Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Property Insurance Bill approved

May 29th, 2008

Florida Property Insurance Costs didn't "drop like a rock" but at least for some time, they are not going up.

Florida Legislature has done a decent job, and the same can be said of our Governor. I would say they did the best they could, unlike the shoddy treatment given to Florida property tax issue.
Governor Crist signed yesterday the new law, called "homeowners' bills of rights".

He signaled that the important consumer protections contained in the bill would help to keep insurance costs affordable. Since his election in 2006, Gov. Charlie Crist has made insurance relief one of his main goals, as seen in his constant objections to insurance companies rate hikes, and his intents of lowering insurance prevailing costs to the consumer.

New insurance regulations were all approved by the governor, with the exception of one provision that would allow up to 250 million to be lent by Citizens Property Insurance to small insurers. Also approved was the extension of rate freeze for Citizens policies.Increased penalties will be set for insurance companies in violation of Florida regulations.

His veto on the $250 million proposed loans to small insurance companies is not essentially against the program itself, but against the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance having to finance it, while its own finances could be challenged in the case of a major hurricane in the near future.
The Florida Insurance Council, which backs the small insurers program, hopes that it will be expanded next year, because of its good success track.

Essentially the new bill contains:
- Extension of the regulators' authority to block insurance companies' rake hikes. - Freeze on Citizen's rate till January 2010.
- Prohibition of using arbitration panels in case of conflicts between insurers and state insurance officials, related to rates. Most states disallow these panels. In Florida's case the panels were used to approve rates, after state regulators had rejected them. The insurance companies would provoke regulators' rejections, by unreasonable demands, only to have the panels be the decision-makers.
- Maximum fines for violation of insurance state laws are doubled.
- The state must approve the methods used for hurricane prediction, which are essential in establishing insurance rates.
- Insurance companies cannot drop a policy holder without giving them a 180 days notice.
- They also must pay undisputed claims within 90 days of agreeing on the amount of the payment. Consumers were complaining that they were pressured into accepting low loss estimates on their claims by the threat of being held for many months and even years if the refused. Consumers can now accept the payment of the undisputed part of the claim, while resolving the remaining parts and start doing repairs on their damaged home, and get some prompt relief.

In general, the bill was well received by state regulators and consumer advocates, giving back to the state its control over rate increases and consumer protection. Insurance companies executives had mixed feelings.

Citizens' customers should be especially cheery about the new law. However, Florida Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors claims that Citizen customers' rate freeze benefits would be paid by all Florida's residential property owners if we are hit by a major hurricane. In effect, major Citizen's deficits would have to be covered by the totality of Florida insured homeowners by rate increases in their policies, regardless of which is their insurer.

Like every summer, I'll cross my fingers.

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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Metro areas in Florida

Read on May 23, 2008 in the Bradenton Herald.

Basically it's a self congratulatory notice on how we are converting to the Latinamerican model of macro-cities. In many Central and South American countries, the population has deserted small towns, villages, farms and open areas to concentrate in incredibly large conglomerates. The reason is mostly the absence of opportunities, and jobs, outside the large urban areas.

Is this really a good trend? Or, long term, we will start to see the surge of marginal neighborhoods within metropolitan areas?

The concentration of US population within 100 metropolis is something I hadn't heard about.
It might be the way of the future.

I appreciate anybody's comments on the subject.

This is the text of the article:

Metro areas power Florida by Stacey Eidson

Whether Floridians want to admit it, their state is not powered by sunshine.
Instead, Florida is driven by the economic strength of its metropolitan areas, said Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the metropolitan policy program at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

"This is a metro state," Katz told about 200 people attending the Tampa Bay Partnership's Regional Leadership Conference on Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. "You may not think of yourself as a metro state because many people may not identify themselves with living in a metropolitan area. But there are only a few states more metro than you."

Florida boasts seven of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas with cities such as Tampa, Bradenton-Sarasota, Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Cape Coral and Palm Bay, Katz said.
Those seven account for 73 percent of the population, 77 percent of the jobs and 80 percent of the gross domestic product in the state.

"You alone are about 15 percent of the economic output of Florida's entire economy," Katz said of the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.
The Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice area specifically contributes 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product and 3.8 percent of the jobs in the state, according to The Brookings Institute's research.
With the tremendous power and innovation that these metropolitan areas contribute to Florida, city leaders need to stop "going it alone" and join forces, Katz said.

The country desperately needs a "blueprint for American prosperity," Katz said, explaining that a new federal partnership with state, local, and private sector leaders should be created to strengthen metropolitan economies, build a strong and diverse middle class and grow in environmentally sustainable ways.

