Monthly Archives: April 2022

Fair-Housing Ad Violations Aren’t Always Obvious

Describe the property, not the potential buyer or tenant. “Ideal for empty nesters” or “perfect for students” raises red flags; “easy walk to train” does not.

CHICAGO – Real estate professionals are legally obligated to uphold fair housing laws, and the language and images you use in advertising needs to be vetted carefully. Beyond the law, Realtors® also have an obligation to do so under Article 10 of the Realtor Code of Ethics.

“Advertisements should never indicate a preference or limitation based on a protected class, which at the federal level includes race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin,” says Mike Rohde, staff attorney at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), in the latest “Window to the Law” video, Advertising Within the Fair Housing Framework.

“HUD recently expanded its interpretation of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and state and local laws may expand the categories of protected classes further,” he adds.

Rohde provides a tip: When advertising a property, focus on describing the property – not the buyer or tenant. He cautions against using phrases like “ideal for empty nesters” or “perfect for students” that could raise red flags by implying a preference for one demographic over another.

On the other hand, he says phrases like “easy walk to train” or “beautiful Mexican doors” are likely acceptable since they describe the property’s characteristics.

Rohde says a similar rule of thumb applies when Realtors describe how they can help buyers or sellers – describe their services and not whom they want to serve. For example, it’s okay for agents to promote their fluency in a particular language or specialization, and the area of the community they serve. But they should avoid indicating a preference for or limitation to the clients they’ll serve, he says.

Real estate ads are judged using a reasonable person standard, which can evolve over time. Once-overlooked words and images, such as the Confederate flag, could create fair housing concerns nowadays.

April is Fair Housing Month, but NAR offers a suite of fair-housing resources and tools year-round on its website.

Source: “Window to the Law: Advertising Within the Fair Housing Framework,” National Association of Realtors® (April 1, 2022)

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Big Theme Parks Commit to Affordable Housing

Both Disney World and Universal Studios say they’re building affordable housing on company-owned land – a total of 2,300 new units for the Orlando area.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Two Florida theme parks have announced plans to build affordable housing in the Orlando area, where it has become increasingly difficult for lower-wage workers to find places to live.

Walt Disney World, the area’s largest employer, said Wednesday that 80 acres (32 hectares) has been earmarked for a development of some 1,300 units near its theme parks in Lake Buena Vista. The units will be available to qualified applicants who are employees or members of the public.

Last month, Universal Parks & Resorts announced plans to build a 1,000-unit mixed-income community that offers tuition-free preschool and medical care on site.

Orange County, home to Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and scores of hotels and resorts, attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

The lack of affordable housing has been a concern for years, given the traditional lower wages associated with tourism and ever-increasing population numbers.

Last week, the Orange County Commission agreed to hire a consultant to study whether to consider a rent control ordinance.

In a news release Wednesday, Disney said the development, which is still in the planning stages, would offer a variety of home choices that are “affordable and attainable.”

Universal’s development, Catchlight Crossings, is a little further along, with plans submitted to the Orange County Planning and Development Department.

“Our vision has been to bring an innovative, new approach to solving our community’s affordable housing crisis,” John Sprouls, Universal’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said in a statement. “This is about creating a community that will put residents first – a place that inspires them and that they will be proud to call home.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings applauded the efforts.

“We look forward to working with other businesses to do the same as we endeavor to close the gap between the housing crisis and the lack of affordable housing to having an abundance of workforce housing in this community,” Demings said in recorded remarks.

He said the county hopes to see additional “workforce housing closer to where people work.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Win/Win: St. Pete Program Builds Homes, Boosts Revenue

An aggressive attitude and foreclosure threat against zombie homes’ owners have opened up land for building/rehab – or it’s fed city coffers if owners pay their tax debt.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – St. Petersburg’s code enforcement director, James Corbett, has started using foreclosures, or the threat of foreclosure, as a tool to clean up the city.

Corbett says the program evolved organically after he focused on the problem with dilapidated, unoccupied homes – the city had 830 in 2014 – and slowly developed into an actual program. While St. Petersburg is thought to be the first city to try it, Largo, which is just north of St. Petersburg, has also made moves to use the process, as has Bradenton.

Cleaning up St. Petersburg

The process developed under Corbett expanded step-by-step but generally followed a pattern, outlined in an article, “St. Petersburg is transforming vacant lots into affordable housing” on tampabay.com:

  1. Create an inventory of all the boarded-up, vacant homes. Corbett found 830 in St. Petersburg that “needed major repairs or had deteriorated so much that they needed to be demolished.”
  1. Crack down on property owners. With the list of homes in hand, St. Petersburg’s mayor at the time, Rick Kriseman, ordered city employees to demolish (more than 100) homes and repair ones worth saving (62 homes).
  1. Don’t use the “file and forget” system. Once homes were razed, a vacant lot remained – but it was still owned by a person or company that often had tax debt or unpaid code violations. Many cities “file and forget” those debts and, over time, that debt grows larger. Corbett told the Tampa Bay Times that city costs increased over time because “we’d have to mow the grass twice a month religiously” and take other safety precautions. The work would also increase after a major storm.
  1. Be aggressive using foreclosure as a tool. In many cases, Corbett says the value of the blighted houses or land was less than the amount absent owners owed in taxes and fines. And he says most of the homes were corporate owned rather than individual investors. One company owned about 60 homes, and he said its foreclosure response was “like waking a bear.” While the process took “a lot of data,” it eventually worked, however.
  1. Sell some lots to first-time homebuyers. St. Petersburg gave one lot to Habitat for Humanity, which built a 1,300-square foot home. A single mother with two children bought it for $210,000.

Benefits for St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay Times says the city spent $1.3 million in legal fees for the program to succeed – but it collected $4.4 million in unpaid fines. Not all owners of zombie properties wanted to go through foreclosure; as a result, they paid past due amounts to keep the property.

According to St. Petersburg foreclosure attorney Matt Weidner, “in the vast majority of cases,” people say, “Great, get this property off my hands. … If it’s in your name and you don’t want anything to do with it, it’s a liability.” He says the foreclosure process takes about six months – far less than trying to take property via eminent domain.

Beyond money, St. Petersburg also has fewer blighted properties.

St. Petersburg program by the numbers

  • 830 – Derelict homes in 2014
  • 110 – Derelict homes now
  • $1.3 million – St. Petersburg attorney foreclosure fees
  • $4.4 million – Unpaid fines collected
  • 635 – Foreclosure proceedings so far
  • 235 – Foreclosed homes sold
  • 330 – Lien repayment or settlement agreements reached
  • 70 – Homes currently in foreclosure

Most owners are “literally a large company that doesn’t care anything about this city, and one of two things will happen: They’ll either pay their liens, or their properties will be sold and someone else will get them,” Corbett says.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, April 7, 2022, Amy Martinez

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Remodel Survey: ‘Joy’ in Floors, Walls and Closets

NAR joined the Remodeling Industry and found a perfect “Joy Score” by owners after painting, adding a home office, installing hardwood or renovating closets.

WASHINGTON – U.S. homeowners embark on a wide variety of renovations and remodeling projects over the past year, according to new findings in the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, a joint study from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The report analyzes a number of home improvement aspects, including why people decide to remodel, the general costs of specific remodeling tasks, and the fulfillment experienced after completing a successful project.

“Our study revealed that homeowners tend to undertake a remodeling project for any number of reasons,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR. “In some instances, homeowners were content with sprucing up a room with a simple paint job, while in other cases, families decided to take on the task of renovating an entire attic or basement to add additional living space to their home.”

Americans spent $420 billion in 2020 on home remodeling ventures, and 90% of NARI members cited a greater demand for contracting remodeling work during the pandemic. Three out of five NARI members – 60% – said the scale of the projects grew during the pandemic, either into a larger project or remodeling more than one room.

“This report is the first one to measure the impact of the pandemic on the price and relative value of various remodeling projects,” says Chris Egner, president of NARI.

Although 83% of consumers said they would have remodeled regardless of the pandemic, 86% said one successful remodeling job inspired them to remodel other areas of the house.

Why remodel?

35% of owners said the most important result from their remodel was better functionality and livability; 22% they had durable and long-lasting results, materials and appliances; 14% said beauty and aesthetics.

“The pandemic has changed the way we use our homes, and many of those changes are here to stay,” says Lautz. “As a result, homeowners needed to reconfigure or remodel how they use their home and maximize space.”

More than a third of owners (35%) hired a professional for their entire project, while 28% hired someone for the labor but purchased the necessary materials. Twenty-two percent of homeowners did the full project themselves, from start to finish.

The NAR/NARI report aimed to gauge consumers’ viewpoints toward their projects after completion. Projects that made the renovators want to remain home, or remodel jobs that sparked an increase of enjoyment among occupants, received a high Joy Score, with 10 being considered a perfect Joy Score.

Some tasks awarded scores of 10 were painting a home’s entire interior, painting one room, adding a home office, hardwood floor refinishing, closet renovation, and insulation upgrades.

Hardwood floor refinishing received a 10 Joy Score because homeowners felt happiness and satisfaction after the upgrade: 64% said they have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home now, and another 64% said thinking about the project gives them a “major sense of accomplishment.”

A new home office is another task that earned a perfect Joy Score: 91% said they have a greater desire to be home now that their office is in place, and 73% have an increased sense of enjoyment when they’re home.

Boosting a home’s value

The NAR/NARI report also examines numerous remodeling tasks and provides a cost recovery estimate for the projects.

