Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Broward County Cities trimming their budgets

I read this today in the Sun Sentinel.

And my first reaction is that it should only be a beginning. We need more. And we need better decisions. Cutting back on unnecessary services is OK. But making better use of existing work forces, trimming bureaucracy, reviewing generous pension plans that cities'revenues cannot reasonably cover, this is the way to go. And, by the way, charging for previously free services can fool some of us for some time, but we end up noticing it. We agree that reducing fireworks and other luxuries should be part of these sacrifices, but please don't forget that the goal is to trim the fat, not the substance.

August 28, 2008

County cities trimming budgets: Does anyone notice?
By Jennifer Gollan » South Florida Sun-Sentinel

It was a tough decision, one Sunrise officials were reluctant to make. But faced with a $6 million shortfall, the city this fiscal year sliced its popular Sunrise Loves Our Seniors socials.

Retired nurse Rita Karmiller, 77, had attended the parties for 10 years but admitted, "I haven't really noticed" that the gatherings were scrapped.
A random survey of 17 municipalities in Broward County found that despite their strong warnings about the pain budget cuts would bring, few residents were upset enough to file a complaint. Now, with governments poised to impose more cuts in October, some residents are grumbling that local officials have lost their credibility.

"In our neighborhood, I haven't noticed any cutbacks at all," said Bob Emanuel Sr., 61, who sits on the Boulevard Heights Homeowners Association in Hollywood, where officials this fiscal year had to fill a $12.4 million gap. "The local governments are complaining. ... I think it's a big hoax."

The budget tightening varied from city to city. Some cut bus service, shuttered swimming pools, increased fees or eliminated fireworks on the Fourth of July. Yet officials in Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Dania Beach, Davie, Lighthouse Point, Margate, North Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines and Sunrise recorded no complaints.

Deerfield Beach, Lauderhill, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, and Fort Lauderdale received only a few complaints each; while Weston and Tamarac each received around a dozen.

Some governments, such as Broward County, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines, say they expect to feel the wrath of residents with the 2008-09 budget. For example, Broward County commissioners are considering closing some parks on Tuesdays during the school year, which has already provoked about a dozen complaints.

In Hollywood, "we're looking at increased fire and water fees, and changes to after-school programs in the parks," said Raelin Storey, spokeswoman for the city, which last year eliminated 46 vacant positions, withdrew support for 14 special events such as the St. Patrick's Day Parade and cut back on maintenance. "If they didn't feel it last year, they will feel it this year."
Storey could not say how many residents, if any, complained, because the city lacks a system to track it.

With a shortfall of more $5.7 million this fiscal year, Pembroke Pines cut travel expenses for employees, eliminated tuition reimbursement and shed capital expenditures. Now facing a $12.6 million deficit for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, city commissioners are considering cutting up to 49 positions, and raising firefighting fees from $153.48 to $223.

"I think we handled last year's budget responsibly," said commissioner Angelo Castillo, explaining why the city received just a few complaints."This year, fees will have to go up because we can't subsidize them with tax dollars any more."
Conversely, Weston anticipates a smaller hole in the upcoming budget: about $1.4 million, compared with $2 million for this fiscal year.

Weston cut its Fourth of July fireworks and holiday lighting displays.
Lori Schiller, president of the Fairways at Bonaventure Condominium Association, agreed with the decision. "I wish it didn't have to be, but somebody's got to cut someplace. I would definitely rather they cut the fireworks than police or firefighters."

Tamarac was one of the hardest hit this fiscal year. It eliminated 61 positions, and increased building fees and bus tickets for seniors and the disabled. The Caporella Aquatic Center was closed from December through February, and buses circulating through the city was cut from three to one. The city received about 10 complaints, mostly related to the reconfigured bus routes.

Trudging to the grocery store is all but impossible for Virginia Benacquisto, 73, who protested last year's cuts because she suffers from emphysema.
"We all depend on these buses," said Benacquisto, while holding an armful of groceries on the last remaining bus route. "We pay taxes and we need transportation."

For the coming budget year, no further cuts to the bus service are on tap, butthe city will likely raise its fire fee to $193, up from $141, to finance firefighter salaries and other costs, said finance director Steven Chapman.

Faced with a loss of $1.6 million in property tax revenue, Deerfield Beach this fiscal year halted financing for all but three city celebrations and began charging more for such programs as youth soccer and group swimming lessons. It also suggested a $1 cover charge for the Tuesday Night Beach Dance — and that provoked the largest outcry, although still only from a few callers, according to city figures.

"I don't think its fair," said Al Vialardi, 84. "City Hall should take care of it. I'm on a fixed budget."
Fort Lauderdale this year cut about $11 million by restructuring the pension system, freezing 60 jobs and directing maintenance crews to let the grass grow taller.

"Once residents saw that service levels didn't drop, we really didn't receive any complaints," said city spokesman Ted Lawson.
Fort Lauderdale resident Mel DiPietro said he doesn't trust what officials say about the budget.

"I remember [city officials] saying that city street maintenance would go downhill, and that safety services would be drastically reduced," said DiPietro, president of the Bermuda Riviera Association, which includes about 250 homes in Fort Lauderdale. "No one really saw that. So now if our local governments come out and say negative things in the future, why should we believe them?"

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Licensed Realtor.
Please visit my website

to search for:

Aventura Condos, Miami Beach Condos, Fort Lauderdale Condos, Hollywood Condos

Real Estate Sales Comparison 2007 / 2008

The whole world has its eyes on real estate since it is evidently the essential element in the banking and mortgage crisis, as well as the whole economy.

In South Florida, in my main areas of expertise, I was curious to do some comparisons and research. I came out with interesting figures.
This analysis is based on the MLS (Multi-Listing-System) and might not include some sales effected directly by owners, or condos delivered by the developers which relate to sales effected 2 or more years ago. It is basically an analysis of the resale market. But I am comparing oranges to oranges and the data gave me some insight on how the market is behaving.

