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Category Archives: Florida Real Estate News (Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved.)

Bring Purpose Back to Your Brokerage

“I’m going to do this better,” brokers say when starting a new business, but that purpose can get lost in day-to-day operations. Is it time to bring it back?

NEW YORK – As the marketplace slows, it’s essential to pause and think about new strategies.

As the backbone for everything that comes next, a brokerage should identify its purpose and examine what can be changed or leveraged. Leaders need a clear view in order to help customers curb the stress and confusion associated with buying or selling a home. And, of course, that will help the bottom line through sales and in attracting referral clients.

To set or reestablish a brokerage’s purpose, leaders should articulate the company’s mission to help agents link their day-to-day work with a wider sense of that overall purpose.

Questions to ask include:

  • What value does your company bring to the industry or the region?
  • Why did you start your brokerage?
  • What can you offer agents compared to competitors?

Alongside communicating the objective to agents, leaders should ask agents about their perspective on what they would like to achieve as individuals and teammates. Once the broader purpose is set, agents should understand how their work helps to achieve the loftier goals and expectations.

Leaders should clearly define each agent’s contribution and purpose within the brokerage, and also illustrate how each individual’s work impacts everyone else. The brokerage is most effective when each individual agent understands how his or her efforts align with it. Regular check-ins should help to keep agents stay focused on the brokerage’s goals.

A defined purpose can be reflected in many ways – in a motto, a daily reminder, or a list of expectations and goals that leaders set for themselves and their agents.

A more defined purpose can translate into more energy in the office, which in turn benefits buyers and sellers.

Source: RISMedia (09/15/22) La Rue, Rich

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/bring-purpose-back-your-brokerage

You’re a Good Neighbor? Get Rewarded

NAR’s annual Good Neighbor Awards recognizes Realtors who “made an extraordinary impact in their communities.” Five winners will receive a $10K grant.

CHICAGO – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is now accepting applications for its 2023 Good Neighbor Awards. The annual program recognizes Realtors® who have made an extraordinary impact in their communities through volunteer service.

Five winners will each receive a $10,000 grant for their nonprofit organization and be recognized in November during NAR NXT, The Realtor Experience in Anaheim, California. Five honorable mentions will each receive a $2,500 grant.

“The Good Neighbor Awards program is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our members who give back to their communities,” says NAR President Kenny Parcell. “We are proud to recognize and support these outstanding individuals as they work tirelessly to improve the lives of those around them.”

A recent NAR report found that roughly two out of three Realtors (66%) volunteered monthly, spending an average of eight hours each month.

Since 2000, the Good Neighbor Awards program has donated $1.4 million to Realtor-led nonprofits around the country. The awards program is supported by primary sponsor, Realtor.com and receives additional support from the Center for Realtor Development.

Good Neighbor Award entries must be received by April 19, 2023.

To be eligible, nominees must be an NAR member in good standing and should have made a significant impact as a volunteer for a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Nominees are chosen for the award based on their community impact through volunteer work.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/youre-good-neighbor-get-rewarded

Agent Is Dissing Other Brokers Online – A Big Deal?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Shannon: I’m a broker, run a medium-sized, well-known brokerage in town and I’m mortified at the behavior of one of my agents. I just learned that they’ve been posting negative comments on social media about a well-known commercial broker and local appraiser.

The posts I saw were unprofessional, included pretty judgmental statements and several encouraged readers not to use their services. I don’t know if my agent’s comments are true or not, but at the very least they seem misleading.

I confronted this agent. They said I was overreacting, and that it’s their duty to warn people about the unfair business practices of others in our industry. They said they were just giving honest feedback, and that the comments were about a commercial broker who doesn’t use the MLS and an appraiser who doesn’t have a real estate license. They said, “It’s not a big deal.”

Well, it’s a big deal to me. I told my agent I thought it was unprofessional, that it was bad for the brokerage’s reputation, and that if they didn’t stop I would have to take disciplinary action.

Am I overacting here? Is this a big deal? – Mortified

Dear Mortified: Yikes! I don’t think you are overreacting and yes, this is potentially a big deal.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll only discuss a potential Code of Ethics violation, but there may be other reasons why Realtors should think twice before posting unprofessional, negative comments about other real estate professionals and their business practices. Those “other reasons” include potential civil liability and antitrust implications (which we won’t get into in this article).