“Quite often, an added benefit to home renovations is the possibility of an increase in the home’s value, which is a reason why some people remodel,” says Lautz. “This is especially advantageous to a homeowner who may be considering selling their house or converting the home to a rental property.”

Realtors provided an estimate of the likely dollar value each project would add to a house during resale. In comparing that dollar value to the estimated cost of each job provided by NARI members, a Recovered Project Cost percentage was tabulated.

In regard to interior projects, the highest percentage cost recovered was from refinishing hardwood floors at 147%. New wood flooring was at 118%, and an insulation upgrade was at 100%. Among exterior projects, new roofing and a new garage door both recovered 100% of the project costs.

Kitchen upgrades were also popular among homeowners, with the task receiving a 9.8 Joy Score. The top reason (32%) to take on a kitchen overhaul was the desire to replace worn out surfaces, finishes or materials. The second top reason (20%) was to add features and improve livability.

According to NARI remodelers’ cost estimate, the average kitchen remodel would be about $45,000. Realtors estimated that $30,000 of that sum could be recovered as a result of the renovation – a 67% recovery rate.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Mortgage Rates Edge Up Again to Hit 4.72%

A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose from last week’s 4.67% – up 1.5% in the past three months, the fastest increase pace over that time period since May 1994.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged up again this week with the key 30-year loan rate reaching levels not seen in more than three years.

The average rate on the 30-year loan this week rose to 4.72%, from 4.67% last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday. The average rate has jumped 1.5% in the past three months, the fastest pace of increases over that stretch of time since May 1994. A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 3.18%.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those refinancing their homes, climbed to 3.91% from 3.83% last week.

With inflation at a four-decade high, the increases in home loan rates come a few weeks after the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point in an attempt to cool the economy. The central bank, which had kept its benchmark rate near zero since the pandemic recession struck two years ago, has signaled potentially up to seven additional rate hikes this year, meaning mortgage rates likely will continue to rise over the year.

Home prices are up about 15% over the past year and as much as 30% in some cities. Homes available for sale have been in short supply even before the pandemic started two years ago. Now higher prices and rising loan rates will add to the obstacles would-be buyers face as the spring homebuying season starts.

Last week, an inflation gauge closely monitored by the Fed jumped 6.4% in February compared with a year earlier, with sharply higher prices for food, gasoline and other necessities the cut into Americans’ finances. Other measures have shown prices rising close to 8% in the past year.

Robust consumer demand has combined with shortages of many goods to fuel the sharpest price jumps in four decades. Measures of inflation will likely worsen in the coming months because recent reports don’t reflect the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24. The war has disrupted global oil markets and accelerated prices for wheat, nickel and other key commodities.

Squeezed by inflation, U.S. consumers increased their spending by just 0.2% in February, down from a much larger 2.7% gain in January.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Girl Scout Patch Encourages Construction Careers

A Utah one-of-a-kind home was built by women – the “House that SHE built.” Now the group has helped roll out a Girl Scout badge that will be offered nationwide.

WASHINGTON – Girl Scouts can now participate in a new patch program, The House That She Built. It’s designed to empower girls to think about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) and construction by meeting real professional women in building careers.

Created by Mollie Elkman, the author of the children’s book, “The House That She Built,” with support from the publisher, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the new program is inspired by NAHB’s Utah Chapter of Professional Women in Building Council – the same team of real women from who built a one-of-a-kind home in Utah: The House That SHE Built. Many of the 100+ women who worked on the house are former Girl Scouts.

Why the patch?

The intent is to build self-esteem and develop skills through curiosity and hands-on activities. The Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast first rolled out the program last week, but it’s available to Girl Scouts across the country.

“We are so proud to be able to work with the Girl Scouts to introduce and empower young girls to learn about the construction industry,” says NAHB First Vice Chairman Alicia Huey. “We hope that this program helps to drive curiosity, expose them to new career paths and be a fun learning experience.”

“The Girl Scouts is the perfect organization for us to partner with to help inspire the next generation of young women,” adds Elkman. “I’m excited to show them the book and introduce them to some amazing women in the construction industry.”

According to NAHB, the shortage in skilled trade workers is a growing crisis, and women are the most underrepresented community in those careers, making up less than 3% of the workforce. The patch will expose girls to new skills and interests, and showcase the opportunities for successful careers in construction.

To earn The House That She Built Patch, the Girl Scouts will meet the author of The House That She Built, along with the general contractor and other key women involved in the home and story. They’ll also participate in hands-on activities. 

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Big Wave of Sellers Might Emerge this Year

Survey: 44% of Gen Z (18-25) and 35% of millennials (26-41) say they’ll sell their starter home this year. Many have lots of equity and a fear of rising mortgage rates.

NEW YORK – Millennials and their younger Gen Z cohorts are showing an increased interest in moving. Many of these first-time buyers now want to become first-time sellers.

According to a new Harris Poll survey conducted for Coldwell Banker of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, 44% of Gen Z and 35% of millennial homeowners say they plan to sell their homes in the next 12 months.

“With more than two in five Gen Z and over a third of millennial homeowners planning to sell their homes in the next 12 months, reaching these generations is key to unlocking inventory in 2022,” says Ryan Gorman, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

While the number seems high, many of these first-time buyers opted for smaller starter homes that have gone up in value over the past few years. If they now have enough equity to make a sizable down payment on a larger home and a fear that waiting will only force them to pay a higher mortgage rate, they may see this as their best time to upgrade.

How do you attract this new crop of sellers? Having a strong social media presence is key, the survey finds: 65% of millennials and 59% of Gen Z say they think more highly of a real estate agent with a strong social media presence.

Overall, 61% of Americans expect good real estate agents to use social media apps like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to promote themselves in real estate or to post home listings, as do 60% of baby boomers and 58% of Gen Xers.

Americans, by age, planning to sell within 12 months

  • Baby boomers (age 58-76): 4%
  • Gen X (42-57): 14%
  • Millennials (26-41): 35%
  • Gen Z: (18-25): 44%
  • All Americans: 18%

Coldwell Banker says it responded to this expected surge of move-up sellers by creating its “Dream” ad campaign. The effort includes instant estimates of their current home, a “Move Meter” to evaluate moving from one place to another, and a “Seller’s Assurance Program” that includes renovation and staging services, as well as cash offers on eligible homes.

Coldwell Banker says the goal is to entice homeowners to “dream” about moving to that place they’ve always desired.

Source: Coldwell Banker

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


FHA Announces a 40-Year Loan Modification Option

A 40-year loan mandates a lot of interest payments and a slow build for equity, but FHA says it will prevent thousands of foreclosures, making that a fair tradeoff.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) introduced a 40-year loan modification option, and it’s asking the mortgage industry for input in a bid to expand its COVID-19 loss mitigation “waterfall.”

The proposed rule would revise repayment provisions for FHA borrowers and allow lenders to reframe a borrower’s total unpaid loan for an additional 120 months.

HUD says the goal is to prevent “several thousand borrowers a year from foreclosure.”

The change will give borrowers a more sustainable, lower monthly payment that can help bring a borrower’s mortgage current, prevent imminent re-default and help borrowers keep their homes. The rule specifically targets FHA borrowers who recently exited government-mandated forbearance but are having difficulty making mortgage payments due to COVID-19-related financial distress.

HUD said the rule would also lower losses to FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund as fewer properties would be sold at a loss in foreclosure or out of FHA’s real estate-owned inventory.

However, there’s also a downside to borrowers who opt for a 40-year loan modification. HUD says they’ll face slower equity accumulation and more interest payments. But it says the ability to keep their home should offset any drawbacks.

Source: HousingWire (04/04/22) Volkova, Maria

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


New Biz Allows You to Buy Real Estate Photos

Tired of using stock photos and seeing the same people on your competitor’s website? New platform allows you to buy – and even sell – a picture as an NFT.

PHILADELPHIA – A new photos service, HomeJab, offers an alternative to stock photo services. Upon purchase, a business “owns” the photo and can use it on their own website or in marketing with an assurance that the same picture won’t appear on a hundred other websites. As an owner, the photo can also be sold later.

To do this, HomeJab launched a new non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace. NFTs essentially allow people or businesses to own the unique rights to an image or other item. The NFT marketplace is called “real” and will grow its offerings as demand increases.

HomeJab created its website specifically for original real estate images.

It currently features images of destinations like historical landmarks, streetscapes, downtown areas, commercial hot spots, parks, bridges, buildings and beaches. Real estate pros can also hire photographers to capture NFTs for their exclusive use, as they’ll own the image along with its NFT. HomeJab says provides on-demand professional real estate photo and visual production services nationwide.

The “real” NFT marketplace is geared to real estate professionals and digital marketers so they can purchase one-of-a-kind real estate images. It serves as an alternative to real estate’s heavy use of stock photos in filling website pages, blog posts, pamphlets and more. While stock photos tend to cost less, they’re also offered to anyone who pays a fee. As a result, the happy child and parent in front of a “Just Sold” house could appear on multiple real estate websites, including those of a direct competitor.

NFT images, on the other hand, are unique and owned by the buyer, so agents and brokerages can avoid having the same photos on their websites.

“Buying an NFT through ‘real’ provides agents and brokers one-of-a-kind images that only you can use, versus licensing a repetitive stock image that any of your competitors can use,” says Joe Jesuele, head of HomeJab.com. “Marketing agencies know that using unique imagery helps agents and brokers create stronger brand recognition and avoid brand confusion. … We are disrupting the old, legacy stock image model to become a completely decentralized ‘Web3’ solution powered by NFTs, with the financial benefits going back to the photographers.”

