Thursday, March 27, 2008

Daily Real Estate News | National Association of Realtors - March 27, 2008

10 Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

The fast-growing areas in the United States are in the Sunbelt, with Texas leading the way, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dallas-Fort Worth added more than 162,000 residents between July 2006 and July 2007, more than any other metro area. Three other Texas cities Houston, Austin, and San Antonio also were in the top 10.

Experts credit much of the growth in the South to strong local economies and housing prices that are among the most affordable in the United States.

A report earlier this month by Global Insight found that housing prices in the Dallas area were undervalued by as much as 30 percent.

Other areas experiencing growth included the New Orleans area, which is recovering from Hurricane Katrina and grew by 4 percent or nearly 40,000 people. During the same survey last year, the population of New Orleans dropped by nearly 290,000 people.

Meanwhile, Detroit lost more than three times as many people as any other metro area its population declined more than 27,300. Other areas losing more than 5,000 people were Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Ga., Youngstown, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y.

The 10 biggest gainers:
  1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas: 162,250
  2. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga.: 151,063
  3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.: 132,513
  4. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas: 120,544
  5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.: 86,660
  6. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.: 66,724
  7. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.: 66,231
  8. Austin-Round Rock, Texas: 65,880
  9. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.: 59,165
  10. San Antonio, Texas: 53,925

The 10 fast-growing metro areas
  1. Palm Coast, Fla.: 7.2 percent
  2. St. George, Utah: 5.1 percent
  3. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.: 4.7 percent
  4. Gainesville, Ga.: 4.5 percent
  5. Austin-Round Rock, Texas: 4.3 percent
  6. Myrtle Beach-Conway-N.C.-Myrtle Beach, S.C.: 4.2 percent
  7. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.: 4.2 percent
  8. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La.: 4 percent
  9. Grand Junction, Colo.: 3.7 percent
  10. Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky.: 3.7 percent

Source: The Associated Press, Paul J. Weber (03/27/08)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

European (and Cyprus) property markets.

Since December 2007, the Euro currency has reached some record highs against the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling and inevitably the European property market, including Cyprus, has been affected. On December 19 2007, the GBP was worth almost Euro 1.40. Three months later, it has gone down to Euro 1.28. This is a real reduction of 9.4%, which means simply that property within the Euro zone countries has become 9.4% more expensive for the British buyer, all other factors being equal.

However, selling a property in Cyprus now and sending the funds back to the UK as sterling would have resulted in the opposite, you would have gained 9.4% in extra profit. The savvy investors who bought in Cyprus have another reason to be happy with their investment. Other reasons to invest in Cyprus, it is easy and all monies can be repatriated. The Euro could be overtaking the dollar as the world’s major currency and become stronger in the future.

The Cyprus market has felt the impact of weak sterling because Britons are still by far the number one buyers on the island. However, in March the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors produced their 2007 European Housing Review, which reported an almost universal downturn in European housing markets - except for Cyprus where it has actually accelerated. (Source of proof)

Why is this? In part, thanks to the country's adoption of the Euro at the beginning of this year, which has increased investor confidence. In addition, developers across the island, along with private vendors, have recognized that to survive in such a market, they must cut costs, reduce profits & make prices more affordable.

Did they have a choice? Not really, most realised that this was the only way the market could survive, by stabilising and weathering the economic storm, so that it can emerge stronger in the future. According to research by, which compared prices in Autumn 2007 with current prices, it's easy to see that this had the desired effect. Prices have become stable and in some cases have decreased. As a result, the Cyprus Property Market is more realistic to the foreign investor, leaving room for growth & capital appreciation in the future. Cyprus property continues to be a good investment and a real possibility for people who long to relocate for a different lifestyle.

The fact that English is widely spoken and understood, driving is on the left side of the road coupled with low personal taxation are just some of the reason why one should really explore the benefits of purchasing a property either as an investment or as a home in Cyprus.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

The multiple lawsuits filed by buyers unwilling to complete their pre-construction contracts with developers is a notorious aspect of the ongoing real estate state-wide problems.