I compared both periods of Jan. 1st to Aug. 24th during 2008 and 2007

Comparison between homes and condos sold during the same periods in 2007 and 2008. Period of January 1st to August 24, 2007 and 2008.

Aventura Homes:
2008: 21 2007: 7
Aventura Condos: 2008: 489 2007:508
Bal Harbour Homes: 2008: 3 2007: 5
Bal Harbour Condos: 2008:79 2007: 37
Brickell Homes: 2008: 3 2007: 0
Brickell Condos: 2008: 186 2008: 229
Ft. Lauderdale Homes: 2008: 582 2007: 659
Ft. Lauderdale Condos: 2008: 807 2007: 847
Hallandale Beach Homes: 2008: 27 2007: 32
Hallandale Beach Condos: 2008 375 2007: 380
Hollywood Homes: 2008: 428 2007: 506
Hollywood Condos: 2008: 405 2008: 487
Miami Beach Homes: 2008: 88 2008: 116
Miami Beach Condos: 2008:861 2008: 1045
N. Bay Village Homes: 2008: 4 2007: 2
N. Bay Village Condos: 2008: 35 2007: 37
Sunny Isles Homes: 2008: 6 2007: 11
Sunny Isles Condos: 2008: 338 2007: 269
Surfside Homes: 2008: 18 2007: 23
Surfside Condos: 2008: 23 2007: 29

Henry B. Nathan is a licensed realtor in Florida. Please visit my website: where you can browse through listings of
Sunny Isles Condos, Aventura Condos, Miami Beach Condos

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Statistics - Real Estate - South Florida

Time to do some statistical work:

Not a bright year for real estate, for sure. Let’s count the marbles. These are the closed sales Jan.1st 2008 up to August 22, 2008 in Broward County.

Southeast Broward: East of I-95. (North County Line Road to New Griffin Road)

175 Single Family Homes
289 Condos/Townhomes

South=Central Broward: (West Hollywood-Hallandale)

342 Single Family Homes
157 Condos/Townhomes

Southwest Broward:

1098 Single family Homes
591 Condos/Townhomes

Fort Lauderdale (East of 441, South of MacNab Rd.)

758 Single family homes
965 Condos

Fort Lauderdale (West of 441, South of MacNab Rd.)

1346 Single Family homes
1209 Condos/Townhomes

Northeast Broward (East of Turnpike, North of McNab Rd)

423 Single Family Homes
1071 Condos/Towhomes

Northwest Broward (West of Turnpike, North of McNab Rd)

978 Single Family Homes
636 Condos/Townhomes

Let’s analyze the same kind of information classified by cities, for some of my main markets: Sold so far in 2008, by all Realtors in:

Aventura: 79 homes – 489 Condos
Bal Harbour- 3 homes – 79 Condos
Brickell - 3 homes – 186 Condos
Fort Lauderdale – 582 homes – 807 Condos
Hallandale – 27 homes – 375 Condos
Hollywood – 428 homes – 405 Condos
Miami Beach – 88 homes – 861 Condos
North Bay Village – 4 homes – 35 Condos
Sunny Isles – 6 homes – 338 Condos
Surfside – 18 homes – 23 Condos

I will try to do some comparisons between the same periods in 2008 and 2007.

I bet the results will be worse for 2008. We'll wait and see.

Maybe tomorrow.

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, August 20, 2008


Construction of new homes was down to its lowest level since 1991, the Commerce Department reported yesterday. 965,000 units were started in July, compared to 1,080,000 in June.

The drop was smaller than what Wall Street was expecting, Analysts had forecast 950,000. The bad news continue to pound the already hurting housing market, and reflects on the overall economy and employment.

Single family homes starts fell to 641,000 in July, a 2.9% drop from June. Compared to July 2007, new construction fell a staggering 39.2%.

Apartments and multifamily construction plummeted in the same period. The exceptional June 2008 increase was due to a change in New York City building codes.
Forecasts for housing permits in July had them at about 925,000.

They only fell to 937,000, a better than expected figure, but still 17.7% less than June 2008. Permits are an indicator of future construction starts.
No sign of improvement yet from the housing rescue package passed by Congress in July. However builders have high hopes on the new law that grants a $7,500 tax credit for first time homebuyers.

The National Association of Homebuilders’ index is at a low of 16 in August; no change from July. A positive sentiment should start when readings are above 50.
Builders keep some optimism. The measure of their sales expectations for the next six months rose from 23 to 25.

Toll Brothers’ gloomy quarterly results were announced last week, with a 34% drop in revenue and building backlog down 52%. D. R. Horton, Pulte didn’t fare much better in Wall Street with sensible drops in shares values.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Licensed Real Estate professional.
Please visit my website

to search for:

Aventura Condos, Miami Beach Condos, Fort Lauderdale Condos, Hollywood Condos

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ocean Two Condos - Sunny Isles Beach


At the NE corner of Sunny Isles Beach, more than 6 acres of beautiful landscaping surround a notable building, alongside 500 foot of white sand beach.

Built in 2001, Ocean II is, without doubt, one of the top condominium buildings in Sunny Isles Beach.

The second of Condominium buildings in Sunny Isles Beach, Ocean Two set the standard of luxury and quality in that city.

Amenities at Ocean Two Condominiums in Sunny Isles Beach:

Beautifully landscaped waterfront pool and spa

Tennis courts

Cabanas and barbecue sites are provided for the residents' leisure.

