Monthly Archives: August 2021

Fla. Consumer Confidence Dinged by Delta and Inflation

UF: The Aug. index gauging Floridians’ attitudes fell 4.7 points, thanks in part to COVID-19. Still, it’s less than half the 10.9-point drop in a similar national study.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The monthly gauge of consumer attitudes published by the University of Florida (UF) fell in August, likely due to a number of contributing factors, including a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus, inflation and ongoing pressure in the real estate market.

August consumer sentiment among Floridians fell 4.7 points to 78.7 from a revised figure of 83.4 in July, according to UF researchers. However, a nationwide sentiment index fell over twice as much, dropping 10.9 points.

“The decline in consumer confidence comes as no surprise as it remains unclear whether the recent spike in inflation – due to supply chain bottlenecks, pent-up demand and labor shortages – is temporary,” says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

“Additionally, the latest surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations brought on by the delta variant has spooked consumers resulting in event cancellations, hindering consumer spending, and casting a shadow on the economic recovery in the short-run,” he adds.

All five components that make up the complete index declined.

Current outlook: Floridians’ opinions about their personal finances now compared with a year ago decreased 3.9 points from 75.8 to 71.9. Similarly, opinions as to whether this is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as refrigerators, cars or furniture, dropped 1 point from 74.8 to 73.8.

Both downward readings were shared by all Floridians, though men were a bit less pessimistic about their current finances.

Future expectations: The three components focused on attitudes about future economic conditions “deteriorated considerably in August,” according to UF’s report, and attitudes about national economic conditions took the biggest hit. Expectations for U.S. economic conditions over the next 12 months plummeted 7.1 points from 85.2 to 78.1.

Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years took an even bigger hit, plunging 9.3 points, from 87.4 to 78.1.

Floridians weren’t quite so negative about their own economic future. Expectations of personal financial situations a year from now fell a more modest 2 points, from 93.8 to 91.8, though younger Floridians and lower-income households were less pessimistic.

“While the decline in confidence was fueled by growing pessimism in all five components, the main factors behind the downturn were Floridians’ expectations about U.S. economic conditions in the short- and long-run,” says Sandoval. “These expectations signal a potential decline in discretionary spending that could hinder the economic recovery.”

Another point Sandoval raised: The current confidence levels have not yet risen to levels seen before the pandemic hit.

“Consumer confidence is far from the levels observed before the pandemic,” Sandoval says. “The decline in August brought consumer sentiment just 2.4 points above its lowest level since the pandemic started. Looking ahead, we expect consumer sentiment to remain weak in the months ahead.”

Conducted July 1 through August 26, the UF study reflects the responses of 210 individuals who were reached on cellphones and 286 individuals reached through an online panel, a total of 496 individuals, representing a demographic cross section of Florida. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Florida Realtors Caps 2021 Convention with Election of Officers

The Board of Directors met on the last day of the convention and confirmed Florida Realtors’ 2022 officers. Christina Pappas is 2022 president and Mike McGraw president-elect, with Gia Arvin confirmed as vice president, Tim Weisheyer as treasurer and Chuck Bonfiglio Jr. as secretary.

ORLANDO, Fla. – On Aug. 28, 2021, Florida Realtors® concluded its 2021 Convention & Trade Expo with its semi-annual Board of Directors (BOD) meeting. While some policy changes were discussed and approved, election of the association’s 2022 officers topped the list.

In 2022, Christina Pappas – current president-elect – will serve as president. Mike McGraw – current vice president – will serve as president-elect.

Officers elected last week include Gia Arvin who will serve as the 2022 vice president, Tim Weisheyer who will serve as treasurer and Chuck Bonfiglio Jr. who will serve as secretary.

The Board of Directors Minutes are now posted online (password protected).

National Association of Realtors directors approved during the meeting

  1. Mike Artelli
  2. Jeff Fagan
  3. Cyndee Haydon
  4. Veronica Malolos
  5. Gonzalo Mejia
  6. Bill Poteet
  7. Shane Spring
  8. Zola Szerencses

In addition to officers, the BOD adopted a motion to study the possible impact of using “a qualified private inspector for new septic system installations in addition to local government inspectors.”

Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant also thanked Gold Sponsor Stellar MLS in recognition of their support for Florida Realtors’ 2021 Clean Up Florida Waters event.

District Vice Presidents

For 2022, Florida Realtors’ district vice presidents were elected by their hometown districts rather than Florida Realtors’ board of directors. The following will serve next year:

District – 2022 Vice President

  1. Ronald Harris
  2. Harold Briley
  3. John Gonzalez
  4. Jose Serrano
  5. Corey McCloskey
  6. Cynthia Haydon
  7. Robert Tessmer
  8. Joy Blomeley
  9. Cynthia Birge
  10. Christie McSwain
  11. Karen Johnson
  12. Natalie Arrowsmith
  13. Karen Rolland

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


U.S. Consumer Confidence: Delta Variant Dings Attitudes

Americans felt less confident in Aug. When the pandemic resurged, the confidence index fell to its lowest level since Feb – but it’s too soon to draw long-term conclusions.

BOSTON – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index declined in August, following a decrease in July, which was revised downward.

The Index fell 11.3 points. It now stands at 113.8, down from July’s 125.1 in July.

The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – fell to 147.3 from 157.2 last month. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term future outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – fell to 91.4 from 103.8.

“Consumer confidence retreated in August to its lowest level since February 2021 (95.2),” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Concerns about the delta variant – and, to a lesser degree, rising gas and food prices – resulted in a less favorable view of current economic conditions and short-term growth prospects.”

Americans still seem willing to spend money after a year-and-a-half of pandemic precautions, but attitudes about big-ticket applications, such as homes, autos and major appliances, cooled a bit. However, the Conference Board noted an increase in the percentage of consumers who plan to take a vacation in the next six months, a number that continues to climb.

“While the resurgence of COVID-19 and inflation concerns have dampened confidence, it is too soon to conclude this decline will result in consumers significantly curtailing their spending in the months ahead,” Sandoval says.

Present situation

  • 19.9% of consumers said business conditions are “good,” down from 24.6%
  • 24.0% said business conditions are “bad,” up from 20.0%
  • 54.6% said jobs are “plentiful,” down from 55.2%
  • 11.8% said jobs are “hard to get,” up from 11.1%

Future expectations – six months from now

  • 22.9% of consumers expect business conditions to improve, down from 30.9%
  • 17.8% expect business conditions to worsen, up from 11.9%
  • 23.0% expect more available jobs in the months ahead, down from 25.5%
  • 18.6% anticipate fewer jobs, up from 17.8%
  • 17.9% expect their incomes to increase, down from 20.0%
  • 10.1% expect their incomes to decrease, up from 8.8%

The monthly survey is based on an online sample and conducted for The Conference Board by Toluna, a technology company. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was August 25.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Case-Shiller: Home Prices Soar at Record Pace in June

While housing price gains may be starting to slow, Case-Shiller’s June report found a year-to-year increase of almost 20%. One Case-Shiller analyst called the past few months “extraordinary not only in the level of price gains but in the consistency of gains across the country.”

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. home prices jumped by a record amount in June as homebuyers competed for a limited supply of available houses, the latest evidence that the housing market remains red-hot.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index soared 19.1% in June compared with a year earlier, the largest increase on records dating back to 2000. The annual price gains in June were higher in all 20 cities than they were in May. Prices are now at record highs in 19 of the 20 cities, with the exception of Chicago.

“The last several months have been extraordinary not only in the level of price gains, but in the consistency of gains across the country,” said Craig Lazzara, managing director of index investment strategy at S&P DJI.

There are signs that the high prices are cooling sales a bit. Sales of existing homes rose 1.5% in July from a year earlier, a separate report showed last week. That’s a much slower pace than the previous month. And the number of contracts signed to buy homes, a leading indicator of final sales, has fallen for two straight months.

Prices rose in June by the most in Phoenix, where they soared 29.3% compared with a year earlier, followed by San Diego, with a 27.1% increase, and Seattle, at 25%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many Americans to seek homes in suburban areas that provide more space and are not as congested as apartments in big cities. Yet many other homeowners have been reluctant to sell during the pandemic, and the construction of new homes has foundered amid shortages of materials, land and labor.

That left just 1.32 million existing homes for sale in July, down 12% from a year earlier. Yet there are signs that the high prices are encouraging more people to sell, as the number of available homes rose in July compared with the previous month.

Another challenge for would-be homebuyers is competition from investors, including some Wall Street firms, who are purchasing single-family homes for rent. Nearly a quarter of all existing home sales in July were all-cash sales, up from 16% a year earlier.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


iBuyers Get More Comfortable with Virtual Home Flipping

The technology to visit, bid and close on homes existed pre-pandemic, and iBuyers now rely on it for more acquisitions – but it’s unclear how successful they’ll be.

NEW YORK – Online real-estate platforms are using computer programs to automate home flipping, with success stories yet to be determined.

The pandemic seems to have resolved initial skepticism about an electronic approach, with virtual showings and similar offerings now viable and often preferred. For example, Zillow said its home purchases more than doubled sequentially in the second quarter, and Redfin reportedly purchased 40% more homes in the second quarter than it did all last year.

Meanwhile, Opendoor said it bought more than 8,500 homes in the second quarter and ended the period with contracts to obtain 8,158 more, worth $3 billion.

Opendoor is currently in 41 markets, and it’s channeling its diversity as both an opportunity and a bulwark: If demand for employment suddenly changes in one city, for instance, the platform wants to have a presence in the city where momentum seems to be building.

Opendoor is now so confident in its iBuyer technology that it no longer has to see a home live – or even virtually – before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Meanwhile, rival Offerpad is cultivating its own technological presence, but also continues to highlight its on-the-ground real-estate expertise as a selling point.

Source: Wall Street Journal (08/30/21) Forman, Laura

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


NAR: Pending Home Sales Drop 1.8% in July

Year-to-year contract signings declined 8.5%. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says the market may be cooling a bit, but there’s still not enough supply to match demand – yet “inventory is slowly increasing” and buyers should “see more options in the coming months.”

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales dipped modestly in July for two consecutive months of declines, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Only the West region registered a month-over-month gain in contract activity; the other three U.S. regions in the study saw drops. Year-to-year, all four regions decreased.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – declined 1.8% to 110.7 in July. Year-over-year, signings fell 8.5%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“The market may be starting to cool slightly, but at the moment there is not enough supply to match the demand from would-be buyers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“That said, inventory is slowly increasing and home shoppers should begin to see more options in the coming months,” Yun adds. “Homes listed for sale are still garnering great interest, but the multiple, frenzied offers – sometimes double-digit bids on one property – have dissipated in most regions.” However, “even in a somewhat calmer market, a number of potential buyers are still choosing to waive appraisals and inspections.”