"We are a metro nation," Katz said. "It is high time we start acting like one."
In order for the nation to prosper, Katz said it must leverage four key assets-innovation, human capital, infrastructure, and quality places-which are all concentrated in metropolitan areas.
"We have to rethink the mental map of the United States," he said, adding that this country is a network of more than 360 highly connected and economically integrated metropolitan areas. "This is who we are. We are not only a union of states. We are no longer a network of small towns."

"This is the heart of the American economy," Katz said, pointing up at a map of the 100 largest metropolitan areas.
Former Congressman Jim Davis, who unsuccessfully ran against Gov. Charlie Crist, attended Katz's discussion and encouraged metropolitan areas to come together and demand the federal government's attention.

"I think we in Florida, particularly, are at our best in times of crisis," Davis said. "Look what happens during a hurricane. Suddenly, everybody is your neighbor. We come together. It is a beautiful, powerful thing."
Katz said the entire country can learn a lot about itself during a crisis.
"I just came from New Orleans," he said. "It has been two and a half years since the storm. I mean, every American should go to New Orleans and be embarrassed by what has happened and not happened."

The entire nation let New Orleans down, he said.
"That was not a case of, we don't have enough money," he said. "We failed to organize ourselves. We failed to inspire the country to basically go down there, volunteer and say, 'Let's rebuild this sister city.' It is an embarrassment and it's a shame that we can basically lose an American city."

Florida boasts seven of the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senate discusses foreclosure assistance legislation

May 20, 2008- Foreclosure legislation almost ready in the Senate.

Senators are informing that they are advancing in the bi-partisan task of structuring a program to avoid foreclosures and assist 500,000 distressed homeowners in refinancing their mortgages.

The discussions have not ended and nothing has been released yet. But the Legislature is trying to do something about the housing and foreclosures crisis, before it gets out of hand and pulls the whole country into a recession.

They announced that taxpayers would not be affected by the program. President Bush has threatened to veto a similar agreement voted by the House, which puts forward a different rescue plan.

Republican Senators are split on the agreement. Some have expressed their fear that, at the end, the program would be a bailout of investors, speculators, banks and lenders, at the expense of US taxpayers. The Senate plan is similar to the House bill already approved. Both are basically an expansion of FHA or government insurance on mortgages. Both require the lender or holder of the mortgage to accept a payment of 85% on the appraisal value of the property, as full payment. FHA (Federal Housing Administation) would use a 1.7 billion federal fund to boot the program.

In the Senate version, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government created mortgage corporations, which stocks are publicly held, would capitalize a special fund for this purpose.

The proponents of the Senate program estimate that it will speed the downward correction of home prices, accelerate the bottoming of their values, and stabilize the market. At the same time it would prevent people from loosing their homes.

Another part of the proposed legislation would set up an oversight mechanism, to monitor Fannie Mae, FHA and Freddie Mac future financial health.

The House has not voiced opinion on the subject but a White House spokesman affirmed that it will look carefully at the plan, once it was approved by the Senate, with special consideration to FHA expansion not being footed by taxpayers and is done in a responsible and effective way.

Other points which are being considered are the tax credits proposed for first-time-home-buyers.

As long as we, the tax payers don't end up paying the bills and bailing out the big banks, hedge-funds, and Wall Street billionaires, I am OK.

I'll keep you posted.
Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos,

Our Spanish Blog - En Español.

I have noticed that a good part of people who contact me for real estate business are hispanic.

I have thought that perhaps they would enjoy reading in their native language and that is the main reason for setting up a new BLOG en ESPAÑOL, with the same purpose as this one.

Some articles will be a translation of the original posts. A few will be directly written in Spanish.
In all cases I will try to be as Hispanic as I can be. Actually I lived a portion of my life in South America.

Most of my Spanish-Speaking clients are actually immigrants residing in South Florida, or South American residents with an interest in Florida real estate investments or vacation homes in Florida.

Click on the following link to get to my new SPANISH BLOG

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

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marginal growth in Florida Tourism - May 16, 2008

Here is the news on Florida Tourism, and here are my comments.

I would say that 2% increase in tourists from overseas is negligible.
These are the big spenders, who heavily weigh on our hotels occupancy, high-end restaurants and entertainment business, and potential investment.
With a weak dollar that has doubled the Euro's value if we compare it to a few years ago, and a Canadian dollar that has revaluated more than 50%, we would think that Florida tourism would be booming. The released anemic figures say otherwise.

One explanation that comes to my mind is the growing reputation that the US, and especially Florida, have been nurturing for the past few years, as an unfriendly destination, with heavy-handed officers at immigration airport counters. I have got this impression from a couple of customers and from what I read sometimes in the news, there is some truth in it.
In all truth, most foreign visitors love Florida and its infinite possibilities. Adequate investments in tourism promotion have always yielded uncountable benefits. But they should be consistent and sufficient.

