Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If you're like most people, your home is the biggest financial investment you'll ever make. Even small improvements to your home can equal big returns later when you are ready to sell.

Here are a few easy and (mostly) inexpensive ways to increase your home's value and improve its marketability, whether you are looking to sell next week, next month or next year:

1. Bathroom. Remodeling is a great way to increase your home's value, but chances are you do not have the time or money to remodel every room of your home. If you are going to remodel only one room in your house, the outdated bathroom is a good choice. And if you can't completely remodel your bathroom, there are still small changes you can make on a small budget. Minor updates like getting new light fixtures, stripping old wallpaper and replacing your shower curtain can dramatically improve your bathroom's overall appeal.

2. Go for Green. Energy efficiency is one thing that will never go out of style. Younger buyers are increasingly attracted to homes that are environmentally friendly and all buyers are intrigued by the prospect of low home energy bills. There are many ways to increase your home's energy efficiency, including programmable thermostats and water-saving faucets.

If you aren't planning to move for a while, you may want to plant a few tall trees in your yard. The shade provided by trees can actually decrease your home's cooling costs by as much as 40% and can also help improve your home's overall curb appeal. If you are in more of a hurry to sell, you can instantly improve your home's energy efficiency by swapping your old windows for heat-trapping windows.

3. Kitchen. Right after your bathroom, your kitchen is the next most important room you can update. It is particularly important to make sure your cabinets look clean and polished, since they can strongly impact a buyer's perception of the entire room. If you have a larger budget, consider replacing old cabinets with new ones. And if you are working on a smaller budget, a fresh coat of paint on your cabinets can make a world of difference.

4. Landscape. You've probably heard it before, but the curb appeal of your home is hugely important. If new buyers notice that your yard has been ignored, they may assume there are other aspects of your home that have been neglected. This might cause them to lose confidence in the value of your home.

5. Lighten Up. Good lighting in your home can make a big difference. It is especially important to invest in bright lights for smaller rooms in your home; bright lighting can make small rooms look more spacious. If you want to avoid a higher energy bill, a sun tube (a hole in your ceiling that funnels in natural light) can be a great way to brighten up a room without adding to your home energy costs.

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

New bond could fuel South Florida housing market


South Florida’s rising residential market could be further stimulated by a new bond funded by rental revenue from foreclosed properties.

New York-based private equity giant Blackstone Group launched a $479 million offering of the AAA-rated bonds last week. Blackstone and other large investment firms have spent more than $200 billion on distressed properties in South Florida and other United States markets over the last two years.

Residential observers say the institutional acquisitions are fueling sharp price increases in South Florida, Daily Business Review reported. If Blackstone’s bond sale goes smoothly, it could end up buying even more properties in the region at higher prices. [Daily Business Review] – Eric Kalis


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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Rules restrict lenders use of force-placed insurance

WASHINGTON – Nov. 6, 2013 – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would no longer allow its mortgage servicers – the companies that own or administer property loans – to receive a fee or commission from insurance companies that it uses for force-placed policies.

A force-placed policy, or captive reinsurance, is a policy added by a mortgage lender when the homeowner drops coverage as required by the mortgage agreement. The cost of a force-placed policy is added to the monthly mortgage amount, and it’s usually higher than the rate found in the general marketplace.

The change does not directly help homeowners, but it could help indirectly by cutting down on mortgage servicer profits.

FHFA published a Notice in the Federal Register last March about the proposed change, and it accepted public input. Beyond help homeowners might receive, the Notice also cited concerns about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exposure to potential losses as well as litigation.

FHFA also established a Regulatory Working Group to study the proposal before it became official. The agency said it carefully considered the group’s views, along with “more than 30 replies FHFA received from consumer advocates, state regulators, lender-placed insurance carriers, servicers, managing general agents, individuals and trade associations.”

“One of our primary responsibilities as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is to preserve and conserve their assets on behalf of taxpayers,” says FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “This directive is intended to reduce their costs as we consider additional measures.”

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Florida's housing market continues upswing in 3Q 2013


ORLANDO, Fla. – Nov. 6, 2013 – Florida’s housing market continued to improve in third quarter 2013 with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and a stabilizing supply of homes for sale compared to the same quarter in 2012, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“Data from the third quarter of 2013 shows that Florida’s housing market continues to grow and gain strength,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “The housing sector is vital to the state’s economy, and Realtors across the state are reporting increased activity in their markets.

“At 7.0 percent, Florida currently has a lower unemployment rate than the nation, according to the August unemployment figures (the latest state data available.) More jobs will provide more stability for future growth in the state’s housing market and overall economy.”

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 60,661 in 3Q 2013, up 17.3 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Meanwhile, pending sales – contracts signed but not yet completed or closed – for existing single-family homes rose 17.9 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period last year. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in 3Q 2013 was $175,000, up 18.6 percent from the same quarter a year ago. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 27,200 units sold statewide in the third quarter, up 11.3 percent from the same three-month period in 2012. Pending sales for townhouse-condos in 3Q 2013 increased 12.4 percent compared to a year ago, while the statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $130,000, up 23.8 percent over the same quarter last year.

In 3Q 2013, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 48 days for single-family homes and 54 days for townhouse-condo properties.

“What’s remarkable for the third quarter data is that all metro areas in Florida show year-over-year increases in both prices and sales for single-family homes, and year-over-year increases in sales for condo-townhome properties,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Inventories have begun to pick up a little bit, which may be consistent with cash sales declining as a percentage of overall sales. We’re alert to the fact that it may signal a trend, which could be good for the long-term stabilization and health of Florida’s housing market.”

The inventory for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties stood at a 5.3 months’ supply for the third quarter, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.44 percent for 3Q 2013, up from the previous year’s average of 3.54 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Research & Statistics section of floridarealtors.org.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

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Thursday, November 07, 2013


Longtime Miami developer Avra Jain is forging ahead with a plan to revive the historic Miami Modern district on Biscayne Boulevard.

Jain hopes next month’s reopening of the landmark Vagabond Motel ignites the district, which was a popular tourism destination in the mid-20th century but has languished in recent years. Architect Dean Lewis spearheaded the expensive renovation of the Vagabond, which was built in 1953. The hotel’s original neon signs are being restored.

Jain plans to acquire four more of the historic MiMo motels with a long-term goal of repositioning them as a group of boutique hotels, restaurants and entertainment space. She has raised money for the project by selling development, or air, rights to builders at other sites in the city.


Courtesy of the Miami Herald's Eric Kalis

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Coconut Grove waterfront project approved by Miami voters


A moribund portion of Coconut Grove’s waterfront is set for a major face lift.

Miami voters approved Grove Bay Investment Group’s proposal to extensively renovate seven waterfront acres in the village during Tuesday’s elections. The developers now have the go-ahead to sign a 50-year lease with the city for the current home of two popular restaurants and the Grove Key Marina immediately north of City Hall.

Grove Bay now must spend $18 million to upgrade the marina and replace Scotty’s Landing and Chart House with three new restaurants, the Miami Herald reported. The project includes the restoration of two historic Pan American Airways hangars. The group plans to construct a promenade connecting South Bayshore Drive to Biscayne Bay.

As part of the agreement, Grove Bay must provide Miami Parking Authority with $5 million to build a three-story parking garage with 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

Three lawsuits accusing the city of improperly awarding the project to Grove Bay are pending, however. Grove Bay was the only bidder when Miami commissioners approved its proposal in July.


Courtesy of the Miami Herald - Eric Kalis


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