – so we’re quite familiar with that camera as well.)

Talking Tech brought the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 to the tony Beverly Hills Hotel, where we shot a panorama of the swimming pool, got terrific low-light shots inside the hotel and took impressive close-ups of the beautiful flowers on display at the hotel.

The main selling points of the improved iSight camera:

Double HD. The iPhone has two cameras – a back-facing one that shoots in 1080p high-definition, and a front-facing option that, until now, only shot in standard definition. With the iPhone 5, that front-facing cam shoots in 720p high-definition. That’s a big deal because that’s the camera couples and friends hold at arm’s length to squeeze themselves together in the same shot. You can use this camera now for Apple’s FaceTime video chat in HD, which you couldn’t do before. As would be expected, life in HD looks a whole better. If you had to pick one major camera improvement for the iPhone 5, this is the one.

Stills and video. You can shoot photos while you’re shooting video – at the same time. Grabbing soccer team footage, but want a quick shot of Johnny as well to post on Facebook? Click record for video, and hit the camera icon while the video is being recorded. This feature works as promised, but watch your hands. When you click the camera record button for stills, you could end up jerking the camera and creating havoc with the clarity of your video.

Panoramas. You can shoot ultrawide shots, moving the camera from left to right, for amazing vistas. This is a software update in the iOS 6 operating system, a free upgrade, and works on the iPhone 5 and 4S, as well as the new iPod Touch. It’s worth upgrading software if you haven’t picked up an iPhone 5 yet. To operate the panorama, open the camera app and go to Options at the top of the screen. Click Panorama, and then compose your shot holding the camera in a vertical position, moving from left to right. You can choose to go ultra-ultrawide (almost 360 degrees) or medium ultrawide, depending upon how far you want to turn while taking the shot. The feature is standard on many Sony cameras, even point-and-shoots, but with the iPhone’s popularity, you’re likely to start seeing way more panoramas showing up in your Facebook and Twitter photo feeds.

Faster camera. Thanks to the faster processing chip for the iPhone 5, the camera app opens 40 percent quicker and responds more swiftly, according to Apple. This is all true.

Low-light improvement. The biggest problem with camera phone and point-and-shoot photos is that they’re terrific in perfect (i.e., outdoor) light, but they fall short inside, where the inexpensive lenses aren’t capable of letting in the needed light. That’s why so many camera phone shots are dark, muddy and fuzzy. The iPhone 5 did slightly better than the iPhone 4 in lower light situations. Images in low light have less noise and have a different color cast, by playing the white balance of the camera.

Image stabilization. Your videos won’t look as jerky, thanks to improved video-stabilization features. Video clips shot while in a moving car looked quite impressive.

Overall better video. Talking Tech likes the iPhone video camera so much, we’ve used it for many of our episodes. It does a terrific job in good lighting. Shooting videos with the iPhone 5 is even more pleasant. The Retina display produces a sharper screen to compose shots, and the sound has been upgraded. There are now three microphones in the device, up from two on the iPhone 4S. You’ll still need a microphone on a noisy street or bar, but the three mikes sounded markedly better than two.

More fun to use. The iPhone 5 display is 4 inches, vs. the 3.5 inches on the iPhone 4 and 4S, giving you more room and clarity to compose. (Most point-and-shoot LCD screens are 3 to 3.5 inches.) Apple says the color saturation has been increased.

Bottom line: Having the front-facing camera in HD is huge, the panorama feature is a lot of fun, and steadier videos make the new camera truly improved. It still pales compared with a good point-and-shoot, because the zoom and flash features are weak, and point-and-shoots have sharper lenses. For vacation photos, we’d still rather have a dedicated camera at our side. But for day-to-day use, if the iPhone is all you have in tow, you now have a better camera. And what’s wrong with that?

© Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Jefferson Graham

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homeownership 45% cheaper than renting

SAN FRANCISCO – Sept. 18, 2012 – Trulia released its Summer 2012 Rent vs. Buy Report, and buying was a better deal in all top 100 American cities considered.