Let’s look at what the Code of Ethics says about this situation.

Article 15 states “Realtors® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.” (Amended 1/12) (The bold is mine.)

All elements must be met for there to be a violation. Let’s unpack Article 15, element by element.

Knowingly or recklessly: This element focuses on the head space of your agent. When you confronted your agent about the social media posts, your agent didn’t deny it. Instead they responded that they felt they had a duty to post such statements. But since your agent knew they posted these statements, is this element is met? Not quite.

It’s not about whether your agent knew they posted the statements (and of course they knew they made those statements). It’s about whether or not your agent knew the statements were false or misleading, or whether it was reckless to make false or misleading statements. It’s hard for me to determine if this element is met just based on information you provided. It would be something a professional standards hearing panel would analyze in order for it to determine whether your agent knowingly or recklessly made false or misleading statements.

False or misleading statements: This element focuses on the statements themselves. I haven’t reviewed the statements themselves, but IF you are correct and the statements are misleading at the very least, then this element would be met.

About other real estate professionals: This element focuses on the definition of real estate professional. Your agent posted comments about a commercial broker and real estate appraiser, and they seem to imply that they’re not “real estate professionals” because the commercial broker doesn’t use the MLS and the appraiser doesn’t have a real estate license.

So, are the commercial broker and real estate appraiser “real estate professionals” under Article 15? Review the shaded portions of the 2023 Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual (Manual), which highlights all the changes, and notice a new definition of the phrase “Real Estate Professional” for purposes of Article 15. Section 1, Definitions Relating to Ethics, (w) states: “Real estate professionals”, for purposes of Article 15, are those engaged in the disciplines of real estate specified in Article 11. (Adopted 5/22)

Great, now we look for the disciplines of real estate specified in Article 11. It states:

The services which Realtors® provide to their clients and customers shall conform to the standards of practice and competence which are reasonably expected in the specific real estate disciplines in which they engage; specifically, residential real estate brokerage, real property management, commercial and industrial real estate brokerage, land brokerage, real estate appraisal, real estate counseling, real estate syndication, real estate auction, and international real estate. Realtors® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client. Any persons engaged to provide such assistance shall be so identified to the client and their contribution to the assignment should be set forth.” (Amended 1/10) (Again, the bold is mine.)

So we ask again: Are the commercial broker and real estate appraiser “real estate professionals” under Article 15? Well, the definition of real estate professionals under Article 15 points to Article 11. Article 11’s list of real estate disciplines includes commercial brokerage and real estate appraisal.

So, the answer is yes. Your agent’s “It’s not a big deal” argument doesn’t hold water based on the rationale that the commercial broker doesn’t use the MLS and the appraiser doesn’t have a real estate license.

Article 15 states, “Realtors® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.

Your agent posted statements (which according to your assessment were misleading), about other real estate professionals. If you are correct about the statements being misleading, then two of the three elements seem to have been met here. It’s still up in the air whether or not your agent knowingly or recklessly made such statements.

In conclusion, one of the reasons this a big deal is because it is a potential violation of the Code of Ethics and potentially subjects your agent to discipline under the Manual.

Thank you for reaching out on this one. I don’t like hearing about Realtors making harsh, unprofessional comments about other real estate professionals. As the Preamble to the Code of Ethics says, “Realtors should refrain from making unsolicited comments about other practitioners; and where they are asked for their opinion or think that comment is necessary, their opinion should be offered in an objective, professional manner, uninfluenced by any person motivation or potential advantage or gain.”

Realtors should remember the Golden Rule that binds the Realtor family together and treat others as they would like to be treated.

Shannon Allen is an attorney and Florida Realtors Director of Local Association Services
Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/agent-dissing-other-brokers-online-big-deal

Mortgages vs. Promissory Notes: Not the Same thing

A promissory note commits a new homeowner to make payments on their house. A mortgage gives a lender the right to take that home if they don’t do so. A recent Fla. court opinion highlighted those differences.