Source: HomeJab

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Prices Tripled in 13 U.S. Cities Since 2000 – 2 in Fla.

In two Fla. cities, Miami and Tampa, prices rose more than 200% in a little over 20 years – No. 8 and No. 9 in the U.S. for price increase percentages.

SAN FRANCISCO – The cost of housing – much like everything else – has gone way up over the past year. Low inventory and low interest rates have thrust the median price of a home in the U.S. up by nearly 20% in a single year.

But the latest jump is just an acceleration of what’s been happening for 20 years. Most major cities have seen home prices increase substantially since 2000, with many seeing home values double or even triple.

In some cities, the typical home value has more than tripled. San Francisco, for example, had a typical home value of $356,800 in 2000, according to data analyzed by real estate brokerage Clever; in 2022, the typical home value is nearly $1.4 million – a 290% increase, or nearly quadruple the value 22 years ago.

San Francisco is often held up as the most extreme example of a housing market gone wild, but it’s not the only city where home values rose astronomically, even with falling home prices during the Great Recession around 2010.

Clever analyzed the median sale price of homes in the 50 largest metro areas around the country and found 13 cities saw home values more than triple since 2000. The 13 cities where home values have gone up by more than 200% – i.e. tripled – since 2000 are:

  1. San Francisco (290% increase)
  2. Los Angeles (280% increase)
  3. Riverside, Calif. (278% increase)
  4. San Diego (275% increase)
  5. San Jose, Calif. (261% increase)
  6. Sacramento, Calif. (237% increase)
  7. Seattle (235% increase)
  8. Tampa, Fla. (223% increase)
  9. Miami (220% increase)
  10. Austin, Texas (209% increase)
  11. Portland, Ore. (207% increase)
  12. Phoenix (206% increase)
  13. Denver (204% increase)

Several cities saw slower growth in home values, according to Clever:

  1. Cleveland (60% increase)
  2. Detroit (62% increase)
  3. Memphis, Tenn. (72% increase)
  4. Chicago (73% increase)
  5. Hartford, Conn. (87% increase)
  6. Cincinnati (88% increase)
  7. Birmingham, Ala. (90% increase)
  8. St. Louis (98% increase)

Over the same time period, the national average increased 156% – or roughly 2.5 times – from $127,215 to $325,677, according to Clever’s full report.

© 1998-2022 WCBD, Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved.


RE Q&A: How Do You Pick a Property Manager?

A large, seemingly trustworthy property management firm appears to have absconded with HOA money. How can HOAs protect themselves going forward?

NAPLES, Fla. – Question: Given the recent scandal of a local management company and their handling of condominium funds, can you outline a way to verify these property management companies? Are there membership associations to look at? Are there ways to view their competency? I reviewed a couple of state websites to no avail.

Answer: Excellent question. There are no management-specific objective rating services such as Martindale Hubble for lawyers or AM Best for insurance companies that I know of. General business rating services such as the Better Business Bureau are, in my experience, not much help in truly evaluating a management company.

So, when doing so, I would recommend you review the management companies and the individual manager’s license history through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). This can be done at www.myfloridalicense.com. Both the management company and the individual manager need to have a license. You can also review the license complaint history.

However, when reviewing the complaint history, it is important to determine the outcome of the complaint. Unfortunately, oftentimes in my experience disgruntled owners will file unfounded complaints that result in a finding of no cause on behalf of the manager. So, the mere filing of a complaint is not dispositive of the manager’s quality or ability.

Next, you should check references and not just the references that the manager may provide you. There are several trade organizations that managers and other vendors that service the community association industry typically belong to, such as the Community Associations Institute. You can also consult Condominium Owners Managers Associates at www.comaofflorida.com.

Finally, ask the directors or officers of other community associations and your other professional vendors (CPA, lawyers, insurance agents and bankers) who they recommend.

Question: We had our condominium election recently. Many homeowners live out of the state and some out of the country. They did not receive their election ballots in time to return them for the election because of the slow mail. This seems unfair as many owner votes did not count. I think the election should be redone to allow time for people to vote.

Answer: This has always been a common complaint, but it has become more frequent because of the slow mail delivery lately. The Condominium Act and the HOA Act require the notice of the annual meeting and election be sent at least 14 days before the date of the annual meeting and election. Nothing prevents the association from sending the notice with more time such as 30 days in advance, but it is not required to do so.

The Condominium Act does provide that the notice cannot be sent more than 34 days before the meeting. So, in your case as long as the notice and ballot were mailed at least 14 days before the meeting, there is no violation of the law or code that would require the election to be done over.

In the future, in addition to sending the ballots with more time to return them, the board should consider adopting electronic voting. Electronic voting eliminates the mail delay problem and saves time and money counting votes, and eliminates common errors such as an owner failing to sign the outside envelope.

Richard D. DeBoest, Esq., is partner of the Law Firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross. 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, DeBoest & Cross, 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.

© 2022 Journal Media Group


HUD Releases $3.3M to Fight Housing Discrimination

Groups can apply for funding that’s dedicated to fair housing education, outreach and enforcement – including fair housing testing and legal aid.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it’s making an additional $3,285,353 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding available to help HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies combat housing discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations that qualify for the funding, awarded through FHIP’s Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) component, can use the money to conduct a range of fair housing enforcement, education and outreach activities, including addressing discriminatory practices in underserved communities.

It’s the third round of ARP funding that targets COVID-19 related discrimination. To date, about $16.1 million in ARP funding has been awarded to 62 FHIP agencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal inequities in housing opportunities for many communities,” says Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity.

In addition to enforcement, education and outreach activities, the funding can be used to respond to housing inquiries, conduct fair housing testing, provide legal assistance, and cover costs associated with providing services related to the pandemic.

Applicants interested in applying for funding should go to Grants.gov to obtain a copy of the specific Notice of Funding Opportunity, forms, instructions, and other application materials. Additional information can be found on HUD’s website.

Applications must be received by May 5, 2022.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


NAR Issues 6 Ways to Commit to Fair Housing

In honor of Fair Housing month, NAR focused on new and existing programs – everything from podcasts, reports and research to its Fairhaven testing simulation.

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) kicked off Fair Housing Month with a calendar of events, new resources and policy initiatives designed to empower its 1.5 million Realtors® to expand homeownership and support diverse, inclusive communities.

“We are taking on a bold goal to narrow racial and ethnic homeownership gaps substantially,” says Bryan Greene, NAR’s vice president of policy advocacy. “The Black-white homeownership gap is larger today than when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law more than 50 years ago. NAR is going beyond observances and building an action plan with industry partners to really move the needle on homeownership for groups that have been historically excluded.”

Before joining NAR in 2019, Greene was the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s top career official overseeing enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. He also designed NAR’s Accountability, Culture Change, and Training (ACT) fair housing initiative.

“We’re seeing unprecedented efforts by industry, nonprofit, government and private sectors to confront barriers to homeownership,” Greene says. “The wind is at our back, and we want to leverage every tool possible.”

NAR’s April “Fair Housing Month” plans

  1. The release of a new policy paper on April 12 detailing obstacles to home buying broken down by race and ethnicity. It comes on the heels of an NAR and realtor.com joint report in February titled “Double Trouble,” which found that record-high home prices coupled with record-low inventory hold many Americans back – particularly Black Americans.
  2. NAR is on the steering committee of the Black Homeownership Collaborative and helped develop a seven-point plan to add 3 million net new Black homeowners by 2030. Dubbed 3by30, many industry partners support the initiative.
  3. NAR says it’s also rolling out a 50-plus page fair housing toolkit to help state and local associations use fair housing grants to further fair housing in their communities.
  4. Realtors Tim Hurr, Stephen Beard and Lorraine Arora join Realtor Magazine’s new podcast, Drive with NAR, to discuss NAR’s Fairhaven fair housing simulation, the ACT plan, accessibility and appraisal bias. Listen to the episode: “Fair Housing: Who’s Being Left Out of the Conversation?
  5. On April 22, Greene and Alexia Smokler, NAR’s director of fair housing policy, will speak at NAR’s Conference Year-Round session, “Fair Housing in your Neighborhood – How to Be an Agent of Change.
  6. NAR will host a Facebook Live event on April 27 called “How Do We Close the Homeownership Gap?” In addition to panel discussions and research presentations, the event will celebrate NAR’s inaugural Fair Housing Champions.

“NAR’s Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn set an advocacy goal of Fair Housing for All, and with everything NAR has planned, I think we are moving in the right direction to achieve it,” Greene says.

For resources, book and media recommendations, and other information, visit NAR’s Fair Housing Month calendar of events.

Source: Realtor Magazine

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


One Reason for Rising Prices? ‘Fear of Missing Out’

Worried buyers wonder how high mortgage rates will go, how fast, and whether inventory levels will ever rise – fears that help push housing prices ever higher.

NEW YORK – America’s real estate market may be showing signs of a housing bubble as prices become “unhinged from fundamentals,” according to the authors of a blog post published by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. House prices can fall out of sync with market fundamentals like supply and demand when there is a widespread belief that prices will keep climbing.

“If many buyers share this belief, purchases arising from a ‘fear of missing out’ can drive up prices and heighten expectations of strong house-price gains,” according to the researchers.