I believe that international buyers are a principal source of business for many realtors here. Tourism is always the first contact of a potential buyer with our beautiful state, and is often followed by an investment in real estate. Do we need to pamper them? You bet.

Do we need to actively promote tourism to Florida? No discussion.

Here is the text of the article published today in the Tampa Tribune

Despite Economy, State Tourism Rises 3.4%

By CATHERINE DOLINSKI - The Tampa Tribune - Published: May 16, 2008

TALLAHASSEE - Rising gas prices and a slumping economy did not dissuade visitors from traveling to Florida during the first three months of 2008, when the state's tourism numbers rose 3.4 percent.

The same growth remains to be seen, however, in spending by tourists, which came in below state projections for two of the same three months.

Gov. Charlie Crist held a news conference on Thursday to announce that 23.8 million people visited the state in January, February and March. That number includes rising tourism among international visitors - a 2 percent overall increase in overseas travelers, and 6.6 percent increase in Canadian visitors. Additionally, Florida residents made 1.2 million more in-state trips over those taken during the same period last year. The rise in in-state travel, attributed largely to high gas prices keeping people closer to home, represents a 10.5 percent increase.

Crist lauded the state's online and television marketing efforts for boosting the tourism numbers and, presumably, spending by tourists.

"To have that many more people visiting the Sunshine State - they're spending money, they're going out to dinner, they're visiting our tourist attractions, and that has to have a positive impact," he said.

So far, however, state sales tax collections have not kept pace with the rise in tourism.

According to the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research, tourism-related sales tax collections were down 2.9 percent, or $10.9 million, below state projections for January, and down 2.4 percent, or $8.3 million, below projections for February.

The news was better in March, when tourism-related sales tax yielded 1.5 percent or $5.4 million more than expected, though overall sales tax collections were down $47 million from monthly projections. Results are not yet available for April.

Those collections would be down further had the state not invested in attracting more tourists, said Winter Park Rep. Dean Cannon, who oversees the House council on transportation and economic development. To that end, he defended the Legislature's decision this spring to spend about $2 million more of the state's general revenue on Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, despite a shortage of funds overall.

"Tourism dollars are sort of like the carbohydrates of the Florida economy," Cannon said, while the state's investments in high-tech business are the "proteins."

"I think that it was important to do whatever we can to secure short-term economic boost that can be derived from tourism and visitors to Florida, while we let some of the more slower-growing but higher-dollar projects that we've been planting to mature a little bit," he said.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Buyers Willing to Pay for Green

From Realtors Magazine Online. May 14, 2008

WASHINGTON - Home buyers will gladly pay a premium for granite countertops and walk-in closets. But will they dig deeper for better insulation, energy-saving appliances, and efficient heating and cooling systems?

Increasingly, the answer is yes, said the panelists at Tuesday's Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment Forum at the 2008 REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings here in the nation's capital.

"We're on the crest of a wave that's continuing to grow," said David Rodgers, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency in the U.S. Department of Energy. 'The mission is to do more with less, not less with less. This is not about sacrificing or putting on a sweater. It's about making investments that do more."

Houses use more than 20 percent of the nation's energy, according to government statistics, and U.S. households waste more than $300 billion every year because of inefficient energy use.

Knowledge Is Your Responsibility:

Panelist Kateri Callahan, president of the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy, said real estate professionals have an inherent responsibility to their clients to be educated on housing features that can increase energy efficiency.

In addition to combating the harmful effects of climate change, she said, modifications to increase efficiency offer significant savings to home owners over time.

"Promoting energy efficiency worldwide will achieve a healthier economy,"she said. "It's the cheapest, cleanest, quickest way to tackle our energy supply challenges and enhance energy security."

Is a Federal Code the Answer?

Callahan's group advocates for a federal energy code that would require home builders to maintain minimum standards for building materials and processes. "In many states we still allow people to buy inefficient, leaky houses that waste energy,"she said.

But not everyone shares that position. Panelist Greg Miedema, president of Dakota Builders in Tucson, Ariz., said he opposes a federal mandate, a position shared by the National Association of Home Builders. But he concedes there is a need for standards. "We want voluntary standards. We believe mandates stifle creativity and build resentment."

There was one other point on which all the panelists agreed: Real estate professionals can boost client loyalty -and their own bottom lines - by encouraging eco-friendly home improvements for buyers and sellers.

By Wendy Cole for REALTOR magazine online

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

Monday, May 12, 2008

Foreclosure debacle has no easy solutions.

