Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Foreclosure Saga Goes On

Law firm warns of foreclosure ruling's effect

WEST PALM BEACH — The national law firm of Greenberg Traurig issued an alert this week warning its lawyers that a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Palm Beach County homeowners could "dramatically change the foreclosure landscape in Florida."
The Sept. 7 decision in the case of Gary and Anita Glarum vs. LaSalle Bank says that an affidavit of indebtedness submitted by the bank was hearsay because the person who signed it did not have personal knowledge of the case. It reversed a 2010 Palm Beach County Circuit Court summary judgment that said the Glarums owed the bank $422,677.
"This decision could have broad, sweeping application in the lending and loan servicing industries and affect thousands of foreclosure cases, among other types of cases, currently pending in Florida courts," says the alert posted on Greenberg Traurig's website. The Orlando-based firm of Butler & Hosch represented LaSalle Bank in the case, but Greenberg Traurig also is a bank representative.
The amount the circuit court said the Glarums owed was based on an affidavit of indebtedness signed by loan servicer employee Ralph Orsini, who pulled the information from a company computer - a move that appeals court judges said amounts to hearsay. The court's ruling means the home can't go to foreclosure sale until the bank either gets another summary judgment or goes to trial. The plaintiffs have 15 days to file for a rehearing.
Ice Legal of Royal Palm Beach represents the Glarums, who have been in foreclosure since 2008 and continue to live in the home. Ice Legal founder Tom Ice said the alert is a "transparent attempt to influence" the court to change its ruling .
"Being denied a prohibited shortcut may cost the banks a little more, but given that they are the deep pockets here, pockets lined with our own taxpayer money, the ruling is hardly unfair or earth- shaking," he said.
Greenberg Traurig writes that the Glarum decision is the first case to specifically hold that an affidavit of a loan servicer relying on computer records is inadmissible hearsay because the affidavit was unable to identify who made the data entries, or how or when they were made.
"In the context of foreclosure matters, Glarum is especially concerning given the fact that the lending community uniformly relies upon computer data, including data from prior servicers, when drafting affidavits of indebtedness in support of summary judgment motions," the alert notes.
It says the appeals court sent a "strong statement" that "may have achieved the unintended result of dramatically changing the foreclosure landscape in Florida."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Golden Beach Developers paid $24 million for the 1.1-acre site at 19505 Collins Ave. in Sunny Isles Beach.

Read in the South Florida Business Journal - Sept. 20, 2011
Regalia in Sunny Isles Beach sold for 24MM
Golden Beach Developers paid $24 million for the 1.1-acre site at 19505 Collins Ave. in Sunny Isles Beach.

Instead of selling at a discount to its troubled mortgage, as is usually the case in South Florida, a Sunny Isles Beach development site got dealt for $24 million – significantly higher than its loan.
In 2009, FirstBank filed an $11.7 million foreclosure lawsuit against Regalia LLC, along with managing members Jerold M. Kaufman, Abraham Cohen, Paul C. Murphy and Avra J. Jain.
It targeted the vacant 1.14-acre beachfront site at 19505 Collins Ave.
Regalia received approval to build the 43-story 40-unit condo there, but no major construction had taken place.
FirstBank failed and its assets were assumed by Beal Bank Nevada  . The new lender recently assigned the loan to International Lending in the British Virgin Islands.
Given the price the property brought, it looks like Regalia is off the hook. The new owner is Golden Beach Developers, an Aventura company managed by attorney Louis Montello.

This confirms my predictions.

Undoubtedly some people believe in beachfront properties.
At the pace that most of the inventory on the beach in South Florida has been swallowed by foreign investors, we shouldn't be waiting too long before prices are on the rise.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Foreign Buyers make the difference

Upturn in Florida home sales a welcome surprise
The following story provides insight into the world’s positive view of Florida as a smart real estate investment. It was published by Xinhua, a Chinese news agency that claims over 800 million website visitors.

(Xinhua) – Sept. 1, 2011 – One of the first U.S. states to have its economy crushed by the U.S. housing market recession is now experiencing a rather happy surprise – its housing market is undergoing an upturn.

Despite an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent, which is higher than the national rate of slightly over 9 percent, enough people are buying houses in Florida, especially in the Miami area, so that the state’s housing market is no longer considered an imminent problem by housing and regulatory agencies.

What makes this even more unique is the fact that the status of Florida’s housing market seems to be in the opposite condition of the national housing market.

End of July statistics by the U.S. Department of Commerce show that total sales of newly built homes in the U.S. declined for the third consecutive month. Total sales in July fell almost one percent.

On another housing market matter, Standard and Poor’s (S&P), the rating agency which created a global storm by downgrading U.S. credit rating in early August, is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice to see whether or not S&P mis-rated home mortgage securities. S&P declined to be interviewed by Xinhua for this story.