The exuberant, expectations-driven gains in home prices could have many consequences, such as bankruptcies, broad effects on growth and employment and distorted investment patterns, the researchers warned.

Monitoring the housing market for the emergence of such price booms can help investors and policymakers respond before an economic crisis erupts.

What does a housing bubble mean?

A housing bubble is a period marked by an unusual spike in housing prices fueled by high demand and low supply, speculation by investors and exuberant spending. These bubbles are caused by a variety of factors, including rising economic prosperity, low interest rates, more mortgage product offerings and easy to access credit.

The low supply of homes is largely a result of underbuilding, experts say.

An analysis by housing giant Freddie Mac suggests that the housing shortage has increased 52%, from 2.5 million in 2018 to 3.8 million in 2020.

How does a housing market bubble burst or end?

It ends when demand decreases or stagnates – because of higher mortgage rates or inflation eating into savings – while at the same time supply realigns with demand (when construction catches up).

In the past month, mortgage rates have been rising in the face of rapidly rising inflation as well as the prospect of strong demand for goods and supply disruptions.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage topped 4% on March 17 for the first time since May 2019, according to Freddie Mac. And it probably will rise further; the Fed is projecting six more rate increases this year. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.67% for the week ending March 31. A year earlier, the 30-year rate averaged 3.1%.

How does the housing bubble affect the economy?

Real estate and the housing market play an important role in the U.S. economy. At the individual level, roughly 65% of occupied housing units are owner-occupied, according to Congressional Research Service. Homes are often a substantial source of household wealth in the U.S., and housing construction provides widespread employment.

Housing prices can affect residential investment and therefore affect economic growth. Rising home prices can encourage additional construction spending when the prices are high, leading to more robust economic growth. A decline in housing prices is likely to depress construction spending, leading to more anemic economic growth.

An increase in housing value encourages homeowners to spend more than they do at other times for a variety of reasons, including higher confidence in the economy, increased home equity for homeowners to borrow against and higher rental income.

A decrease in prices results in the opposite. In the United States, consumer spending makes up roughly 70% of the economy, so changes in housing wealth can result in significant changes in economic growth.

Are we in a housing bubble?

The Dallas Fed researchers say they are observing abnormal U.S. housing market behavior for the first time since the boom of the early 2000s. Their reasons for concern include the price-to-rent ratio (which compares the economics of buying versus renting), in particular, and the price-to-income ratio (ratio between the price of a median home to that of the median annual household income in a particular area) – which show signs that 2021 house prices appear increasingly out of step with fundamentals.

Along with low mortgage rates, other factors that drove up prices include a surge in disposable income because of pandemic-related stimulus and reduced household spending because of mobility restrictions and lockdowns. If disposable income increases turn out to be temporary – as fiscal stimulus wanes and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, it would put downward pressure on home prices.

Things are different now

However, based on current evidence, any coming housing correction will not be as dire as the 2007-09 global financial crisis in terms of magnitude, the researchers say.

In the years before 2008, mortgage lenders made subprime loans to borrowers without verified income or adequate down payments while pushing risky loan products. This time, tough loan underwriting standards are the norm even with rock-bottom interest rates, experts say.

“Among other things, household balance sheets appear in better shape, and excessive borrowing doesn’t appear to be fueling the housing market boom,” according to the post.

Copyright 2022, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


Fla. Rent-Relief Program Helps 211K Households

OUR Florida – a state program that offers help to lower-income, at-risk renters – says it has committed $1.5B so far to help 211,667 rental households.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – From March 24 through March 30, OUR Florida approved 4,462 applications and obligated more than $28 million in relief to families behind on rent and utilities payments.

More than $1.15 billion has been obligated to 211,667 households across Florida since the program launched May 10, 2021.

“OUR Florida remains committed to providing opportunities for Florida families to get back on track with relief on past due rent and utilities payments,” says Melissa Gordon, chief administrative officer of Tidal Basin Group, which manages OUR Florida. “Through our partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), we’re helping eligible applicants stay in their homes.”

OUR Florida provides utilities and rental assistance to Florida families and businesses that qualify. The goal is to help families get back on track after falling behind on utility bills and rent payments, but it also benefits rental property owners because tenants’ rent relief can be paid directly to their landlord.

OUR Florida eligibility for renter applicants

  • Rent a home, apartment or other residential dwelling in Florida
  • Earn an income at or below 80% of their area’s median income (AMI)
  • Qualified for unemployment, experienced a loss of income, incurred significant costs or faced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
  • At risk of losing their home, experiencing housing instability or living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions

Visit OUR Florida for more information or call (833) 493-0594 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. The site also includes a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Second U.S. State Might Try to Ban ‘Love Letters’

Even though a preliminary injunction stops an Oregon law banning buyer “love letters” until trial, Rhode Island lawmakers are considering something similar.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – If you’ve put your house on the market in the last few years, you’ve probably been inundated with gushing letters from prospective buyers telling you all about their families and including glossy photos for good measure. And if you’re a buyer trying to compete in Rhode Island’s hot real estate market, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent hours crafting one of these so-called “love letters,” trying to highlight the details that will make you stand out.

Including “love letters” as part of an offer is frowned on by the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, which warns that the practice can lead to intentional and unintentional discrimination. National groups like the National Association of Realtors® also advise against it. But it’s still happening.

“Every single person I’ve talked to has told me that their real estate agent has suggested they do this,” said Rhode Island Rep. Terri Cortvriend, D-Middletown, who has introduced a bill aimed at outlawing the practice. H7722 would amend the state’s Fair Housing Practices Act to state that “a seller’s agent shall reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer.”

The bill notes that the goal is to “help a seller avoid selecting a buyer based on the buyers’ race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or familial status.”

Oregon’s ban on buyers’ ‘love letters’

Last year, Oregon passed a bill that used identical language and became the first state in the nation to ban buyer “love letters.” But last month, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the law from going into effect, following a lawsuit from the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation.

The organization had argued that the Oregon law was infringing on buyers’ First Amendment rights to free speech. U.S. District Court Judge Marco Hernández agreed that the policy was overly broad and “likely unconstitutional” although “laudable” in its aims.

The suit has yet to go to trial, and Cortvriend said she’s waiting to see what happens. It’s possible that the language in her bill will need to be modified, she said. In the meantime, “I think it’s a practice that we should at least acknowledge is happening,” she said.

How ‘love letters’ affect the industry

There isn’t hard data on how many buyers include a “love letter” when they’re making an offer on a house, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the tactic has become more common in the past few years amid increased demand for a small supply of houses.

Last year, one buyer told The Journal that she and her husband had filmed a video with their 8-year-old daughter reading a letter out loud in order to win over a seller. Another included a slideshow that included pictures of pumpkins in her garden, and her children cavorting with baby goats that they had raised.

As charming as they may be, these kinds of “love letters” make the real estate industry uneasy.

“They’re dangerous,” David Salvatore, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, told the House committee on municipal government and housing last Thursday. “It’s not a practice that should be tolerated in the real estate industry.”

The concern is that buyers’ “love letters” often give away details like their religion or marital status, which could lead to unconscious bias or result in discrimination claims. Including photos gets even more fraught.

“This is kind of a very quiet way of redlining, potentially,” Cortvriend said.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors warns on its website that sellers “could be found in violation of fair housing laws” if they accept an offer after reading the buyers’ letter, and their agent could potentially be opening themselves up to legal liability as well.

However, the group isn’t yet throwing its support behind Cortvriend’s bill.

“I’m not certain that we need legislation to address this issue,” Salvatore, who is also a member of the Providence City Council, testified on Thursday. He noted that the lawsuit in Oregon was a concern.

After H7722 received an initial hearing on Thursday, it began drawing attention on social media. Some commenters asked how people who don’t want to sell their homes to outside investors or “flippers” would be able to make that distinction.

“It’s a fair point that I hadn’t thought about,” Cortvriend told The Journal on Monday.

The bill has been held for further study, and Cortvriend said that she’s open to reworking it as needed. Co-sponsors include Representatives June Speakman, Michelle McGaw, Karen Alzate, Lauren Carson, Liana Cassar and Brandon Potter, all Democrats.

Copyright © 2022 Providence Journal, all rights reserved.


75% of Successful Buyers Have Regrets

Today’s successful buyers are happy they got a home, but some who made trade-offs to win a bidding war have regrets after they move in.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Purchasing a home in a rapidly appreciating and hypercompetitive housing market can feel like winning the lottery. But a new Zillow survey finds even those who are successful often make compromises and can suffer from buyer’s remorse. Current and aspiring home shoppers can learn from the regrets of these pandemic-era buyers with help from new technology and a housing market that could offer buyers a bit more breathing room.

Zillow’s survey finds three-quarters of those who successfully purchased a home in the past two years say they have at least one regret about the home they bought (75%). About one-third of new buyers regret buying a home that needs more work or maintenance than expected (32%). A similar percentage regret buying a home that is too small (31%).

“The pandemic-driven feeding frenzy in the for-sale market added challenges for buyers, especially those purchasing for the first time,” said Zillow population scientist Manny Garcia. “This research suggests many of those buyers ended up in a home that was less than ideal. It’s important to remember that even in a balanced market, most buyers have to make compromises to stay within their budget. However, to minimize regret, aspiring buyers would be wise to establish where they’re willing to compromise and what’s a deal breaker before shopping.”

A checklist can help home shoppers establish their needs versus their wants. When shopping with a partner, the right home should meet the needs of both people to avoid regrets and resentment.