May 12, 2008

This is the story today. An easy solution? It doesn’t exist. The mistakes of yesterday can’t be undone easily. I suspect that. whatever they decide, we, the middle class, will end up footing the bill. I am dizzied by this parade of the billions. And I suspect that, one way or another, me, my children, and my grandchildren, will suffer the effects of the mismanagement of those who implemented to their own benefit and allowed the mad “real estate and mortgage bubble”.

Here is the story:

U.S. House Passes Plan to Help Borrowers.

On Thursday May 8th, U.S. House of Representatives voted yes on a $ 300 billion package to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Owners of Florida Condos, Florida Homes, or any Residential Florida Real Estate, could get a substantial relief from this program.

The main provision is that affected lenders would take advantage of an FHA guarantee on such loans. The FHA refinancing will be subject to the lenders writing down 15% of the home’s current appraised value.

This bill does not cover investors and borrowers who lied about their income when they applied to their original loan. First-time home buyers would get $7,500 assistance in the form of a tax credit and US government would provide $15 billion to allow communities to acquire and fix abandoned homes.

39 Republicans supported the FHA proposal and it passed with a 266 to 155 vote. The tax credit to homebuyers drew a broader support (322 to 94).

The bill now goes to the Senate, which must debate and vote on it. However, President Bush signaled that he will veto the bill if it is approved, since it would “force the FHA and tax payers to take on excessive risk, and jeopardize FHA’s solvency”.

The White house has expressed concerns in the sense that mortgage lenders would use the new law to unload their subprime and high risks or non-performing loans to the federal government.

A research report from Pew Center on the States is showing that foreclosures are accelerating and have reached 7,000 to 8,000 per day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Regatta II - Miami Beach preconstruction project

A fine project:

Regatta 2 - Miami Beach, Fl
Prices $240,000 to $1,245,000
Sizes 647 to 2260 Sq. Ft.
Delivery Spring 2010
Units 116
Floors 7

The Regatta 2 by G@D Developers and Weintraub Companies in Miami Beach, Florida. will complete the Regatta Complex located at 6580 to 6644 Indian Creek, one block west of Collins Avenue on the peaceful intra coastal waterway, a block from our beautiful beach.

The first phase of Regatta won numerous beautification and architectural awards for its sleek fusion of geometric and curvilinear lines. Regatta 2, an even more spectacular second phase, will complete the vision of the ideal lifestyle. This boutique, intimate condominium surrounded by water, features a private full service marina with 18 slips, a waters edge pool, whirlpool, sauna, fitness center, recreation room, 24 hour concierge and valet, high end interior finishes, spectacular sunsets, and a short walk to the beach. Yes, everything that completes the perfect waterfront lifestyle in the sun.

Midway between South Beach and Bal Harbour, minutes from Miami International and downtown Miami, the location is optimum. North Beach is shining. It is the hottest and fastest growing area of Miami Beach, with unique, sophisticated developments such as The Canyon Ranch and The Bath Club a stone’s throw away. Not to mention, our Opening VIP Prices are the best in the area, averaging in the 400’s per square foot. For a limited time only, the first to purchase will receive a VIP discount on selected units with an incomparable array of attractive incentives to choose from including free maintenance for 1 year, a boat club membership, to interior finish upgrades. Contracts were released November 2007. Demolition will be completed by the end of February, 2008 and Construction will commence by the end of 2008. The completion schedule is extremely attractive from an investment angle in relation to the current US Real Estate market and the location is quickly transforming into one of the most desirable along the beaches. The interest rates are excellent and currency exchange rates for foreign Buyers are the best in years.
Delivery: Spring 2010.
9’ 4” ceilings throughout – Large Private balconies with breathtaking Water & City Views – Expansive floor-to-ceiling hurricane proof windows – European- Style Kitchen with elevated breakfast counter top – Designer fixtures & appliances with contemporary styling – Marble flooring in all bathrooms – High efficiency central air conditioning & heated system – Fire protection sprinkler system & smoke detectors – Pre-wired for cable and High speed internet – Full- sized washer and dryer in every unit – Penthouses with private roof terraces & jacuzzi’s
(Roof Top Terraces – Prices to be released shortly)


Private full-service marina with 18 slips for sale
(18 Dock Slips from $125,000 – $175,000) – The Riverwalk: lanscaped pedestrian promenade by the water enjoying a peaceful stroll along the Indian Creek. – The Atrium: A tropical landscaped interior courtyard with reflecting pool, waterfalls, & sitting area. – Porte Cochere entrance & elegant boutique-style lobby – Waterfront swimming pool & whirlpool with Sundeck – Cedar Sauna – State-of-the-art Fitness Center – 24-hour Concierge & Valet Parking – Covered Parking spaces


Studios / 1 Bed Convertible Units:
From $240,000 – $290,000 – ($370 – $440 per square foot)
647 square feet under ac /141 square feet balcony
Type I - Partial water views - Large 1/1 Residences:
$445,000 – $469,000 – ($448 – $480 price per square foot)
970 square feet under ac 213-1220 square feet balcony