MIAMI – In the recently-decided matter of Fis v Newrez, LLC, LEXIS 233104 (SD Fla. Dec. 28, 2022, No. 22-81364), the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (the Court) issued an interesting opinion highlighting the differing rights and obligations imposed by mortgages and their accompanying promissory notes, using the dichotomy between the instruments to dismiss a Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) claim on the basis of a lack of standing.

The background facts of the action were simple: In May 2008, Rafael Fis, Maria Fis, Diana Fis, and Omar Fis jointly purchased a home at 8921 Starhaven Cove in Boynton Beach, Florida (the Property). As part of the sale, Diana and Omar executed a mortgage and promissory note with Bank of America – however, neither of these instruments named Raphael or Maria. Subsequent to the purchase, the mortgage was amended to add Raphael and Maria – thereby including all four parties – while the note remained unchanged and included just two parties as obligors, Diana and Omar.

Fourteen years later, in June 2022, Raphael and Maria (plaintiffs) submitted a loan mitigation application (LMA) to defendant Newrez, LLC, which was the note servicer. The defendant failed to respond to both the June 2022 LMA request and an additional follow-up request sent in August 2022. Plaintiffs thereafter brought suit against the defendant seeking damages for RESPA violations, with the defendant moving to dismiss on the basis that the plaintiffs lacked sufficient Article III Constitutional standing to maintain their action.

In ruling on the motion, the court first noted that RESPA requires loan servicers to take specific actions in response to borrower requests, specifically mandating that servicers:

  1. provide written acknowledgment of their receipt of an LMA request within five business days of reception
  2. furnish a substantive written response to the LMA request within thirty business days of reception

 While it was undisputed that the defendant never responded to either of the plaintiffs’ LMA requests, the defendant alleged it nevertheless owed no liability because the plaintiffs had “not suffered a constitutionally-sufficient injury-in-fact [as] they were not borrowers or otherwise obligated on the note,” observing that the mortgage and note were “separate agreements setting forth different rights and obligations.”

The Court agreed, explaining that, “[p]ut simply, [while] a loan obligates you to pay the lender back, a mortgage gives the lender the ability to take your house if you fail to meet that obligation.”

To illustrate this concept the court summarized the holding issued by the Sixth Circuit in the analogous matter of Keen v Helson, 930 F3d 799 (6th Cir. 2019), wherein a husband and wife jointly purchased a home, with both parties signing the mortgage but the husband alone signing the note. The Keen parties later divorced, with the husband conveying full title to the wife and subsequently passing away, following which the wife continued to make payments despite not being an obligor on the note.

The wife eventually fell behind on payments, requested relief from the lender via LMA, was ignored, and sued for a RESPA violation, with her suit dismissed on the basis that only the obligors on the note itself have sufficient standing to bring a RESPA action as being a mortgage signatory alone does not create any repayment obligation.

The Court held that the plaintiffs’ standing argument was identical to the standing observed in Keen, as while Raphael and Maria were parties to the mortgage-which operated to grant the defendant, as lender, a security interest in the property – they were not parties to the note.

By virtue of their absence from the note they had no standing to request relief under RESPA, as they owed no obligation to issue payments, and without the existence of such obligation there could be no RESPA violation on the defendant’s part. Plaintiffs’ action was therefore dismissed for a lack of Article III standing.

Takeaways

This opinion highlights the differing rights and obligations imposed by mortgages and promissory notes, instruments which individuals often mistakenly conflate as imposing a singular global repayment obligation. As mortgages grant a security interest in a property and promissory notes impose the repayment obligation, this opinion underscores the importance of proper closing procedures and ensuring all parties’ names are properly listed on all documents.

It also demonstrates the scope of RESPA and that causes of action under the statute flow from promissory notes themselves and not mortgage agreements.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

© Mondaq Ltd, 2023

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/mortgages-vs-promissory-notes-not-same-thing

Time for Acceptance? You Have Lots of Questions

Every real estate contract includes deadlines, and sometimes one deadline – such as one for buyers and sellers to deliver an executed copy – will change. This confuses more than a few members. Hopefully this bullet-point timeline will help.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Members have a lot of questions about the time-for-acceptance date in our contracts and how that applies to contract formation. Hopefully this simpler bullet-point list will make it easier to understand.