As of July, 27% of buyers bypassed appraisal and inspection contingencies, in most cases to accelerate the homebuying process, Yun says.

July pending home sales regional breakdown: Month-over-month, the Northeast PHSI fell 6.6% to 92.0 in July, a 16.9% decrease from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index dropped 3.3% to 104.6 last month, down 8.5% from July 2020.

Pending home sales transactions in the South declined 0.9% to an index of 130.9 in July, down 6.7% from July 2020. The index in the West rose 1.9% in July to 99.8, but it’s still down 5.7% year-to-year.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Insider Tips for Gathering More Instagram Viewers

Information should be hyper-local. Post about an upcoming event and include details. If attending, take video and post it – or spotlight local businesses.

NEW YORK – Real estate professionals can take several steps to make their Instagram posts more engaging.

For instance, when agents do something locally or hear about a local event, they should post about it. It not only attracts people intrigued about the event, it also helps position agents as area experts.

When covering local events, agents should provide details, share insider secrets, and give their viewers a reason to attend. If agents physically attend an event, they can share a video on their Instagram story or snap a photo and post it to their feed.

Ideally, information posted on Instagram should be hyperlocal. Outside of an event, possible topics includes whether homes in their area are selling at higher prices compared to last year.

To illustrate an idea, agents should consider having infographics produced – or create their own – to make stats easier to understand.

They should also occasionally share successful real estate transactions, which can be accompanied by interesting pictures of the closing – photos that aren’t posed.

Agents can also highlight local businesses by posting pictures of products they purchased or received as gifts, such as food items or clothing. The business can be tagged to widen the reach of the post, using hashtags like #shoplocal, #buylocal, and other area-identifying hashtags. Additionally, agents can repost a special deal or coupon for a local business.

Other Instagram post ideas include sharing something fun or unique while on the job. If posting about a home’s unusual feature, agents might also include an “easy fix” suggestion or simply tell viewers that this one is a fixer-upper.

Source: RISMedia (08/20/21) Doris, Jameson

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


What Happens Post-Eviction Ban? Even Experts Disagree

PHOENIX (AP) – Tenant advocates and court officials were gearing up Friday for what some fear will be a wave of evictions and others predict will be just a growing trickle after a U.S. Supreme Court action allowing lockouts to resume.

The high court’s conservative majority late Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban placed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The action ends protections for about 3.5 million people in the United States who say they faced eviction in the next two months, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from early August.

“We are incredibly disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling and ask Congress and Governor (Doug) Ducey to take action to prevent what will likely be tragic outcomes for thousands of Arizona families,” said Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the nonprofit organization Wildfire that is helping distribute government rental assistance in Arizona.

“Lives are literally at risk as the pandemic continues to surge and families lose their homes, especially during this time of extreme heat,” she said, referring to Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures. Wildfire is encouraging tenants to keep applying for rental aid and “work with their landlords to develop plans for making payments until the assistance is available,” she said.

Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, worries about the thousands of older people who potentially could be affected by about 9,000 pending eviction cases in the county.

Book said he’s been trying to find people at risk new places to live, but many haven’t taken the situation seriously because the moratorium has been extended numerous times.

But some local officials around the U.S. say the court’s action is unlikely to set off the flood of evictions some advocates predict.

Scott Davis, spokesman for the Maricopa County Justice Courts that handle the bulk of Arizona’s evictions, said he does not expect anything dramatic overnight. He said how things play out will depend on how landlords and their attorneys decide to handle cases.

“We know that eviction case filings over the last 17 months are down about 50% from pre-pandemic,” Davis said. “Some believe there will be a large flood of case activity; others believe it will be just a light sprinkle, which builds gradually over time. Again – it’s up to landlords.”

Davis emphasized no one can be evicted immediately without due process, and the cases could take weeks to be carried out in the courts.

The Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin said Friday that landlords rarely evict anyone who is only a few hundred dollars behind on rent. It said the average eviction judgment for unpaid rent in Wisconsin is more than $2,600.

“Contrary to dire predictions by tenant advocates, there will NOT be a ‘tsunami’ of eviction filings in Wisconsin or in most parts of the country,” the landlord trade association said. “There will NOT be 11 million people suddenly made homeless.”

The court’s action does not affect the temporary bans on evictions placed by a handful of states, including California.

The Treasury Department and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge on Friday sent a letter to all governors, mayors and county officials, urging them to implement their own eviction bans, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“Seven states have taken the steps. More states can take the steps,” Psaki said. She noted that quicker disbursement of rental assistance money could also help stave off evictions.

In Detroit, Ted Phillips, executive director of the United Community Housing Coalition, said the court’s action could prompt more eviction cases.

“We suspect …, there’s probably a large number of cases where landlords never bothered applying for an order of eviction because, well, why bother if there’s a moratorium,” Phillips said.

The court’s move wasn’t a huge surprise. The justices had allowed an earlier pause on lockouts to continue through July, but they hinted in late June they would take this path if asked again to intervene. The moratorium had been scheduled to expire Oct. 3.

The court said in an unsigned opinion that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reimposed the moratorium Aug. 3, lacked the authority to do so under federal law without explicit congressional authorization. The three liberal justices dissented.

Congress is on recess for a few weeks and is unlikely take immediate action on legislation. But key progressive lawmakers Friday urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, to consider passing legislation to extend the moratorium during the pandemic.

One option would be to include an evictions measure in the upcoming budget infrastructure packages that Congress will consider when lawmakers return in September.

“The impending eviction crisis is a matter of public health and safety that demands an urgent legislative solution to prevent further harm and needless loss of human life,” read the letter from Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, Cori Bush, D-Missouri, Jimmy Gomez, D-California, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York. It was signed by 60 lawmakers.

Pelosi said Friday the House “is assessing possible legislative remedies.”

Congress has approved more than $46.5 billion in rental assistance, but so far state and local governments have distributed 11% of that money, just over $5 billion, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.

In Kansas, the state’s Housing Resources Corporation is pushing to process hundreds of rental relief applications after hiring and training more than 100 new employees to help. Still, most assistance money hasn’t been distributed.

Landlord organizations blamed the slow rollout on requirements imposed by Congress that many applicants find cumbersome.

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association, said many mom-and-pop rental owners are teetering on bankruptcy, with about $500 million in rent unpaid statewide.

“Despite such intense financial pressure, Arizona property owners have worked with residents to keep them in their homes, to keep them safe from the pandemic, and to help them qualify for eviction relief that has been slow to arrive for a year and a half,” LeVinus said. “We have strongly encouraged our members to keep working with residents to avoid evictions in every possible instance.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Anna Nichols in Lansing, Michigan; David Fischer in Miami and Lisa Mascaro in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.


Millennials Stress as Economy Undermines Their Ownership Goals

Many millennials saved a partial down payment and could visualize being a homeowner until rising rents and surging home prices kicked the ball farther away.

MIAMI – The dreams of thousands of millennials are slipping away in the scorching housing market of South Florida.

Buying a home has been a challenge for everyone, but millennials are at the age when they were supposed to start setting their life’s course: a home, children, security. Instead, rising rents are cutting into money they could have put toward saving for a home if they could even find one. Many millennials – roughly ages 25 to 40 – are increasingly frustrated.

“It seems impossible,” said 40-year-old Nikki Nors, who lives in Davie. Her search for her first home hasn’t gone well. Most homes have been out of her budget, or they’re too small for her and her family.

The statistics for millennial homeownership are discouraging: 18% of millennials said they planned in 2020 to rent forever, up from 12% the previous year, according to data from Apartment List, an online marketplace.

For those who still plan to get a home, about 63% said they do not have enough money for a down payment.

Despite homeownership rising among millennials as they age, their rates still lag previous generations by almost 8%, according to Jung Choi, senior research associate with the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

“It’s becoming a trend. We do see that millennials, early on, significantly have lower homeownership than in previous generations,” Choi said.

Audrey Torrence straddles the Gen Z and millennial generations at age 25. “I’m doing everything I am supposed to do in my life,” she said – except owning a home. Her plan is to buy a home by the time she is about 28, but the possibility of a staggering rental increases at her apartment complex in Davie have her concerned whether she’ll ever have the money for a down payment.

“Right now, I had a whole plan in action to save up and have that down payment for a house in three years, but if the rent price goes up, it won’t be feasible,” she said.

Roxanna Martinez, 32, wants to buy a townhome. Meanwhile, she’s renting in Miramar.

“The goal was to do it this year, but I’m pushing for next year,” she said. “It’s a little unreachable, but it is the goal.” She’s looking for a second source of income to be able to afford a home. “It’s hard. I feel like we don’t make enough to live on our own,” she said.

Owning a home is seen as one of the biggest indicators of “economic mobility,” or improving one’s economic well-being. But after the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a dream that is increasingly out of reach, experts say. Of millennials who have saved money for a house, 8% have saved $5,000 to $10,000, according to Apartment List – hardly enough in a market like South Florida where the typical home costs a half-million dollars.

Fourteen percent of millennials have saved less than $5,000.

For those who may have money saved, they are finding that the home they envisioned is out of reach, forcing them to compromise on even being able to get a house. Competing with older, wealthier buyers for a limited number of homes seems insurmountable.

“Breaking into the housing market for millennials is torture,” said Florida International University sociology professor Matthew Marr. “There is a cascading effect as older folks are also breaking into the market who have been able to accumulate savings and that is who millennials are competing with.”

Nors, the Davie renter, was looking to purchase her first home before the pandemic hit, but she found her dream delayed due to a limited budget. Many homes within her budget were either too small, in an unsafe area or didn’t have the amount of space she needs for her family.

“I started getting really discouraged,” she said. She’s been forced to delay getting a home and continue to rent in Davie.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


3 U.S. Agencies Pressure States to Help Evicted Tenants

HUD, the Treasury and the U.S. Attorney General sent a letter to local and state governments, asking them to work with the courts and even consider a local eviction ban.

WASHINGTON – In the shadow of the Supreme Court ruling that the latest iteration of the nationwide eviction moratorium is illegal, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen and Attorney General of the Department of Justice Merrick B. Garland sent a letter to state and local government leaders asking for their help.

The full text of the letter is available online.

In the letter, the department heads made a case for helping tenants threatened with eviction, saying the delta variant has sparked a rise in cases while “millions remain at risk for eviction.” It then noted the things each department is doing so far to minimize evictions, including:

The “Treasury Department remains laser-focused on partnering with state and local governments to get Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds out the door and into the hands of renters and landlords.”