To conduct the study, Trulia says it started by looking at the homes for sale and rent on its own site between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2012. For comparisons, it assumed a 3.5 percent mortgage, itemized income tax deductions at the 25 percent federal tax bracket, and a seven-year time horizon before the home is sold. It factored in “all cost components,” including transaction costs, taxes and opportunity costs.

Overall, Trulia says, homeownership wins hands down right now. While the buy-versus-rent savings varied greatly among the cities, buying was the best choice in all 100 markets.

Trulia says it’s about more than percentage differences, however. Detroit ranked at the top, where buying can save 70 percent, and it overshadows San Francisco where a buyer only saves 28 percent. However, homes are more expensive in San Francisco, so the actual dollar savings of $899 near the Golden Gate Bridge could overshadow any percentage savings in Detroit.

One Florida metro area made the top five list for home buying affordability. According to Trulia, the monthly cost of homeownership in Lakeland-Winter Haven is $495, while the cost of renting is $1,276 – a 61 percent ($781) savings for those who choose to buy rather than rent.

“Homeownership is cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metros by a wide margin,” says Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “Rents continue to rise faster than prices, and mortgage rates are near record lows.”

However, Kolko says many people can’t take advantage of homeownership’s historical affordability because “it takes years to save enough for a downpayment, and it takes a high credit score to even qualify for a mortgage, let alone to get the best rate.”

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Fla.’s housing market continues positive trend in August

Related story:
ORLANDO, Fla. – Sept. 19, 2012 – Florida’s housing market had more closed sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and a reduced inventory of homes for sale in August, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“Florida’s housing marketing continues its momentum,” said 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene, regional manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale. “Buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines should see this as a sign to jump in before the market escapes them again. Sellers who have been hesitant to sell should put their homes on the market now. Chances are they will entertain multiple offers and be able to take advantage of historically low interest rates to buy their next home. Now our biggest challenge will be appraisals keeping up with the pace of this market.”

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 18,669 in August, up 10.8 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Meanwhile, pending sales – contracts that are signed by not yet completed or closed – of existing single-family homes last month rose 40.2 percent over the previous August. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in August was $147,000, up 5.8 percent from a year ago.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in July 2012 was $188,100, up 9.6 percent from the previous year. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in July was $333,860; in Massachusetts, it was $325,000; in Maryland, it was $261,772; and in New York, it was $233,000.

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.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhomes/condos, a total of 8,767 units sold statewide last month, up 5.7 percent from those sold in August 2011. The statewide median for townhome-condo properties was $102,980, up 13.2 percent over the previous year. NAR reported the national median existing condo price in July 2012 was $180,700.

Last month, the inventory for single-family homes in August stood at a 5.3-months’ supply; inventory for townhome-condo properties was also at a 5.3-months’ supply, according to Florida Realtors. Industry analysts note that a 5.5-months’ supply represents a market balanced between buyers and sellers.

“Florida’s housing market is still reviving,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Everything that should be going up is going up, and everything that should be going down is going down. After the six years of turmoil that we had, it’s good to see the trends strongly moving in the right direction. We’re hurting for inventory, but it’s possible that the improving conditions will lure more sellers into the market and mitigate the housing inventory crunch.”

The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.60 percent in August 2012, lower than the 4.27 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

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

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Monday, September 17, 2012

ОСТАЛОСЬ 2 ДНЯ для рассмотрения Оповещения о налоге на недвижимость 2012 в Miami-Dade County, Florida

ОСТАЛОСЬ 2 ДНЯ для рассмотрения Оповещения о налоге на недвижимость 2012 в Miami-Dade County, Florida (англоязычная аббревиатура TRIM).  Обратите внимание, что этот документ еще не является самим счетом к оплате, но это самое важное оповещение от Департамента Оценки Недвижимости  Майами.

18 СЕНТЯБРЯ - ПОСЛЕДНИЙ ДЕНЬ для подачи петиции для внесения каких-либо изменений.  Пожалуйста, обратите на это особое внимание!   Информацию о своем объете недвижимости Вы можете уточнить на сайте:


LAST TWO DAYS to review your proposed REAL ESTATE TAX NOTICE a.k.a  TRIM.
Although this is not a tax bill as it clearly states at the top of the notice, but it's the most important notification yearly you'll receive from the Miami Dade office of the Property appraiser.  Please review the notice thoroughly as to your tax-valuation,  applicable exemptions as well as non-value related fees such as garbage, fire, lighting.