Most successful buyers (74%) wish they had done at least one thing differently during the shopping process, with 38% wishing they had spent more time searching for a home or weighing their options. About one-quarter would have shopped for and purchased a home in a different area (28%).

A vast majority of successful buyers say they had to make at least one compromise in order to afford their home (81%). Nearly 2 in 5 say they ended up in a location that increased their commute time (39%), while 32% purchased a home that was smaller than they initially planned to buy.

“Buyers can get distracted by a pretty kitchen or great staging when they should concentrate instead on a home’s two biggest factors: its layout and location. It’s very tough to change both,” said Seattle-based Zillow Premier Agent partner Lucas Pinto, team lead at the Lucas Pinto Real Estate Group, Compass. “A great agent can reframe a buyer’s home search and keep them focused on their priorities, helping them make a confident, informed purchase decision.”

New tech tools are making it easier for homebuyers to understand a home’s layout before touring it in person. Interactive floor plans and virtual 3D Home tours can give buyers a more accurate sense of the spatial relationship between rooms in a home, so they can winnow their options without leaving their sofa.

Buyer burnout has become increasingly common amid rapid home price appreciation. Nearly 60% of successful buyers say they took a break from their home search (59%), while 72% of prospective buyers say they have done the same. Both prospective and successful buyers who paused their search were most likely to do so because the type of home they wanted to buy became too expensive.

These pandemic-era buyers faced unprecedented conditions. They had far fewer homes to choose from and far more competition for the homes that were listed for sale. Inventory fell to a new low, down more than 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while home values surged nearly 20% in 2021.

Today’s buyers face similar challenges, but in a calmer market, they should have more time to assess their options before making one of life’s biggest financial investments. In June 2021, the typical U.S. home flew off the market in just one week. That timeframe has expanded every month since, to roughly 13 days in December 2021.Home values are expected to keep climbing, but Zillow economists predict those values will rise at a slightly slower rate than last year’s blistering pace 16.4% versus 19.6% in 2021.

Copyright © 2022 BridgeTower Media. All rights reserved; Copyright © 2022, The Mecklenburg Times (Charlotte, NC).


Some Home Features Can Boost Sales Price

Study: Some uncommon features can boost a home selling prices by a few percent, including a “pot filler” – an above-the-stove water faucet that adds 3.2%.

NEW YORK – Some unusual or uncommon home features not only attract buyers but also encourage them to pay more for those features. In a study for Angi, formerly Angie’s List, researchers combed through sold listings to identify common or trending home features and then determined whether a price premium could be attached to some amenities.

In the kitchen, buyers may appreciate a pot filler faucet over the cooktop. Angi researchers said that feature alone could lead to a 3.2% price premium.

Other home features that can make a big difference

  • Pendant lighting (2.66% price premium)
  • Under-cabinet lighting (2.48%)
  • Double-sink vanity (2.35%); barn door (2.32%)
  • Butcher block (2.26%)
  • Quartz countertops (2.26%)
  • Oversized windows (2.23%)

Most-valued features by room

  • Double sink vanity: 2.35%
  • En suite: 1.41%
  • Pot filler: 3.2%
  • Fireplace: 1.97%
  • Outdoor kitchen: 2.05%

Researchers also found that buyers in different markets showed differing preferences. Of the study’s three metros in Florida, the following amenities appeared to make the biggest difference for the selling price:

  • Jacksonville: granite countertops, 5.37%
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford: granite countertops, 2.1%
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater: under-cabinet lighting: 6.66%

Source: Angi

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Fla. Still Offers First-Time Buyer Programs

Some first-time buyers think they can’t afford a home – but they don’t know where to look. In addition to national and local programs, Fla. offers 3 possible options.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Even though cash remains king to many home sellers, a range of programs exist to help first-time homebuyers with down payments and/or closing costs. In Florida, the state administers three programs through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC).

According to FHFC, the programs operate like second loans when using one of FHFC’s first-mortgage loan programs. They include:

The Florida Assist (FL Assist) offers up to $10,000 on FHA, VA, USDA and conventional loans as a 0%, non-amortizing, deferred second mortgage. The aid isn’t forgivable – it must be paid back. However, the money doesn’t have to be repaid until the buyer sells or transfers the home, satisfies the first mortgage, refinances or moves out.

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FL HLP) Second Mortgage also offers $10,000. It works as a 3% fully-amortizing, second mortgage over a 15-year term that includes a monthly payment. The remaining unpaid principal balance (UPB) is deferred, though, unless the first-time buyer sells or transfers the deed, satisfies the first mortgage, refinances or moves. (Note: It carries a monthly payment that may need to be considered in a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio for credit underwriting).

The HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS Second Mortgage are down payment and closing cost programs that offer buyers 3%, 4% or 5% of the total loan amount in a forgivable second mortgage. The “forgive” rate is 20% per year over its 5-year term when used with Florida Housing’s conventional HFA Preferred for TBA or HFA Advantage for TBA first mortgage products. The “PLUS” Second Mortgage is available only with these conventional first mortgage products.

First-time homebuyers don’t have to wade through the three loan program details on their own, however. FHFA also has a Homebuyer Program Wizard that considers individual circumstances and makes a recommendation.

FHFA told the Miami Herald that its volume jumped considerably last year – so much so that it stayed open 24/7 and increased assistance amounts.

In addition to Florida programs, a few national programs track assistance programs, including downpaymentresource.com, Zillow.com or themortgagereports.com – and possibly Google if a buyer types in the correct search terms. The assistance programs aren’t always easy to find, however, and first-time buyers may have to assertively ask for help.

While some lenders and sellers may case doubt on buyer assistance programs, they’re sometimes more reliable than loans from family or friends.

Assistance is “very trustworthy. … Borrowers are completely underwritten” to make sure they meet program requirements,” Charles White, who directs Florida’s programs, told real estate writer Lew Sichelman.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Vanishing Golf Courses: 20 in S. Fla. in 5 Years

A drop in demand for the sport and uptick in demand for land has pressured more cities to trade golf for housing. For builders, golf course land is usually ideal.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A little under 20 golf courses have been or are in the process of re-development in Palm Beach and Broward counties over the past five years, signaling a growing trend as developers sniff out that rarest of commodities, open land.

South Florida’s booming housing market has left developers hard pressed to find plots large enough for single-family home developments, making golf courses an optimal option to re-develop.

“The land in the suburban areas or near the urban cores has been scarce,” said Nelson Stabile, president of the Builder’s Association of South Florida. “If you are trying to develop single-family homes or townhome communities, it’s become very challenging to find land.”

According to numbers from the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, there are 104 golf courses left in the county, including public, municipal, resort, semi-private, and private courses.

In the past five years, 13 Palm Beach County golf courses have either been converted or are in the process of being converted. Some of those include the Polo Trace Golf Course in Delray Beach, where GL Homes converted fairways, greens and bunkers into 325 housing units, and the former Villa Delray golf course, where 13th Floor Homes plans to develop the property into a 55+ community with 436 residential units, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.

In Broward County, 41 golf courses remain. In the past five years, six golf courses in the county have been converted or are in the process of being converted to single-family homes or parks.

“There is so little land that is even buildable in South Florida, that at this point, golf courses are one of the few options left,” said Alex Yokana, developer at AKAI Estates, which recently built a development called AKAI Estates in Southwest Ranches. Though they have not yet built on a golf course, they had trouble finding enough vacant land for their custom mansions.

Developers are able to convert public or private golf courses, with each having similar challenges in terms of re-zoning and getting building permits approved.

Another reason golf course conversions have picked up in recent years is due to upkeep costs, explained Jeff Lichtenstein, real estate agent and founder of Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens. Sometimes selling is a more attractive option than maintenance.

“An older public course has to make a decision to upgrade its facilities and golf course in order to charge a lot more. There is usually more return on investment in the 40% jump in homeowner prices than getting 40% more in golf fees,” he said.

The lengthy conversion process

Building on a golf course isn’t a given. Some municipalities have zoning laws that must be debated and adjusted in order for building to occur, and a re-zoning process alone can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years, depending on the rules and requirements of the municipality and whether there is neighborhood uproar over the development.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges in the process,” Stabile said.

As part of the re-zoning process, developers have to submit items like traffic studies and environmental impact assessments. After re-zoning is approved, they still have to wait for site plan approval and building permits, among other things.

“Most will have to go through a rezoning process – most golf courses carry a recreation type zoning or may allow a low density residential, which is not attractive to the developer. Zoning change, soil samples, site plan approval, etc., is most likely required,” said the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Though open land is preferable to suburban sprawl to some homeowners, converting golf courses to homes can bring up the property values for homes in the surrounding area, added Lichtenstein.

“If they are building new homes, it should improve the value because the new homes will be ‘new.’ The latest look almost always brings the value up,” he said.

Not all courses end up becoming single-family home developments. Cities in South Florida have instead re-developed some golf courses into parks, like the former Sunset Golf Course, where the city of Hollywood bought the golf course to prevent it from becoming a campground and instead try to convert it to a nature park.

Other times, developers are asked to keep some green space as they convert golf courses into homes. Toll Brothers gave four of the five parcels they purchased to build Century Village East in Deerfield Beach to be built into a park.

What’s the next course that has a date with the bulldozers? EastPointe, in Jupiter, is in the early stages of being developed into about 75 single-family homes. The golf course sold off its driving range to pay for a new lifestyle center and remodeling on the golf course, according to Victoria Lorusso, an agent at Echo Fine Properties.