The Department of Justice wrote a letter to all state court Chief Justices and court administrators “encouraging them to implement eviction diversion programs that delay or stop eviction proceedings until renters and landlords have had the chance to apply for rental assistance.”

HUD now requires public housing authorities and landlords that receive federal project-based rental assistance to offer additional protections to tenants at risk of eviction.

The letter suggested the following to local leaders:

  • Enact state and local eviction moratoriums during the remainder of the public health emergency.
  • Work with state and local courts to require landlords to apply for ERA before they commence eviction proceedings.
  • Stay eviction proceedings while an ERA application is pending.
  • Use ERA and American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to support the right to counsel and eviction diversion strategies. Tenants are more likely to avoid eviction and remain stably housed when they have access to legal representation.
  • Help tenants navigate the ERA application process.

The department heads thank local governments and say they’ll keep engaging with them over the coming weeks and days.

© 2021 Florida Realtors


Condo Q&A: Board Thinks One Condo Is Bigger than It Is

Larger condo units pay higher dues each month, but the board’s records show that one unit is bigger than it really is. How can the unit owner correct it?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: In our condo, all the units have two bedrooms, but some are slightly larger and pay $40 more in monthly maintenance. Ours is one of the smaller units but is listed in the condo documents as a larger one.

We have been paying the lesser amount, and the association has cashed the checks while telling us we need to pay the difference. Now they are threatening us with interest and late fees. What can we do? –Ron

Answer: For now, at least, you need to pay the amounts in your condominium’s declaration. By not paying the specified amount each month, you are subjecting yourself to late fees, interest and even possible legal action by your community.

When people short-pay their association, it will accept the payment and apply it to delinquent balances, charges and interest before the current month.

The check you write this month is being used for the older, outstanding charges, making your delinquency grow. This causes your debt to snowball, especially when your community’s attorneys are brought in to collect. You will have to pay their fees too.

I understand the instinct to stand up for yourself, but like most things, there is a right and wrong way to do it. You cannot withhold dues, even partially, because you disagree with something the association does.

Simply ignoring the rules, even if they are mistaken, and doing your own thing is bound to make matters worse.

I once saw someone lose their condo to foreclosure over what started as a disagreement over $6 of maintenance dues that spiraled out of control year after year.

You need to pay the amount in your condo documents while fixing the problem.

You will need to prove to your community that the condo docs are mistaken. You may need to hire a professional to measure and report on the actual size of your unit.

Once your community knows of the mistake, a vote by the majority of the unit owners can correct it.

When that happens, you should be entitled to a refund of the overpayments.

© 2021 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


A Secret Bias Hidden in Mortgage-Approval Algorithms

An investigation found lenders still strongly favor white borrowers, but it raised a new question: What if a lender isn’t biased but its data, notably credit scores, is?

NEW YORK – An investigation by The Markup determined that lenders in 2019 were more likely to refuse home loans to people of color than to white people with similar financial characteristics, even when adjusted for newly available financial factors that the mortgage industry previously said would explain racial disparities in lending.

In Markup’s study, lenders were 80% more likely to reject Black applicants and 70% more likely to reject Native American applicants, while Asian/Pacific Islander applicants were 50% more likely to be denied loans and Latino applicants were 40% more likely.

The bias varied by metro area. Finer analysis found that lenders were 150% more likely to reject Black applicants in Chicago than similar white applicants, over 200% more likely to reject Latino applicants in Waco, Texas, and more likely to deny Asian and Pacific Islander applicants than whites in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Underpinning these trends are biases baked into software mandated by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, specifically the Classic FICO scoring algorithm. The credit score determines whether an applicant meets a minimum threshold to be considered for a conventional mortgage in the first place, and traditionally, it’s been considered biased against non-whites because it rewards types of credit that are less accessible to people of color.

The loan approval process must also be okayed by Fannie or Freddie’s automated underwriting software, and research found that some variables within the programs weigh can impact people differently based on race or ethnicity.

“If the data that you’re putting in is based on historical discrimination, then you’re basically cementing the discrimination at the other end,” says Aracely Panameño at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Source: Associated Press (08/25/21) Martinez, Emmanuel; Kirchner, Lauren

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Lumber Prices Plummet – But Other Building Costs Soar

The all-time high cost of $1,700 for a thousand board feet has dropped to $500, but steel products are up 10.8% and gypsum (for drywall) is up almost 16% this year.

NEW YORK – Doug Yearley, CEO of the luxury home builder Toll Brothers, told CNBC that a recent drop in lumber prices promped some significant savings on home building costs – but homebuyers shouldn’t expect to see those savings. While lumber prices are falling, other material costs are surging.

Lumber prices reached a record high of more than $1,700 per thousand board feet in May. But on Wednesday, it averaged about $500. Yearley says that translates to about a $40,000 savings in building a home.

But steel mill product prices increased 10.8% in July following a 6.2% increase in June, the National Association of Home Builders reports. It blames tariffs on steel imports for adding to building costs. Also, prices for gypsum products, which are used for drywall, rose 2.5% in July and are up nearly 16% in 2021. Copper has also been in short supply.

“The tailwind of lumber coming down is very comforting,” Yearley told CNBC’s Jim Cramer. “It’s going to help us. It’s going to drive some margin. But I think it’s going to offset some of the other cost increases that we’re feeling.”

Yearley says it’s also taking longer to build homes with recent supply chain and labor issues. “It took about two weeks longer in our third quarter to deliver a home,” Yearley says. “We expect that to continue for a couple more quarters as we manage through it.”

The median sales price of a new home in July was $390,500, an 18.4% increase compared to a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported this week.

“New residential construction remains strong, but building material pricing and availability are likely to remain significant headwinds,” Charlie Dougherty, an economist at Wells Fargo, told NBC News earlier this month.

Source: “Toll Brothers CEO Says the Drop in ‘Crazy High’ Lumber Prices Will Save $40,000 Per Home,” CNBC (Aug. 25, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Frustrated House Hunters Give Up on Buying a Home

Buyers stressed by bidding wars and limited listings are often worn thin, and unprepared to handle the roster of “normal” things that can threaten to upend a transaction.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiffany Bernard started looking for a home in March. With the lease on her MetroWest apartment not ending until June, she figured she would have time to find something for her and her child. Bernard, 27, was approved for an FHA loan, a mortgage for first-time homebuyers that carries some restrictions. Her real estate agent showed her a lot of condominiums, but most of them didn’t qualify for the FHA.

“There just weren’t a lot of homes in my price range,” said Bernard, who had been approved for $175,000.

Eventually, she found a two-bedroom/2.5-bath in Orlando that she liked. While the inspections and paperwork were being done, the owners let her move in ahead of the closing date as her lease was up.

Four days later, her loan officer called. “She said, ‘This place is not FHA approved. You’re going to have to move back out,’” Bernard said.

Bernard is one of a growing number of homebuyers frustrated with the Orlando housing market who have decided to wait to buy.

“I just had to give up,” she said, adding that she has moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Altamonte Springs.

Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, says a lack of supply and all-cash buyers who don’t care about the condition of the house are driving out many house hunters.

“If you’ve got a more traditional homebuyer, they’re almost certainly coming with financing,” he said. “Whatever their offer, it never gets accepted.”

Real estate agent Vicki Foley of Dunklestern LLC in Volusia County said several of her clients have walked away from the market. “The buyers I’m working with, when we first started out, homes were in their budget,” she said. “Now I don’t have anything to offer them for the amount they got approved.”

When she does find houses, she says they often aren’t in a condition to buy with financing. “We find out there’s a tree growing out of the roof or the roof is too old and can’t get insured,” she said.

Mortgage applications across the U.S. for the purchase of new homes dropped in July to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to investment advisors The Motley Fool. “That’s telling me the desire to buy is down,” Johnson said.

Metro Orlando home prices have been steadily rising throughout the past year, with the median price reaching a record $320,000 in July, according to a report from the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. And while inventory has risen for three straight months from its historic low in April, it’s still down 43% from the same time last year.

The picture for first-time buyers is even worse. Loan guarantee agency Freddie Mac said construction of starter homes, usually two bedrooms and less than 1,400 square feet, is at its lowest level in two decades.

“While Orlando was one of the top Florida markets for new construction during the last decade, only 5% were starter homes,” Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said in an email to the Sentinel. “[T]he share of new starter homes have been declining since the 1970s when starter homes accounted for over 40% of new construction in Orlando.”

Johnson said that problem is growing as home builders tend to focus on building more expensive houses. “Developers have no incentive to build these starter homes,” he said.

One of Foley’s clients, Sterling Scott, 37, recently lost out on a house in Ormond Beach that he was bidding on, his last straw for dealing with the market currently.

“I think the seller’s agents are being nasty,” said Scott, an insurance adjuster. “They’re pitting the market against the buyer. Seller’s agents are scaring the homebuyers, saying you better give them list price and then some.”

Bernard, a pharmacy technician who works from home, is planning on renting for the next year and perhaps try again after that.

“I am trying not to give up hope,” she said. “I’m still keeping track of things, so when next year comes and I have another opportunity, I’ll be in the right spot to buy.”

© 2021 Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Mortgage Lender Gives $500K Discount to Vaccinated Borrowers

Neat Loans says COVID-19 created a new health risk for borrowers, and the credit is one way to lessen the chance that one of its loans will go into foreclosure.

BOULDER, Colo. – Neat Loans announced that clients who get a COVID-19 vaccine will receive a $500 discount on home financing through the company. The discount applies to $500 on closing costs for residential purchases or when refinancing a mortgage loan.

More companies started requiring employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office, but some firms are extending vaccination benefits to clients, generally with offers that entice more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

For a lender, however, it’s not just a concern for borrowers’ health. It’s also a way to lower the risk that someone will lose their ability to pay the mortgage, increasing the chance that their home will go into foreclosure.

“Mortgage lenders need to have important conversations with their clients about the home-buying process and their vaccine status as it relates to employment,” says Luke Johnson, CEO of Neat Capital, a financial services technology company based in Boulder, Colo. “This is partly due to responsible companies requiring employees be vaccinated to keep workplaces safe – and employment status is critical when trying to fund a home loan.”

To be eligible for the discount, borrowers must show a digital or electronic picture of a vaccine record. Neat says it will also make the lender credit available to unvaccinated borrowers who attest that they are unable to be vaccinated due to health status or religious reasons.

Source: Neat Capital Inc.

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


FAU Economist Says Homes ‘Less Overpriced’ in July

The overheated market may be slowly cooling. Even if July numbers just reflect the usual summer slowdown, it could mean traditional patterns are starting to return.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Homes in South Florida are a little less overvalued than they were a month ago, a positive sign after a year of insane pricing.