TUESDAY 18th 2012 will be the last day to officially review and correct any issues and/or file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board to have a hearing.  Check the bottom of the notice for your last day to file it could be different than September 18th.
Your actual tax-bill will be sent out around November 1st 2012 by the Tax- Collector office, this is when most people "wakes-up" which could be too late.
I therefore urge you to REVIEW YOUR NOTICE OF PROPOSED PROPERTY TAXES 2012,  check:
and view your individual property information in more details. You can search by Folio, Address and Owner or use the interactive map to fine your property.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Argentines Turn Cash Into Condos in Miami

Big Deal

Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times
CURTAIN CALL The view from Opera Tower in Miami, where many Argentines are buying investment condos.
IN early August, Jorge Sanchez, a broker with Douglas Elliman, flew to Buenos Aires to sell some Miami real estate. He returned to Florida a few days later with four signed contracts from Argentines for apartments in a 60-story tower in downtown Miami.
The fact that the buyers signed the contracts without ever flying to Miami to see the building -- Opera Tower -- speaks volumes about how eager, and desperate, Argentines have been to direct their money out of their country and into real estate in Miami and New York.
In the past few months, Argentines have quietly passed Brazilians to become the most active group from Latin America buying Miami real estate, according to Millie Sanchez, executive vice president of development marketing for Douglas Elliman Florida.
Brazil’s demotion from the top spot likely has something to do with the weakening of its currency, the real, versus the dollar in recent months. But in Argentina, a weakening peso and 25 percent inflation, economists say, have spurred many affluent Argentines to move their money into American real estate by expensive and sometimes illegal means.
Economic and political uncertainty around the globe are benefitting real estate in the United States, especially in Miami and New York, the two “safe haven” American cities foreign investors usually look to first. South Florida’s real estate market is certainly no stranger to capital flight from Latin America. But the velocity at which some Argentines are investing in Miami real estate has shocked some brokers here.
“The desperation of the Argentine people has taken over and they are actually market leaders here now,” Ms. Sanchez said. “Any project today in Miami is probably being sold 50 percent to the Argentines.”
The government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president, has been trying to stop the capital outflow, which nearly doubled to $21.5 billion last year from $11.4 billion in 2010, with increasingly severe methods.
Argentines now have to submit requests to tax authorities to convert pesos into dollars for overseas trips, and are rarely approved for much. Overseas credit card purchases are heavily taxed at home. And specially trained dogs working for tax authorities are sniffing for dollars at ports, airports and border crossings.
The government began restricting access to dollars last November, days after Ms. Kirchner won a second four-year term.
What’s driving all this? Argentina has struggled to preserve its hard-currency reserves in the Central Bank and sustain a trade surplus. The country has had limited access to international credit markets, owing to its inability to win back the confidence of global investors after its $100 billion default in 2001.
The government has refused to take on more debt, to rapidly devalue the peso, or to reduce spending, which it needs to sustain programs for the poor and working class that make up its voter base. Instead, Ms. Kirchner’s government has chosen to clamp down on capital flight by whatever means possible.
Banks in Argentina are lending at rates some 10 percent under the inflation rate, economists say. There are few profitable investments left in the country, said Eduardo Blasco, a financial consultant in Buenos Aires.
Argentines are buying foreign properties not only to park their savings but also to make extra income through rentals. “Argentines don’t want any more Argentine risk,” Mr. Blasco said.
So they are willing to risk their savings on Miami real estate instead. At Opera Tower, at 1750 North Bayshore Drive, half of the 30 apartments sold in the past month were bought by Argentines, Ms. Sanchez said. Most were all-cash purchases, even though the developer, Florida East Coast Realty, has offered to finance up to 65 percent of the purchases.