Tot lot

Fitness Center

Health Spa

Locker Rooms



Two story entertainment


Two story Lobby

Conference rooms

Multimedia rooms

Private elevators

Ocean Two Condos Residences Features:

Private, high speed elevators

Solid, double wooden entry door

Entry gallery with elegant coffered ceilings

Panoramic ocean and intercoastal views

Formal dining area leading to a private balcony

Oversized sunrise / sunset balconies

Elegant smooth ceilings rising to 8'7 1/2"

Pre-wiring for telephone and cable hook-up

Floor to ceiling windows with energy efficient tinted glass

Separate laundry room equipped with full size washer & dryer, cabinets and trash chute

High efficiency central air conditioning and heating unit

Kitchens Features:

Flush European styled cabinets

36' refrigerator with water and ice

Glass cook top

Granite counter tops

Built-in microwave


Stainless steel under mount double sink

Garbage disposal

Eat in breakfast area

Bathrooms Features:

Elegant marble flooring in wet areas

Granite vanity top with porcelain lavatories

Designer faucets with traditional styling

Full width mirror over vanity

Whirlpool tub

Elongated water close

European style bidet with coordinating faucets

Full marble shower

Powder room features:

Pedestal Sink

Elongated water closet

Guest Bathroom features:

Elegant marble flooring

Full marble shower and / or tub / shower

Marble vanity top with porcelain lavatory

European style cabinets

Elongated water closet

Some units are available for sale at The Ocean Two Condos in Sunny Isles Beach. You can contact us and we will make available to you a list of the units for sale at the Ocean Two.


Sunny Isles Beach has gone a long way in less than a decade.

From a long strip of motels, built in the 50's, it is now home to some of the most luxurious high rise condos in the Miami area.

Almost overnight, million-dollar oceanfront apartments, fashionable shops, cafes and restaurant have made Sunny Isles one of the most fashionable and coveted locations in South Florida.

Large condominiums, built in the 70's, such as Winston Towers, Plaza of the Americas, coexist with the new giant structures: Ocean I, Ocean II, Ocean III, Ocean IV, Acqualina Condos, Trump Grande Condos, the Trump Towers, La Perla, 400 Sunny Isles, St. Tropez Condos, the Pinnacle, Millenium Condos, are just a few in the growing skyline.

During the last few years property values have greatly increased in Sunny Isles.

Sunny Isles Beach population is estimated at more than 15,000 people.

A plethora of ethnic stores, (a result of the perpetual melting pot phenomena, line the shopping centers along Collins Avenue. The blend of wealthy tourists, South American, European visitors and immigrants, and the traditional snowbirds configure an incredibly diversified population.

Throughout its recent transformation, Sunny Isles Beach has maintained much of its original charm. The famous Rascal House is gone but the fishermen are still at the Newport Pier, and the beachwear stores, the nonchalant walk of beach attired youngsters along Collins Avenue, remind the residents that the spirit is the same.

Henry B. Nathan is a real estate professional licensed in Florida.

Please visit our website

and view all properties in Sunny Isles Beach

Click here to view Ocean II listings:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Property Taxes Battle Updated

Aug. 15, 2008

Judge John Cooper stroke Amendment 5 from Nov. 2008 ballot. The proposal to cut property taxes by about 25%, while raising sales taxes by 1%, and limit to 5% yearly increases in properties assessments, was ruled misleading since it didn’t give voters enough information about its potential threats to school funding.

The Legislature is required to compensate Florida Schools, only during the first year, actually 2010. The attorney for the Taxation & Budget Reform, the proponent of Amendment 5, indicated an almost sure appeal to Florida Supreme Court.

Opponents of the plan include the AARP, the Teachers’ Union, many business groups, and other organizations.

Florida Assoc. of Realtors’ president expressed disappointment since Amendment 5 would have substantially helped the struggling Florida Real Estate industry by lowering property taxes for residents, businesses and non-residents real estate owners.

While I am a realtor, I respectfully disagree. Florida real estate industry would be better served by sensible laws and making sure that our schools and education's funding are a priority.

Florida has already one of the worse schools system in the U.S.

The disdain that Amendment 5 shows to this top priority is what has caused a major upheaval.

Taking away their traditional funding, while promising them that, for only the first year, they would be guaranteed their previous funding is outrageous.

Not only does it leave to day-by-day legislators' discussions, agreements and disagreements, pacts and partisan rulings, the funding of what is Florida's future. It creates a gap that will be covered by new taxes, and raising our present sales taxes.

And, in all truth, the whole purpose of this ongoing battle is to protect our fat-cat cities, against any citizens' supervision over their out-of-control budgets; and to live in denial of our actual problems.

This is not a tax swap. For many Florida's residents, I would say perhaps a majority, it will mean higher taxes. Think about that: a majority of Floridian don't own their home. To punish them, we increase their sales taxes, and we put in jeopardy their public schools.

I am a realtor and I would surely benefit from lower property taxes propelling our hurting real estate market. But being shortsighted and selfish will actually do me more harm than good on the long term.

For more information and listings at the Terraces North at Turnberry, please visit my website: where you can search for Aventura Condos, Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Florida PropertyTax Cut Amendment Challenged:

New Development in Florida Property Tax Reduction proposal

John Cooper, Leon County Circuit Judge will issue a ruling today and it might strike the proposed Amendment 5 to Florida Constitution, from the November ballot.

The main complaint raised by several business groups is that the amendment’s title and summary on the ballot will be highly misleading.

The contentious tax plan which would eliminate the school part of Florida property taxes went to the courtroom yesterday. No matter what Judge Cooper will decide, everybody is sure that there will be an appeal.

The $ 8 billion cut would reduce property taxes in about 25 percent, including non-residents and investor owners. To compensate the public school financing, Florida legislators should increase by 1 percent the state’s Sales Tax. But that could only partially cover the gap and other creative new tax sources would have to be implemented.

Judge Cooper openly objected on the ballot summary which states that the school system would be “guaranteed an equivalent hold harmless amount” of state funding to compensate for the loss of property taxes. The proposed amendment specifically requires the Legislature to exactly replace the lost revenue during 2010, without mentioning any time thereafter. Cooper qualified this as a “misrepresentation through omission”

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, responsible for the proposal, argued through their attorney Mark Herron, that the amendment summary never claims that the replacement funding is permanent, and that the funding after 2010 will be up to the “political will of the Legislature”.

