Monday, March 31, 2014

Marketing tip: Real estate investment clubs


LOS ANGELES – March 31, 2014 – Kimberly and Edward Rushing’s fledgling real estate investment venture got off to a rocky start.

Seven years ago, at the height of the housing market, the young couple bought a home they intended to fix up and flip in San Bernardino County, Calif.
“As soon as we bought it,” Kimberly Rushing said, “the market crashed.”
They realized, however, that there was an upside to a down market. They began attending events at real estate investment clubs. Listening to speakers and meeting mentors and potential partners, they learned the nuts and bolts of property investing and formed long-lasting connections.
“It was everything,” said Kimberly Rushing, 29, who runs the couple’s real estate investments while her husband is deployed as a Marine captain in Afghanistan. “Neither of us could have done it without the clubs.”
With the housing market improving and the prevalence of social media, real estate investment clubs are proliferating. Events, typically held once a month, attract a variety of professionals, including accountants, tax lawyers, real estate agents and a mix of old-time and newbie property investors, flippers and landlords alike.
For a small fee at the door that costs less than a couple of cocktails, the evening includes a social hour, an economics and housing market update, a quick plug from a sponsor or two, the featured speakers, then more networking later.
Many clubs, like those the Rushings have attended, focus on education and networking, rather than pooling members’ money for the club to invest.
Other clubs, however, are set up to promote a particular investment program or product. There, prices can run into thousands of dollars, and attendees might be pressured to sign up for other, more expensive courses.
“Is the interest of the club to educate, or is the interest of the club to sell you?” said Joshua Dorkin, who founded the popular investment site and is an outspoken critic of expensive seminars.
“My advice to somebody who’s looking to go to a club: Be aware that any event you go to, there’s very likely going to be somebody there who might be pitching you,” he said. “No. 1 is always leave your wallet at home. There’s no easy way to make money in real estate. There’s no ‘get rich quick.’”

Looking for deals
Investors attending recent meetings of such clubs as Orange County Real Estate Investors Association in Costa Mesa and Orange County Investment Club/For Investors By Investors in Irvine said the events have offered them a chance to learn from experienced speakers, meet lenders or eventual partners and pick up everything from tax tips to referrals for roofers.
“Old-time landlords and newbies need to talk to each other,” said Steve Dexter of Laguna Beach, as he waited for an Orange County investors association meeting in Costa Mesa to begin one evening earlier this month.
Although experienced investors have money to spend, Dexter said, “Old-timers don’t want to go out there and tear up the landscape looking for deals.”

Copyright © 2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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The Albany: Starchitects help sell luxury in the Bahamas

The Albany resort community hopes design cachet will help sell luxury pool condos.

By Mimi Whitefield

From a distance, the hexagonal balconies of a new eight-story condominium building slated to rise in the Bahamas resemble a honeycomb, but look closer and you’ll see that each contains a swimming pool with a transparent wall.
At night the water in the 34 pools will glow an azure blue, serving as a beacon to ships at sea, in the cutting-edge building designed by Swedish firm BIG — Bjarke Ingels Group in collaboration with HKS and Michael Diggiss & Associates.
Groundbreaking for the aptly named Honeycomb building, which will overlook the marina at the luxury community of Albany on the south coast of New Providence Island, is set for the third quarter, said Christopher Anand, managing partner at Albany. It’s expected to be completed in 2016.
“We are trying to be the best of the best,” said Anand. “It’s a building that I think will be heralded as genius in years to come.”
Because water is so heavy, putting a pool on each balcony was a challenge. BIG’s solution was to rest the deepest v-shaped section of each pool on the outer wall of the apartment below it.
“A honeycomb facade functionally supports the pools, making them sink into the terrace floor and provides spectacular sight lines while maintaining privacy for each residence,” said Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG.
Honeycomb seems to be borrowing a page from South Florida real estate development where hiring starchitects helps buildings command premium prices and provides instant cachet for potential buyers.
Sales at the Honeycomb, where apartments range from 3,000 to 8,000 square feet, began in mid-January and the building is already 30 percent sold, Anand said.
Honeycomb, which is being developed and marketed by a partnership that includes Tavistock Group, New Valley and Douglas Elliman Real Estate, joins three other buildings under construction in Albany’s Marina Residences section. Big-name architects also have worked on these projects, which are all sold out.
“We’ve tried to make Albany a place that celebrates architecture,” Arnand said.
BIG has been active in the South Florida market as well. The firm has designed the Grove at Grand Bay, which will replace the demolished Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, the Marina Lofts in Fort Lauderdale and has competed to redevelop the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Prices for Albany dwellings range from about $1,000 per square foot to more than $2,500, Anand said. “We are not trying to compete on price.”
Last summer, Condo Vultures, a real Miami estate consultancy, pegged preconstruction condominium prices in South Florida at $250 per square foot to $2,650 per square foot. The median presale price was $725 per square foot.
“There is an element of competition between the Bahamas and Florida for non-Floridian buyers,” Anand said. While Miami might win for its shopping resources, he said the Bahamas “has the better boating experience with its 700 islands.”