Type H - Street/Ocean views - 1/1 + Den Residences:
$305,000 – $455,000 – ($360 – $480 price per square foot)
845-1061square feet under ac 107-161 square feet balcony

Type G, F - Street/Courtyard/Ocean views - 2/2 Residences: $377,000 – $495,000 – ($347 – $459 price per square foot)
854-1182 square feet under ac 137-250 square feet balcony

Type N, M, TH, R, E, E1 -Water/Courtyard views 2/2 + Den Residences:
$490,000 – $689,000 – ($398 – $537 price per square foot)
1231 – 1282 square feet under ac /230 – 400 square feet balcony

Type A, B, D, DR Waterfront/prime waterfront views Large 3/3 Residences:
$749,000 – $975,000 – ($450 – $560 price per square foot)
1673 square feet under ac /360 square foot balcony

Type C, CR Prime waterfront views - Exclusive PH Residences with Private Rooftop Terraces:
$975,000 – $1,245,000 – ($527 – $550 price per square foot)
1850 – 2260 square feet under ac /344 – 477 square foot balcony / 846 – 1169 square feet Roof top terraces with whirlpool/shower

Type PH D, E - Prime waterfront views VIP First 20% LIST – Only $441 Average Price per Square Foot - Rooftop Terraces also sold separately- $50,000 – $90,000 Can accommodate whirlpool tubs/showers
18 Full Service Dock Slips, Private Marina, No Bridges to the Bay – $85,000 each.
Additional Parking Spaces – $25,000
Very attractive Buyers Incentive program – choice of free maintenance for 1 year or interior upgrade credit at Closing

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

Construction of affordable housing in Palm Beach

No affordable housing built 2 years after Palm Beach County's new rules - By Andy Reid - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - May 11, 2008

Two years after Palm Beach County started requiring more affordable housing in one of Florida's most expensive real estate markets, none of the reduced-price homes has been built.More than 500 of the homes envisioned as "work force housing" for teachers, young professionals and others are on the drawing board.County officials blame a drop in the housing market nationwide for curbing new home construction and stalling affordable housing efforts.

Developers and home builders who fought the county's affordable housing push two years ago are now trying to get the building requirements repealed. They argue that the decline in the real estate market lowered the prices of existing homes, making restrictions on new construction unnecessary. For two years, they have maintained that forced price limits on some new homes only drive up the costs for others.

County commissioners on Tuesday are scheduled to discuss the 2-year-old affordable housing effort and consider requests to scale back or drop the price limits.Despite a slumping housing market, the median price of a home in
Palm Beach County - $320,200 in March - remains out of reach for many middle class buyers, said Deputy County Administrator Verdenia Baker, who spearheaded the affordable housing rules. She contends that the county needs to keep requiring that a percentage of new homes remain in the targeted price range of $164,000 to $304,000."We have limited build-able land left," said Baker, who helped craft the housing rules after months of sometimes contentious negotiations with the building industry. "If we don't restrict this, we are going to be back where we were during the [housing] boom Palm Beach County in April 2006 started mandating limits on the prices of a percentage of new homes. The rules, finalized in November 2006, came after years of skyrocketing South Florida home prices. Schools, hospitals and local businesses complained that more and more of their workers couldn't afford to live in Pal m Beach County. At the time, the median price of Palm Beach County home hovered near $400,000. Under the rules, most developments with 10 or more homes are required to keep 16.5 percent of the homes priced between $164,000 and $304,000. That price range targets households that make between $38,600 and $96,600. To compensate for limiting prices on the affordable homes, the county allows developers to build "bonus" homes beyond what current rules allow. Developers also can get breaks on traffic requirements and they can avoid fees for building homes on land usually reserved for fire stations, libraries or other community facilities. The price limits apply only to unincorporated areas, but the county encouraged cities to adopt similar standards. But just as Palm Beach County put affordable housing rules in place, the dip in the real estate market slowed home construction.During the first three months of 2006, construction started on 1,725 new houses — down from 2,301 during the same time period in 2005, according to the housing industry research firm Metrostudy. That slide continued to 817 during the first three months of 2007 and 357 this year. Broward County saw a similar downturn, dropping from 803 new construction starts in the first quarter of 2005 down to 248 this year.A glut of home construction fueled by rising real estate prices during South Florida's housing boom resulted in a large inventory of unsold new homes when that boom ended, said Alan Hunter, a market analyst for Metrostudy. The result is a dramatic slowdown in home construction, he said.
No affordable housing built 2 years after Palm Beach County's new rules..
Sales fell through the floor and the builders cut way back," Hunter said. "It has been a long, painful process and there is more pain to come."