This article was in today's Miami Herald:

The Related Group ordered to make condo refunds

The New York attorney general directed The Related Group to cancel
contracts and return deposits to some buyers solicited in the Empire

Posted on Wed, Mar. 26, 2008

New York's attorney general's office has asked Miami developer The
Related Group to cancel contracts and return money to New Yorkers who
bought condo units in two of its South Florida projects.

The Related Group broke New York state law by failing to register
units at Miami's 50 Biscayne and Bal Harbour's Harbour House before
marketing them to buyers in New York, the attorney general's office

Related appears prepared to fight the finding, however.

''We categorically expect [the attorney general] to conclude that we
have not violated New York state'' law, said Betsy L. McCoy, Related's
general counsel, in an e-mailed statement. The company is
investigating the issue, and providing documents as required, the
statement said.

The letter from the New York attorney general's office didn't spell
out what would happen if Related doesn't fulfill its request.

It's unlikely the New York decision will have any impact on residents
of Florida or other states who bought condos in South Florida and who
are now trying to get out of those deals.

There could, however, be fallout for other developers in South Florida
who pitched their projects to prospective purchasers in New York but
failed to register through offering statements with the state.

''This decision could potentially impact New York purchasers of South
Florida condominiums well beyond these two projects,'' said Eric
Neuman, a Boca Raton lawyer who represents preconstruction condo
purchasers in lawsuits against developers.

Miami lawyer Robert Cooper, who represents about three dozen buyers in
New York and New Jersey who have sued Related over contracts at 50
Biscayne and Harbour House, expects the attorney general's decision
will further worsen problems in the Miami condo market.

''It means more units on the market and will add downward price
pressure in an already bad market,'' Cooper said. People ``looking to
sell are going to get hurt worse.''

Related didn't disclose how many units in the two projects were sold
to New Yorkers, but Cooper estimated it's between 5 percent and 10
percent. He said his clients put down deposits ranging from $100,000
to $250,000 at Harbour House and $60,000 to $100,000 at 50 Biscayne.

Cooper said his clients were elated with response of the attorney
general's office.

''They fully expect The Related Group will comply with the New York
attorney general's request that they receive their deposits back,'' he

Condominiums -- regardless of where they are located -- that are
marketed in New York are considered real estate securities that must
be registered with the attorney general's office.

The purpose of the law is to ensure developers provide all disclosures
so prospective purchasers can make an informed decision, said Richard
Epstein, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents condo developers.

In two letters dated March 19, Lewis Polishook, chief enforcement
officer for New York's real estate finance bureau, part of the
attorney general's office, informed Related the state has received
numerous complaints from buyers in 50 Biscayne and Harbour House.

''Making a public offering without submitting an offering plan and
having that plan accepted for filing is unlawful,'' Polishook wrote to
Related. ``Please allow the [buyers] to rescind and return all monies
they have paid to you.''

Polishook didn't return calls and a spokesman for New York Attorney
General Andrew Cuomo declined to comment.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Daily Real Estate News | March 25, 2008 - National Association of Realtors

Democrat Candidates Offer Housing Fixes

Democratic presidential candidates Monday shared new positions on home foreclosures.

Hilary Clinton supported legislation proposed by Democrats Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut that would "expand the government's capacity to stand behind mortgages that are reworked on affordable terms."

But she said a bipartisan group should determine whether that approach was sufficient or whether the U.S. government should step in as a temporary purchaser.

Barack Obama, who had previously called for a similar approach, warned against having it weighted toward financial interests. Obama has been more conservative in calling for government help for the housing crisis and has criticized Clinton’s call to freeze interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages.