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Bahamas luxury developers target South Florida buyers

Resort communities from New Providence Island to Eleuthera are targeting South Floridians.

By Mimi Whitefield Nature trails, a yoga platform on a rocky cliff overlooking crashing waves and a starry midnight blue sky are among the hooks for potential buyers at the Schooner Bay resort community in the Bahamas.

“I walk that beach at night and I’ve never seen so many stars in my life,’’ said South Floridian Mark Pordes, whose Aventura company is doing the sales and marketing for the laid-back boutique residential project.
It’s the perfect weekend antidote for the hustle and bustle of South Florida, he says.
But the developers of the Albany, on the southwestern tip of New Providence Island, have another vision.
“Our goal is to become a Monaco in the Caribbean,’’ says Christopher Anand, managing partner at the 600-acre luxury oceanfront community that is jointly owned by Tavistock Group — a Bahamas-based private investment firm — and golfers Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
From New Providence, location of the Bahamian capital Nassau, to the outer Family Islands, new hotel and second-home projects are coming out of the ground or are expected to get underway soon. Established properties also are making significant upgrades.
Although Florida has its own abundance of sunshine and sand, a number of the new resorts and residential communities are courting Florida residents. For some, the draw is more affordable prices for waterfront getaways. When price is no object, proximity, convenience and luxury on the ocean are the draws.
When Sidney Torres IV began prospecting for guests for The Cove, his 75-room high-end resort on Eleuthera, he targeted Florida.
“I asked what’s the easiest and quickest place to get to and from,’’ he said. He estimates that about 45 percent of visitors at The Cove, which opened a year ago, come from South Florida.
“We lost some numbers in Florida and New York and we want to reintroduce ourselves in Florida in particular,’’ said Bahamian Tourism Minister Obediah Wilchcombe.
It’s time for a tourism resurgence in the Bahamas, he said.
While other Caribbean island were adding hotel rooms, Wilchcombe said, the Bahamas wasn’t building and the inventory of rooms actually declined. Ministry of Tourism figures show there were 14,836 hotel rooms last year — a 4 percent decline from a decade earlier and fewer than in the 1980s.
But Baha Mar, a $3.5 billion resort and casino on Cable Beach that is expected to open for guests in December, will do a lot to change those statistics with its 2,200 new rooms and 700 refurbished rooms.
Robert Sands, a senior vice president of Baha Mar Ltd., said that the resort and its marketing campaigns will benefit the entire country. “This is business that no one else has at this time,’’ he said. “The reality is that we’ll grow stop-over arrivals to the Bahamas.”
But there is plenty of building going on in the Bahamas beyond Baha Mar and beyond New Providence Island, including the new Marina Hotel at Resorts World Bimini and a Club Med expansion on San Salvador.
Canada’s Sunwing Travel Group and Hutchinson Whampoa partnered in a complete renovation of the former Reef Village in Freeport. Rebranded as the 500-room Memories Grand Bahama Resort & Casino, a Blue Diamond resort, it officially opened March 24.
There are also smaller boutique projects on islands such as Eleuthera, Exuma and Grand Abaco. “There are so many islands and we are seeking economic sustainability for each,” Wilchcombe said.
The 2008 global meltdown hit tourism in the Bahamas especially hard because so many visitors are from the United States. “A recession in the U.S. is a depression in the Bahamas,’’ said Eddie Lauth, one of the developers of French Leave Harbour Village, a seafront cottage project in Eleuthera.
The economic downturn prompted massive layoffs of hotel workers, paralyzed work on some projects and wiped out others.
“Many of the projects that we were entertaining before the recession were heavily dependent on institutional financing,’’ said Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments. “Lehman Brothers was quite active here. When Lehman went, a number of these projects went, too.”
Now many of the projects going forward are self-financed and free of construction loans at a time when U.S. second-home buyers are returning to the market.
Throughout the downturn, Rolle said, two Bahamian projects were considered recession-proof: Albany and 585-acre Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club, an oceanfront community on Great Guana Cay of homesites, cottages and beach bungalows in the tradition of the Abaco Islands.
“Land sales at these two projects were amongst the strongest,’’ said Rolle. “Now we’re seeing significant activity and rebound in new projects and second-home communities across the Bahamas.”