Interest in the development has already been high, with builders fielding at least 500 calls about the community, she said.

If the golf course gobbling continues at pace, there will be another four South Florida courses slated for development by the end of the year.

© 2022 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Forecast: 16 to 20 Tropical Storms Expected

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The official start of the 2022 hurricane season may be two months away, but forecasters are already assembling their long-range forecasts – and seasoned residents are assessing their hurricane supplies and preparing their lists.

Realtors helping others in times of need is what this charity is all about. Learn how to give and receive.

Several factors come into play when meteorologists make their early predictions on what we might expect in the coming season, including water temperatures from as far away as the tropical Pacific.

And while there is an official start and end to hurricane season, storms can and have developed throughout the year.

Here are a few answers to common questions as the predictions for this year’s season begin to arrive.

When does hurricane season begin and end?

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The National Hurricane Center begins issuing regular tropical weather outlooks May 15.

The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and runs through Nov. 30.

What are the experts predicting for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season?

The 2021 hurricane season was the third most active on record and AccuWeather’s hurricane experts said the 2022 season could be very similar.

AccuWeather’s 2022 Atlantic hurricane forecast calls for 16 to 20 named storms, six to eight of which could become hurricanes. Three to five of those hurricanes could become classified as major, which means wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.

Four to six hurricanes could have a direct impact on the U.S., AccuWeather said.

NOAA is predicting La Niña will continue into summer, keeping tropical storm formation high. If La Niña persists through September, it would be the third time since 1950 the phenomenon has been around for three consecutive hurricane seasons.

Colorado State University will issue its first formal forecast for the 2022 season April 7. An earlier “qualitative discussion” issued in December gave the highest chance – 40% – of 13 to 16 named storms, with six to eight becoming hurricanes and two to three becoming major hurricanes.

What’s the difference between El Niño and La Niña and what impact do they have on hurricanes?

Water temperatures near the equator in the central and eastern parts of the Pacific Ocean play a role in the Atlantic’s hurricane season.

La Niña is characterized by water temperatures lower than average. La Niña’s biggest impact in the Atlantic basin is decreasing the amount of wind shear, which tears apart developing storms in the tropics. Lower wind shear increases the potential for a higher-than-normal number of tropical systems, according to AccuWeather.

El Niño is characterized by water temperatures higher than normal and higher wind shear, which hinders tropical development and can even tear apart weaker systems that have formed, according to AccuWeather.

While El Niño helps knock down storms with strong westerly wind shear, La Niña reduces vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic, which can promote favorable hurricane conditions.

La Niña was in place for both the 2020 and 2021 active Atlantic hurricane seasons.

An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, according to NOAA. There were more storms – 30 – in 2020 than any other season in history. Eleven of the storms made landfall in the continental U.S. Fourteen became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including seven major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). This is the most storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.

In 2021, there were 21 named tropical storms, making it the third most active year on record in terms of named storms, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Can there be a tropical storm or hurricane before the official start of hurricane season?

AccuWeather forecasters also said there is a high chance for a preseason storm to develop and that another active tropical season is expected. There are already indications that a named tropical system could spin up before the official start of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said in AccuWeather’s annual spring forecast.

Early tropical storms are common, and actually occur on average every four to five years, according to the National Hurricane Center. In 1938, an unnamed hurricane formed on Jan. 3; another formed March 6, 1908.

More recently, while most pre-season tropical storms formed in May, there also was Tropical Storm Ana on April 20, 2003.

When and how should you prepare for a hurricane?

You don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait until a storm is approaching to prepare. Keeping and maintaining a disaster-preparedness kit is recommended for everyone who lives in an area regularly threatened by hurricanes.

Officials encourage residents to assemble a kit early. Doing so ensures there are adequate supplies available on store shelves and prevents a rush – and shortages – that regularly occur when a storm is imminent.

When is Florida’s tax-free holiday for disaster preparedness?

The Florida Legislature established the 2022 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday for May 28 through June 10. The 14-day tax holiday removes the sales tax from certain items to help residents prepare for hurricane season.

Some examples of tax-free items include: flashlights and lanterns costing $40 or less; radios costing $50 or less; tarps costing $100 or less; coolers costing $60 or less; batteries costing $50 or less; smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors costing $70 or less; and, generators costing $1,000 or less.

The holiday also includes a number of items related to the safe evacuation of household pets.

The bottom line: All agree residents should always be prepared for a storm.

© Copyright 2022 The Florida Times-Union


Why so Few Homeowners Selling? It’s Complicated

SARASOTA, Fla. – New affordability estimates show why so few houses are on the market: Owners who might want to sell may not be able to afford to buy another house. Even if they could find one.

Forget for a moment that there’s a record low number of houses for sale, and just consider costs. Even using the profits from the sale of their current home, many sellers may not be able to afford another one.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), nearly 7 out of 10 households cannot afford a median-priced home in today’s environment. That is, the incomes of 87.5 million families are not sufficient to qualify for financing under standard underwriting criteria.

Worse, for every $1,000 increase above the median price, some 118,000 more households are priced out, which is a major reason so many people are staying put.

The underwriting criterion the NAHB uses to determine affordability is that the sum of mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowner’s and private mortgage insurance premiums (PITI) during the first year must be no more than 28% of the household’s income. Key assumptions include a 10% down payment, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and an interest rate of 3.5%. (Note: At this writing, mortgage rates have already shot past 4%, which knocks many more people off the list of potential buyers.)

And, of course, there’s more to it than simply selling one house and buying another. For one thing, there’s the cost of selling – an amount that can significantly eat away at the profits you’d hoped to use to buy your next place. The process of buying a house isn’t cheap, either. And then there’s the heady cost of moving.

All of these factor into the stay-or-go decision, so let’s take a look at each one.

Selling. According to Bankrate, the cost to sell a house is roughly 10% of the selling price. So if you get $300,000 for your place, plan on $30,000 never finding its way into your pocket.

For example, even though today’s buyers are overlooking many flaws, you’ll still want to make some repairs. Otherwise, you’ll leave more money on the table than it would have cost you to, say, fix a dripping faucet, repair a leaky roof or replace worn-out appliances. You might even want to have the place inspected to discover unknown problems that could quash your deal if not addressed.

If you plan to pay off your loan on the old house, you’ll probably be hit with a few unexpected charges, such as prepaid interest and prorated property taxes based on the day you go to closing. You might even have to pay some of your buyer’s closing costs.

Moving. Roughly half of all sellers use a professional mover, whether they are going across town or across the country, according to Zillow. HomeAdvisor reports that moving under 100 miles runs $80 to $100 per hour on average, which includes two movers and a truck. An interstate move will cost more, often in the thousands.

But that’s an average of all moves, including those from apartments. Moving from a house, which tends to be larger and hold more stuff, means you’ll pay more. Moving from a four-bedroom house will take eight to 12 hours, HomeAdvisor estimates, at a cost in the range of $640 to $1,200.

The cost of moving out-of-state is based on two variables: weight and distance. A reputable mover will give you an estimate based on both. (For reference: HomeAdvisor reckons the goods inside a four-bedroom, 2,800 square-foot houses weigh a whopping 20,500 pounds.) Obviously, the more you take with you and the farther you go, the higher the price.

Of course, you can call on friends and relatives to help you move, but you still have to rent a truck and buy the beer and pizza. You also might have to put your things in storage, which means not one move, but two. And you may have to pay for overnight accommodations.

Buying. Families moving up will want to maximize their down payments to keep their new mortgage payments as low as possible. Most, if not all, of your down payment will probably come from the proceeds of the sale of your old house. You may even have some money left over.

But if you are short on cash, you may be able to find financing for as little as 3% down. Loans from Veterans Affairs and the Department of Agriculture come with nothing down, but you have to be (or have been) in the military or moving to a rural location.

Another big consideration: closing costs. According to NerdWallet, these fees typically add up to 2% to 5% of the total price of the home, depending on location. So for that $300,000 house, expect to ante up anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000 in closing costs.

If you go for low-down-payment financing, you’ll have to pay for mortgage insurance, which you may not have had to pay before. And if you are moving to a community run by a homeowners’ association, you’ll have to pay dues to keep the neighborhood in good condition. These two expenses don’t usually require anything up front, but they are recurring costs to keep in mind. Also, moving to a larger place incurs higher property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Hey, everything costs more when going big, even the heat and air conditioning. And if you get caught in the middle of two transactions – selling your old house and buying the new one – you could be saddled with two mortgage payments for a while.

Copyright © 2022, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, all rights reserved. Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years.


Instagram Can Motivate Sellers to List With You

A business account gives agents a free marketing plan, ad tools and, once rolling, data analytics to help them see how the account is performing.

SAN FRANCISCO – Instagram expert Michelle Berman-Mikel advises agents to obtain an Instagram business account if they don’t already have one. Similar to Facebook, Instagram does not allow business posts on personal accounts.

The advantages of a business account include access to a free marketing plan, data analytics on account performance and ad tools.

Berman-Mikel says Instagram users can repurpose a listing’s 10-minute drone video in various ways. For example, they could:

  • Post the original 10-minute video on IGTV, Instagram’s area for long-form videos
  • Take a two-minute clip from the video and share it on their Instagram feed
  • Shoot a “behind-the-scenes” video about making the drone shoot and post it to Instagram Stories
  • Use a one-minute section of the drone footage and post it to Reels, ideally one that emphasizes a unique feature of the listing

Reels operate similar to TikTok to create short-form videos that share something funny or unusual, often complemented with music or dancing.