Two years ago, home builders, Realtors and other real estate interest groups argued that new home prices were market driven and should not be subject to county limits. Two years later, the county's affordable housing approach hasn't delivered and the glut of existing homes up for sale gives buyers more price options, said Skeet Jernigan, president of the Community and Economic Development Council, which represents builders.
"A lot of affordable housing is out there," Jernigan said.
Osprey Oaks, a mix of houses and townhomes proposed west of Boynton Beach, was supposed to deliver affordable housing under county guidelines, but construction remains "in a holding pattern" because of the real estate market, said Jim Gielda, project manager for E.B. Developers. Osprey Oaks plans call for 37 of the 171 approved homes to be sold in the county's affordable price range.
Cutting fees and speeding permits would help accomplish affordable housing more than a "forced policy," Gielda said. "Obviously we recognize the need for affordable housing [but] you really need to look a little bit more at the incentives," Gielda said.
During the real estate boom, the county had a voluntary affordable housing program that included incentives for builders to limit home prices. It failed to lure many developers, until the county started talking about making affordable housing mandatory.
"It is still a need," Baker said.

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

Friday, May 09, 2008

Rent a place at the Exchange Lofts

The Exchange Lofts, Fort Lauderdale he been converted to a rental property. Call us for details or rental inquiries. They are an upscale and fashionable place, not exactly your bottom-line, affordable home for rent refuge, but one of the nicest.

The Exchange is a vintage six story former Southern Bell Telephone Company Exchange Building.
Located in a chic, funky neighborhood where most things are within a five block radius. Way convenient. Wide streets have lots of fashionable stores, sidewalk cafes, entertainment and dance clubs. Las Olas Boulevard, the place to be and be seen. Catch the nearby surf. Road trip it to South Beach or the Keys. It's everything you want, right where you want it.

Loft living is taking the hip urban scene to a whole new level..There's nothing fussy and what you see is exactly what you get: an ultra-cool pad. With mega space, wide-open interiors, tall ceilings, exposed walls and beams, big-window lighting and stellar views, each loft is a virtual canvas for your creative edge.

Nearby attractions include the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Discovery and Science with its Blockbuster 3D IMAX Theater, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and the turn of the-century Stranahan House.

A beautifully landscaped private vest pocket park with water feature
Ground floor walk-up lofts
A contemporary urban-inspired lobby features a blend of complimentary sleek-to-rustic textures
Eclectic industrial style lighting fixtures with a galvanized aluminum finish define the lobby entrance
Chic flooring consists of slate like porcelain tiles with metal inserts
Stellar 14 foot high ceilings are dressed with aged brick columns
Convenient drop-off motor court area
Wraparound colonnade from NE 2nd Street to NE 3rdAve
Ultra-cool cabanas with large city view private terraces
Expansive sundeck with panoramic views
State of the art pool and hot tub
A retro influenced fully equipped fitness center.
An open living concept. Non conventional spaces. Maintaining the building's original integrity, The Exchange’s structural elements reveal unique character. Eighty-seven lofts. City views. And modern design features so sleek and trendy.

Metal balconies. Impact resistant 7.5 foot high windows and doors to meet today’s hurricane building code
Fire sprinkler suppression system and smoke detector alarms
Builder Warranty Program

Fashionable 18x18 porcelain tile floors
Wide-open interiors with approximately 14 foot high ceilings
Space saving full-sized stacked washer and dryer

Granite countertops
Under-mount sink
High-quality custom cabinets
Sleek stainless steel refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave
Smooth flat top electric range
Storage space

Wood vanity cabinetry with frosted glass vessel sink
Wall mounted polished chrome designer faucet
Porcelain wall tile in shower

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.Visit my website: http://www.condo-southflorida.comwhere you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

Banks selling commercial mortgage backed securities

Read in the news today - May 9, 2008

Investors are starting to buy up billions of dollars in mortgages that have been stuck on the books of banks, but that hasn’t yet freed up money for new mortgages.

In the past four weeks, banks have gone to market with four issues of commercial mortgage backed securities with a total balance of $4.9 billion, according to data provider Commercial Real Estate Direct.

That’s a big improvement from weeks earlier this year when there were no deals, but down from the same period last year, when the issuance totaled $78.7 billion.
Banks are offering the securities at discounts ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, but those discounts are modest compared to what vulture investors got in the wake of the last major real-estate collapse in the early 1990s.

That’s because default rates on commercial real estate remain low by historical standards. And there’s a lot of cash available. Banks don’t have to take the low-ball offers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Lingling Wei and Jennifer S. Forsyth (05/09/2008)

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

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Florida appropriates $10 million from Condo Trust Fund

May 8th, 2008

I read the following article in today's newspapers. What I understand is that the state of Florida is actually taking $ 10 million from a trust fund, which was constituted by money that each condo owner pays through his association, as well as contributions and fines paid by developers.