The idea for the Albany project was hatched about 9 1/2 years ago. The concept was fairly simple. “We wanted to develop a place where the four primary shareholders would like to spend time,” Anand said.
Tavistock chief Joe Lewis, Anand, Woods and Els all own properties at Albany, which was master-planned by Miamian Andrés Duany.
“The bet was that we weren’t such a particular group of people and other people would like what we do,” Anand said.
So a 71-slip marina that can accommodate 300-foot mega-yachts was built, and an Els-designed championship golf course and short-game facility were carved out of the coastal property. Pools, a water park, tennis courts, restaurants and bars, a fitness center, and a spa with an anti-aging center were added.
But then the plans got bigger. While some of Albany’s homes are used for vacation getaways or are placed in a hotel rental program when not in use, Anand said Albany also wants to appeal to those interested in making the Bahamas their full-time home.
To make Albany a true live, work and play option, a financial center to house turn-key offices for residents and the banks, trusts, law firms and accounting firms that they patronize is planned. A 10-acre medical center also is on the drawing board.
A sports academy with a school is planned, too.
When the community is fully built out over the next five years, it is expected to have 350 residences.
“With the dislocations in Europe, we’re seeing people leaving Switzerland and Monaco now,” said Anand. As a tax haven, there are benefits in the Bahamas for residents of some countries.
“But we have also had relatively good success with buyers from Florida,’’ Anand said. About 10 percent of the 165 families that have purchased at Albany are from the Sunshine State.
He attributes some of that interest to the success Tavistock has had in Florida with its Isleworth and Lake Nona golf resorts: “Thirty-five of the world’s top golfers have homes there and I think our success with Floridians at Albany has something to do with our track record there.’’
The developers broke ground at Albany the same day when Lehman Brothers announced its bankruptcy filing. “The American buyers absolutely were not there until 2012, but now they are strong,’’ said Anand.
Lauth, co-founder of Shaner Bahamas, the development company working on French Leave, agrees. “The timing is now the best I’ve seen for tourism development in the Bahamas with the advent of the new airport terminal in Nassau, Baha Mar and the Albany project.
“But the unique opportunity we have is that we’re the other Bahamas,’’ Lauth said. “This place is kind of what it would have been like driving down A1A 50 years ago.”
When it’s finished, French Leave, which overlooks Governor’s Harbour and stretches from the oceanside to the seaside of Eleuthera, will have about three dozen Bahamian-style cottages with wide verandas, mahogany doors, shutters and stone walls. The first phase of the project also includes the “1648” bar and grill, a wedding pavilion and a beach pavilion.
Thirty-two acres of French Leave sit on property that once was occupied by a Club Med, but the rest of the property has a more colorful past. The former owner and the man who christened the site French Leave was Alfred de Marigny — son-in-law of Sir Harry Oakes. A suspect in Oakes’ notorious 1943 murder, de Marigny was acquitted and deported.
“When I first got involved, we were approached by major hotel companies that wanted to do a much larger project,’’ said Lauth, who was born and raised in Miami.
“But we wanted to keep everything low-impact, low-scale,’’ said Lauth, whose investor group includes several South Floridians. “We didn’t want to ruin what we fell in love with ourselves. I want to hear the wind going through the palm trees.”
The project, which draws on the Bahamas’ historical heritage, has been a long time coming. Lauth said he began working on it nearly 10 years ago. During the midst of the economic crisis, 10 lots were sold and it came to light that 240 of the 270 acres in the project had defective titles, said Lauth.
Even though title insurance was purchased, the title insurer wasn’t qualified to write policies in the Bahamas, he said. Now all the properties have good titles, Lauth said, but fixing the problem set the project back years.
New York-based Douglas Elliman is doing sales and marketing for both French Leave and the Honeycomb, a new condominium being marketed at Albany.
While Anand says his potential buyers aren’t the kind of people who balk at high prices, French Leave may appeal to South Floridians who want direct ocean access at more affordable prices.
French Leave bungalows will sell for $640 to $850 a square foot, compared to $1,800 to $2,500 per square foot for the privilege of stepping out on the sand in Miami Beach, said Ann Nortmann, an Elliman broker associate in Miami Beach.