After selling about a third of the building’s 635 apartments before 2008, the developer turned the building into rentals after the housing crisis. Six months ago, Opera Tower began selling condos again. Since then some 90 apartments of the remaining 394 have gone into contract, said Luis Espinosa, the director of marketing for Florida East Coast Realty.
The building has become almost a pure investment play. Owners are occupying less than 5 percent of the apartments, which are selling for $250,000 to $650,000 for studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, said Ana Tajes, Opera Tower’s sales director.
Opera Tower is popular with Argentines because the developer is offering to lease back the apartments from the buyers, pay their monthly maintenance charges and give them an annual net rent equal to 6 percent of the purchase price for three years.
Argentines have also been scooping up apartments in Manhattan. Maria Velazquez, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, met a group of Argentines in Miami earlier this month and accompanied them to New York. She said she has sold six apartments totaling $8 million to Argentines since last November, including four apartments at One Museum Mile, located at 1280 Fifth Avenue.
In December, Ms. Velazquez represented a group of Argentines that bid $10.35 million for eight apartments at 400 Fifth Avenue. They were later outbid, she said.
“They wanted to act fast and get their money out” of Argentina, Ms. Velazquez said. “Whoever buys in New York already has four or five apartments in Miami.”
While her Argentine sales have been strong, Ms. Velazquez lately has been selling even more in New York to another skittish group from Latin America: Venezuelans.
Concerns about the Oct. 7 election in Venezuela, in which the 13-year incumbent, President Hugo Chavez, faces perhaps his stiffest challenge from Henrique Capriles, have led to a new exodus of cash from the country that is finding its way into New York real estate.
In the past year Ms. Velazquez said she has sold $35 million worth of Manhattan real estate to Venezuelans, including nine apartments at the Aldyn (60 Riverside Boulevard), three of which were $7 million penthouses of about 3,096 square feet each.
In contrast to about four years ago, when many Venezuelans struggled to wire large sums of money out of the country because of government restrictions, this time around they are using funds from accounts in Switzerland and the Virgin Islands, she said.
Some Argentines are using money that was already waiting in American bank accounts. Others have been willing to pay a black-market premium of up to 40 percent to convert their money into dollars at home, and a commission of up to 7 percent to transfer funds abroad through a currency exchange house, an illegal transaction, economists said.
The dollar restrictions have caused Argentina’s own real estate market, which has traditionally been transacted in dollars, to flatten, as Argentines sit on their properties, said Marina Dal Poggetto, an economist in Buenos Aires.
“Those that have properties don’t want to sell in pesos, only in dollars,” she said. “But buyers don’t have dollars.”
The government controls are having a profound effect. Capital flight from Argentina plunged 69 percent to $3.57 billion in the first half of 2012, from $11.7 billion in the second half of 2011.
Deserving part of the credit is Argentina’s national tax agency, which has used a team of 50 specially trained dogs -- most of which are golden retrievers and Labradors -- to sniff out the dye in dollars and other foreign currencies.
The Kirchner government has boasted about the dogs’ exploits.
In February, the government said, Tiza found $110,000 in a car crossing into Uruguay. In July, Isidoro and Bruno, two other dogs, found $20,000 in a car trying to cross the border with Paraguay. Then last month, Catalina, which appeared to be a black Labrador, found 187,000 reals ($92,493) in the airbag of a Toyota Hilux at a border crossing with Brazil.
The busts pass for black humor in Argentina these days. But a good chunk of the money that is managing to slip out by determined Argentines is finding its way into Florida and New York real estate, and for brokers here that is no laughing matter.
Charles Newbery contributed reporting from Buenos Aires.
Follow Alexei Barrionuevo on Twitter: @alexeinyt.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 14, 2012
An earlier version of this article misstated the size of three apartments at the Aldyn that sold for $7 million. They are each 3,096 square feet, not 8,000.

Community activism: Neighborly Networking

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Get involved and grow your business.