Here’s where both candidates stand on the issue:

Hillary Clinton proposals
  • Freeze foreclosures for 90 days;
  • Freeze interest-rate resets on subprime mortgages for five years;
  • Create a $30 billion fund for states and cities to purchase foreclosed properties;
  • Expand the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program by $10 billion;
  • Allow the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee more mortgages;
  • Temporarily hold “underwater” mortgages on the government’s balance sheet;
  • Protect mortgage originators against lawsuits for restructuring loan terms.

Barack Obama Proposals
  • Simply the tax code to allow more families to claim a mortgage income tax credit;
  • Allow the FHA to guarantee more mortgages;
  • Enact stiffer penalties against predatory lending;
  • Cut taxes on middle-class households;
  • Expand the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program by $10 billion.

Source: Reuters News, Jeff Mason and The Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick and Nick Timiraos (03/24/08)

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Transcription of an interesting article from the Sun Sentinel

Beware the fine print on latest property tax proposal

The Sun Sentinel - By: Michael Mayo - March 23, 2008

By now, you've probably heard about the proposed constitutional amendment to swap state-mandated school property tax with a penny sales tax increase and a repeal of certain sales-tax exemptions.

Sounds palatable, especially for those who bought houses in recent years and whose property tax bills could drop about 25 percent.

But before you go rushing off to vote for the plan, hatched and approved at lightning speed last week by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, consider the parts you probably haven't heard about:

- School districts would still be able to collect property taxes for construction, renovations, repair, debt repayment and other expenses. Local schools could still collect up to $5 for every $1,000 in taxable value.

- Part of our tax savings would end up going to the federal government. Property tax is deductible on federal income returns, but the deduction for state sales tax has expired. Lower property taxes would mean a smaller deduction and a higher income tax bill for those who itemize.

- The proposed amendment would put a 5 percent cap on the annual assessment increase for non-homesteaded properties. That would be good news for businesses, landlords and snowbirds. But the new cap, which comes close to the 3 percent Save Our Homes cap for homesteaded properties, could mean higher property taxes for everyone.

Here's how a March 11 commission staff analysis of the plan put it: "The cap on the annual growth of assessments of non-homestead properties may reduce local government revenues and/or lead to an increase in millage (property tax) rates on all properties."

That doesn't sound good.

Neither does this, also from the staff analysis: ' This measure will shift funding for a substantial portion of the public education system to state revenue sources. This measure will likely reduce state government spending on services and items other than education due to possible budget reductions.'

In other words, this proposal might be another shell game.

It would need 60 percent voter approval in November to pass. As with the January property tax amendment, which increased the homestead exemption and allowed full-time residents to transfer tax breaks when they move, local governments can subvert the intent by raising tax rates.

This plan guarantees an annual $9.3 billion to local school districts, same as under the current system. But there's fuzzy math as to whether a sales tax increase and revamped exemptions would be enough to reach the figure. If there's resistance to a services tax (on things such as lawyers and barbers), there could be a big shortfall.

That would mean cuts to other parts of the state budget, which could mean local governments would pick up the slack by increasing their portion of property tax bills.
Here's a real-life example of how a tax bill (mine) might look if this amendment passes. My 2007 property tax bill was $2,936. The state-mandated school portion was $657.

The new plan would drop my bill to $2,279, including $387 in school district taxes that would remain. But the district could conceivably raise that to $680. And my property tax savings could be negated by increases in sales tax and income tax.

House Speaker Marco Rubio likes the plan, because it spreads the tax burden away from property owners.

"Up to 20 percent of sales tax revenue comes from tourists," he told me Friday.

But this year's state budget shortfall shows the volatile and unpredictable nature of sales tax revenue, which is overly susceptible to downturns in the economy and tourism.

Rubio said that in down years, government would have to spend less. Florida already ranks near the bottom of per-student spending nationally.

The sales-tax exemption revamp is a long overdue idea, but given the sketchy guidelines and power of lobbyists you wonder if the Legislature has the will to carry it through.

Michael Mayo can be reached at


On the same note, my comments:

Of all the valuable information that has been above transcribed, my conclusion, is one more time, that you don't get richer or accomplish any savings by swapping money from one pocket to another.