Three distinct models just steps from the pink sand beaches will be offered. They range in price from $675,000 for a one-bedroom bungalow up to $1.15 million for two-bedroom homes.
Three cottages have been completed and five more are under construction. Sales are expected to start as soon as legal documents are ready, said John Sandberg, director of luxury sales at Elliman’s Miami Beach office.
“Eleuthera offers a very chilled-out existence. It’s a real difference in lifestyle that’s only 45 minutes away,’’ Sandberg said.
That’s also the appeal of Schooner Bay, which is being developed on Great Abaco Island.
Pordes, who recently began holding a series of meetings to familiarize South Florida brokers with Schooner Bay, points out that the resort community is just a short flight from Nassau and South Florida.
The broker previews — combination cocktail parties and informational meetings — are designed to bring brokers up to speed on Schooner Bay and selling real estate in the Bahamas, said Pordes, chief executive of Pordes Residential Sales & Marketing.
There are 450 home sites at Schooner Bay. About 40 cottages, villas and estate homes have been completed and construction is under way on another 40, Pordes said. The average home price is $800,000 and prices for a 900-square-foot cottage a block away from the water start in the $400s.
“What’s happening is that pricing in Miami has gone so crazy in the last 12 months that people are beginning to look for other options for second homes,” Pordes said. “A home you’d pay $3.5 million here, you’d pay every bit of $6 million to $8 million in Miami.”
Among the draws at Schooner Bay are a safe harbor, a marina with 40 slips that can accommodate boats of up to 75 feet and room for more, and Blackfish Lodge, where anglers can purchase flats or bluewater fishing expeditions and get tips on bonefishing.
The project also features a 60-acre natural forest with hiking and bike trails and golf-cart-only transportation. “This is about unplugging and enjoying the natural beauty of the site,’’ Pordes said.
Schooner Bay developers have invested about $80 million in the project so far and plan a host of other amenities, including an oceanfront pool and grill, an inn, a clubhouse with spa, gym and business center, hydroponic gardens and a sports complex, Pordes said.
When Torres thought of the Bahamas, he also thought of relaxation. The serial entrepreneur who made his mark redeveloping properties in New Orleans’ French Quarter and starting a garbage-hauling business after Hurricane Katrina, was looking for a personal getaway.
He initially passed on The Cove, which was built in the 1960s and was in great disrepair. But two years ago when he heard the bank was foreclosing on the property, he pounced.
Within 24 hours, he had transferred $2 million into an escrow account while he awaited Bahamian government approval for the purchase.
“I was going to make it my house, but after I cleaned it up and built a villa, I really liked the way it looked,” he said. So he kept going.
Acting as architect, engineer and general contractor, he said he was able to save a lot on construction. But he still has $20 million invested in the oceanfront project.
“I got a bit carried way. It’s just a part of me, being an entrepreneur. I built this from the heart — what I really believed belonged here,’’ Torres said.
The Cove now includes 75 rooms, three restaurants, an oceanfront infinity pool, a sushi chef, and spa and fitness center. Rooms are equipped with 50-inch flat screen televisions, 500-thread-count sheets and Nespresso machines.
Torres isn’t interested in a big, glitzy resort. “Large doesn’t fit into the landscape here. This is a totally different animal than Baha Mar.”
Even at daily rates that range from $319 for a studio to $4,275 for a three-bedroom villa on a bluff with a private pool, Torres said he’s had a 60 percent occupancy rate so far this season. “And it’s picking up,’’ he said. “I’m shocked we’re doing this well when we’ve only been open a year.”
But development in the Bahamas isn’t for the faint of heart. First of all, nearly all construction materials need to be imported.
Lauth said the Bahamas’ Hotel Encouragement Act, which waives taxes and fees on materials to build and equip hotels and other tourism facilities, helped offset the extra costs of imports at French Leave.
“That was a great inducement for us,” he said. “It represented a savings of 30 to 35 percent for us.”
Because construction is difficult, Torres said that with the uptick in Bahamian tourism, he expects investors will begin looking at existing properties with an eye toward cleaning them up and making them better.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014 Top 10 markets for first-time buyers