Tallahassee resident Sandler Dickson has taken the practice of grass-roots neighborhood involvement to great heights. As president of the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Association, he sees no job as too big—or too small—for his consideration. If roadside litter needs to be picked up, he’ll organize a crew of volunteers. At election time, he’s one of the first to help “Get out the Vote.” And his company, RE/MAX Professional Realty, sponsors the community’s monthly newsletter. “You’ve got to give back to your community. If you show that you’re willing to make the effort for them, they’ll respond in kindness back to you,” says Dickson.
In real estate for 30 years, he’s discovered that his community involvement helps to generate business. Here’s how he does it:

Free Publicity
“The most inexpensive type of advertising is word of mouth,” says Dickson.

The city of Tallahassee named Waverly Hills its 2008 Neighborhood of the Year, and Dickson individually its Neighbor of the Year.

The awards help Dickson gain recognition wherever he goes. “I was in an exercise class when someone said, ‘I saw you in the paper’ and then asked for my card,” he says. “I’ve had people in supermarket lines say, ‘Oh we saw your photo.”

Meet and Greet
There are about 400 homes in the Waverly Hills subdivision, and Dickson along with his business partner/wife, Barbara, aim to get to know as many households as possible. “We need to go back to what neighborhoods used to be, when you knew the people next door,” he says. The Dicksons do this by participating in community events and sponsoring the community’s monthly newsletter. “The newsletters are delivered by the neighborhood association, and at the bottom we say, ‘Courtesy of Barbara and Sandler Dickson, RE/MAX Professional Realty.’”

The newsletter costs about $65 to print (for 400 households), and the association pays the postage.

Market on a Dime
The Dicksons hand out business cards that feature their real estate company’s logo and contact information on the front and Sandler’s name and “President of the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Association” on the flip side. A friend, who’s a printer, gives him 300 cards free. They also send out e-mails to people in their contact management database. Although the messages mention that Sandler is president of the neighborhood association and may highlight various community activities from time to time, he never uses the association contact list for sending them.

Through their community service, between May and July, the Dicksons received nine viable leads. “I won’t say we’ve cornered the market, but I think we tend to get expireds—after the seller figures out [how well] we can market it.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homes selling quickly, time on market down

WASHINGTON – Sept. 5, 2012 – A new measure shows the typical amount of time it takes to sell a home is shrinking.

The time it takes to sell a home currently – 69 days in July, down 29.6 percent from 98 days in July 2011 – is in the range of historic norms for a balanced market, according to NAR. It’s also well below the cyclical peak reached in 2009.

The median reflects a wide spectrum; one-third of homes purchased in July were on the market for less than a month, while one in five was on the market for at least six months.

“As inventory has tightened, homes have been selling more quickly,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “A notable shortening of time on market began this spring, and this has created a general balance between home buyers and sellers in much of the country. This equilibrium is supporting sustained price growth, and homes that are correctly priced tend to sell quickly, while those that aren’t often languish on the market.”

At the end July, there was a 6.4-month supply of homes on the market at the current sales pace, which is 31.2 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.3-month supply.

NAR says that its research has determined that a balanced market generally has a median selling time of slightly more than six weeks, making the current market appear balanced.

In balanced market conditions, home prices generally rise 1 to 2 percentage points above the overall rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

“Our current forecast is for the median existing home price to rise 4.5 to 5 percent this year, and about 5 percent in 2013, which is somewhat stronger than historic norms because of the inventory shortfall most pronounced in the low price ranges,” Yun says.

Inflation (CPI growth) is projected at 2.1 percent for 2012 and 2.3 percent next year.

From 1987 through 2011, analysis of the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers series showed the typical time on market was 6.9 weeks, while the existing-home sales series showed an average supply of 7.0 months – just above the high end for a balanced market.

NAR’s new measure of days on market shows a longer selling time than earlier findings that measured traditional sellers of non-distressed homes. The new series includes short sales that typically took three months or longer to sell.

“Factoring out short sales, the median time on market for traditional sellers appears to be in the balanced range of six to seven weeks,” Yun says.

During the peak of the housing boom in 2004 and 2005, when inventory supplies were historically low at an average 4.3 months, the median selling time was 4 weeks. Prices in that time rose at an annual rate of 10.3 percent.

In the economic downturn, time on market for non-distressed sellers peaked at 10 weeks in 2009 with a 10-month annualized supply. The median price fell 12.9 percent that year, the biggest annual decline on record.