With all of the above fiscal-related problems negatively affecting the U.S. housing market, how are the Miami and Florida housing markets now having success? Todd Nordstrom, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Miami Beach, got the answers.

“The recent building boom has brought a tremendous increase in residents to the (Miami) downtown areas. At this time, approximately 85 percent of all condominiums built in the last boom are currently occupied, which is fueling new restaurant and entertainment options. Foreign nationals account for over 50 percent of all sales in the (Miami-Dade) county,” said Nordstrom.

According to Nordstrom, “foreign nationals with cash due to rising currencies” were attracted to Florida by its lower home prices. They are mostly nationals from Brazil, one of a few countries that have witnessed rapid economic expansion in the past decade despite the recession that hit the U.S. and other major industrialized countries.

A spokesman for RealtyTrac, which publishes the monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, also gave its explanations for the housing boom in Miami and Florida.

“We believe a slowdown in foreclosure activity, that started 10 months ago because of problems with foreclosure paperwork and documentation, is actually helping the Miami and Florida housing markets to experience this upturn,” said Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac.

Miami and Florida’s good-fortune housing market environments have happened elsewhere in the U.S. – most notably in Phoenix, Arizona – and “prices have passed the tipping point where buyers are willing to jump in, and the temporary lull in the foreclosure activity has helped to boost buyer confidence as well,” Blomquist said.

Yet there are two other possible reasons for Miami and Florida’s upturn in their respective housing, according to Brad Sullivan, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Florida/Miami has a relatively high concentration of retirees that may contribute to the demand for housing, relative to states/metro areas with a higher share of unemployed persons. The Southeast in general was/is growing faster than many other parts of the country – the upper Midwest, for example,” noted Sullivan.

The Miami-Dade housing market has had 12 consecutive quarters of increased sales. Condominium and home sales in the Miami-Dade area rose almost 50 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

The Internet is another source for would-be homebuyers to refer to if interested in buying a house in Florida. and, which has monthly charges for customers who are given a grace period of seven days without fees, allow Internet users to examine Florida foreclosure records. Another website,, does the same, but for no charge at all to customers.

While the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is considering making tens of thousands of government-owned foreclosed homes into rental units, the medium price for a single-family home in the West Central Florida region dropped 3.2 percent from June to July. The medium price for such a home is now 125,000 U.S. dollars.

According to S&P’s Case-Schiller home price index, from June of 2010 to June of 2011, Tampa had the largest decrease in the price of a single-family home than anywhere else in the U.S. In that time span, the price of a home in the region of Tampa declined by 9.5 percent.

When RealtyTrac released in late July its mid-year report of the 20 metropolitan areas in the U.S. that had the most foreclosures, only one Florida area – Cape Coral/Fort Myers, which rated at 12 – was listed. One year ago, Florida had nine areas and cities listed in the top 20 of RealtyTrac’s listing.

But in Washington D.C., a number of federal agencies have churned out data and reports about the housing market that seem to conflict – and the upturn in the Miami and Florida housing markets is no exception.

On Wednesday, the FHFA issued a 83-page report about the status of housing markets all throughout the country, which stated that Florida’s housing market was down 8 percent in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the same period of last year.

Yet Andrew Leventis, a senior economist for the FHFA, admitted that all is not glum for the Miami and Florida housing markets.

“The strength (of both housing markets) is that there are incredibly affordable price levels for houses and that interest rates are at historic lows. If you want to buy a house in Florida and you have good credit, there’s a good chance that you can get a 30-year loan, which Americans love to do. There’s a lot of inventory (i.e., unsold homes) out there,” noted Leventis.

Miami-Dade County is not the only area of Florida’s housing markets that is now experiencing robustness. In Orange and Seminole counties, both located in the middle of Florida, Realtors note that there is anywhere from four to five months of backlog inventory houses available – meaning that all types of homes, from single- family houses to mansions, are available to would-be buyers.

In Leon County, only 9 percent of all homes available for purchase were sold in 2010, yet 2011 figures showed that this statistic is on the rise., a website which posts real estate news and custom data, reported that in the immediate Miami metropolitan area, the number of foreclosures decreased to it’s lowest level since 2007.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Best Unit at The Beach Club - Now Renting !

$ 4,850 per month - for a Yearly Rental

The Beach Club II
1830 S. Ocean Drive - Apt. 3702

This is a gorgeous apartment, right on the beach.
The Beach Club is the newest development in Hallandale Beach.
Magnificent views from every corner.

Direct access to the beach;  7 pools,  the best Spa you could find in the whole area, a 2-story Gym, and all the luxury you could dream about.
The new Hallandale Village at Gulfstream, with its famous Casino and Racetrack, is just one of the attractions.