SAN JOSE, Calif. – March 27, 2014 – today released its list of “Top 10 Markets for First-Time Home Buyers” this spring and summer, and it includes three Florida cities.
Markets that made the 2014 list by rank include: Pittsburgh, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Philadelphia, Fort Worth-Arlington, Orlando, Jacksonville, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and Phoenix-Mesa.

“As we head into homebuying season, these markets show favorable conditions for first-time buyers, which is encouraging because these buyers are crucial to the housing market,” says Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, Inc. operator of “First-time buyers have a widespread impact on the local housing markets. In transitioning from renters to owners, new buyers pay property taxes and other fees and taxes associated with homeownership that benefits local schools and services.”

In the report, looked at five key factors – market popularity, prices, inventory, time on market and employment – to determine which markets are currently the best for new buyers. To determine ranking, it studied key housing indicators: search rank, median list price, year-over-year change in inventory, median age of inventory and unemployment rates against the needs and desires of the typical first-time homebuyer. Metrics were pulled from February 2014 data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Have an iPad? It can now do more

NEW YORK – March 28, 2014 – Long before CEO Satya Nadella’s announcement Thursday that the company he now runs was finally releasing Microsoft Office for the iPad, there have been other Office-like productivity suites and workarounds that for some mobile professionals have more than made up for Microsoft’s absence. Apple’s own work-oriented apps for the iPad, which are now free, include the fine Pages word processor, the Numbers spreadsheet, and the Keynote presentation app – its answer to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

With that as the backdrop, it’s premature to say whether Office for iPad from the Microsoft mother ship will somehow provide a superior experience to what’s already out there, certainly not after what can only be a cursory first look at the new Office for iPad. But a billion people use some version of Office today, and of those who also own an iPad, it’s reasonable to assume that no matter how good the alternatives are, they’ll feel more comfortable sticking with Microsoft.

Microsoft does a very nice job of exploiting the multi-touch environment of the iPad. The Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps were made available for download Thursday in Apple’s App Store; you are meant to download each individually.

These are by no means watered-down iterations of their Windows or Mac counterparts. But you’re not going to see 3,000 features ported over from the Windows version to the iPad, says Microsoft executive Julia White. She explains that the best way to think about this is to think about what makes the most sense for the given device you are using. On computers, the typical Office user employs only a small percentage of available tools anyway, though the features you use may differ in significant ways from the tools that are used by your neighbor.

One feature that’s unique to the iPad version is a laser pointer in PowerPoint that appears when you tap and hold down the display in presentation mode.
On the other hand, in this first version of PowerPoint for the iPad, you can’t insert a video into a presentation.

Overall though, the iPad versions appear to provide a pretty complete feature toolset. You get access to images, charts and tables, footnotes and more in Word. In Excel, there’s a full complement of financial, logical, date and time and other formulas and functions. PowerPoint has the requisite transitions, animations and speaker notes.
Touch-friendly versions of the “ribbon” interface familiar to Office users on other platforms add an element of comfort. And it’s easy enough to share documents.
You can have your own look at Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad for free, and view any documents or spreadsheets that you’ve previously created and stored in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud locker.

The catch comes when you want to create a document from scratch or edit something you’ve already started. That’s when you must subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365 service. The main subscription offering currently costs $99.99 a year, which permits use of the various Office programs on up to five PCs and/or Macs, and on up to five tablets. The promise of this arrangement is that all your documents can be kept in sync and saved automatically across multiple devices, and be accessible via the cloud.
In the coming weeks, an Office 365 Personal plan kicks in that will lower the price to $69.99 annually for individuals who want to use Office on only a single PC or Mac, plus a single tablet.

In the meantime, Microsoft announced that it will make Office Mobile for the iPhone and Android free. You can create Word and Excel documents from the phone.
On the iPad, I downloaded the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps separately, but once I signed into Word with my Office 365 credentials I didn’t have to separately sign in on Excel and PowerPoint. Documents in OneDrive were readily accessible in each app.
Using my finger, I was easily able to insert a picture into a Word document, resize it with “touch handles,” add shadows and drag it from one part of a document to another. I summoned the onscreen keyboard when I had to type.
As a writer, though, I still typically call upon a laptop when I have to bang out a lengthy column in Word. A physical keyboard is just that much easier. For those who choose mobility first and ditch the computer for an iPad, the arrival of Office on Apple’s tablet is welcome and long overdue.

Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY, Ed Baig

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Virgin Group raises $1.7 billion for Miami cruise line

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has raised most of the $1.7 billion it needs to build two ships and launch Virgin Cruise from PortMiami, the billionaire British entrepreneur told The National newspaper in Dubai on Monday. 

Much of the investment money has come from the Middle East, Branson said, adding that the Virgin fleet will cruise through the Caribbean and Mediterranean regions. The ships are projected to be sailing by 2019.
Virgin Cruise will be tailored toward cruise newcomers, an especially coveted group of travelers among industry operators.
“We’re trying to create the kind of cruise ship that would be attractive to the kind of people who would never consider a cruise at the moment,” Branson said to the National earlier this month.
Virgin Group currently has offices in Coconut Grove for its mobile and hotel operations.