Homes in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties sold for 13% above their long-term pricing trends in July, a slight decline from the month before, when homes were overvalued by 16%, according to researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

“I’m excited about these numbers,” FAU economist Ken H. Johnson said. “I would like to see prices with a premium that is not so large, but we are going in the right direction.”

The slight dip from last month’s index could signal a slight slowdown in the market, as mortgage applications have fallen. Or it could be the typical summer slowdown as families go on vacation.

It’s still a good sign if it’s only a summer slowdown, as it would show that the real estate market could be headed to more traditional seasonal patterns, Johnson said.

Jonson and Florida International University professor Eli Beracha analyzed over 100 metro areas, using 25 years of data from Zillow on single-family homes, townhomes and condos. Out of nine metros in Florida, the South Florida area ranked last in overpricing. Lakeland and the Tampa Bay area were the most overpriced in Florida, both at a little more than 31% above where they should be.

Housing values either fell or remained level from one month to the next, the researchers found.

“While we’re almost certainly nearing the peak of the current housing cycle, it’s nowhere near as serious as it was more than a decade ago, when Florida homes were overvalued by 60% or more,” Johnson said. “Prices eventually will level off or fall, and recent buyers who want to sell would be hard-pressed to earn their money back.

Median sales prices leveled out for the most part in South Florida in July, according to data from the Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors. The median price stood at $500,000 in Palm Beach County for the second month in a row. It was $495,000 in Broward County, down slightly from June, and $515,000 in Miami-Dade, a slight increase.

“Because the summer months tend to be slower, many buyers I have been working with have taken advantage of this relatively quieter time and have been able to strike deals on homes that may have had more buyer demand in busier months,” said Bonnie Heatzig, executive director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Eviction Ban Ends – Realtor Groups Win in Supreme Court

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the CDC overstepped its authority in issuing an eviction moratorium, and it reiterated that opinion yesterday, ending the current ban. Justices didn’t disagree with the ban’s intent but said Congress “failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration.”

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court late Thursday ruled against the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium, stating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded its authority in issuing the ban amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the high court said in its ruling, with its three liberal judges dissenting.

The ruling ends protracted litigation between the Biden administration and the Alabama Association of Realtors who have been fighting for months against the CDC’s ban on evictions.

The moratorium was originally put in place by Congress last year, but that elapsed in July. Then-President Trump then tapped the CDC in September to prohibit evictions, which it did. The federal agency then extended the ban in March and again in June with the White House saying that once it expired on July 31 it would not be extended again.

In that time, a district court ruled in favor of the Realtors and vacated the moratorium on the grounds it was unlawful, a ruling that was overturned on appeal.

In late June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the Alabama landlords, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing that the CDC did exceed its authority but he would allow the ban to stand as it was to expire in a few weeks’ time, which would allow for additional distribution of Congress-approved rental assistance.

But then early this month, the CDC extended the moratorium another 60 days.

Unauthorized actions in pursuit of desirable ends

In its opinion on Thursday, the court said the administration has had an additional three months since the district court’s ruling to distribute rental assistance funds and in that time the harm to the Realtors has increased while the interests of the government have decreased.

“Whatever interest the government had in maintaining the moratorium’s original end date to ensure the orderly administration of those programs has since diminished,” it said. “And Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration.”

The justices said the issue would be wholly different if Congress had specifically authorized the action and not the CDC, which used a decades-old statute that gives it the power to implement measures, such as fumigation and pest extermination, to do so.

“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant,” the justices said, referring to the highly contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading throughout the country. “But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”

Writing on behalf of the dissenting judges, Justice Stephen Breyer said the court expedited its ruling without a full briefing on the arguments on a decision that will affect millions.

Breyer said they disagree with the decision as it is unclear that the CDC lacked the authority to issue the moratorium, the balance of equities favors leaving it in place and public interest “is not favored by the spread of disease or a court’s second-guessing of the CDC’s judgement.”

“These questions call for considered decision-making, informed by full briefing and argument,” he said. “Their answers impact the health of millions. We should not set aside the CDC’s eviction moratorium in this summary proceeding.”

The White House late Thursday said it was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President [Joe] Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions – from cities and states to local courts, landlords, cabinet agencies – to urgently act to prevent evictions.”

Bob Pinnegar, president and chief executive of the National Apartment Association, said he was “pleased” with the ruling, urging the government to instead deal with the “debt tsunami” affecting renters and landlords.

“Though the moratorium is lifted, it is important to remember that billions in debt remain on renters’ records and housing providers’ shoulders – it is past time to focus on the most sustainable path forward of full rental assistance funding and streamlined distribution,” he said in a statement. “Only be moving past moratoriums can we ensure America’s 40 million renters have affordable homes today, tomorrow and in the future.”

Meanwhile Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who protested the moratorium’s expiration for five days outside the Capitol, said they aren’t done fighting.

“If they think this partisan ruling is going to stop us from fighting to keep people housed, they’re wrong,” she said. “Congress needs to act immediately. For every unhoused or soon to be unhoused person in our districts.”

Copyright 2021 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.


Florida Realtors Honors Barry Grooms: 2021 Realtor of the Year

ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 26, 2021 – Florida Realtors® recognized Barry Grooms, 2020 Florida Realtors president, as its 2021 Realtor® of the Year. The award – one of several – was presented Thursday during the state association’s annual Convention & Trade Expo at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla.

“Wow, what a year, guys – and let’s set the record straight, it (2020) wasn’t a bad year,” Grooms told the audience of about 425 people on accepting his award. “It was a different year and challenging at times. But, when my leadership team picked our theme for last year, ‘Better, Faster, Stronger,’ who knew that by April, during a pandemic, we would have crushed our goals. And that’s all because of you – you took safety practices seriously and you acted with care, kindness and responsibility.”

He thanked his leadership team, his wife Sherry, his family, his office, the Florida Realtors staff, all Realtor members and especially Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant for working together to weather the challenges created by COVID-19.

“Thank you for choosing me as your 2020 president,” Grooms said. “It truly was an honor. … One day, COVID will be over. This will pass, and life will then return somewhat to normalcy. And when that happens, I’ll be disappointed if you don’t keep something up: During COVID, you guys called each other, you checked in on each other and you took care of each other.

“Don’t stop.”

Florida Realtors has presented Realtor of the Year and Associate Realtor of the Year awards for 67 years. Winners are honored as the greatest individual lifetime contributors to their local Realtor board, community, state association and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Over the course of his real estate career, Grooms has passionately worked to make a positive impact on his profession, advance the industry and help his Realtor colleagues. He is a member of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

A leader in regional, state and national real estate organizations, Grooms served his local association on countless committees and as president in 2009. He was recognized as its Realtor of the Year in 2010, and most recently, was honored with its Distinguished Service Award in 2019. The Distinguished Service Award recognized his contributions to the local, state and national Realtor organizations and the community.

At the state level, Grooms has served on countless Florida Realtors committees, forums, task forces and subcommittees over the years, ranging from chairing Public Policy to Finance to the Business Trends & Technology Forum. He has been a key contact for Florida Realtors with state legislators, helping to provide information and research on issues important to all Floridians; and, he has served in every officer position, from District 13 vice president to Florida Realtors president in 2020.

During his year as president, Grooms faced unprecedented challenges caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting economic lockdowns, turmoil and concerns created by COVID-19. He realized that 2020 was going to be completely different than what he’d dreamed of, but he took on the challenge with dedication, perseverance, good humor and a can-do attitude, all with the goal of helping Realtor members manage their business and get through the pandemic safely.

His leadership and advocacy during this time helped to encourage Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare real estate “an essential service.” That declaration enabled Realtors across the state to follow COVID-19 guidelines, turn to virtual and digital technology, and use recommended practices to continue to conduct business and safely help their clients even during the pandemic.

Grooms has always felt passionately that “Realtors do so much more” and “are so much more” than most people realize. In 2020, Florida Realtors created and produced its “Celebrating the Realtor Heart” project, which culminated in a large-scale, black and white photo gallery showcasing Realtors across Florida and the positive impact they have on their communities.

On the national level, Grooms currently serves on the National Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors and the 2021 Major Investor Council. He also has served on NAR’s State and Local Issues Mobilization Support Committee, the State and Local Issues Policy Committee, Meeting and Conference Committee and the Realtor Safety Advisory Committee. A strong supporter of Realtor advocacy and public policy efforts, he is a major investor in RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee).

He also finds time to give back to his community. Grooms volunteers for a variety of causes and community efforts, including Realize Bradenton, Boy Scouts of America, Hope Family Services, Keep Manatee Beautiful, Meals on Wheels, Children’s Miracle Network, the Anna Maria Privateers and Hurricane Irma relief. He has served as a director for the Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce and for Feeding Empty Little Tummies.

Associate Realtor of the Year

Florida Realtors honored Ann DeFries of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors as Associate Realtor of the Year for 2021. A real estate professional for more than 30 years, DeFries has consistently advocated for homeowners’ rights, fair taxation and the protection of the real estate profession.

In 2008, a survey from The Swanepoel Trends Report named DeFries one of the 25 most influential women in real estate in 2008; that same year, she served as president of the National Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR). She has made great contributions to the local chapters of WCR in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

DeFries has served on her local association’s Board of Directors for over 15 years, and well as on numerous committees; currently, she chairs the Leadership Academy and serves on the Past Presidents Council and Strategic Advisory Group, among others. She was president of the former Realtors Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and recognized as its Realtor of the Year in 2006. In 2017, she was awarded the Jo M. Wright Political Involvement Award by the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors for her advocacy and drive to involve others in political action and fundraising.

On the state level, DeFries has been a member of Florida Realtors Board of Directors for more than 20 years and served on many committees including as chair of Public Policy and Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. She also was a legislative key contact for state Rep. George R. Moraitis Jr., (R-Fort Lauderdale). She was honored by Florida Realtors with its Realtor Achievement Award in 2015. In 2000, DeFries served as the Florida chapter president for WCR.

On the national level, she is a federal political coordinator for the National Association of Realtors, a member of the NAR Strategy Committee and its Board of Directors, and also serves Florida Realtors on the NAR Director Committee.

In her community, DeFries is active in local networking events and volunteers with the Palm Beach County Habitat for Humanity. She served on the Deerfield Beach Planning and Zoning Committee for over 15 years.

Realtor Achievement Award

Jack Rodriguez, a member of Greater Tampa Realtors, was named the winner of Florida Realtors 2021 Realtor Achievement Award, which recognizes a Realtor who serves as manager, broker of record or officer in his or her company. The award acknowledges the winner’s previous three years’ contributions to the community, local, state and national Realtor associations.