Judge Cooper basically objected to the confusion thrown upon voters by a ballot that seems to resolve the matter, but actually does it for only one year. The summary fails to provide voters with accurate information to make an intelligent decision. Strangely enough the person who designed the tax plan, Mr. John McKay, once a Florida Senate president, contended that voters are “pretty darn intelligent” and that all complementary information would be learned during the campaign’s debates. In all cases, he claimed that a ballot summary doesn’t necessarily have to include the implication of an amendment.

However, Judge Cooper dissented: I don't know if I'm the average voter, but it took me three hours to understand it. He argued that voters could be baffled after reading the summary.

The opponents of the Tax Reform proposal include business groups concerned about the extension of sales taxes to many services, retailers, school teachers, school drivers, and a variety of professional, non-profit and educational associations.

In favor of the proposal is Governor Charlie Crist, the National Association of Realtors who believe that the property tax reduction is the shot-in-the-arm needed for a rebound of Florida real estate market.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Peninsula II

The second of the Peninsula buildings in Aventura, delivered in 2007, is a paragon of luxury, featuring a two-story health club overlooking the bay, a spectacular two-story lobby opening to the waterfront, tennis courts, and jogging paths. All residences have floor-to-ceiling glass walls to enhance stunning views of the Intracoastal and the Ocean.

As soon as you walk into these units, you will notice a generous use of space. The apartments have been designed to give the feeling of a home rather than an apartment.

Quality of design and materials is evident. This is definitely one of the quality buildings in Aventura.

Peninsula II is located next to Williams Island. The affluent area of Aventura has some of the best shopping, restaurants and an exciting nightlife in all of South Florida. The location of the area enables quick access to many nearby desirable destinations; Bal Harbour, Ft. Lauderdale, and South Beach to name just a few. The Penisula II is also conveniently located within 20 minutes of Ft.lauderdale and Miami International Airports.


2062 to 3,626 Square foot apartments. (not including balconies).


Heated swimming pool and spa

Barbecue/ bar area in a garden setting

Sunrise terrace with shade pavilion

Recreation room

Fitness center with state-of-the-art exercise equipment, steam room and sauna.

Sunning decks with pool furniture and umbrellas

Tennis courts

Private storage facilities

Valet parking

Tinted glass for energy efficiency

Exterior doors and windows that meet or exceed

South florida hurricane standards


High ceilings throughout

Double entry door

Marina or Water views in all residences

Security, emergency medical call and fire alarm systems with 24-hour on-call monitoring and entry door protection

Pre-wired for television, cable-tv and telephone, high-speed data transmission

Expansive open-air terraces with glass panel railings

Fire protection sprinkler systems

Sliding doors and glass balconies offering grand views of the intracoastal waterway

Individually controlled high-efficiency air conditioning and heating systems with digital thermostat

Laundry room with top of the line washer/dryer and storage

Imported cabinetry in kitchen

Granite kitchen countertops

Quality sinks and faucets

Stainless steel appliances

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

The Terraces North at Turnberry - Aventura Condos

One of the buildings I enjoy selling in Aventura is The Terraces at Turnberry. Not only is it impeccably maintained, and you can feel a high level of service as soon as the valet parking attendants greet you at the entrance but, among all condominium buildings in Aventura, it has a unique touch of elegance and discreet luxury.
Quality is a good word to define The Terraces at Turnberry.

Besides its outstanding outdoor features, Terraces of Turnberry features a long list of luxury amenities and luxurious residential features. Inside the guarded grand entry gates, you fill find a state of the art health club and spa. Its facilities include an outdoor heated swimming pool with an poolside grill, a fully equipped gym and fitness center, sauna and steam rooms, and outdoor tennis and racquetball courts. Within the Terrace tower, residents can enjoy a piano room and a social lounge as well as an on site convenience store.

A wonderful architectural accomplishment, the Terraces at Turnberry boasts some sleek, oversized terraces extending prominently out of the units for the best views on the Intracoastal Waterway. Recent renovations has kept this building as one of the most seeked condo buildings in Aventura. The state of the art health club and spa are very well equipped . Outdoor sports, such as tennis and racquetballs, wonderful piano room and lounge, an onsite convenience store, add to the great features of the Terraces.

The amenities include: Tennis and Racquetball Courts, Pool, Spa, Fitness Center, Club House, Concierge, valet parking, Business Center, Restaurant, Storage facilities and 24-hour security.

Aventura has become one of the most famous destinations in South Florida, with easy access to beaches, word-class shopping at the Aventura Mall, beautiful parks, excellent public and private schools. Conveniently close to both Miami and Fort Lauderdale Airports, with many houses of worship, restaurants, clubs, the Gulfstream racetrack and Casino and a short drive to the shopping and entertainment at Bal Harbour and Hollywood.

If you are looking for a condo in the Aventura area, we at, can assist you and help you find the home, vacation home or investment property, that you are searching for. Our great experience in South Florida Real Estate and our friendly attention will make all the difference.

For more information and listings at the Terraces North at Turnberry, please visit my website: where you can search for Aventura Condos, Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

On Florida Property Tax-Swap Amendment

By Henry B. Nathan August 6th, 2008

It looks like the proposal going on the November ballot has a chance to pass, now that Gov. Charlie Crist has said he will strongly endorse it.

I have already written about this subject. Let’s recap.

Basically, it will eliminate the schools part in property taxes. That would reduce everybody’s tax bill by more than 25% including snowbirds, businesses, real estate investors. How would the schools funding come from? Partially by adding 1% on Florida Sales tax.

That would leave a 8 billion gap which will have to be covered by additional sales tax on some services, budget reduction, and a few more things to be figured out by our legislators.

Against the plan are teachers, bus drivers, and other education-related workers, and many business groups, as well as legislators from both parties.