70% of boomers expect next house to be their last

MADISON, N.J. – March 25, 2014 – According to a survey conducted on behalf of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, baby boomers (ages 49-67) are generally optimistic about living an independent, active lifestyle outside planned retirement communities.

The survey found that 57 percent of boomers plan to move out of their current home, and 70 percent believe the house they retire in will be the best home they’ve ever owned.
“With approximately 77 million boomers in the U.S., it’s quite significant for our industry to see that this population has so much positive anticipation for the home in which they will be retiring – and for the majority, their aspirations involve making a move,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.
Among boomers who feel more confident about achieving their ideal retirement lifestyle compared to five years ago, the top factor is having a retirement lifestyle plan (49%).
“This generation is actively planning a comprehensive lifestyle plan, taking into account the type of home and community they want to live in, as well as the option of continuing to work or taking advantage of travel and entertainment opportunities,” says Chris.
Approximately 1 out of 4 boomers surveyed is likely to buy a second home to use during retirement. On the selling side, 31 percent of boomers are more likely to want to sell their home now than they were five years ago, suggesting a renewed confidence in the real estate market.
Additional survey findings unveiling the retirement motivations and aspirations of boomers include:
• Visitors only: Most boomers – 83 percent – don’t expect family to move into their home in the future, indicating they expect any “house guests,” including adult children, to be temporary.
• Making the move: When asked which type of community boomers would most likely consider, 39 percent opted for a rural community, such as a farm or small town. Next in line was the traditional retirement community such as a 55+ exclusive neighborhood (27%), followed by an urban community such as a city (26%).
• Putting down roots: Many boomers have planted roots in their communities and want to remain in a familiar place. Of those surveyed who are not already retired, 72 percent plan to retire in the same state.
• Custom treatment: Among those who plan to move out of their current home, 69 percent are willing to make updates or renovations to fit specific wants and needs. However, when all boomers were asked to pick the most important factor in choosing their next home, low-maintenance features topped the list (42%).
• Retirement to-do list: Historically, retirement was almost automatic at the milestone age of 65. Many boomers, however, have a different plan in mind: 28 percent who are not yet retired, never plan to retire; and 46 percent of boomers who plan to retire still anticipate working part-time.
The Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Baby boomers Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 49-67, between Feb. 6 and Feb. 18, 2014, using an email invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 49-67.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Agent Responsiveness Study Reveals Critical Flaws in Real Estate Lead Response

by Victor Lund  
January 13, 2014

A new whitepaper reveals that failure to respond to leads in a timely manner is a major problem for many real estate professionals. The whitepaper is the result of the collaboration between partners at leading consulting firm WAV Group and Weichert Lead Network, the Internet lead generation arm of Weichert, Realtors. 

What they uncovered was remarkable and could help real estate professionals achieve new levels of service and prosperity. In the whitepaper, WAV Group details lead responsiveness results from a sample of 384 different brokers across 11 states. Researchers posed as consumers and inquired about listings on broker websites,,, and They found that: 48% of buyer inquiries were NEVER responded to. Average number of call back attempts after the initial contact was 1.5 Average number of email contact attempts was 2.07 Average response time was 917 minutes (or 15.29 hours) Victor Lund, partner at WAV Group explains, “These numbers reveal a staggering failure of real estate professionals to serve the consumer. But this failure actually represents an important opportunity. If brokers and agents take steps to rectify this problem, and respond more effectively to consumers, they are opening the door to a great increase in revenue.” As previously mentioned, the research began as an effort to help one company, Weichert Lead Network, understand how they were performing. But in order to understand their effectiveness, they needed a benchmark. Because so few companies are comparable to Weichert in size or leads generated, WAV Group needed to create a sample group from the industry as a whole. They chose listings only in states where Weichert also has a presence. In addition to illuminating the industry’s failings, the results also demonstrated Weichert’s success: Number of leads generated by Weichert per month: 60,663 Percent of buyers responded to: 100% Average response time: 3 minutes Number of follow-up attempts: 5-11 Number of referrals per year: 301,772 “Even as Weichert Lead Network’s contact center allows us to respond to Internet inquiries within minutes, the study results will be eye opening for many,” says Michael Montsko, president of Weichert Lead Network. “The industry as a whole does a poor job responding to Internet inquiries and managing Internet leads, but fortunately there is much room for improvement in this area. For example, at Weichert, we have invested in WeichertPRO, our new customer relationship management system that helps our agents incubate their customer relationships. Our ability to filter Internet leads saves Weichert sales associates both time and money and helps eliminate ‘bad lead fatigue.’ This combined with our superior response times and customer service provide a huge competitive advantage.” The authors of the whitepaper offer recommendations for solving the problem. “This is a solvable problem if you have the correct systems in place and make the right investments. Most lead routing solutions today give you the flexibility to ensure that a hot lead never goes cold. If the listing agent is not immediately available, brokers need to ensure that it is transferred to another appropriate agent, someone familiar with the property type and neighborhood,” says Lund. “We thank Weichert for their generosity in sharing their data,” says Marilyn Wilson partner at WAV Group. “Our hope is that this report can help other real estate professionals improve their own business and elevate our industry as a whole.” To download the complete report click here. Note: email if you encounter download problems.