In my opinion, it doesn't matter if the $10 million taken from the fund are going to affect or not the fund's mission or have a "negative impact". It doesn't matter if the fund has too much money in reserve.

What matters is that money that basically belongs to condo owners and should be used for their protection, is diverted to another use that has nothing to do with the fund's purpose. Is that right?

By all means, condo owners will still have to disburse this money every year, even though there is no need for it because the fund has a surplus.

I am not an expert in state budgets and appropriations. But this matter sounds weird to me.

Text of the article:

BY JOE KOLLIN - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - May 8, 2008

Almost one-third of the money designated for programs to help educate condo owners and pay for enforcement of condo laws will be diverted for unrelated state expenses as a result of the current budget crunch.

The $66.2 billion state budget approved last week by the Legislature includes $10 million from the condo trust fund, according to Thomas Philpot, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist.

The state created the trust fund so condo owners, not other taxpayers, would pay for condo services. Money comes from the $4 annual fee each unit owner pays the state via his and her association, or about $5.6 million a year based on 1.4 million units. Money also comes from fees charged developers when they build condos and fines paid by associations that violate condo laws.

The trust fund currently contains about $29 million, about $7 million of which is used for investigators and accountants to review complaints by owners, educational programs for owners and the condo ombudsman. The rest is held in reserve.

"The $10 million trust fund sweep will not have a negative impact" on state services to condos, according to Michael Cochran, director of the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes, the agency that regulates condos.

In January, Crist had proposed taking $20 million from the fund to help pay for other state programs. Jan Bergemann, president of Deland-based Cyber Citizens for Justice, a volunteer organization that helps unit owners, called it wrong to have so much condo money in reserve. "There shouldn't be a surplus. The money should have been used for the purpose intended — protection of condo owners," he said.

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

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Vote for us in the Real Estate Blog Contest

Real Estate Blogs contest.

Congratulations to FHA Mortgage Center. A friendly contest between Real Estate Blogs.

We might not be the best one. But we try.

Vote for our blog if you think we're doing a good job.

Otherwise, just vote for the best one.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Protecting distressed homeowners

Interesting article I read today in the Miami Herald.

State lawmakers passed a bill to protect delinquent borrowers from losing their homes and and money to fraudulent foreclosure rescue services.

The Miami Herald – By Monica Hatcher - May 2, 2008

Almost as soon as she found out her lender had filed foreclosure, Deneen Whitley began getting phone calls, letters and pamphlets from foreclosure rescue services offering to save her Cutler Bay home from the clutches of the bank.

Whitley has resisted the offers so far, mainly because she's heard of people losing their homes after using such services. The temptation lingers, though, as the foreclosure clock keeps ticking with no resolution in sight.

''I have thought about it,'' Whitley said.

In an effort to protect the growing number of homeowners in the same situation, the state Senate approved a foreclosure fraud bill Thursday, reining in the growing field of consultants and equity purchasers offering home-saver services to delinquent borrowers. Some have been accused of duping homeowners into signing over their property and then selling for profit or charging them stiff fees to get it back -- a scheme sometimes called equity stripping.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, one of the bill's sponsors, said the legislation would help bring transparency to the foreclosure rescue business. The bill passed the House earlier this session. Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign it.

The bill requires foreclosure rescue companies to provide disclosures in contracts, including the fact that a homeowner may be selling his or her property.

Homeowners also would get a day to consider a contract before signing it, as well as three days to back out of the agreement. The new requirements stem from homeowners' complaints of being rushed into signing contracts they didn't understand.

''When you have people who are desperate to save something of such value to them, you have scammers and con artists trying to take advantage of the situation,'' said Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman with Florida's attorney general's office.

The attorney general has received 1,800 complaints about mortgage and foreclosure fraud in recent years, and is investigating four companies, Copes said.

In a typical rescue scheme, an investor offers to pay up the delinquent amount on someone's loan. In return, the homeowner agrees to sign over a deed in a lease buy-back arrangement.

In some cases, foreclosure rescuers have been known to take out large second mortgages or home equity loans on the property, making it impossible for the homeowner to repurchase.

Before entering into a lease buy-back agreement, investors would have to demonstrate that the homeowner has a reasonable ability to repurchase the property.

In addition, foreclosure consultants, who often take money in exchange for help dealing with lenders, would be banned from accepting payment before promised services are performed.

Copes said the bill also enhances civil remedies for homeowners under the state's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

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.