“Ironically, if housing construction doesn’t pick up to normal levels within two years, supply shortages could be sustained for an extended period and lead to above average appreciation,” Yun says. “Therefore, any unnecessary hindrance to housing starts, such as excessive local zoning regulations or stringent bank capital rules for construction loans, should be carefully re-examined.”

NAR’s new days-on-market figures will be included in future existing-home sales releases. It’s derived from a monthly survey for the Realtors Confidence Index.

The median time on market can be misleading at times, however. If an abundance of fresh listings enters the market, it could skew the average downward.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Average on 30-year mortgage still at 3.55%

Mortgage Rate Trend Index
Industry experts polled by this week hedged their bets since the Fed had not yet announced its move. Still, the effects of the Fed program probably won’t be felt as early as next week, and 43% of experts expect little rate change in the short term; 21% see a decrease, while the remaining 36% predict an upswing.
WASHINGTON – Sept. 14, 2012 – The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage held steady this week, staying slightly above the lowest level on record. Low mortgage rates have aided a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged at 3.55 percent. In July, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.85 percent, down from 2.86 percent last week. That’s above the record low of 2.80 percent.

Cheap mortgages have helped lift the housing market. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are well above last year’s levels. Low rates have also allowed people to refinance, which lowers monthly mortgage payments and helps boosts consumer spending.

Home prices are increasing more consistently this year, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen. And the number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth declined in the second quarter.

Still, the housing market has a long way back. Home sales are below healthy levels. And many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger downpayments required by banks.

Mortgage rates are low because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weaker U.S. economy and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasury securities, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increase, the yield falls.

To calculate average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week.

The average does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.6 point, down from 0.7 point last week. The fee for 15-year loans was unchanged at 0.6 point.

The average rate on one-year adjustable rate mortgages was steady at 2.61 percent. The fee for one-year adjustable rate loans also was unchanged, at 0.4 point.

The average rate on five-year adjustable rate mortgages fell to 2.72 percent from 2.75 percent. The fee declined to 0.6 point from 0.7.
AP Logo Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Marcy Gordon, AP business writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

CoreLogic: Fewer homes underwater

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Sept. 12, 2012 – CoreLogic says 10.8 million (22.3 percent) of all residential properties with a mortgage had negative equity (underwater) at the end of the second quarter 2012. That’s down from 11.4 million properties (23.7 percent) at the end of the first quarter.

An additional 2.3 million borrowers had less than 5 percent equity in their home, referred to as near-negative equity, at the end of the second quarter.

So far in 2012, 1.3 million homeowners have moved from underwater status into positive equity.

Negative equity, often referred to as “underwater” or “upside down,” means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.

About one in four homeowners with a mortgage in the U.S. (27 percent) had negative or near-negative equity in the second quarter, a drop from 28.5 percent in the first quarter.

Most borrowers in negative equity continue to pay their mortgages; 84.9 percent of underwater homeowner were current on their mortgage payments, up from 84.8 percent at the end of the first quarter.

“Surging home prices this spring and summer, lower levels of inventory, and declining REO sale shares are all contributing to the nascent housing recovery and declining negative equity,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

“Nearly 2 million more borrowers in negative equity would be above water if house prices nationally increased by 5 percent,” adds Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We currently expect home prices to continue to trend up in August. Were this trend to be sustained, we could see significant reductions in the number of borrowers in negative equity by next year.”

Highlights as of Q2 2012

• Nevada had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 59 percent, followed by Florida (43 percent), Arizona (40 percent), Georgia (36 percent) and Michigan (33 percent). These top five states combined account for 34.1 percent of the total amount of negative equity in the U.S.

• Of the total $689 billion in aggregate negative equity, first liens without home equity loans accounted for $339 billion aggregate negative equity, while first liens with home equity loans accounted for $353 billion.

• Of the 10.8 million upside-down borrowers, 6.6 million hold first liens without home equity loans. The average mortgage balance for this group of borrowers is $216,000, the average underwater amount is $51,000, and 18 percent of the 6.6 million are in negative equity.