Rodriguez has served on numerous committees at his local association, including as chair of the Governmental Affairs, Finance, Nominating, Fair Housing and Long Range Planning committees. In fact, his local association service history has 195 entries – he was president of the association in 2009 and president of its Realtors Care Foundation in 2021. He was named Realtor of the Year for Greater Tampa Realtors in 2013, received its Meritorious Award for Extended Service in 2012 and the C. Ed Owings Award for Outstanding Community Service in 1995.

He has also been active in Florida Realtors, serving on the Board of Directors from 2002-2020 and on numerous committees, including the Commercial Alliance, Public Policy, Legislative Think Tank, Local Board President Exchange and as chair of the Building Committee. He has served on and as chair of the Florida Real Estate Commission, during 1991-1995.

On the national level, Rodriguez has served on the National Association of Realtors Board of Directors and the Land Use, Property Rights and Environmental Committee. He also has been a federal political coordinator for NAR and named to its RPAC Hall of Fame in 2019.

He has long supported the Tampa Bay community, including as a Hillsborough County Zoning Hearing Master, a member of the Central Bank of Tampa Board of Directors, a member of the Hillsborough County-City Planning Commission, a University of Tampa trustee and president of the University of Tampa National Alumni Association. He also has been active with the Tampa Bay Little League and on the Board of Directors for the local Red Cross.

Newcomer of the Year Award

Winning Florida Realtors Newcomer Award for 2021 was Sara Brand Estrada, a member of the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR). The Newcomer Award recognizes someone who entered the Realtor profession within the past three years, and, during that time, made notable contributions to the local and state associations, as well as to his or her community.

She has been active with NABOR since 2018, working with several committees, including its Young Professionals Network (YPN) and the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC). Estrada recently became a major investor in RPAC to support advocacy and public policy issues. She was honored with NABOR’s Realtor Rising Star Award in 2020.

She is currently a member of her local association’s Leadership Academy and works with NABOR’s outreach programs to help support needs in the local community. She also volunteers with Valerie’s House, a local organization that helps grieving children.

Estrada has been involved with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and also supported Florida Realtors “Clean Up Florida Waters” efforts with others from her local board.

Commercial Realtor Achievement Award

The Commercial Realtor Achievement Award honors a Realtor’s lifetime of contributions to commercial activities at the local, state, national and community levels. Tina Marie Eloian, a member of Greater Tampa Realtors and the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors, received the 2021 Commercial Realtor Achievement Award.

After 25 years as an instructor, Eloian remains passionate about teaching colleagues the ins and outs of specializing in commercial real estate. Her courses have ranged from “Discovering Commercial Real Estate” to “Multi-Family 101” to “Tampa Bay Brownfields, an Economic and Environmental Opportunity.” She served as president of the local West Coast chapter of CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member).

At the state level, Eloian was president of the CCIM state of Florida chapter in 2019. Highlights that occurred during her year as president included: the first graduating class of a mentorship program started throughout the state; the revitalization of a sponsorship program for skills and business tools for the commercial Realtor; and an increase of membership to over 1,000 members. She also played a significant role in 2017 (she was vice president of finance) when CCIM Florida was named the No. 1 CCIM chapter globally. She received the CCIM Florida President’s Appreciation Award in 2016.

Nationally, she is the CCIM representative to the Commercial Real Estate Research Advisory Board in 2021. Eloian served on the Board of Directors for CCIM as regional vice president for the state of Florida in 2020 and has been a member of NAR’s Commercial Alliance. She also is a graduate of the Jay W. Levine Leadership Academy, CCIM Global.

As a Tampa native, Eloian remains active in her local community. She is the current chair-elect for the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and has been on its Board of Directors since 2016. Since 1996, she has been a member of the Board of Directors of McClain Inc., and was a past president of this nonprofit organization that helps persons with developmental disabilities.

Humanitarian of the Year

Proving that Realtors make a difference, Steven David, a member of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors, was named the 2021 Humanitarian of the Year by Florida Realtors. David has long supported efforts to combat homelessness as well as provide assistance to military veterans who may be struggling with injuries or other issues.

He was instrumental in starting a program, the Broward Partnership, that provides temporary shelter to those facing homelessness – often well under market value and in some cases at no charge, along with medical attention, behavioral health services, rental placement and more. David reached out to other like-minded property owners, who joined in his efforts with the Broward Partnership, which now provides shelter assistance in multiple properties throughout greater Fort Lauderdale. Currently, he is responsible for housing “homeless to homed” families in 27 homes or apartments, several of which are in his personal property portfolio.

What inspired David? He has owned residential investment property for 47 years and has seen good people find themselves in tough times. An instructor for many years, he was conducting research for some of his training courses and discovered research by John Hopkins Medicine and others that found approximately 26% of the population faces mental health issues. Thus, in a group of 20 people, at least five are facing challenges that no one may realize.

This reality hit home for David, due to his own learning disability, and that ultimately lead to the creation of his “compassion portfolio” – the units he keeps available for those in need through the Broward Partnership and other organizations.

The Broward Partnership has been going strong since 1986, making a difference in so many lives in David’s community.

Spirit of Advocacy Award

William A. “Bill” Watson Jr., the 1981 president of Florida Realtors and a member of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, was recognized as the 2021 winner of the Spirit of Advocacy Award.

This award honors a member of Florida Realtors who has demonstrated excellence in advocacy at the local board, state association, national association and community within the governmental or political arena over their lifetime. Monetary donations are not a consideration for the award.

At the local level, Watson has been an active voice for real estate and the profession with elected officials since the late 1970s. He has voted in every election since 1961. Florida’s 10-mill limitation on school taxes exists because Watson and a colleague introduced legislation to the Florida Speaker of the House in 1968. He served on the Board of Governors Multiple Listing Service from 1967-1975. He was president of the Jacksonville Area Mortgage Brokers in 1966 and president of Jacksonville Association of Realtors in 1968. His local association named him its Realtor of the Year in 1972.

At the state level, Watson organized the largest Legislative Days in history with 2,500 Realtors attending in 1981. The event is now called Great American Realtor Days and continues to serve as a dedicated forum enabling Realtors to meet their legislators and share their voice on issues of importance to all Floridians. Over the years, he has chaired or been a member of numerous committees for Florida Realtors and was the District 1 vice president in 1973, in addition to serving as Florida Realtors president in 1981. He has been a member of the state association’s Board of Directors since 1962 – and, since 1961, has only missed the Florida Realtors convention twice.

At the national level, through the National Association of Realtors, Watson was one of 20 Realtors in 2003 who met with Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and made a presentation to the board.

In the Jacksonville area community, the list of committees and local organizations that Watson has chaired or been a member of goes on and on. In 2011 and 2012, he served as the chair of the Board of Directors for the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and continues to be a member of that board. He served on the 1966 Advisory Committee to the local Government Commission that recommended consolidation of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County. Watson also is a past member of the Mayor’s Economic Council for Jacksonville and a former director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce for many years.

Watson is a dedicated advocate for private property rights, a strong voice for Realtor engagement and investment, and he represents the real estate profession at its best.

Education Volunteer of the Year

The Education Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes members who volunteered their time and energy to advance professional development for Realtors. This year’s Education Volunteer of the Year winner is Jean Garcia Dorazio from Greater Tampa Realtors.

A Realtor in Florida for over 30 years, Dorazio is a licensed real estate instructor and a licensed title agent. She has sold residential and commercial real estate, and has worked in property management as well as land development. She managed a successful real estate brokerage with over 30 agents for seven years, and is an active agent in the Tampa Bay area.

Her resume includes serving as president of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) Tampa chapter and chairing various committees for WCR, Greater Tampa Realtors and the Tampa Bay Builders Association. She has also been a member of the Board of Directors for Greater Tampa Realtors and the Tampa Bay Builders Association for over 10 years.

Instructing courses to help fellow Realtors grow their knowledge is how Dorazio gives back to her industry.

Educator of the Year

This year’s Florida Realtors Educator of the Year is Deborah Bethune, a member of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors. As a Realtor licensed in Florida and Georgia, Bethune provides strategic marketing and transaction management services to her clients across South Florida markets.

She is a graduate of Tuskegee University and a graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University, completing her studies for a master’s degree in Human Resource Management. Bethune is passionate about educating individuals through community initiatives that address economic empowerment.

In 2019, she was recognized by the Global Trade Chamber as one of its “100 Successful Women in Business” as well by the Atlanta Business League.

Bethune’s primary goal for each class she instructs is to inspire participants to continually seek professional development. A published writer and poised public speaker, she prides herself on sharpening the skills of others.

Florida Realtor magazine awards

Florida Realtor Magazine Best Article: Ellen Mitchel, Miami Association of Realtors, for the article, “Become the Go-To Resource in Your Community,” August 2020, Florida Realtor magazine

Florida Realtor Magazine Editorial Excellence: Ray Collins, Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, for the article, “Producing Professional Videos,” October 2020, Florida Realtor magazine

© 2021 Florida Realtors


Under New Programs, ‘Cash Offers’ Aren’t Cash Offers

Some private companies and even iBuyers have programs that allow buyers who need a mortgage to present offers that appear to be all-cash, a category that many analysts largely assume belongs to investors, second-home buyers and some retirees.

CHICAGO – Some newer instant cash-buyer firms help homebuyers compete in a market that’s heavy with all-cash offers. iBuyers, for example, have been helping buyers make cash-backed offers or provide cash financing as a way to help buyers catch a seller’s attention in a bidding war.

The increasing presence of these companies is at least partially behind the increasing percentage of homebuyers bringing cash to closing. In July, cash sales comprised 23% of existing-home sales, up from 16% a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reports. Support from iBuyers and fin-tech companies is behind much of that growth, whether making cash offers on their own behalf or helping to provide cash financing to homebuyers, NAR says.

Buyers who use an all-cash offer program generally do it to hopefully win a bidding war. Sellers often prefer all-cash offers because they don’t have to worry about a buyer’s financing falling through.

iBuyers – such as Opendoor, Redfin Now, Zillow Offers, Keller Offers and others – have previously offered to buy homes in all-cash transactions. But a newer business model has emerged in which the institutional buyers are purchasing a property not for themselves but on behalf of buyer, who can make a more competitive offer.

For example, Opendoor launched a cash-backed offer program in March. They will back up a buyer’s offer with a cash offer to the home seller if the buyer fails to secure financing by the closing date. If the buyer is unable to get financing, Opendoor purchases the home for the buyer, and holds it for 120 days with a fee of 1% of the purchase. If the buyer still can’t get financing, Opendoor will continue to hold the property for another 120 days, though at an increasing fee structure.

Another company, Ribbon, purchases the homes for cash on a buyer’s behalf and provides the homebuyer more time to secure mortgage financing.