The new tax reform proposed by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is one more attempt to do exactly that. At the end of the day, as it has usually been the sad reality, the burden of the charges will fall on the back of the people who can afford it the least.

We cannot reduce our schools budget. We should not reduce our existing social programs to assist low income, seniors, handicapped and sick citizens.

Our local governments have provoked the malaise of our property tax inflation. They are the only ones who can solve it. They have to trim their budgets to the point where we, the inhabitants of these cities and counties, can afford to pay for these budgets.

If we cannot afford to have magnificent city halls crowded with myriads of bureaucrats, and non-essential services, let's get rid of them. If we have too many overlapping services, police departments, water departments, cities zoning departments, firefighter services, let's consolidate them, merge them, or any other solution that makes them more efficient.

No city and no county should have the privilege of increasing their budgets more than the official rate of inflation, unless expressly authorized by the majority of voters.

That's the bottom line. And these are the principles that we have been taught to apply in our household budgets. You can't spend more than what you earn, because sooner or later you will be in trouble.

Reducing the assessments value of our homes can be easily circumvented by our local governments, increasing their millage rates. Reducing property taxes by increasing sales taxes could possibly overburden those who can least afford it – those who can't afford to buy a home.

Keeping things the way they are will continue the trend that is hurting Florida's economy. Discourage out-of-town buyers and investors, accelerating the present trend of our working population to migrate to other states, lower our middle-class living standards.

Why not deal with the reality and do what has to be done? Our local governments have experienced an unusual bonanza by multiplying construction and developments. Those hundreds of new towers and high rises has widened their tax base and should suffice to meet all their needs. Why insist on taxing us on inflated and unrealistic property values? A real rollback to a sound economy is the only answer.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission has approved a proposed amendment on March 17, 2008. It would go on the November 2008 ballot.

Basically, it would reduce property taxes by 25% in 2011, eliminating the $9.6 billion that school districts must collect in order to qualify for state aid. This reduction would benefit resident and non resident owners as well.

The loss of revenue would be substituted by a 1 percent additional sales tax and/or levying sales tax on products and services that are not presently taxed, as well as a package of spending cuts.

Raising 1% the present sales tax would yield a maximum of $ 3.9 billion. How will a new sales taxes on some services be implemented, has not been determined. However the proposal excludes levying a sales tax on the presently exempted food, medicine, health care and electricity. The general opinion is that new taxes on services such as legal and real estate work, dry cleaning, pet care, and similar, would probably have to apply.

Against the proposition is the Associated Industries of Florida, a business lobbying group.

Since the proposal mandates keeping school funding at the current levels, lawmakers would have no choice except to trim the state budget to offset the loss of property tax revenue.

Some of the possible targets:

- Reducing state-covered health coverage to thousands of low-income children and pregnant women

- Eliminating a Medicaid program for 125,000 seniors and disabled residents, or reducing nursing home and hospital payments,

- Axing the state's medically-needed program which helps thousands of transplant and gravely ill patients.

Of course this has raised serious objections. The general opinion is that a heavier sales tax disproportionately hits the poor.

Now let's analyze this remedy as opposed to previous attempts.

Everybody seems to have forgotten the general sentiment that cities and counties, which have been unduly favored by the unusual raise in property values, as well as thousands of new homes built since 2000, should adjust their budgets. Nobody is mentioning raising this anymore. We just try to reduce the property tax burden by reducing state services to the needy, and hitting the common citizen with heavier sales taxes. That is the bottom line.

Do I agree with the new proposal? As a realtor, I should be happy, since it might somehow reignite the business by attracting out of state real estate buyers and investors, due to lower property taxes. As a citizen, I might have an issue.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This is the text of a letter that I emailed to Florida senators Martinez and Nelson, and Representative Wasserman-Schultz, at the suggestion of the National Association of Realtors.