Stolichnaya Billionaire's $300 Million Megayacht docks in Miami

The gargantuan 440-foot yacht of Yuri Scheffler, a billionaire Russian vodka tycoon (Stolichnaya or “Stoli”), is currently floating a hail-mary throw from where the Miami Heat play in Downtown Miami.
“Serene” cost Yuri $330 million and can be chartered for a weekly fee of $5 million. The beast of the sea is docked on a piece of land directly across from the north side of American Airlines Arena. If you’re attending Friday’s night game, you should check it out.
Some of the ridiculous features/photos are below (via Yacht Charter Fleet):
  • Sundeck with wet bar, pizza oven and Teppenyaki grill
  • Indoor climbing wall
  • Dedicated children’s playroom
  • Two helicopter landing pads
  • Fully-equipped health spa and beach club
  • Multiple swimming pools
  • Underwater viewing room
  • Full conference room

Monday, March 24, 2014

Miami ranks as 7th top global city in Wealth Report

By Ina Paiva Cordle
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Miami rose to seventh place in a recent survey of the most important global cities to the world’s wealthy.
Miami and New York were the only North American cities to make the top ten list of the Wealth Report, which is issued annually by London-based real estate consultancy Knight Frank. The report includes the Global Cities Survey which ranks cities based on four factors: economic activity, quality of life, knowledge and influence and political power, as well as taking into account the number of ultra-high net worth individuals who call each city home.
Miami ranked fourth in quality of life; ninth in economic activity, eighth in political power, and 10th in knowledge and influence.
Miami, which ranked eighth last year, outranked every other city in the Western Hemisphere with the exception of second-ranked New York. Miami outperformed Paris, Beijing and Dubai. The Global Cities Survey predicts that Miami will remain in the top ten for at least the next decade. New York and London will continue to vie for the top two spots over the next ten years, according to the report.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Regalia - Truly Limited Edition Living

If you still do not know any place in Miami where EACH Residence takes the ENTIRE FLOOR, Regalia, Sunny Isles Beach.  Now you know.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Billionaire Greene makes two big deals for West Palm Beach developments

Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene has reached across the waterway to acquire two development projects in West Palm Beach in recent days.

In separate transactions, Greene obtained a 21.5-acre site off Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard for an apartment complex and a 3.3-acre site downtown where a condominium plan stalled during the recession.
In the former deal, Minneapolis-based BF Accona, managed by Stephanie Lurde, sold the property at 800 Hank Aaron Drive to Greene’s Aaron Drive Holdings for $6.76 million. The site was seized in foreclosure in 2009. It last traded in a normal transaction for $34.85 million in 2006.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) provided a $60 million construction loan to Aaron Drive Holdings.
According to a Palm Beach Post story from late 2012, Green planned to build 548 apartments on the site, which formerly had West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium.

In the other deal, WREC Quadrille, an affiliate of Wasserman Real Estate Capital and Vornado Realty Trust, sold the site at 550 N. Quadrille Blvd. for $15 million to Greene’s Melrose/Camerford Partners, Little Broad Beach Partners and 550 Quadrille LLC. Bank of America financed $7.5 million of that deal, so it doesn’t have a construction loan in place yet.
The property last sold for $3.2 million in 2005. WREC previously got approval for a 323-unit condo but it didn’t launch construction.

Average U.S. 30-year mortgage rate up to 4.37%

WASHINGTON – March 14, 2014 – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose last week but remained close to historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 4.37 percent from 4.28 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.38 percent from 3.32 percent.
Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago.
The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion-a-month bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low. Deeming the economy to be gaining strength, the Fed announced in December and January that it was reducing its monthly bond purchases.
Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.73 percent Wednesday, up from 2.71 percent a week earlier.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t 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 a 30-year mortgage declined to 0.6 point from 0.7 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.6 point.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 2.48 percent from 2.52 percent. The average fee rose to 0.4 point from 0.3 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage increased to 3.09 percent from 3.03 percent. The fee held steady at 0.4 point.
AP Logo Copyright © 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, March 7, 2014

CoreLogic: 4M homes achieve positive equity in 2013

IRVINE, Calif. – March 6, 2014 – CoreLogic released new analysis showing that 4 million U.S. homes returned to positive equity in 2013. Overall, 42.7 million mortgage homeowners have equity (86.7 percent); 6.5 million homes (13.3 percent) do not.