The fact is the magic of tax swaps have proved illusory and a cover-up of the lack of vision in addressing problems with common sense and realism.

I see with apprehension a centralizing of schools funding that will leave them under the complete economic control of state’s authorities, instead of their traditional funding through real estate taxes.

On the other hand, the money has to come from somewhere. In the end, the tax payer will be stuck with the bill, up to the last penny. That’s the essence of “Tax Swapping”. Will it hit harder certain sectors of our population? Possibly. Perhaps those who don’t own a home and would just suffer increased sales taxes and nothing in compensation.

That brings me back to my eternal predicament. Why can’t we just cut the fat? Bureaucracy, mismanagement, and waste are eating up a large part of our cities and counties’ budgets.

Luxurious city halls, generous pension plans, unnecessary duplication of services, you name it. Did you ever ask yourself why, in South Florida, we have dozens of police departments, fire departments, code compliance departments, water departments, administrators, sub-administrators, commissioners, city managers, and so forth, ad-nauseam?

And that brings me again to something that’s going on in our cities now. Forced to reduce a minimal percentage of their budgets by voters’ mandate, they have chosen to start charging for services that were always free. An ingenious alternative to “tax-swapping”, mind you.

The last one I heard about is some city starting to charge a hefty fee to drivers for any accident occurring on its territory, and many other municipalities quickly jumping on the bandwagon. Many other charges and fees are subtly sneaked in to replace the lost revenue. Increasing millage (percentage applied on assessed values to calculate taxes) is also been used by some cities to compensate for reduced assessed values. With some exceptions, they have mostly chosen the easy way out.

I am 100% for property tax reduction. It is a screaming necessity. It must be done now, because it’s hurting the ability of all layers of our society to buy and keep a home. It is a strong deterrent to out-of-state buyers of vacation homes and investors. Home building is a major job-creating industry in Florida, and many builders are all but bankrupt. So, there is no doubt that it is a priority.

On the other hand, I also think that the only way to accomplish this tax reduction is to live within our means. I do not believe in economic “stimulus” packages and other gimmicks and tax-swapping solutions.

That brings the question: OK, my friend, what would you do if you were in the Governor’s shoes?
I am not an economist. But I have a grain of common sense. The same sense that allows me to survive when my personal income is down.
The only answer that comes to my mind is: I’d just reduce the local governments’ income through reduced property taxes and let them deal with it. They will find the answer.
They were living with much less just a few years ago. If they can’t deliver, perhaps we will have to find somebody else to do the job. That’s what elections are for.

In the meantime, people are losing jobs in Florida while outsourcing is ever flourishing. Salaries are shrinking, middle class is receding, and population growth is negative.
I don’t think that the present recession will just end by itself some time in 2009 or 2010, as they want to make me believe. However, I am confident that, at some point, common sense will prevail and we will avoid falling into a major depression. Helping the development of our real economy and putting people to work should be the preferential vision of our elected authorities.
Meanwhile, our local governments are selfishly trying to maintain privileges and avoiding bold decisions.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condo

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Again. A US District Judge dismisses lawsuits against developers.

I just read this article in the Daily Business Review – August 5, 2008

Study the fine print before buying by: John Pacenti

No matter how beautiful a condominium complex looks in the brochure,
it might behoove any buyer to look at the fine print in the contract
based on a ruling by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz in Miami dismissed 29 lawsuits
Friday against Opera Tower near downtown Miami, stating the contract
was explicit about what buyers were getting, no matter what a slick
advertisement promised.

There was no Olympic-sized pool, there were "quality variations" in
the designer tile, it was not on the shores of Biscayne Bay, and some
views were obstructed.

The brochure showed a 56-story elliptical-shaped building on the water
with a nearby marina. The illustration omitted surrounding high-rise buildings. The one- and two-bedroom units were priced from $200,000 to $800,000.

"It is well settled that a contracting party may not as matter of law
reasonably rely upon prior written or oral misrepresentations
expressly contradicted by a subsequent written agreement," Seitz wrotein her 10-page order.

The decision is a victory for developer Tibor Hollo and may influence
hundreds of similar lawsuits against other condominium builders. Most of the lawsuits aim to recover condo unit deposits under the federal Interstate Land Sales Act and the Florida False Advertising Statute.

Both laws were passed to fight fraudulent Florida swampland sales to out-of-state buyers.
Hollo said the lawsuits filed against Opera Tower are from "flippers" upset with the turn in the housing market.

"When they couldn't make the extra money, they didn't want to close, and they sued for their deposit," he said. "It's human nature."

Hollo said he always felt the lawsuits were without merit.

"The brochures are not misleading," he said. "However, as any proper business, the contract defines each entire building and gives a complete survey. The spa, the pool, everything is in there, including the units."

Hollo said the contracts were given to potential buyers with instructions to read them carefully with a money-back guarantee good for 15 days.

Miami Beach attorney Kent Harrison Robbins, who filed the lawsuits against Opera Tower, said he plans to appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Atlanta.

"This is a big loss for consumer rights in the Southern District of Florida," Robbins said. "What this ruling says in essence is that developers can say almost anything in [their] advertising and
brochures as long as they use certain magic words and certain small-type disclaimers."

The Opera Tower contracts specify buyers have "not relied upon any verbal representations, advertising, portrayals or promises other than as expressly contained herein and in the condominium documents."

Miami attorney Robert Cooper said such language is required by Florida law, but lawmakers made it clear that doesn't trump false advertisements.

Cooper and two other attorneys who work for him have eschewed all other cases in favor of deposit litigation. He said he represents 800 clients seeking return of their money because of false claims by developers.

"Obviously, the false advertising statutes are designed to protect the consumer," he said. "The Legislature didn't intend for the consumer to be duped because they stick something in the fine print."

Cooper said he hopes Seitz's decision is case-specific and is not adopted by other "lazy" judges.

Real estate lawyer Jared Beck, a partner with Beck & Lee in Miami, was less optimistic.