In addition to lifestyle posts that personalize agents to potential clients, Berman-Mikel recommends posting content that provides value. It could be informational content designed to demonstrate the agent’s expertise, ideally in a particular niche.

Agents can also showcase a listing or feature a video of clients receiving or handing over the keys to a home, as well as testimonials.

Berman-Mikel recommends agents commit to making at least one post a day on their Instagram business account, and regularly alternate between personal and business content. And, she says, they should also track results.

Source: Inman (08/11/21) Ross, Bernice

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Condo Q&A: Which Insurance Covers a Fire?

A condo owner suffered damage after a fire in a nearby unit. Which insurer pays for that, the condo association’s or the personal policy he has on his unit?

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Question: I am an owner in a condominium in Palm Beach County. There was recently a fire in an adjoining unit that caused damage to my unit. What is covered by my insurance policy versus the condominium’s insurance policy? – Palm Beach, Fla.

Answer: Generally speaking, the condominium association insures your building and the common elements of the building under an insurance policy, typically called the master policy. As a general statement, master policies cover the basic building (i.e., the walls, roof system, flooring, elevators, etc.) and not items associated with the individual units. Because the master policy does not cover your unit specifically, you should have an insurance policy for your unit that is designated as an HO-6.

HO-6 policy covers the unit and its contents, as well as liability and coverage for additional living expenses should you be unable to stay in your unit due to the nature of the claim being made. This is similar to the type of insurance that you would have for a single-family home which is called an HO-3 policy. The difference is that if you own a home, you are responsible for everything inside and outside your home up to your property lines, including the home, the lawn, fences, the pool, and detached structures such as sheds.

Because the association in a condominium is responsible for all common elements of the building an HO-6 policy is more akin to renters insurance in terms of the scope of coverage. Under Florida law (Florida Statute 718.111(11)I), the association must meet certain insurance requirements which requires it to have adequate property insurance including replacement cost value for common areas and the building.

In terms of what “inside” your unit means versus “outside” your unit will vary depending on your declaration. In addition, depending on what your association has as insurance is also important. An all-in policy may cover some parts of your condominium unit, like appliances, plumbing, flooring, and electrical, while a bare-walls-in policy will likely exclude everything within the four walls of your condominium.

Keep in mind that no matter what type of policy or combination of policies are controlling over a specific claim, depending on the type of loss and facts surrounding the claim, there will likely be specific policy provisions that may either specifically or implicitly exclude your claim from coverage. In that vein, depending on the cause and origin of the loss, there may be disputes between the carriers as to what policy applies.

Unfortunately, while it may seem so on its face, when talking about insurance coverage, the claims process might not be so clear in regard to which insurance policy/carrier is responsible for what damage.

In regard to your specific situation, since your unit was damaged, your insurance policy likely requires you to, at a minimum, put your insurance carrier on notice of the loss under the “prompt notice” provision of the policy. Failure to notify your insurance carrier, regardless of who or what caused the damage could, potentially, be used by your carrier to deny the claim under that provision.

As you are likely aware, owners hire public adjusters sometimes in order to assist in determining the scope of potential damages. Public adjusters typically work on a percentage of what is recovered, so they generally put as much as they can into their estimates, whether the damages are related to the claimed loss or not. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but keep in mind that a public adjuster is usually not an engineer or general contractor and can only determine so much in regard to cause and origin and the “true” amount of the claimed damages. You can also hire an attorney directly to represent your interests in regard to the claim.

An experienced first-party insurance attorney can often be a better way to go than a public adjuster, especially because most carriers simply do not pay the “full value” of the claimed damages. Having an attorney involved at the outset can streamline the process versus having to bring in an attorney at a later date. An attorney will typically bring in outside contractors and engineers to do the cause and origin analysis and to develop an estimate. Most attorneys will also work on a contingency, so there is no cost to you unless a recovery is made and Florida law provides for the recovery of attorney’s fees should a claim get into litigation.

Finally, it is important to remember that all insurance policies have their limits, even a large commercial policy. While the limits tend to be higher for a condominium or other commercial structure, the damages that buildings can suffer as the result of a loss, such as for a fire, can be serious and sometimes exceed the policy limits. When these limits are reached, individual unit owners may be required to make up the difference in damages. Having a professional, such as an attorney, analyze the association’s policy can help you understand and navigate what can often be a confusing and frustrating process.

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, DeBoest & Cross, 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.

© 2022 Journal Media Group. Harris Katz, Esq., is partner of the law firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross.


Realtors Celebrate Fair Housing Month

This April, Realtors celebrate the 54th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act with special events that symbolize their recommitment to expanding equal access to housing. 

WASHINGTON – The Fair Housing Act created a sea change of U.S. laws to guarantee that all Americans – regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability – had an equally fair shot at the American dream of homeownership.

While the nation still hasn’t fully come to terms with equal access for all, the Act was the first and perhaps biggest step in getting there.

For Realtors, April is a time to honor passage of the Fair Housing Act, but also to look at the present and plan for the future. In addition to the Fair Housing Act, the Realtor Code of Ethics also requires Realtors to provide equal service on the basis of these protected classes, as well as on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Realtor resources for fair housing

  • The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) published a Fair Housing Month Toolkit. Realtors can download a poster along with additional graphics and resources to help individuals and associations commemorate Fair Housing Month.
  • NAR added a new episode to its podcast, Drive with NAR, called Fair Housing: Who’s Being Left Out of the Conversation?
  • More information on advertising that follows the Fair Housing Act can be found in a new Window to the Law video from NAR: Advertising Within the Fair Housing Framework.
  • Realtors can petition their cities and states to join them in celebrating passage of the Fair Housing Act. NAR created a proclamation that can be filled out for the request, available for download as an online PDF. Commemorate Fair Housing Month by asking your local government body to pass this proclamation supporting fair housing for all. Click here to download the Fair Housing Month Proclamation.
  • On April 12, NAR will also release a new report, Obstacles to Homebuying.
  • On April 27, NAR will host a Facebook Live event: “How Do We Close the Racial Homeownership Gap?”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also celebrates passage of the Fair Housing Act in April.

“Fair Housing month is a time to recommit to our mission to promote fairness, inclusion and justice in housing,” says HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “This month and every month, we are doing everything in our power to ensure every person has a fair shot at the American dream.”

“Although the Fair Housing Act was passed 54 years ago, we are still fighting against discrimination in housing today,” adds Demetria L. McCain, principal deputy secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “This April, HUD is renewing its commitment to end housing discrimination and to ensure every person has equal access to safe, affordable housing.”

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Property Taxes in Fla. Metros Cheaper than Most

LendingTree ranked 50 U.S. metro areas. At No. 24, Miami was solidly average, but property taxes in three other state metro areas ranked from No. 11 to No. 14.

NEW YORK – Property taxes vary significantly across the nation’s 50 largest metros. How much homeowners pay in property taxes largely depends on where they live and what their home is worth.

Homeowners in the lowest property tax metro, Birmingham, Ala., pay about $7,700 less than their counterparts in the New York metro area, which has the highest property taxes in the U.S. Property taxes in Birmingham average $753 (homes without a mortgage); property taxes in New York City average $8,180.

Of four Florida metros included in the rankings, Miami has the highest property taxes ($2,481), but it still only ranked No. 24 with 26 other U.S. metros more expensive.

Tampa came in at No. 11 ($1,406), Jacksonville at No. 12 ($1,575) and Orlando at No. 14 ($1,744).

Birmingham is the only metro where median property taxes are less than $1,000 a year. On the other hand, in New York, San Jose, Calif. and San Francisco, property taxes are among the highest in the country, at $8,602 in New York (homes with a mortgage), $7,471 in San Jose, and $6,508 in San Francisco, according to the study.

Homeowners overburdened by property taxes or who believe they’re paying too much can challenge their assessment, says Jacob Channel, LendingTree’s senior economic analyst and the report’s author.

“While this doesn’t guarantee that your bill will go down, it can help shed some light on why the government is saying you owe what you do,” he says. “And, in the best-case scenario, you could end up paying less in taxes.”

Source: LendingTree

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


ATTOM: Home Flips Up, Profits Down in 2021

The number of homes flipped in 2021 rose 26% year-to-year, even as the profits on each flip fell 3% – the lowest level since 2008 and a 20% drop in ROI.

IRVINE, Calif. – Last year was a strong one for flipping homes, though not so much for the profits on those homes once resold.

According to ATTOM’s 2021 U.S. Home Flipping Report, 323,465 single-family homes and condos in the United States were flipped in 2021 – up 26% year-to-year and the highest point since 2006.

As a percentage of all sales, however, home flips dropped a bit last year. They made up 5.5% of all sales compared to 5.8% in 2020 and 6.1% in 2019.

While flipping remains a popular real estate investment vehicle, however, the profitability of flipping declined. Even as quick-turnaround sales by investors shot up, 2021 gross profit margins sank to their lowest level in more than a decade, dropping at the fastest pace in more than 15 years.

Nationwide, homes flipped in 2021 typically generated a gross profit of $65,000 – the difference between the final median sales price and the amount originally paid by investors – for a drop of 3% ($67,000 in 2020). That translates into a 31% return on investment (ROI) for the lowest margin since 2008.

The 2021 ROI (not including mortgage interest, property taxes, renovation expenses and holding costs) was down from 41.9% in 2020 and 40% in 2019 for the steepest ROI decline since at least 2005 and 20 percentage points from the last decade’s 51% peak hit in 2016.