Florida ranked second in the number of mortgaged owners who were underwater in 2013. Overall, 28.1 percent of homes with a mortgage were underwater. An additional 3.6% of mortgaged Fla. homes are barely above water.
Due to a small slowdown in the quarterly growth rate of the CoreLogic’s Home Price Index, the negative equity share was virtually unchanged from the third quarter of 2013.
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. Borrowers with less than 20-percent equity are referred to as “under-equitied.” Borrowers with less than 5 percent equity are considered “near-negative.”
Under-equitied mortgages accounted for 21.1 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in 2013, with more than 1.6 million residential properties at near-negative equity.
“The plight of the underwater borrower has improved dramatically since negative equity peaked in December 2009 when more than 12 million mortgaged homeowners were underwater,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Over the past four years, more than 5.5 million homeowners have regained equity, reducing their risk of foreclosure and unlocking pent-up supply in the housing market.”
“Stability and growth in the housing market are essential for a durable recovery of the U.S. economy,” adds Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We still have a long way to go to eliminate the negative equity overhang but significant progress is being made every day across most of the country.”
2013 report highlights
• Nevada had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 30.4 percent, followed by Florida (28.1 percent), Arizona (21.5 percent), Ohio (19.0 percent) and Illinois (18.7 percent). The top five states accounted for 36.9 percent of negative equity in the United States.
• Of the 25 largest Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) based on population, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla., had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 31.5 percent, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (30.4 percent), Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (22.1 percent), Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (21.4 percent) and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (19.9 percent).
• Approximately 3.9 million upside-down borrowers hold first liens without home equity loans. The average mortgage balance for this group of borrowers is $219,000. The average underwater amount is $52,000.
• Approximately 2.6 million upside-down borrowers hold both first and second liens. The average mortgage balance for this group of borrowers is $293,000. The average underwater amount is $75,000.
• The bulk of home equity for mortgaged properties is concentrated at the high end of the housing market. For example, 92 percent of homes valued at greater than $200,000 have equity compared with 81 percent of homes valued at less than $200,000.
© 2014 Florida Realtors®

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Economy hobbled by extreme weather

NEW YORK – March 6, 2014 – A batch of economic reports Wednesday lent support to the theory that extreme winter weather has been battering the economy this year and a healthy bounce-back may be in the offing this spring. Yet some economists continue to downplay the weather’s impact and say other obstacles are in the way of faster growth. The Federal Reserve’s “beige book,” an anecdotal snapshot of the economy named for the color of its cover, will likely serve as Exhibit A for the blame-the-weather contingent. It was rife with references to weather slowing hiring, factory output, retail sales and housing – providing details that may help explain a spate of weak economic data the past two months. Overall, the beige book described “modest to moderate growth” in eight Fed bank districts in January and early February, and shrinking or unchanged activity in four areas – a marked slowdown from previous reports. Retail sales slipped in most districts, particularly New York, with weather playing a major role in several areas. For manufacturers in many areas, the weather caused “utility outages, disrupted supply chains and production schedules, and resulted in a slowing of sales to affected customers,” the Fed said. Hiring, meanwhile, sputtered in the Boston, Richmond and Chicago areas, and ticked up only modestly in New York, Cleveland, Atlanta and St. Louis. Again, the adverse weather was cited as at least a partial factor. Also Wednesday, payroll processor ADP reported a disappointing 139,000 private-sector job gains in February. “Bad winter weather, especially in mid-month, weighed on payrolls,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which helps ADP compile the report. Meantime, the Institute for Supply Management said the service sector expanded at its slowest pace in four years last month, and a gauge of employment plunged to the lowest level in more than two years. Construction firms and wholesale trade companies cited bad weather as the culprit. In an analysis, Goldman Sachs said the winter of 2010 and 2011 “was similar to the current winter in temperature and snowfall.” In that period, construction, job growth and retail sales slowed, and economic growth fell sharply. But the firm said the economy tends to bounce back smartly after such skids. Consumers typically release pent-up demand for everything from cars to clothing. The beige book “gives (Fed policymakers) a reason to look past some of the soft incoming data” as it decides whether to continue to pare its economic stimulus at its March 18-19 meeting, says Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist of Barclays Capital. Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY, Paul Davidson. J.S. Carras, AP

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