"It could have broader implications beyond Opera Tower and cases of this nature across the board even outside of Florida," he said. "The Florida federal courts are very persuasive in their interpretation of the Interstate Land Sales Act."

He said judges handling similar suits in Nevada, California and Hawaii will look for an established precedent when trying to apply ILSA.
Beck, who also represents some Opera Tower owners in separate actions, called Seitz's decision "draconian as far as consumer protection implications."

The 29 lawsuits filed by Robbins alleged four misrepresentations in the Opera Tower brochure: an "oversized Olympic-style pool," "designer" tile, "wide panoramic views with 'magnificent vistas,' " and a tower adjacent to Biscayne Bay as pictured.

But Seitz said each of the promises was negated by contract specifics:

• The pool is L-shaped at 2,530 square feet.

• No promises of a "view" from any unit or that any existing "view" would not be obstructed in the future.

• Tiles are understood to be subject to size, color, grain and quality variations.

• The legal description of the property places it a block from Biscayne Bay at 1750 N. Bayshore Ave., not on the water.

"Plaintiffs are clearly not entitled to condominiums bearing a different address, constructed at a wholly separate location," Seitz wrote.

Robbins said the fine print in contracts should not be a way to avoid liability for lies made in advertising.

"We certainly know what is morally right has not been followed here," he said.

Hollo said the 635-unit Opera Tower is financially healthy with 220 units closed so far. A few units reserved by depositors whose mortgages fell through have been sold to other buyers at full price.

"I think things are starting to turn around," Hollo said of the condo market. "I think there's a little renaissance now, especially in the last 30 days.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Real Estate Lawsuit - Developer wins

Lawsuits between preconstruction buyers and developers are becoming a major field for real estate attorneys. So far, there are no definite trends and judges are assuming different positions alternatively favoring either side, depending on the case and the judge.

A definitive plus for the buyers to win a case would be by proving that the developer did not deliver on his material promises. This could be amenities that are not quite the same as promised in the brochures; square feet that are too far apart from what the original floor plans stated; units features that differ from what was offered originally. We have even seen cases when private elevators where substituted by elevators shared between two units.

However, cases where buyers’ main reason to revoke the contract is non-compliance with a legal formality by the developer, are getting a closer look. As in the following case reported by the Daily Business Review today.

“Judge sides with seller who sued buyer who backed out of condo deal”

“Judge decision: $300,000 defense verdict”.

Details: Fenster purchased a condominium unit for $800,000 and entered

into a contract to sell it to Hiaeve in February 2006 for $1.5 million. The condo is located in the One Bal Harbour Towers on Collins Avenue in North Miami Beach. As a deposit, Hiaeve placed $300,000, 20 percent of the purchase price, in an escrow account with Arlene Raijman, a Bay Harbor Islands attorney.

But in November 2006, Hiaeve backed out of the contract, which was set

to close on Dec. 31, 2006. She alleged Fenster failed to do four things that breached the contract, and she sued to retrieve the money. Fenster countersued to keep the deposit.

Plaintiff case: In the complaint, Hiaeve alleged Fenster failed to provide her with the declaration of condominium, among other condominium documents, failed to obtain approval from the condominium association for the transaction, she was never approved by a bank for a purchase loan, and Fenster failed to provide her with a title

insurance commitment.

At trial, the plaintiff team abandoned three of those arguments and decided only to pursue the allegation that Fenster failed to provide her with the condominium documents, Shapiro said.

Shapiro said the plaintiff team appealed the case because they disagree with Fernandez' interpretation of a Florida statute regarding whether she must request the condominium documents in writing. He also said the contract itself already suggests a request by Hiaeve for those documents.

"We would like to have our case completely presented to a jury and determined by a jury," Shapiro said. "I think, frankly speaking, that an appeals court is not going to impose an additional requirement upon a buyer to have to make a written request separately when the seller is in the best position to simply turn them over."

A woman who answered the phone at Hiaeve's residence in Flushing, N.Y., referred a call to Yona Kogman, a commercial real estate operator in Jamaica, N.Y., who could not be reached for comment.

Defense case: Zarco said Hiaeve tried to get her deposit back after the condo market slowed, and she realized she wouldn't make a profit from the unit.

Zarco and Brito said Hiaeve admitted on the stand that she never requested the condominium documents in writing, and they said there was no evidence that she requested them orally, either. They argued that Hiaeve also failed to try to obtain a loan, that she was required to obtain title insurance not Fenster, and that a condo association

hadn't been formed, so no approval could be obtained.

"The reality was those facts she alleged didn't exist," Brito said. "Our client did nothing wrong and complied with the terms of the contract [which] made her responsible to close or say, 'I'm not going to close,' but our client gets to keep the $300,000."

Zarco said the case is indicative of how feverishly investors sought to buy oceanfront property during the real estate boom of a few years ago in order to quickly sell at a profit. He said the downturn has left investors with properties worth less than what they paid, which has caused some to look for ways to get out of their contracts.

"She got buyer's remorse," Zarco said of Hiaeve. "She was stuck in a situation where she committed to buying a unit which she had no intention to live in and didn't have the means to go about closing on the transaction. She tried to fabricate a way of getting out of the contract."

Following Hiaeve's withdrawal from the deal, Fenster later sold the property, but for less than the $1.5 million.

Important evidence in the case included the contract and Hiaeve's and Fenster's testimony.

The defense also included a chain of e-mails that established Hiaeve never indicated she was dissatisfied with the deal until she sued.

Outcome: A six-member jury and one alternate, made up of six women and one man, heard two days of testimony as the plaintiff team laid out its case. But Zarco and Brito successfully petitioned the judge for a directed verdict before presenting their case. Judge Fernandez ruled in favor of Fenster on June 24.

Comments: "It sets a standard for some of those cases currently being litigated or for parties considering litigating," Zarco said of the decision. "It gives guidance as to what is permissible and what isn't with regards to trying to revoke a condo contract."