Many of these companies work on a structure where they’ll buy the property for the buyer with cash but charge the buyer a percentage of the purchase price for holding it.

“The cost of obtaining a cash-backed offer or cash offers is not much higher than the 3.7% to 4.4% average percent above list price that buyers have already been offering to sweeten their offer,” says Gay Cororaton, research economist for NAR. “Moreover, cash-backed or cash offers give assurance to the seller that there is a ready institutional buyer who will purchase the home should the buyer not be able to secure mortgage financing.”

The role of fin-tech companies, or iBuyers who provide cash-backed buyer offers or cash financing, will likely increase in the future due to the competitive market, Cororaton says.

Source: “Cash Sales Rise to 23% With Growing Entry of iBuyers and Fin-tech Companies,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog (Aug. 24, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


A Marginal Rise for 30-Year Mortgage Rates: Up to 2.87%

Mortgage rates have changed little in the past few weeks – not enough to signal any kind of alarming trend. Last week, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.86%

WASHINGTON (AP) – Mortgage rates edged marginally higher last week, continuing a pattern of little movement in recent weeks amid uncertainty over the effect of the delta coronavirus variant on the economic recovery.

Average rates for home loans remain historically low at under 3%. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year mortgage ticked up to 2.87% from 2.86% last week. The benchmark rate, which reached a peak this year of 3.18% in April, stood at 2.91% a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, rose to 2.17% from 2.16% last week.

Worries are growing that the now-dominant delta variant is starting to cause an economic slowdown, uncertainty that has kept mortgage rates in a narrow band. In recent weeks, many economists have been downgrading their estimates of growth in the U.S. economy for this quarter and for 2021 as a whole, as the variant has sent confirmed COVID cases rising throughout the country.

A government report Thursday showed that U.S. gross domestic product – the total output of goods and services – grew at a robust 6.6% annual rate in the April-June quarter, slightly faster than previously estimated.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in five weeks, even though the economy and the job market have been recovering briskly from the pandemic recession. Claims edged up by 4,000, to 353,000 from a pandemic low 349,000 a week earlier.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Real Estate’s 2021 ‘Slow Season’ Won’t be Slow

The market has been unpredictable, and the delta variant is only one of RE’s wild cards. Still, most experts don’t expect sales to slow much as summer turns into fall.

CHICAGO – Will bidding wars continue? Will home prices stay elevated? Will homebuyer demand remain strong? Heading into the fall season, economists are optimistic about the market’s direction considering its unpredictability since the beginning of the pandemic.

For the most part, they agree it won’t be a return to the usual slowing pace of sales in the fall – nor will prices slide as much as they usually do when families settle into a new school year.

The fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19 remains a wild card for the housing market, but, at the moment, “I expect an unusually busy fall season,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com’s chief economist. “Sellers are putting homes on the market. Normally, this activity happens early in the spring.”

The National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) latest housing report finds that housing inventories are increasing, up 7.3% in July compared to June. A greater number of homes for sale will lessen the intensity of multiple offers, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“We’re seeing the gap narrowing between demand and supply,” adds Gay Cororaton, NAR’s director of housing and commercial research. However, “there’s still a huge, huge gap.”

Buyers continue to purchase homes at a frantic pace, and 89% of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month, according to NAR’s data.

Hopeful buyers welcome inventory increase

Buyer demand likely will remain strong, especially as mortgage rates stay near record lows.

“The fear of missing out on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal will likely entice additional buyers,” realtor.com reports. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.87% this week, according to Freddie Mac.

Even with an increase in listings, homebuyers will likely still face intense competition.

“Don’t expect deals in the fall if you are house hunting in the most desirable part of a market or competing for a particularly nice house,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, a building consulting firm. “Homes that stand out for one reason or another are still flying off the shelf.”

The fall housing market will still be very strong, agrees Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “It just won’t be as frenetic as what had been experienced earlier in the year.”

Source: “The Housing Market Continues to Cool. What Will This Fall Be Like?” realtor.com® (Aug. 25, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Are Scripts Dead? Consumers Prefer Good Listeners

During listing conversations, providing good answers may be more important than leading the conversation. Be present, engaged and eager to understand what sellers want.

SAN FRANCISCO – The listing conversation between agents and clients is important. When agents meet a seller to have a conversation, it’s essential that agents be truly present, engaged, and eager to find out what the sellers really want.

Agents need to convince clients that they’re a necessary part for sellers to reach their goals, and it’s not necessary to memorize scripts to do that.

The placement of a home in the MLS is just a tool, and clients need someone who knows how to use that tool and everything else in the tool chest..

To get the best price for a home in today’s market and a higher return on investment, and to protect the family’s interest, especially in multiple offer situations, agents need tools that go beyond just an MLS listing.

Metaphors and analogies help make sense of even complicated situations because they break them down into easy-to-relate-to terms. Agents should develop an analogy that addresses potential objections too, and, almost like a script, they can become a natural part of conversations.

If an attorney wants to FSBO their home, for example, an agent can say, “Mr. Attorney, there’s a reason why savvy attorneys don’t represent themselves in court, right? They’re too close to the problem; it’s hard to be objective. The same is true of selling your home.”

Source: Inman (08/16/21) Davis, Darryl

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Boca Raton First City to Boost Condo Rules Over Inspections

Two months after the Champlain Towers tragedy, Boca Raton created new rules, with first inspections now due after 30 years. About 242 buildings are impacted.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Boca Raton became the first in Palm Beach County to create a building recertification program on Tuesday. The day marked two months since the tragic fall of the Champlain Towers condo complex in Surfside.

The new ordinance will require buildings at their 30-year mark to submit an inspection report every 10 years. It does not include single-family homes and duplexes. The law will affect buildings that stand more than three stories high or ones that measure more than 5,000 square feet and hold more than 500 people.

“I don’t think this is a reaction solely to the Surfside tragedy,” Mayor Scott Singer said. “Obviously that got people thinking about it. But it caused me to look at, ‘Why doesn’t Palm Beach County have a recertification ordinance in place?’

“I think the 30-year timeline is appropriate. I don’t think there’s anyone today saying that if they were passing a new ordinance, they’d start with 40 years.”

Boca Raton has identified 242 buildings that will immediately be subject to recertification under the new ordinance. The city will follow a schedule for four years to eliminate the backlog in four areas starting east and west of Interstate 95.

Boca Raton may mail the first notice of required inspection in the next few months. The notice will be sent via certified mail at least one year before the deadline. If returned unclaimed, it will be posted at the building.

Under the new ordinance, building owners must submit a structural report and an electrical report, and identify any deficiencies that need to be solved. Building owners who submit an inadequate report will have 30 days to offer corrections and will have up to three opportunities to do so. After that, those who fail to get city approval will be referred to the Permitting and Construction Review Board for final determination.

Boca Raton will give building owners 30 days to put forward a repair plan, which must detail the proposed schedule to complete repairs and to submit applications for any required permits. Building officials will determine if the proposed schedule is reasonable and if the building is in any imminent danger.

Building owners who fail to submit the inspection report, get approval of the repair plan or complete the repairs within the timeframe outlined will be subject to fines or other penalties.

Boca Raton plans to create a database that will make inspection reports and other information related to the building recertification program available to the public in accordance with the Public Records Act.

While the City Council passed the new ordinance in a unanimous vote, Councilwoman Yvette Drucker had some reservations. She questioned if the city moved too fast without giving investigators enough time to determine the source of the condo collapse that killed 98 people.

“We have to get this right for our community,” Drucker said. “If things go wrong or we don’t make the right decisions, it’s going to affect a lot of people. I’m kind of 50-50. We have to keep our community safe. However, part of me feels that there’s so many things that we do not know yet that I wish we had a little more time to ponder it over.”

Drucker echoed the concerns of several residents who urged the City Council to wait for investigators, but Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke argued that it would be long before anyone knew what happened.

“If we wait, we’ll be waiting for the same issues that we’re talking about tonight,” O’Rourke said. “If we wait a year to do that, then in a year we’ll have to address those issues. I think being proactive as opposed to reactive is very important. To wait and hear the Surfside report, I think it could be years because there’s so many lawsuits involved. Who knows when we’ll know why that really happened? I’m sure that shoddy construction had a lot to do with it, but doing work like this will eliminate that.”

Councilwoman Monica Mayotte agreed with O’Rourke. She also argued that Boca Raton should not wait for the county or the state to create a building recertification program, pointing out that the state will not address the matter until the next legislative session in January 2022. She added that the city could later make changes to align its law with the county and the state.

“We’re going to learn as we go and we’ll make changes as we go,” Mayotte said. “I think that affords us the chance to be able to put a stake in the ground now. Maybe we can make some changes down the road once some of our backlogs have been taken care of. We can then add these smaller buildings into the ordinance to be able to take care of them, too.”

Councilman Andy Thomson also stood firm in his support for the new ordinance. He said other parts of the state were not situated like Boca Raton, pointing out that the City Council sought to create a building recertification program that met the needs of a coastal city.

“Any solution they have will be statewide and will be one-size fits all,” Thompson said. “There are times when that makes sense, but there are other times when, for example, a coastal community with high-rise buildings may need to move faster and may need to move with more urgency.

“I don’t want to see perfection be the enemy of progress. In my view, this ordinance is substantial progress. It wouldn’t be prudent for us to not move because the health and safety of our residents is the number one priority for us.”

© 2021 www.palmbeachpost.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Treasury Dept.: Only 11% of Rental Assistance Has Gone Out

The $46.5B program to help tenants pay back rent to their landlords is struggling, so the U.S. Treasury said Wed. that it eased application requirements to speed up the process. For example, it will now allow tenants to “self-assess their income and risk of becoming homeless.”

BOSTON (AP) – Only 11% of the tens of billions of dollars in federal rental assistance has been distributed, the Treasury Department said Wednesday, in the latest sign that the program is struggling to reach the millions of tenants at risk of eviction.

The latest data shows that the pace of distribution increased in July over June and that nearly a million households have been helped. But with the Supreme Court considering a challenge to the federal eviction moratorium, the concern is that a wave of evictions will happen before much of the assistance has been distributed.

Lawmakers approved $46.5 billion in rental assistance earlier this year and most states are distributing the first tranche of $25 billion. According to the Treasury Department, $5.1 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance has been distributed by states and localities through July, up from $3 billion at the end of June and only $1.5 billion by May 31.

Several states, including Virginia and Texas, have been praised for moving quickly to get the federal money out. But many others have still only distributed a small percentage of the rental help.

Housing advocates blame the slow rollout partly on the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump that they say was slow to explain how the money could be spent. The criteria, while clearer under the Biden administration, was still criticized for a burdensome process that seemed more focused on preventing fraud than helping tenants.