• 4.2 million upside-down borrowers have both first and second liens. The average mortgage balance for this group of borrowers is $300,000, the average underwater amount is $84,000 and 38 percent of the 4.2 million are in negative equity.

• Approximately 41 percent of borrowers with first liens without home equity loans had loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 80 percent or higher and approximately 60 percent of borrowers with first liens and home equity loans had combined LTVs of 80 percent or higher.

• At the end of the second quarter 2012, just over 17 million borrowers possessed qualifying LTVs between 80 and 125 percent for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) under the original requirements first introduced in March 2009. The lifting of the 125 percent LTV cap via HARP 2.0 opens the door to another 5 million borrowers.

• The bulk of negative equity is concentrated in the low end of the housing market. For example, for low-to-mid value homes (less than $200,000), the negative equity share is 32 percent, almost twice the 17 percent for borrowers with home values greater than $200,000.

• As of Q2 2012, there were 1.8 million borrowers who were only 5 percent underwater. If home prices continue increasing over the next year, these borrowers could move out of a negative equity position.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Census Bureau app has real-time stats

Census Bureau app has real-time stats
WASHINGTON – Sept. 10, 2012 – The U.S. Census Bureau released its first mobile application, “America’s Economy,” which provides constantly updated statistics on the U.S. economy, including monthly economic indicators, trends and a schedule of upcoming announcements.

The app combines statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s the Census Bureau’s first mobile app with the real-time government statistics that drive business hiring, sales and production decisions and assist economists, researchers, planners and policymakers. The economic indicators track monthly and quarterly trends in industries, such as employment, housing construction, international trade, personal income, retail sales and manufacturing.

The app is part of the Census Bureau’s Web Transformation Project to provide federal employees and the general public with greater access to government information and services.

“The America’s Economy app will empower anyone needing information about the U.S. economy with timely statistics right on their mobile devices,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The release of this app is an example of our commitment to giving taxpayers faster and easier access to the statistics we produce, including the Economic Census, that impact the lives of all Americans.”

The following 16 key economic indicators are part of the initial app release:

Census Bureau
• Advance Monthly Retail Sales
• New Residential Construction
• Screenshot of America’s Economy App: Key Economic Indicators
• New Residential Sales
• Construction Spending
• International Trade
• Advance Report Durable Goods
• Business Inventories
• Manufacturers’ Goods
• Monthly Wholesale
• Homeownership Rate
• Quarterly Services Survey
• QFR - Retail Trade
• Screenshot of America’s Economy App: New Residential Sales - Details
• QFR - Manufacturing

Bureau of Economic Analysis
• Gross Domestic Product
• Personal Income and Outlays

Bureau of Labor Statistics
• Unemployment Rate

The app allows users to be notified when economic indicators are updated. They can also add statistical release schedules to personal calendars and share them on Facebook and Twitter.

America’s Economy is the first of three planned apps from the Census Bureau over the next several months. Each app will be available for Apple and Android smartphones.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Friday, September 7, 2012

Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (TRIM) in Miami-Dade County 2012


Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia urges you to read your TRIM Notice carefully. Although the Notice states, this is not a bill, it reflects what your 2012 taxes are likely to be on your November 2012 property tax bill.
The Notice contains very important information pertaining to your 2011 and 2012 property taxes in the following categories:
Taxing Authorities
  • Ad Valorem Taxes -- Proposed taxes based on the value of your property
  • Non Ad Valorem Taxes -- Proposed fees for services such as garbage, fire, lighting
Please note that my Office does not set tax rates listed in this Notice nor collects taxes in November. Questions concerning the taxes should be directed to the Taxing Authority listed on your Notice.
Property Appraiser
  • Property Values -- Value of the property as of January 1
  • Exemptions & Other Benefits -- All exemptions, classifications, and assessment reductions applied to the property
For all questions pertaining to the values and exemptions listed in your Notice, please call 786-331-5321 or visit my office. We are here to listen and address any questions and concerns you have on the values and exemptions in the Notice. Included in your TRIM Notice is a TRIMGuide, PDF and Newsletter.PDF See also thePress Release.
Additional assistance is available through a variety of online TRIM resources.