Shapiro agreed. "I think it could have sweeping effects insofar as it’s a case of first impression. There are no other appellate decisions interpreting the statute in this fashion."

Post verdict: Hiaeve appealed the case to the 3rd District Court of Appeal last month according to court records.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
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Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Village at Gulfstream Park

A couple of years ago, the Gulfstream Casino was inaugurated and, not being too much of a gambler, I wasn't a big fan. Most of the time, the place was half deserted. None of the excitement I had come to expect. Overall, I didn't fall in love with the whole architecture, concept and functionality of the place. It didn't have the looks and feelings of a casino. It just did not click for me.

I remember asking my daughter who would sometimes party with her friends at the Indian Hard Rock Casino, to tell me what she frankly thought about our neighborhood casino. She took a deep breath, took about a minute to think her response, shook her head and calmly responded: " Dad, they don't have a clue. "

However, I didn't lose hope that, some day in the future, things could change. That's why I took some time to find out about these mysterious new buildings and this is what I came up with. Most of the information is from the web, and some phone conversations, as well as the City of Hallandale resources.

The way things are presented, we will have a shopping and entertainment complex, similar to the famous Hard Rock. With the addition of a hotel, and a large movie theater it will possibly give some much-needed competition to Aventura Mall and Cinemas. Can I hope that, this time, good taste and professional know-how will replace the rather amateurish design of the casino?

Of concern (or is it panic?) are these 1500 condos and all the traffic all this huge complex will generate in our already congested Hallandale Beach.

The project vaguely speaks of some traffic-lights synchronization and improvement in left turns set-ups. Will that be enough? Only time will tell.

For now, that's what the developers have to say:

The Village at Gulfstream Park will combine a "luxuriously timeless" design with an innovative shopping, dining, residential, hotel and entertainment destination.

The Village at Gulfstream Park, to be built on 60 acres, around Gulfstream Racetrack, will offer world-class fashion and home accessory shops, destination retailers, signature restaurants, outdoor cafes, unique entertainment options and an appealing residential live/work environment. The first phase will include 375,000 square feet of lifestyle retail, featuring 70 upscale shops and specialty stores and 70,000 square feet of office space. It is expected to be up and running in Fall 2008.

The Village at Gulfstream Park, to be built over 15 years, calls for 1,500 condos, 750,000 square feet of retail space, 140,000 square feet of office space, a 500-room hotel and a 2,500-seat cinema. The project will involve the construction of 225 affordable/workforce-housing units both on the site itself and in neighborhoods within the city. When complete, it is expected to generate more than $22 million in taxes and create more than 2,800 permanent jobs.

The Village at Gulfstream Park is located in the heart of the Miami, Dade, Broward, and West Palm Beach area, one of the largest and fastest growing regions in the United States. The City of Hallandale Beach, is conveniently situated along US1, the premier commercial corridor of all of South Florida and near I-95, the major north/south interstate along the Eastern United States.

Click to see the video:

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC) and Forest City Enterprises have entered into a joint venture partnership agreement concerning the planned development of "The Village at Gulfstream Park", a 55-acre, mixed-use retail, entertainment and residential project in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Under the agreement with MEC, Forest City will manage the development of The Village at Gulfstream Park, secure financing for the project and act as the property manager. Each of Forest City and MEC will hold a 50% interest in the joint venture, which will lease the land underlying the retail project on a long-term basis from MEC.

MEC, North America's number one owner and operator of horse racetracks, based on revenue, acquires, develops and operates horse racetracks and related pari-mutuel wagering operations, including off-track betting facilities. Additionally, MEC owns and operates XpressBetTM, a national Internet and telephone account wagering system, and HorseRacing TVTM, a 24-hour horse racing television network.

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. is an $8-billion, NYSE-listed real estate company headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. The company is principally engaged in the ownership, development, acquisition management of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States. The company's portfolio includes interests in properties in 25 states and the D.C.

Phase 1, now in progress, will combine approximately 75,000 square feet of office space and 375,000 square feet of lifestyle, retail, restaurant, and entertainment facilities, including some of the most recognizable national and local tenants. The Village at Gulfstream Park promises to be an extraordinary destination for years to come.

The lavish Mediterranean-themed site, with lush landscaping, pedestrian promenades, and exquisite fountains is highlighted by a new 310,000-square-foot clubhouse that opened January 2006 and a world-renown thoroughbred racetrack and turf course. The Village at Gulfstream Park will comprise in excess of 1 million square feet upon completion and will ultimately include a unique residential village overlooking the picturesque racetrack, Florida's intracoastal waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Future phases include plans for a hotel and commercial office space.

Sophisticated South Floridians and a constant flow of intercontinental travelers will appreciate the distinctive shopping and recreational opportunities afforded by The Village at Gulfstream Park.

The racetrack and turf tracks at Gulfstream Park have been home to some of the country's best thoroughbred action for more than five decades. Once a favorite haunt of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., this legendary track has just entered a new era of speed and elegance with the addition of its gorgeous new clubhouse facility.

87 days of live racing will take place at Gulfstream in 2008, with major events including the Sunshine Millions and the 54th running of the $1 million Florida Derby. The excitement is building every day as the races are run, bets are won, and the Grand Opening of the new signature shops and restaurants of The Village at Gulfstream Park draws near.

Phase one is now underway at The Village at Gulfstream Park and there's never been a better time to get in on this unique leasing opportunity. The favorable combination of population density, high disposable income and extraordinary traffic flow, place The Village at Gulfstream Park in the most prosperous retail market in the U.S.

Nearby beaches, major resort hotels and large seasonal residential developments surround The Village at Gulfstream Park. Projections suggest the center will capture up to 40% of its sales from the area's 10 million annual domestic and international visitors. Current figures for Gulfstream Park include 1 million visitors tallied throughout racing season and another 190,400 over 34 concert days.