Advocates also said states made things worse – some waited months to set up programs and others created bureaucratic hurdles.

The Treasury Department has repeatedly tweaked its guidance to encourage states and local governments to streamline the distribution of the funds. The Biden administration has also asked states to create eviction diversion programs that aim to resolve disputes before they reach the courts.

Speeding up the process

On Wednesday, Treasury released additional guidance to try to speed up the process. They are encouraging programs to allow tenants to self-assess their income and risk of becoming homeless among other criteria. Many states and localities, fearing fraud, have measures in place that can take weeks to verify an applicant qualifies for help.

Treasury also said states and localities now can distribute money in advance to landlords and utility providers “in anticipation of the full satisfaction of application and documentation requirement.” And they approved providing money for tenants who have outstanding rental debt in collection, which would make it easier for them to find new housing.

“For those cities and states that wanted even more clarity that they can and should use simpler applications, speedier processes and a self-attestation option without needless delays – this answers that call,” said Gene Sperling, who is charged with overseeing implementation of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

“The guidance could not be more clear in expressing that this is a public health and eviction emergency that requires putting quick and sound rental relief above unnecessary paperwork that will not reach families in time.”

The administration also announced measures aimed at averting evictions at federally-back housing, including 400,000 rental units in Department of Agriculture-backed multifamily properties. It also is offering additional rental assistance to at-risk veterans and their families and working to ensure tenants in public housing can access rental assistance.

For assistance in Florida, visit OurFlorida.com.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


U.S. Demographics Favor Fla.: Old, Southern and Retired

Central Fla.’s The Villages is the nation’s fastest growing metro, and a possible look at the nation’s future if more relocating Southern retirees wield their influence.

NEW YORK – The fastest growing metro area in the country is The Villages retirement community in Central Florida, and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Allison Schrager says that 2020 U.S. Census finding forecasts the nation’s economic and political direction.

The takeaway from the Census’ finding, according to Schrager, is of an increasingly concentrated political and economic power in the South, wielded by older, less dynamic Americans who tend to rely on government benefits.

“An aging population … could mean lower interest rates, at least for a few decades, because older people tend to hold more assets after a lifetime of saving, and they shift some of their assets into bonds to reduce risk in their portfolios,” Schrager suggests.

“America will need those low interest rates because the country will be spending a lot: an older population means more people in the economy collecting benefits and fewer working,” he adds. “And that puts a strain on growth, which means less money will be available to invest in younger Americans and infrastructure.”

Thanks largely to aging baby boomers, retirement is the only category that has seen major growth in terms of relocation, which could signify more retirees moving. If that trend continues, Schrager speculates that entitlements will keep growing, and a lawful expansion of Medicare benefits will boost both the Southern retiree and retiree caretaker populations.

“So a larger share of tax dollars will flow towards states like Arizona and Florida, where retirees live and vote,” Schrager concludes.

Source: Bloomberg Opinion (08/21/21) Schrager, Allison

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Parents Buying College-Town Homes for Their Kids

Their children have a place to live that beats a dorm, but most parents see it as an investment – and a way to lower the total cost of a higher education.

NEW YORK – Homeownership can offer more long-term perks for college students than a dorm room, so some parents are stepping in to help college-age children buy a home in their college town. Real estate professionals told Bankrate.com that they’ve seen this long-held trend grow recently.

The reason it’s happening? Buying a home for grown children could cut college costs and be a solid investment.

Jeffrey Decatur, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Capital in Latham, N.Y., says his first parent bought a house for their first-year college student because the college didn’t allow students to have a car, and a home solved that problem. But then Decatur says he started to notice the trend more often, especially among medical and law students.

“Their parents wanted to make sure they had every advantage and weren’t distracted by other distractions going to school – and they had a place to focus and be quiet and study and what have you,” Decatur says.

Decatur says college students may pay about $6,000 to $7,000 per semester – or $14,000 a year – for room and board. So one of his clients used that $14,000 per year to invest it in a three-bedroom home for their college child, and they rented out two of the rooms for less than what the college would charge. When the student graduates, those parents can use the home as a rental or sell it.

Also, “if your kid’s taking out student loans, you’re not financing their living,” Decatur told Bankrate.com. “You’re taking $60,000 of debt out of the equation to your kid and turning it into an investment.”

Still, parents are left with the task of selling or renting after the adult child graduates. They also have to trust their child to keep up the property. But for many parents, the potential cost savings and a more private place for their adult children may be worth it.

Source: “Real Estate Expert Explains Why Buying Property in Kid’s College Town May Be a Smart Financial Move,” Bankrate.com (Aug. 16, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Condo Q&A: What Can the Fining/Suspension Committee Do?

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Question: I have several questions about the fining/suspension committee hearing. – F.P., Estero

Question: Can the owner who appears before the Hearing Committee bring a witness or their attorney to the hearing?

Answer: Yes, within reason. They should not be allowed to parade in 10 witnesses. You should allow them to bring an attorney, but if they have not given you notice of doing so, the committee should consider postponing the hearing so the HOA can decide whether or not to have its attorney attend. So, I would suggest you add some type of “pre-hearing” rules to the fining committee hearing notice that if the owner is intending to bring an attorney they need to tell you in advance, otherwise the attorney will be excluded.

Question: If not, can such people be excluded?

Answer: The only people legally entitled to attend would be the owner and other owners as witnesses. All others including an attorney could be excluded, but I would allow the attorney as long as you were notified in advance.

Question: If they are permitted, must they be allowed to speak?

Answer: The owner accused of a violation should be given a reasonable amount of time to present their defense. So, yes, you should allow their witnesses to speak.

Question: Am I correct that the committee does not have to defend or justify the board’s action to the owner?

Answer: Correct. The only role of the committee is to listen to the evidence from both sides and determine if the board’s imposition of a fine was valid or invalid based on if the violation occurred or did not occur, and if the owner has a valid defense, such as, “Yes, I did leave my garbage can out for three days, but that was because I was in the hospital following a car accident.” In that case, the committee could decide that the violation was not intentional and there is a valid reason not to impose the fine.

Question: And, they do not have to answer questions? They only need to listen to the owner and consider the owner’s comments?

Answer: Correct. But the committee can ask questions.

Question: Their role is to approve or disapprove the board’s sanction.

Answer: Correct.

Question: They do not have to deliberate, decide and advise the owner of their decision at the hearing?

Answer: This depends on how your governing documents address committees. The statutes do not expressly require the committee to deliberate at the open meeting. But depending on whether you are a condominium association or homeowners association and what your particular governing documents provide you may have to do so.

Question: Last, am I correct that the Hearing Committee’s decision is not subject to appeal by the owner. The board does not have to agree to an appeal. The committee’s decision is the final word?

Answer: Correct. There is no statutory right of appeal of the committee’s decision. The Fining/Suspension committee is essentially the appeal. It is an appeal of the board’s decision.

Question: Our condominium has 125 units. We are being told that we must have an association website and are required to post certain official records on it. Is this true? – S.S, Cape Coral

Answer: No, that is not true. Florida Statute 718.111(12)(g) provides that an association managing a condominium with 150 or more units must have a website and post certain documents on it. Since your condominium is less that 150 units, you are not required by law to maintain a website. Note that there is no website requirement for Cooperatives of Homeowners Associations.

Question: We recently had a group of residents start a social media site for discussions about life in our community. The page appears to be “official” as it uses our community name and logo. The comment section quickly became a gripe session and occasionally has content that is “adult” in nature. What can we do to make it clear this page is not authorized by the board and has no official ties to the association? – T.D., Fort Myers

Answer: With social media becoming the primary way many people communicate, forums such as the one you describe are becoming more prevalent. However, the name and logo of the association remains its intellectual property, and unauthorized use can be, and in most cases should be, curtailed. Permitting unauthorized usage of the association’s intellectual property can lead to “dilution” of a trade name or trademark, and weaken the association’s ability to protect it.

In addition to usage in social media forums, dilution can occur as businesses and vendors in the neighboring community try to cash in on the association’s brand and reputation. Whether this is a local car wash, shopping center or a Realtor’s website, failure to address this encroachment sooner rather than later allows these businesses to develop their own trademark rights utilizing the association’s name.

Luckily, obtaining a state trademark registration for your association’s name and logo is not overly cumbersome or cost-prohibitive. Doing so will put others on notice of your trademark, making it easier to compel others to cease and desist their unauthorized use of the association name and logo.

While it is not necessary to have an attorney file a trademark application with the state of Florida, you should consider consulting your association’s counsel to discuss how broad or narrow your application should be, to explore whether prior usage by other businesses might impact your claim, and whether there are copyright issues involving ownership of your logo and the artist or agency who designed it. For a small investment, your association can obtain the peace of mind that its intellectual property is secure – and put a stop to your logo appearing on “unofficial” social media pages.

Question: Our association has a handyman that we regularly use as an independent contractor. It is only him and sometimes a helper. He does not have workers compensation insurance as he is legally exempt from being required to carry it. Our management company is telling us we should not use this person if he is not insured. Our association has its own workers compensation insurance and general liability, so I am not sure I understand the problem. What is your opinion on this topic? – A.C., Bonita Springs

Answer: Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. So workers compensations protects the employer, not the association directly.

If an accident occurs, you have general liability insurance to cover the association, and if the person somehow could prove he was an employee of the Association that is what the association’s workers’ compensation is for. The downside of the employer not having workers’ comp is that if the employee gets hurt and the employer is not well-financed, the injured person will only have one entity to sue, the association.

If the employer has workers’ comp, then some of the liability can be laid off on the employer and presumably less on the association. But another real problem is that if the handyman causes damage to the association property or injures someone, he has no general liability insurance to pay for it.

For those reasons we do not recommend the association hire persons without workers’ comp, even if not legally required, and certainly not without general liability coverage.

Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is co-founder and shareholder of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

© 2021 Journal Media Group


Some Buyers Showing Interest in 3D Printed Homes

2 out of 3 consumers – and 3 out of 4 millennials – would consider the cost savings of a printed home. But 33% want to wait a bit and see how 3D homes change over time.

CHICAGO – Press print for a home. More consumers are warming up to that idea. Of more than 3,000 consumers in a survey, 66% – and 75% of millennials, in particular – would consider living in a 3D printed home, according to realtor.com.

3D printed homes appear to have a number of advantages, notably greater affordability, better energy efficiency and, over the past year, have shown better resistance to natural disasters. They also don’t take as much time to build compared to traditional new homes.

“Over the past decade, as the homebuilding industry focused mainly on the upper end of housing, expecting younger generations to favor renting, the price of construction has pushed new homes out of reach for many first-time homebuyers,” says George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com. “With the largest generation in U.S. history embracing homeownership and the pandemic accelerating the move toward suburban markets, new home construction plays a pivotal role in meeting the growing demand.”

3D home technology continues to evolve, and an increase in 3D-printed homes can help reduce the cost of new construction and increase the number of available homes at a more affordable price point, Ratiu says. They “will help to restore balance in this strong seller’s market,” he adds.

The 3D-printed home option – survey results

One in three (30%) respondents believe that 3D printed homes will eventually replace traditional methods of homebuilding, and more media outlets started covering the technique over the past year. Most (63%) of the people surveyed said they’ve heard about it.

The biggest factors that would persuade consumers to purchase a 3D printed home:

  • Lower cost: 54%
  • More energy efficient: 51%
  • More resistant to natural disasters: 42%
  • Faster to build: 41%
  • More customizable: 39%
  • Produces less waste than traditional building methods: 32%

For those a bit unsure of the new technology, the main factors holding them back are:

  • 36% want to wait and see how the technology pans out over time
  • 22% prefer the aesthetics of a traditional home
  • 22% believe it won’t last as long
  • 18% don’t want their home to look exactly like their neighbors’ homes

“While there have only been a small number of 3D printed homes sold to date, as the technology continues to advance, we could see it add more affordable homes to the housing market,” Ratiu says. “For the rising generations of digital natives, new building technology may provide a sustainable bridge toward homeownership.”

Source: realtor.com

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Local Impact Fees Cost New-Home Buyers Up to $90K

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Out-of-state buyers might be igniting home prices in South Florida, but developers say local government fees are adding fuel to the fire. In some cases, the fees – known as impact fees – are tacking $90,000 onto the price of newly constructed house, according to the Gold Coast Builders Association.

The fees help pay for schools, roads, and water and sewer systems needed in new developments. But the builders group, covering Broward and Palm Beach counties, says many of the fees charged by local governments are too high and inconsistently applied.

“Unfortunately, since the onset of the pandemic, counties, cities, school districts and other taxing agencies have been excessively increasing impact fees, driving up construction costs,” the association said.

Ken Johnson, a Florida Atlantic University real estate economist, said Florida has some of the highest impact fees in the nation. The fees, coupled with rising costs for materials, land and labor, are making it unprofitable to build homes that sell in the $300,000 range.

“The homebuilders are right,” Johnson said. “Impact fees are probably one of the major contributing factors to our inability to deliver workforce housing. With impact fees the way they are, there are very few incentives to develop in those price ranges.”

Home prices this summer have reached historically high levels in South Florida, according to new Realtor data. The median sales price in July stood at $500,000 in Palm Beach County, $495,000 in Broward County and $515,000 in Miami-Dade.

Johnson asserted that Impact fees “have become a hidden tax. It’s hurting our ability to deliver housing inventory.”

KT Catlin, the association’s executive officer, said some builders have walked away from projects after concluding that fees made prospective developments too expensive for them to build and still make a profit.

“By the time you layer in all of the regulatory fees imposed in that area, you might not be able to build for what the individuals living in the area can afford,” Catlin said.

State law curbs fees

The concerns come nearly three months after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that bars local governments from increasing fees more than once every four years and limits those increases to 50%.

Any increases between 25% and 50% have to be spread over the four-year period. Smaller increases will be phased in over two years. The law also retroactively limits increases that were implemented since Jan. 1. Local governments seeking to exceed the fee caps need to conduct a study outlining “the extraordinary circumstances” for the increase.

The bill was opposed by the 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit growth management organization. After the bill’s signing, the group predicted existing residents would bear the brunt of costs tied to new development through higher taxes.

Jane West, policy director for 1000 Friends, said the bill went too far. She was surprised by the association’s outreach now that bill has become law. “This is stunning,” she said. “They got everything they wanted.

“I’m not sure what the expectation is in terms of paying for growth,” West added. “If that is a cost to be shifted exclusively onto the taxpayers, that’s what we’re going to be looking at – somebody’s got to pay for it.”

The law came about after Hillsborough County almost doubled its fees in one year, said David Cobb, a Fort Myers-based analyst for Zonda, a real estate consulting and research firm.

“That sends a shock wave through the industry,” he said. “It’s really the consumer who pays for these.” Cobb said that if a community’s leaders are looking to address the lack of affordable housing in its area, “it’s pretty hard to do when you’re paying 40 and 50 and $60,000 in impact fees.”

“There is a certain logic to impact fees if you’re building out in the suburbs and you’re going to need police and fire and schools and that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s just how it’s managed.”

The history of fees

Impact fees have been fixtures in South Florida development for decades.

They’ve taken the form of developers paying cash, making land donations or actually constructing roads and utilities. Instead of raising taxes on everyone who lives in a city or county, developers have borne the costs of roads, parks, school expansions and water and sewer systems. Any fees they paid to local governments had to be allocated to the projects for which the money was designated.

But these days, money has a tendency to seep into purposes for which it was not intend, the Gold Coast builders argue.

Onward and upward

Despite the new law and the association’s lobbying efforts, brokers believe the fees – and the ensuing hikes in home prices – will continue.

“I don’t think impact fees are going to decrease. They are going to increase,” said Tomas Sulichin, president of the commercial division of Related /ISG real estate firm in Miami. The prices of new apartment rentals are also going up as a result of fees, he said.

Mike Pappas, president and CEO of The Keyes Co., acknowledged the fee process is “tedious” and not friendly to builders who are already under the pressure of rising materials, labor and land costs.

“You start stacking those on top of each other, and you get the highest prices you’ve ever seen,” he said.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC


Affordability Still the Top Concern for Homebuyers

NEW YORK – In many expensive U.S. markets, home value growth is slowest in areas nearest to job centers, while the opposite is happening in markets where homes near downtown are typically more affordable than elsewhere in the metro.

A 10-minute commute in New York is now $73,673 cheaper than it was in 2019, while a Detroit home with a 10-minute commute is $101,228 more expensive.

The trends reflect Americans’ desire for larger, more-affordable homes during the pandemic.

As remote work became more commonplace during the pandemic, Americans shifted their priorities away from quick office access and towards home affordability. Home values within a short commute of the country’s biggest downtown job centers remain lofty, but are also growing more slowly than those farther out – in many areas, but not all.

The American workplace has been permanently changed by the COVID pandemic. Many employees are now untethered from physical office locations, and buying a home close to a physical office location is lower on the priority list. And while a short commute used to come with a hefty price tag in some markets, the tides are beginning to shift. Connecting home values to commute time data from HERE Technologies, Zillow found that there were two seemingly separate events happening across different types of markets.

In more-expensive metros, proximity to the downtown center is being traded in for longer commute times, and in less-expensive metros, shorter commutes to city cores are gaining value.

In many high-priced markets, home values farther away from job centers rose faster than those closer to downtown as more people take advantage of flexible working conditions and the five day/week commute becomes less essential. In less-expensive metros, short commutes to job centers gained traction, and homes in a location boasting quick access to downtown increased in value at higher rates.

While these two events seem to be in opposition, they are really highlighting the same shift. People are taking advantage of flexible working opportunities and updated expectations on what they need in a home, and are moving towards more affordable places. In markets including San Francisco and New York, it’s cheaper to move farther away from downtown and settle for a longer commute. In Baltimore and Detroit, homes are often less expensive closer to the core.

If this data shows us anything, it’s that when given an opportunity, people will move where it is affordable for them to do so.

Seeking affordability

The shift is dramatic in many expensive, dense, coastal markets, many of which are notorious for their high prices. Home values within a 20-minute commute range to central business districts in places including New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., grew the least between April 2019 and April 2021, and even fell in San Francisco, New York and Boston. In Seattle, homes in the 50-60 minute commute range to downtown grew by 39.6% over the two years analyzed, compared to just 12.2% for homes just a 10-minute commute from the downtown center.

In New York, homes even farther from the Big Apple’s core – those 80-90 minutes away – rose in value the most, up 25.7% from 2019. On the flip side, the cost of a New York-area home boasting a 10-minute commute fell by $73,673 between 2019 and 2021, and the typical home in the 10-20 minute commute range fell in value by almost 10% over the same timeframe.

But in less-pricey markets including Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis, homes with a 20-minute commute distance to downtown grew in value the most. In many cases, these markets are more sprawling and decentralized, and the home values in the core are typically lower than in the suburbs. Lower urban home values may also be a reminder of the lasting impacts of historical policies like redlining that depressed home values in many city cores for years. But as this data shows, there is a new wave of urban revival coming to these city centers.

In Detroit, typical home values within a 10-minute commute of the main job center jumped more than $100,000 since 2019 (from $124,467 to $225,695) showing demand for a more central location is picking up. And the typical home located within a 10-minute commute to downtown Cleveland now costs 72.5% more than it did in 2019.

The flexibility that comes with remote work might be causing some of this movement in these markets, but this trend was already in swing well before the pandemic. As early as 2017, we observed higher rates of reverse commuters in these markets – people living in urban areas and commuting to suburban and rural areas – based on the relative affordability of these urban centers to the surrounding suburbs. So, it makes sense that even without a pull to the job center, given more opportunity in the last year to partake in the great reshuffling, people are choosing to move back to the urban core.

Name of the game

Affordability is the name of the game as Americans continue to re-evaluate their housing priorities and preferences. In many cases, affordability is doubly desirable when paired with more space, whether that’s outdoor space or an extra bedroom to turn into a home office. In expensive, dense markets, that usually means a home farther out from the downtown core, which is more palatable when you don’t need to commute every day, if at all. In more sprawling metros, buyers are flocking to less expensive downtown cores, bringing a renewed interest to these city centers.

But even with record levels of appreciation, historically low mortgage interest rates have helped keep monthly payments low enough to allow many to move, both to new locations and to new types of homes to better fit lifestyle choices. We have seen how many have moved between metros – often favoring sunbelt markets including Phoenix and Austin – but this data shows us how people are moving within metros as well, favoring more cost-effective locations, regardless of their proximity to the office.


Using ZIP code-level data from the 2016 County Business Patterns dataset from the US Census Bureau and the number of inbound trips per square mile for a morning commute from HERE Technologies, we identified ZIP codes that function as job centers in the nation’s 35 largest metros using the number of employees per square mile. Using the centroids of those ZIP codes as our destination location for commute times, we determined geographic areas that fell within each commute time band, from less than 10 minutes to 90 minutes, via isolines provided by HERE technologies. We then combined Zillow’s home value estimates (Zestimates) with these geographic areas and pulled the median home value for each commute time band. The home values we used were obtained May 1, 2021, and compared to home values from May 1, 2019, to calculate the percent growth over the two-year period. Commute times were based on 8AM local time commutes on Monday, May 24, 2021.

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