Hollywood Beach Boardwalk is a few blocks away. 5 minutes drive to Shopping Centers, Restaurants, Nightlife, and Aventura Mall, the largest shopping venue in South Florida. Fort Lauderdale Downtown and Beach,  Bal Harbour, South Beach, are just a few minutes drive away.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, open floor-plans add to this unique sensation of living in a surrounding of water and sky.

Modernly furnished and decorated, this is presently the best deal if you are looking for a Waterfront, Ultra-Luxurious Condo on the Beach.

For Full-Season rentals at a higher rate, please contact us.


Call: Henry B. Nathan
(954) 296-6741
or Email:
for more information.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unregulated Abuse, or Plain Scam?

How Banks are allowed to force insurance on homeowners at up to 20 times the normal price, and eventually cause foreclosures.
More than three years ago, at the height of the real estate boom, I sold a Florida condo to a French couple.
They laid down a 30% down payment at the time, and  took a mortgage loan with a major national bank.
They have seen the value of their property sink to about 40% of its original value. The typical case of "underwater mortgage". 

However, they always acted responsibly, and promptly paid every month to the bank, the condominium association, and the property tax authority. 

A couple of years ago, my client sent me an email from his country asking for help. The bank was charging his account a high amount, which he didn't understand.

I made a few calls and finally understood that the bank needed a copy of the renewal of the condominium association insurance. Meanwhile they had taken insurance on his behalf, with a cost of about 15 or 20 times more than the market standard. I contacted the office of this association, which is under the administration of a large management company.
They agreed to fax a copy of their insurance policy to the bank. Meanwhile the bank was claiming they had not received these copies for an unknown reason and my client was getting anxious. I kept calling the bank, going through many operators, stoically enduring long minutes of waiting on the phone, with the musical background.

Between my client's battered English and some hours of my time on the phone, we finally managed to make somebody in the bank understand that they had to stop charging the account. Then my client had to struggle a couple more months to get the refund of the high charge to his account. When I had asked the bank why they had not advised my client before starting the process, I got a vague mention of some letter mailed to the client, which he had never received.

I advised my client to make sure that in a few months, the situation wouldn't be repeated, because insurance policies expire every year. The condominium building has about 300 units and I am almost sure that the same bank must have a few loans pending in this building. But they don't keep this kind of record and just ask for these policies year after year.

All condo associations in Florida maintain certain insurance to cover building damages caused by fire, flood, or hurricanes. Otherwise, nobody could get a mortgage to buy a condo in Florida. But apparently the banks want to keep track at all times of these policies. 

As can be expected, the next year, my client called me again. Now the condo association had taken an internet service which had to be used by condo owners if they wanted the insurance policies sent to the bank. In other words, he had to sign up with an outside company to get the insurance papers faxed to the bank

I helped my client navigate through the sign-up and other hassles and make sure that, this time, his policy coverage was sent in time to the bank. The condo association was apparently overwhelmed by hundreds of similar cases.

Of course, the cost of the new technological "solution" would pad some pockets, and good luck to homeowners not so proficient with internet and online niceties. 

Fast forward another year. My client calls me again from France. The bank had started the same process again, charging him a very high amount for "insurance premiums" and "late charges".

Back to the phone, the obnoxious musical background, the repeated explanations to multiple operators who kept affirming that the bank hadn't received proof of insurance, while the condo association kept affirming that they had sent it time and again  to the bank. Of course, after some bad blood and lots of wasted time, everything was in order; my client's account showed the refund. The game had become a yearly ritual of suffering, anxiety, and bad blood. 

My client, who was actually feeling uneasy about my voluntary and non-compensated dedication to solve this annual problem, wrote me that he owned another property in Europe, and that it was so easy, compared to his US nightmare, where it seemed necessary to hire a secretary just to take care of management.
The next case is my Cuban boat mechanic. Not a highly educated person, he is however an excellent professional and I developed a very friendly relationship with him. He came to me one day with a bank statement that he didn't understand.

His $200,000+ home had an $80,000 pending mortgage, and he was paying promptly about $670 every month to another large and well-known national bank. He had received a notice of late-payment and the bank claimed a balance to pay of about $8,000. 

He had gone to the bank's office and they had told him about a homeowner's insurance proof that had not been received by the bank. I accompanied him to his bank's local office and the officer in charge insisted that  his policy had not been sent by his agent to their central service.  

Actually his agent had sent it twice. However, state laws had changed the flood zones, and his flood insurance premium (about $200 per year) had to be increased by about $20 a month. He had not received any bank notice until the day his account was charged. 

I called the bank and indicated that he had increased his insurance by the small amount and had faxed them the proof. To make a long story short, it took me about three months, gallons of bad blood, unending discussions that invariably ended with the promises that all matters had been resolved, until the next letter was received by my Cuban friend, with the news that he owed still more money. 