“While gross profits were lower for fix-and-flip investors in 2021, there may have been offsets that protected net profits,” says Rick Sharga, ATTOM’s executive vice president of market intelligence. “Fewer flippers financed their purchases, so their cost of capital was lower. And it took less time to execute a flip, reducing holding costs, and suggesting that less extensive – and less expensive – repairs were needed to bring the properties to market. A lot of the mark-up on fix-and-flip properties historically has come from the value of those repairs, but so have a lot of the costs that reduce net profits.”

Investors saw gross profit margins dip for the fourth time in five years as the median value of the homes they flipped rose more slowly than the median price they paid to purchase properties – 21.1% versus 31.3%. The decline in home-flipping profits may represent a rare crack in the foundation of the U.S. housing market, which otherwise boomed in 2021 both because of, and in spite of, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the two-year-old pandemic, a surge of buyers has flooded the market amid a confluence of key factors, including historically low mortgage rates and a desire of households largely unscathed financially to trade their densely populated virus-prone area for a single-family home and yard.

Time to flip: It took an average 153 days to complete a flip in 2021, the lowest number since 2012, and down from 182 days in 2020 and 178 days in 2019.

FHA buyers: In 2021, just 8.2% of flipped homes sold to buyers using a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) – the smallest percentage since 2007, and down from 13.9% in 2020 and 14% in 2019.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


How Do Real Estate Firms Succeed in the Market?

The broad goal is to make your product irresistible, and a number of marketing steps can help. In today’s world, a social media presence is also mandatory.

NEW YORK – To keep would-be clients from choosing a competitor, real estate firms need to make their brands irresistible. Real estate agents and firms that have registered success doing this use a number of marketing strategies to keep their clients loyal.

Real estate is a field that is equally challenging and potentially lucrative. The market goes through many ups and downs and is dependent on several factors such as interest rates, economic conditions, and job growth. Regardless of how the market behaves currently, both beginners and seasoned dealers can apply many strategies that can bring them more business.

Many real estate brokers and businesses focus on a niche market and become an expert there. This gives them an idea about what is driving the target market currently, what risks are involved, and most importantly where the market is headed in the short and long term.

Create brand identity

Roy Kasekende shares that to stand out from the rest of the competition, real estate agents and brokers must create a brand identity that resonates with particular homebuyers and sellers.

Kasekende explains that to establish one’s brand identity as a real estate agent or broker for a certain market requires more than having a real estate license and an office.

“It is about showcasing your expertise. What kind of properties do you specialize in? Do you know every neighborhood like the back of your hand? Real estate branding is the intentional positioning of your real estate agency in a way that establishes a sense of trust with your target audience of property buyers and sellers,” he says.

He argues that all real estate agents and brokers are involved in the same type of business transaction; purchasing and selling of a property, which means that one’s brand identity needs to go further than simply letting would-be clients know that they specialize in either residential or commercial real estate negotiation.

“You must dig deeper into your expertise in real estate to find your unique selling proposition. Ultimately, you want to become synonymous with your real estate specialty so that you become the first and only call that a buyer or seller makes.”

Market yourself

For Hilda Naluyange, developing a marketing budget for your real estate business and sticking to it is key. She says there are literally hundreds of avenues a real estate firm can spend their marketing money on, such as real estate websites, email marketing, social media marketing, among others, but regardless of the market, one must establish their presence on the internet with the help of a professional website, as well as dedicated accounts on social media sites.

“Most successful real estate agents generate several deals through referrals from previous customers. A customer referral is most valued by a new buyer or seller. New customers are more comfortable selecting a real estate agent or firm when referred by a friend, colleague, or relative,” she advises.

To successfully market your real estate firm, according to Naluyange, you will need a real estate development business plan, regardless of whether you are a real estate agent or a real estate developer. This will set you up for success. You can plan your expenses, contingencies, and other risks with the help of a real estate development business plan.

Many people fail when they work in a vacuum without such planning. Just like big brand businesses, your real estate business must also strive to develop a brand of its own. It could be under your name or your business’ name. Any real estate sales strategy that you may choose to apply must keep this concept in mind.

“People often wonder how to get into real estate sales and how to successfully build a business. The answer lies in planning to develop a name brand and using it to market the business for years to come. Developing a successful real estate business takes effort and time,” Naluyange advises.

Moses Katamba a proprietor of rental units, says partnering with local businesses such as clothing boutiques, home showrooms, and coffee shops to promote listings of your property puts your firm out there. He explains that this encourages potential buyers to explore each room of the property to their satisfaction, and you can work with the local businesses to determine discounts on goods that can be offered to the homebuyers.

He says satisfied previous clients are an excellent resource for boosting your credibility and building trust through your real estate marketing. If a sale goes well, touch base with the customers you helped and get a paragraph-long description speaking to how helpful you were.

Digital presence

Once you have that content along with those clients’ approval to use it on your website, prospects can get a real understanding of how well you have previously served people in their position. With these marketing ideas, you are sure to wow your potential customers and attract them to your services. Creating a marketing plan will help you set goals for your marketing campaigns and develop the steps to reach these goals.

Katamba also says that maintaining an active, engaging social media presence is one of the better ways to frame yourself as a trusted advisor for prospects, generate interest, and connect with potential clients.

“You can also share helpful content with your followers. One way or another, establish yourself as an authority in your space by demonstrating that you know what you are talking about. Prospective clients want to connect with real estate agents that understand the practice, their niche, and their areas. Show that you have a grasp on all of those with your social media presence,” he says.

© 2022, The Daily Monitor


Fla. Regulator: Insurers Can Offer Roof Deductibles

A bill to make homeowners pay roof-replacement deductibles failed, but OIR says it can be an insurer option, such as lower premiums for owners willing to take a risk.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has had a rash of insurance claims alleging damaged roofs covered under their homeowner’s property insurance policy, and the 2022 Florida Legislature considered a fix that would have charged homeowners a deductible if their roof needed replacement following a covered event. However, the bill, SB 1728, passed the Senate but failed in the House.

While the Florida Legislature may return to Tallahassee for a special session to discuss the state’s property insurance challenges, it’s generally not expected to do so before November after a new House Speaker takes over.

On Wednesday, however, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) announced that it would allow insurers to offer roof-replacement deductibles as an option in their policies.

While SB 1728 would have made the roof deduction mandatory for all state policy holders, OIR will make it an option insurers will offer if they’re approved to do so. It would likely be something in the form of a premium reduction for homeowners willing to take a risk and hope that their roof won’t be damaged in a future storm.

“That will give companies more latitude,” William Stander, director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association, told the Insurance Journal. “We’re glad to see OIR moving forward on this.”

It’s unclear how much OIR’s new option might change the Florida property insurance market, however, since it largely depends on the number of homeowners willing to choose the option.

Source: 2022 Insurance Journal, William Rabb

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Regulators Eye 11% Citizens Insurance Rate Hikes

Fla.’s state-backed “insurer of last resort” requested an overall 11% rate hike effective Aug. 1, and regulators spent three hours considering it Thursday.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Insurance regulators Thursday took up a request by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to raise rates by nearly 11%, as policies continue pouring into the state-backed insurer.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation held a three-hour hearing on the request, which, if approved, would begin taking effect Aug. 1. It was not immediately clear when regulators will make a decision on the proposed hikes.

Members of the Citizens Board of Governors decided in December to seek an across-the-board 11% rate increase. The actual request is slightly lower than that, with, for example, Citizens seeking an average 10.7% increase for homeowners’ “multi-peril” policies – the most-common type of coverage.

Brian Donovan, chief actuary for Citizens, said the average statewide premium for the multi-peril policies would increase from $3,044 to $3,371. But premiums in some areas, such as Southeast Florida, are substantially higher than the statewide average.

The request comes amid a turbulent time in the property-insurance market, with private insurers seeking hefty rate increases and dropping customers because of financial problems. Two insurers, St. Johns Insurance Co., and Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Co., have recently been placed in state receivership because of insolvencies.

Part of the fallout from the problems is that thousands of homeowners a week are turning to Citizens for coverage. Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway told regulators Thursday that Citizens, which was created as an insurer of last resort, has about 820,000 policies and will top 1 million policies by the end of the year.

“There’s no place for this business to go. Capacity (in the private market) is so limited. … So where does it go? It comes to Citizens,” Gilway said.

Gilway said Citizens often charges lower rates than private insurers, putting it in a “ridiculous” competitive position. The requested rate increases are effectively aimed at reducing the gap between the rates of Citizens and private insurers, as a way to try to steer more policies into the private market.

To do that, however, Citizens is seeking approval for a different approach to setting rates. Under state law, Citizens faces an 11% cap this year on rate increases, after being capped at 10% in the past.

Citizens applied the 10% cap on an individual policy basis – meaning that some policyholders could see increases far below 10% if warranted. But this year’s proposal is designed to make the increases close to 11% on a company-wide basis.

Gilway said Citizens has underwriting losses, which essentially involves it paying out more in claims and expenses than it brings in from premiums. That has left it reliant on investment income.

“This (the rate proposal) is an attempt, frankly, to reduce the difference between the average private market rate and Citizens’ overall rate,” he said.

State leaders have long sought to shift policies from Citizens to the private market, at least in part because of potential financial risks if major hurricanes hit the state. But in parts of Florida, homeowners have little choice but to turn to Citizens for coverage.

Source: News Service of Florida