Facts and Figures:

Grand Opening: 2009

Total Project Size: 1,000,000 square feet

Retail GLA: 750,000 square feet with 375,000 square feet in Phase I

Residential: 1500 when fully developed

Clubhouse: 310,000 square feet

Office: 140,000 square feet with 75,000 square feet in Phase I

Mixed Use: retail, restaurants, residential and office

Parking: more than 7,000 spaces

Amenities: gardens, pedestrian promenades, water gardens, fountains, clubhouse, paddock, thoroughbred racetrack and turf course.

Economic Benefits:

When fully developed, The Village at Gulfstream Park will create:

$24 million in annual ad valorem taxes

3,500 new permanent jobs

7,600 temporary jobs

Over $1 billion in construction value

The Village at Gulfstream Park has committed to both physical and transit improvements.

Physical improvements include:

Light synchronization from A1A to I-95

Modification of left turn lane at Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Dixie Highway which will reduce wait time dramatically

I-95 turn lane improvement

Transit improvements include:

$3 million upfront commitment to facilitate the development of a new rail station in vicinity of Hallandale Beach Boulevard and I-95/Dixie Highway

Improvements to bus headways and bus stations

Shuttle to Hollywood Rail station.

The combined value of the above listed improvements represents a traffic improvement plan that mitigates 30% more trips than the project creates.

Affordable Housing:

The Village at Gulfstream Park will construct 225 affordable/workforce housing units that will be a combination of off-site and on-site development

The first phase of affordable/workforce housing units will consist of 60 units to be completed prior to the first phase of market rate residential development at The Village at Gulfstream Park.


The Village at Gulfstream Park has committed $2 million to the School Board of Broward County for improvements to schools within or serving the City of Hallandale Beach.This commitment represents approximately three times the required school impact fees.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
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where you can search for Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Beach Club on Hallandale Beach

The Beach Club - Hallandale Beach

The Beach Club is a world-class residential environment that features the amenities of some of the best hotels in the world.

The Related Group of Florida, George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg has fulfilled in The Beach Club their promises of gracious, contemporary, luxurious and relaxed living.

Three buildings right on the sand. Two twin towers: The Beach Club 1 and the Beach Club 3.

A central tower: The Beach Club Two.


• Less than one mile south of the renowned Diplomat Resort, Country Club and Convention Center

• Minutes from Aventura Mall and Diplomat Landings

• A short drive to the Shoppes of Bal Harbour

• Close to fine restaurants, food markets, banks and convenience store

• A short distance to houses of worship

• Minutes to Hollywood’s vibrant downtown area, Las Olas and downtown Ft. Lauderdale

• Easy access to Ft. Lauderdale Int’l Airport and Port Everglades

• A short drive to the exciting South Beach nightlife and Miami Int’l Airport

Buildings Features:

spa and fitness center

full service restaurant

juice bar with pool and beach service

finest free weight

selectorized weight equipment

state-of-the-art cardio equipment / cardio theater

aerobic studio

his and hers lounges

treatment rooms


Cold plunge

eucalyptus steam room

redwood saunas

relaxation area

sun deck w/ water features

Residences Features:

• Solid wooden entry door

• Ocean and intracoastal views (see your individual floorplan)

• Large dining area (see your individual floorplan)

• Spacious living room with adjacent terrace (see your individual floorplan)

• Oversized terraces with glass railing accessible from bedrooms and living room (see your individual floorplan)

• Elegant smooth ceilings rising to 8’ 7 1/2”

• Floor to ceiling laminated windows with energy efficient tinted glass

• Top-of-the-line stackable washer and dryer

• High efficiency central air conditioning and heating unit

• Sprinkler fire protection system

• State-of-the-art telecommunications wiring including high-speed cabling to all television outlets and “home run” configured CAT5 cable for telephone and data communication.

General Amenities:

• An almost 9-acre site with over 810 feet of magnificent ocean frontage

• Oversized heated swimming pool and spa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

• Snack bar with pool-side services

• Lushly landscaped grounds

• Magnificent 2-story lobby entrance

• Spectacular porte-cochere

• 24-hour valet parking

• Multi-level covered parking

• Full time concierge

• Mail and package receiving desk

• 24-hour security

Spa and Fitness: As part of your residence or membership, you will enjoy the extended amenities that are normally associated with a 5-star resort spa.

Whether you are relaxing in the spa, working out in the state-of-the-art fitness center or indulging at our juice bar, you are certain to realize that this is the playground, sanctuary and “home” you have been looking for...until now.

Featuring some of the most dynamic and technological advancements in fitness, our skilled staff is dedicated to making you look and feel your best. Consulting trainers will make your experience the most efficient and effortless workout you have had. Your physical aspirations will soon become manifestations.

The Spa is certain to change your life. “Desires” will become realities when they are part of your “home”. You can have a massage or get a facial...workout or relax...swim or just sit by the pool.

Kitchen & Bath Features:

Master Bath includes:

• Elegant marble flooring in wet areas

• Granite vanity top (in a selection of colors) with porcelain lavatories

• Elegantly detailed designer faucets

• Full width vanity mirror with decorator light fixture

• Whirlpool tub (see your individual floorplan)

• Elongated water closet

• European style bidet with coordinating faucets

(see your individual floorplan)

• Walk-in marble shower

Guest Bath includes:

• Elegant marble flooring in wet areas

• Integrated porcelain vanity top and lavatory

• European style cabinets

• Elongated water closets (see your individual floorplan)

Kitchen includes:

• Flush European styled cabinets

• 36” built-in KitchenAid refrigerator/freezer

• 30” KitchenAid glass cook top

• Granite counter tops and backsplash (in a selection of colors)

• Double stainless steel sink with granite counter top

• Pull-out spray faucet

• 27” built-in KitchenAid convection/microwave oven

• KitchenAid 3-cycle, sound-insulated dishwasher

• Garbage disposal

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Hallandale Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos