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.