New legislation for condominium associations

May 2nd, 2008,

Florida Legislature just approved legislation to rule condo and homeowners association boards.
Governor Crist is likely to sign on the new law.
This is the result of years of discussions, back and forth attempts to rein in the famous condo commandos and put a limit to the nasty disputes between residents and their own elected boards.
Some of the new rules are:
- Directors accused of misuse of association money must be suspended from their boards.
- Only licensed management companies can be retained by condo associations.
- Co-owners of a same unit cannot both serve on the board.
- Directors of homeowners associations must read their association rules within 30 days of sitting on the board.
- Some other specific subjects were addressed, as the flags sizes and specifications allowed for residents in communities, or the Jewish mezuzahs that are now allowed by law to be affixed to the door frame.

The new legislature does not pretend to cover all possible issues. But at least it is a good intent to limit the power of overzealous boards, improve practices and protect homeowners against directors' dishonesty and embezzlement.

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.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Disappointment with the Commission for Taxation Reform work

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (TBRC) was established by constitutional amendment in 1988 and met for the first time in 1990. Changes adopted by voters in 1998 called for the TBRC to begin deliberations in 2007 and established future meetings to occur every 20 years thereafter.

The Commission examines the state budgetary process, revenue needs and expenditure processes of the state. Its members analyze Florida tax structure as well as governmental productivity and efficiency. They review policy as it relates to the ability of state and local governments to tax and adequately fund governmental operations.

On appointing 11 members of the commission in February 2007, Governor Charles Christ said: This commission is an important element of my goal to increase transparency and accountability in government, ' I am eager to review the findings which will undoubtedly provide a deeper understanding of our budget constraints and unveil opportunities to lower taxes for the people of our state.'

The commission consists of 29 members, 11 appointed by the Governor, seven appointed by the President of the Senate, seven appointed by the Speaker of the House and four non-voting ex officio members, all of whom are members of the Legislature. Members will begin meeting in early 2007 and must submit any proposed constitutional amendments by May 4, 2008.

Well, we finally know the result of their hard work. Thanks to them, voters will have to deal with seven ballot questions in November elections. Will this bring a solution to the tax and budget mayhem that is presently ruling our state's economy?

I doubt it.

Dominated by a majority unwilling to carry forward any significant reform, the commission drafted some new tax breaks to favor owners of marinas and conservation lands, as well as some tax incentives for energy efficiency and windstorm protection expenses.

But their most important decision was to propose a reduction of property taxes by about 25%. It would apply not only to homeowners but also to businesses, second homes and commercial buildings. It would also establish a 5 percent cap on yearly assessment increase for non-homestead properties – businesses, investment, and second homes. In January 2008, voters have already approved a 10% percent cap.

This reduction is accomplished by basically eliminating the schools part of property tax revenue. This is the good part. The bad part is that the lost revenue will have to be replaced by new taxes and/or increases of existing taxes to be decided by our state legislators. Most possibly, an additional 1% on sales tax, and new sales taxes on now exempt services. We are talking about a 9.5 billion dollars gap. The legislature must find a way to replace the schools revenue and cover the gap.

Our school system, perhaps the poorest and least efficient in the whole US is once again the weak link in the chain. It will be the legislators' task to compensate the schools' lost revenue with an increase in the sales tax, new sales taxes on services, or cutting on the government budget additionally to the cuts already made this year.

Of course, these 'budget cuts' invariably lead to reduction in social and educational programs.

Frankly, that is not that we expected from a commission that is supposed to bring together some of the best brains in Florida. Instead of spending their time on more creative solutions to rein in the local government excessive spending and implement a sensible and intelligent property tax reform, the commission spent much of their time deciding on matters that have nothing to do with tax reform.

They revived the school vouchers for students at failing public schools and approved a proposal to allow state and local governments to contribute public funds to churches and religious organizations. Does this have anything to do with budget reform and taxation?

By the way, both proposals have already been overturned in the past by the Florida Supreme Court, after being approved by the legislature.

Florida voters will have to untangle all these failing proposals on the November ballot. They will not bring relief to our suffering middle and lower classes.

The property tax reduction might encourage investment and second home purchases. However, it will be at the expense of Florida residents, and it has all the looks and sounds of another hot air balloon to convince us all Florida residents that our government has solved the crisis, lowered taxes, solved all our problems, while it looks more and more like the famous home insurance reduction promised by our governments, which ended up actually increasing many homeowners bills.

Changing money from one pocket to another have never solved financial problems. In this case, swapping property taxes to sales taxes will only load an additional burden on people who don't even own a home. The elusive American dream will just be a bit harder to achieve in Florida.

I had hoped at some point that, after the failure of our legislators to implement a solid and sensible reform, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission was our last hope to get a reasonable proposal presented to voters in November 2008. It ended up in politics as usual.

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.