Public Hearings

The TRIM Notice lists the various taxing authorities that collect property taxes and their respective budget hearing dates. While the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser issues the notice, there are several agencies, other than country government, levying taxes against your property. These include the School Board, municipal governments, South Florida Water Management District, Children's Trust, Florida Inland Navigational District and the Everglades Project.
Before taxing authorities can levy taxes against your property they are required to hold public budget hearings. The dates, times, and locations for all budget hearings are listed on the Notice.

Appealing Your Assessment

Following the mailing of TRIM Notices we begin an Interview Period during which property owners are encouraged to contact the Property Appraiser's Office to discuss concerns about values and/or exemptions, in one-on-one conferences with evaluators. If the concerns are not resolved, the property owners have the option of appealing to the Value Adjustment Board.
For details on how to file an appeal petition please visit the Clerk of Courts website at Miami-Dade County - Clerk of Courts or call 305-375-5641.

If you cannot view PDF Get Acrobat! files, you can download Acrobat Reader for free from Adobe Systems, Inc. In order to use PDF files, you must have Acrobat installed on your computer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Building your referral network

Q: I’m new, and I have lots of energy. How can I focus my efforts to establish a network of sales leads?

A: Here’s how five Florida sales associates became the go-to professionals for real estate needs:

Host events:
Position yourself as a leader and a generous contributor who brings everything together.

To jump start her career, LaShawn Norden in Lake Mary orchestrated parties and events for her top 100 clients so that she could network with them consistently. “They already have had a good experience with me. Why cold market when you don’t have to?” she says.

Norden targeted most events to women because, she says, “They typically decide the house.” Activities included pottery and jewelry making, progressive dinner parties and wine tastings.

She also invited her top 100 clients, including spouses and children, to an annual client appreciation event at Wet ’n’ Wild Water World. She paid for parking, admission, lunch, and drinks for the day, plus a half-price discount for admission in the future.

Warm up to walled-off groups:
Sarasota has a huge retirement community. So when Matt Orr moved there in 2002, he found the age span between himself and his potential clients burdensome. In short order, he discovered a local young professionals group.

Their goal is to get involved in the community. Some, like Orr, are board members for nonprofit organizations and government entities. All members are required to do a minimum of five hours of community service per year. This introduces them to formerly unattainable clients, Orr says. He adds that 95 percent of his business comes from his community involvement.

Mingle with peers:
The only people Richard De Ceglie knew when he moved to Palm Coast were his parents. De Ceglie decided to use other sales associates as his primary networking tool. He developed his business around the seller market. As a result, sales associates who were representing buyers weren’t his competition anymore.

“I treated them, in my mind, as my best employees. I’d look up their mailing addresses and send them my listings. Then I’d ask them to send me theirs so that we could establish a networking system,” he says.

Show that you care:
St. Augustine is a small town whose residents are close-knit, says Peggy Gachet, a Watson Realty sales associate. In 1992, when she first arrived in town, she met a financial planner who was “extraordinarily involved” in the community. “She sat me down and said, ‘What do you plan to do? I [will] tell you that you’ll only be successful if you get out and show people that you care,’” Gachet recalls.

She got involved with Communities in Schools—a nonprofit that works with at-risk children and champions community involvement in schools. Group members help with after-school programs such as tutoring and reading programs.

She estimates that 80 percent of her sales come from networking with people in the group and with other charitable organizations.

One caveat: Don’t volunteer solely to generate business, because people will see through your motive and resent it, Gachet says.

Capitalize on family networks:
Your current clients have a host of family members, says Cyndi Andrews. More often than not, they rely heavily on each other for business recommendations.

Andrews received referrals that started with one buyer. “Once you have trust from one or two family members, they will not hesitate to use you as a [sales associate] and recommend you to everyone else in the family,” Andrews says.

Meet the experts:
LaShawn Norden is a sales associate with Keller Williams Heritage Realty in Lake Mary; Richard De Ceglie is a sales associate with Watson Realty Corp. in Palm Coast; Peggy Gachet is a sales associate with Watson Realty Corp. in St. Augustine.

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