The bank had taken a flood policy at a cost of roughly TWENTY times the average cost of flood insurance, through an unknown company. (Let's not try to investigate who the real owners of that insurance company are).

This one was just a volunteer effort on my part. I felt that my friend could possible lose his home if, as he said, he disregard all this foolishness and just pay every month his mortgage payment, leaving behind undue insurance premiums and "late charges".

However the bank kept adding late fees and mailing threats to eventually foreclose on the house unless satisfied. One day, they told me that they were crediting some quantities to my friend's account. But they did not. I called again and the operator said that they had credited the amounts but they had placed the money in a "temporary" account where it was sitting, nobody caring about transferring it to my friend's mortgage account.

I have lost count of the long negotiations, until one day, after a long fight on the phone; a "supervisor" said that, if my friend would pay a fine of about $54 for late payment, (!) they would close the case. It took me an hour to convince my indignant Cuban friend to just pay and get done with it.
The matter was eventually resolved. The account was cleared. But guess what?
A few weeks after, there was another proof of insurance demand.
This time it was the homeowner insurance. Luckily, he called promptly his agent who faxed the proof of insurance, and problems were avoided.

The agent told him, however, that he had this kind of cases many times every month, and this insurance agent's opinion was that a few people didn't know how to address the problem and ended up paying through the nose the enormous costs of unnecessary insurance. The agent told him that he was dedicating an exhausting amount of time and effort to satisfy hundreds of client's requests, and faxing over and over dozens of proof of insurance to mortgage lenders. In few words, the banks were using a numbers' game to pocket millions of dollars of undue profit.

A certain percentage of homeowners would just pay because they are too old, less educated, or just too busy at work to find the time to fight the abuse.  If this percentage is only 10% it would mean billions of dollars of undue profit.

We all understand that banks could be worried by an uninsured mortgaged home. It would be very easy for them to have on file the phone or fax numbers of the appointed insurance agencies or condo association who will send them proof of insurance. Instead, banks choose to set up whole operations whose job is to charge as many clients' accounts as possible, at unbelievably high premiums, and pocket the profit.

How can we explain that these banks do not use the same insurance companies that everybody uses, instead of insuring with unknown agencies at 2000% of the normal cost?

Is there any hidden reason?   Inevitably you suspect.

Do the Federal authorities know about this? They could easily mandate mortgage lenders to only contract insurance policies at the normal market cost.
Or is there a vested interest in abusing an already suffering public?

Is this why we have bailed out these "institutions" which squandered our money and our savings? I am sure that I am not the only one asking this question. But until we regulate this, hundreds of millions of dollars will be ripped off humble homeowners; of course, those most in need of assistance.

I researched some more into the matter and found out that this has lately become a widespread practice.

It affect especially those who chose to act honestly, pay their mortgages, even though their home value is much lower that the amount of their loan.

I talked to a few insurance agents and they all know about the issue. 

Well, to end the story, my Cuban mechanic called me a week ago, and came to see me again with a new threatening letter from his bank. Barely three months after I had settled or fixed the first problem.

They were requesting again insurance proofs, or else.... I am talking about the same insurance that his agent had sent the bank three months ago.  My friend called both his agents, since he has two different agents for his flood and his homeowner's policies. He begged them to fax one more time these policies to the bank.

He told me that one of his insurance agents had finally lost patience and told him that he had enough and that this was the "last time" he was faxing the papers. 

Otherwise, he said, my Cuban friend could go find himself another insurance agency. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brickell area condos moving fast now.

ST Residential sells 100 condos at downtown Miami’s Mint
A $160-a-square-foot price cut was the trigger behind the sale of 100 units at the Mint at Riverfront condominium, according to data from Bal Harbour-based Condo Vultures. The pricing was a 33 percent discount from the Miami project’s original marketing.
Buyers, many of them original pre-construction contract holders, paid an average of $326 a square foot, or a total of $327.6 million, for 100 units from October through December, data showed.

Eleven units were sold at an average of $325 a square foot during the prior quarter.

The discount comes as ST Residential, which bought Mint’s debt as part of the portfolio of the failed Corus Bank, works with developer Key International to set a pricing bottom.

“ST Residential kicked off the winter tourism season by selling 21 percent of the total inventory in the Mint at Riverfront condo tower,” Condo Vultures principal Peter Zalewski said.

Mint at Riverfront’s original preconstruction pricing ranged from $489 a square foot for one-bedroom units to $563 a square foot for two-bedroom units, according to sales material from Key International.

Mint at Riverfront is a 51-story, 530-unit tower at 93 S.W. Third St. It stands within a gated condo enclave with neighboring towers Ivy and Wind at Neo on the north bank of the Miami River. Three more towers were planned for the enclave, but were never built due to South Florida's condo crash.

Wind at Neo sold 488 units at an average price of $286 a square foot, while the Ivy sold 469 units at an average price of $262 a square foot.