The issue is that the increased loan limits for FHA that were included in the Economic Stimulus package are set to expire at the end of the year. NAR supports an FHA Reform Bill that includes realistic and permanent increases in the loan limits.

Subject: Permanent Loan Limit Increase Key to FHA Reform Bill

As a constituent and a REALTOR®, I want to stress how important it is for FHA reform legislation to be quickly enacted. These bills, passed the House and Senate in 2007, are now stalled in conference. Permanent increases in the FHA loan limits, lowered FHA downpayment requirements, and new opportunities for condominium purchases are needed to create safe and affordable mortgage options for our state's homebuyers and those wishing to refinance. These changes will also provide much needed stability to our local housing markets and economies.

The new loan limits passed in the recently enacted Economic Stimulus bill will expire in less than 10 months. Dramatically reducing these limits at year's end will push our nation's fragile housing markets into turmoil once again. Realistic loan limits that permanently help ALL areas of the country are needed to bring stability to the marketplace.

FHA's down payment levels led many borrowers to opt for the exotic, risky mortgages that have been the hallmark of the foreclosure crisis. The FHA reform bills will allow FHA to modify down payment requirements and offer flexible financing to eligible borrowers.

In many areas of the country, condominiums remain the most affordable option for homeownership, but FHA owner/occupancy and documentation requirements, make it very difficult to purchase a condominium using FHA mortgage insurance. The FHA reform bills will move condominium financing programs into FHA's single-family program where they belong and ease the way for condominium purchases.

We cannot wait any further for FHA reform. Pass a permanent FHA reform bill NOW to give American homebuyers and homeowners the peace of mind they so desperately need.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Good News about Florida Tourism.

According to the latest information, we are almost at the same pre 9/11 levels. With all the problems that Florida's economy is facing, the year 2007 has been a high point for both Broward and Dade tourism activity.

3% gain in overnight visitors, a good increase in international tourism, five and a half million in Dade only; this important source of revenue for South Florida continues to grow: Twelve million total overnight visitors in Dade, 10.7 million in Broward.

Hotels have seen their revenue soar in 2007, compared to a rather weak 2006. Hurricane season has been benign since 2005 and that has helped.

A surge of summer overseas travelers can be credited with much of the increase. That will be the future of tourism growth here. The US dollar weakness is the number one factor.

Canadians are increasingly flocking to South Florida in the winter, as are European planning to do in the summer season. International arrivals at Fort Lauderdale International airport were up 20% in 2007.

The hassles and tougher requirements for tourist visas, have been mentioned as a negative factor that keeps hurting this industry. It is claimed to reduce tourist affluence by at least 10%.

Florida continues to be an important magnet of world travelers, and we can only forecast a continuous and steady growth.

Its influence on the real estate business is obvious. During the last twenty years, we have immensely improved our appeal to world tourism and we keep offering the best in entertainment, beaches, outdoor activities, shopping, nightlife and, of course, lots of sunshine.

There are many destinations for Florida visitors: South Beach, Aventura, and Dade County as well as Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach County, and the whole South Florida area, down to the Florida Keys. Orlando and its surroundings, the East Coast, Naples, Tampa, Sarasota, and the West Coast, Panama City, and the Panhandle, they all have their special flavor and the immense variety of alternatives offered is what makes our state so special.

Diving in the Atlantic Ocean, or at a deep cavern in a North Florida spring, canoeing in pristine rivers, deep sea fishing for marlin and sail fish, camping and exploring our state forests, partying on Ocean Drive or Lincoln Road in South Beach, watching a sunset in Key West, boating on the Intracoastal Waterways, spending an afternoon at a football or basketball game, or the Florida Grand Opera, horse races, casinos, or just enjoying the balmy weather, and our amazing blend of ethnicities, Florida is worth a visit, definitely.

I am a Florida Realtor.

For your search of Florida Condos, Miami Beach Condos, Aventura Condos, please call me at (954) 296-6741