Time for Acceptance: Each Florida Realtors contract has a section that addresses time for acceptance of the offer. In general, it’s a specific date – but a party could specify a time as well. Let’s take a look at the language in one of the contracts and break it down.

Here’s the language from the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar (“FR/Bar”) contracts:

Paragraph 3(a) states “if not signed by Buyer and Seller, and an executed copy delivered to all parties on or before ___________, this offer shall be deemed withdrawn and the Deposit, if any, shall be returned to Buyer. Unless otherwise stated herein, time for acceptance of any counter-offers shall be within 2 days after the day the counter-offer is received.

Date applies to initial offer ONLY

  • The date entered is the deadline for the seller to respond to the buyer’s offer.
  • I emphasized “offer” here because this date applies to the buyer’s initial offer only – it’s not a deadline for the parties to reach a “final deal.”
  • The seller’s response could be an outright acceptance of the offer or it could be in the form of a counter-offer.
  • If the seller doesn’t respond by this date, the buyer’s initial offer is deemed withdrawn.
  • If the seller responds past this “withdrawn” date, the seller should change the time-for-acceptance date in their response in addition to any other changes they wish to make.
  • At this point, the buyer would have to accept any change(s) including the change to the time for acceptance – but the buyer is under no obligation to do so.

Seller-buyer counteroffer

What if the seller changes something, such as the purchase price, and sends the contract back to the seller before the time-for-acceptance deadline? The ball is then in the buyer’s court.

  • Per sentence two in paragraph 3(a) of the FR/Bar contracts, unless otherwise stated, the buyer must respond to the seller’s counter-offer within two days after receiving it to keep the deal going.
  • Buyer accepts the counter-offer: This is commonly done by initialing/dating next to the purchase price change or other changes the seller has made; but if a counter-offer form was used, sign and date that form.
  • Buyer doesn’t accept the seller’s counter-offer: They don’t have to do anything, and the transaction fails once the counter-offer deadline has passed.
  • If a buyer wants to make a new counter-offer, they have two days to respond.
  • The response pattern continues if the buyer/seller continue to make counter-offers – each party needs to respond within two days. If two days pass after any counter-offer has been returned to the buyer or seller, it effectively means the deal has died.

Deadlines missed – but parties want to proceed?

If either party misses any two-day deadline, the deal can still proceed if both agree. However, be sure to acknowledge the ever-important Effective Date in writing to clarify that all parties are on the same page.

Since most deadlines in contracts stem from the Effective Date, there could be potential legal issues later if the parties disagree about the actual Effective Date.

Meredith Caruso is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors
Note: Information deemed accurate on date of publication

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/time-acceptance-you-have-lots-questions

Disclose, Disclose, Disclose

When does a seller’s obligation to disclose hidden defects kick in? That might be the wrong question. Here’s why that approach seems to miss the mark – and why many people correctly embrace the mantra disclose, disclose, disclose.

ORLANDO, Fla. – I was giving a talk to a wonderful and engaged group of Realtors® recently, and one of the topics touched on was the seller’s disclosure. This spawned all sorts of follow-up questions about when disclosures are mandatory vs. optional.

What if the seller had someone remediate a mold problem a few months ago? What if the seller heard a rumor about a flooding issue but doesn’t think the source is reliable? What if the seller and I disagree about whether an issue is “material,” and the seller says I must keep that information confidential?

It would be nice to have a simple yes/no answer for all of these. However, the questions miss the mark for two reasons.

First, some rules are measurable, such as the obligation to have a brokerage firm’s name on all advertising. It’s either there or it’s not. This disclosure rule, on the other hand, is a general concept that springs from a Florida Supreme Court Case Johnson v. Davis. In that case, the Florida Supreme Court held that “Where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.” These material facts are sometimes referred to as latent defects.

How do we know precisely what the seller knew, when they knew it, or whether a fact is material or not? Those questions must be hashed out in court. It’s also why the correct answer to all the questions above is maybe … but maybe not.

The second reason has more to do with an extremely common buyer reaction. Let’s say a buyer discovers a problem after closing that will cost $15,000 to repair. How often do you think their response is, “Well, I’ll ask if the seller knew anything, and will give them the benefit of the doubt if they say no … after all the contract is fairly unforgiving if my inspector(s) and I missed something, so I should have caught this issue during my inspection period.”

We have over 76,000 conversations with members every year on the Florida Realtors Legal Hotline, and I can assure you, I’ve never heard about a buyer who voiced that perspective.

Instead, here’s how the buyer’s conversation goes almost every time: “I KNOW they knew about this … there’s no doubt in my mind.” Sometimes I’ll ask if the confidence is because there’s an email where the seller admits knowledge or an oral confession or even the testimony of a contractor who says they clearly explained the defect to the seller. The answer is almost always no, followed by a quick doubling down on the initial statement: “But how could they not know? I’m 100% confident they did.”

You can imagine what happens when these two elements combine. The buyer discovered a significant problem after closing and is (despite the lack of tangible evidence) angrily confident that the seller had full knowledge of the latent defect.

They will often pursue every angle seeking relief. They may sue the seller and will often include the licensee and brokerage firm that assisted the seller as co-defendants.

I’ve heard from a fair share of incredulous Realtors over the years who ask how they could get pulled into a legal dispute when they had no knowledge. The unfortunate answer is that having a legal defense is a good thing … but you still must go through the (often lengthy) court process to present that defense, which typically requires the help of a lawyer. Additionally, angry buyers can always file a FREC or local board ethics complaints at no cost, which can likewise be cumbersome, even if the defense is sound.

With all this in mind, we wholeheartedly support the mantra of disclose, disclose, disclose. I might even add “early and often” to drive home how important it is to stay on the conservative side of this issue.

Joel Maxson is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors
Note: Information deemed accurate on date of publication

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/disclose-disclose-disclose

NAHB on Home Size: Smaller, Bigger, Smaller Again

The average new-home size dropped 45 square feet to 2,480 in 2022, says NAHB. It predicts home sizes will expand this year before dropping again in 2024.

LAS VEGAS – Following a brief uptick in new home sizes in 2021, the average size of a new home dropped slightly from 2,525 square feet to 2,480 square feet in 2022, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which is hosting its annual convention in Las Vegas this week.

The percentage of new homes with 3-plus full bathrooms and 3-plus car garages dipped to 33% and 17%, respectively. However, the percentage of homes with 4-plus bedrooms rose slightly to 48%, in part because of the flexibility in use that bedrooms can provide.

NAHB expects home size and amenities to continue growing in 2023 before dropping again in 2024.

“The decrease in new-home size reflects the escalation of home prices in 2022 and builders scaling back to try to meet demand,” says Rose Quint, NAHB assistant vice president of survey research. “The move toward larger homes and more amenities in 2023 will reflect the preferences of those who can afford higher interest rates, and in 2024, size will fall back as affordability improves with lower mortgage rates and more buyers re-enter the market.”

Amenities no longer necessarily translate directly to number of rooms or types of features within the home either – it can also be simply having a space within the home that provides respite.

“Homebuyers are looking more and more to their homes to provide a sense of well-being,” says Donald Ruthroff, AIA, founding principal at Design Story Spaces LLC. “They want their homes to support their day-to-day health – physically, emotionally and mentally.”

Builders and designers have adjusted in response to new buyers’ preference with things like walking paths and other outdoor spaces connected to the home. They’re also incorporating natural materials and other examples of biophilic design. Builders say they saw a big jump in demand for exterior amenities, such as patios, decks and porches, in 2023, along with home office-space, which appeared on the list of buyers’ most-wanted features for the first time this year.

Demand was also on the rise for more flexible and better-equipped spaces to meet buyers’ changing needs. A majority of both first-time and repeat buyers currently prefer an open-kitchen family room. This space, Ruthroff says, can be reconfigured to provide more space for additional rooms or higher-end components.

“We’re learning that if we use less space, we can spend more on details and finishes to make rooms such as bathrooms feel more luxurious,” he says. “And people will pay a little more for solutions, such as cabinetry add-ons that eliminate dead space, that add utility.”

Other home features that resonate with both first-time and repeat home buyers include:

  • Laundry rooms
  • Exterior lighting
  • Ceiling fans
  • Patios
  • Walk-in pantries
  • Hardwood flooring on the main level

Housing affordability remains a struggle, which home buyers recognize. Nine out of 10 buyers (91%) are willing to compromise to afford a home. The top three areas are:

  • A smaller house
  • Simpler/more basic interiors
  • Fewer exterior amenities

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/nahb-home-size-smaller-bigger-smaller-again

HUD Debuts New Domestic Violence Protections

A website, rules and $5M in funding will help survivors of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking under the Violence Against Women Act.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced new resources to protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The updates fall under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). New resources include a new VAWA website, a Notice setting out HUD’s enforcement authority under VAWA, and up to $5 million in funding to provide VAWA training and technical assistance to HUD grantees and other stakeholders.

“The Violence Against Women Act makes clear that survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking cannot be denied housing and are eligible for an emergency transfer should the need arise,” says HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “We are making these protections clear on HUD’s website, so landlords are aware of our requirements and survivors know their rights.”

Under VAWA, applicants and tenants of certain HUD rental assistance programs cannot be denied housing, evicted or have their housing assistance terminated because they have experienced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. Additionally, survivors must be able to access certain remedies, such as the ability to request an emergency transfer for safety reasons related to the violence.

If a housing provider or survivor isn’t clear on VAWA’s protections, they can visit the new webpage, which serves as a clearinghouse for HUD’s VAWA resources. The site features FAQs on VAWA housing protections, VAWA trainings, related forms and legal authorities, as well as referrals to direct services for survivors.

VAWA enforcement to mirror Fair Housing Act

In the Notice also published this week, HUD states that it will “implement and enforce VAWA in such way that provides the same rights and remedies as those provided under the Fair Housing Act.”

The change gives HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) discretion to investigate alleged or suspected non-compliance with VAWA, similar to the way it investigates complaints under the Fair Housing Act.

“FHEO has long worked to eradicate discrimination in housing. With this new authority to enforce the housing provisions of VAWA, FHEO is committed to protecting the rights of VAWA survivors and their families,” says Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity.

Finally, HUD also announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity – up to $5 million to be awarded to Technical Assistance Providers (TA Providers) that provide VAWA trainings, technical assistance, and support to housing providers, grantees, and other stakeholders.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/hud-debuts-new-domestic-violence-protections

Mortgage Rates Fall for Fourth Straight Week

At 6.09%, the 30-year, fixed-rate loan moved even closer to 5%. It’s down from last week’s 6.13% and almost a point lower than highs of 7.08% reached in Oct.

WASHINGTON – The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate declined for the fourth week in a row, a sign of relative stability that could potentially open the door for some prospective homebuyers to get back in the market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 6.09% from 6.13% last week. That’s the lowest level since September. The average rate a year ago was 3.55%.

The average long-term rate reached a two-decade high of 7.08% in late October and early November as the Federal Reserve continued to raise its key lending rate in a bid to cool the economy and tame inflation.

At its first meeting of 2023 Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark lending rate 0.25 percentage points, its eighth increase in less than a year. That pushed the central bank’s key rate to a range of 4.5% to 4.75%, its highest level in 15 years.

While acknowledging that some measures of inflation have eased, Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared to suggest Wednesday that he foresees two additional quarter-point rate hikes this year.

Though those rate hikes do impact borrowing rates across the board for businesses and families, rates on 30-year mortgages usually track the moves in the 10-year Treasury yield, which lenders use as a guide to pricing loans. Investors’ expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates can also influence the cost of borrowing for a home.

The big rise in mortgage rates during the past year has throttled the housing market, with sales of existing homes falling for 11 straight months to the lowest level in more than a decade. Higher rates can add hundreds of a dollars a month in costs for homebuyers, on top of already high home prices.

The National Association of Realtors reported earlier this month that existing U.S. home sales totaled 5.03 million last year, a 17.8% decline from 2021. That is the weakest year for home sales since 2014 and the biggest annual decline since 2008, during the housing crisis of the late 2000s.

Though home prices have retreated as demand has declined, they are still more than 10% higher than a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with those refinancing their homes, fell this week to 5.14% from 5.17% last week. It was 2.77% one year ago.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/mortgage-rates-fall-fourth-straight-week

A Growing Second-Home Market? Luxury RV Resorts

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Overlooking the New River in Fort Lauderdale not far from million-dollar homes situated across the waterway lies a well-kept secret: a luxury RV resort. It offers what many think of when they visit South Florida: gorgeous waterfront views, lush greenery and million-dollar yachts floating by, but with a twist.

Instead of condos or sky-high apartment buildings, Yacht Haven Park and Marina features more than 220 lots that guests can rent to park their RVs.

“I call it affordable luxury,” said Christine Schaub, 33, who rents a lot overlooking the New River with her husband, Joel, 40.

Dubbing themselves “young snowbirds,” the Chicago couple first purchased their RV in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing the RV as an option that would let them escape the harsh Chicago winters and vacation at a time when international travel wasn’t really an option.

Almost three years later, the couple has traveled from coast to coast in their RV, visiting Arizona, New Orleans, Texas, the Florida Keys – and now Yacht Haven Park and Marina.

They started staying at the resort in November 2022, liking the waterfront views it offered and the quick proximity to Fort Lauderdale’s downtown life.

“We can work remotely now,” added Joel. “We own a home in Chicago. We bought the RV and go to resorts like this where you can get out and avoid the snow.”

They aren’t the only ones opting out of a second home and into an RV. One in five leisure travelers has worked from an RV over the past 24 months, and one in four consider doing it in the next year, according to data from the RV Industry Association.

The rise in popularity of RVs

Recreational vehicles, or RVs, saw a surge in popularity when the pandemic hit in 2020.

While the market for them was strong leading up to the pandemic, COVID lockdowns brought out droves of people looking for a means to still be able to vacation, while being socially distant.

“The pandemic supercharged it,” said Monika Geraci, spokesperson for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

In 2021, over 600,000 RVs were built, a 20% increase from the previous record high in 2017, when over 500,000 RVs were built.

And as the pandemic waned on, RV popularity grew as more people began to prioritize the outdoors. It also became a more affordable option for people who were looking to escape increased housing costs or even find a more affordable vacation home.

“When the housing market went absolutely crazy, some homeowners jumped on the bandwagon, sold their homes and purchased RVs full time to wait until the market came back down,” said Gigi Stetler, founder of Planet RV, an RV dealership, in Dania Beach.

A luxury RV resort by the water

Yacht Haven Park and Marina has been able to capitalize on the growing popularity of RVs. It’s been around for about 30 years, but only recently updated to a luxury resort. They’re catering to all segments of the market: snowbirds from the northeast and Canada, young families who can work and school remotely, and traveling nurses.

On a Thursday afternoon, the resort looked like a vacation spot, with palm trees paving the road throughout the site and RVs lined up only yards apart from each other. Guests could be found lying by the pool or playing with their dogs in the dog park to enjoy the cooler weather. Some couples lounged outside on their patios, enjoying glasses of white wine.

Every now and then, a yacht would pass by and passengers aboard would wave to any resort guests they saw.

Some of the more upscale RVs, which can cost upward of a million dollars, were like stepping into a miniature luxury home, complete with leather seats for relaxing, stainless-steel appliances, closet space and ample kitchen space.

Managing sponsor Gary Cioffi and partner Christopher Hein acquired the 20-acre site last year, investing about $26 million in the property to create an atmosphere where resort guests can park their motorcoaches and enjoy the tranquility.

“When we first bought it, there was actually a boom in the RV side and yachts were being sold at record highs,” Cioffi said. “There is certainly high demand and low supply for places like ours with the location being so close to the downtown.”

The park is located on West State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale, just off the highway and about five miles from the popular stretch of Las Olas Boulevard, in the downtown. One of the distinguishing points of the Yacht Haven Park and Marina is the fact that it not only has docks for people to park their yachts and boats if need be, but is also so close to the downtown.

Other luxury campgrounds across the region include the Aztec RV Resort in Margate and the Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort in Naples.

The Yacht Haven Park and Marina offers guests six different lot types for guests to choose from, such as Royal Point Waterfront, Garden View and Waterfront Premium. Each lot has synthetic grass, new driveway areas and a patio for guests to relax on.

Daily rates range depending on the season, but typically start at $105 a night for the summer season, and $145 a night for the winter season.

“To be by the water and the boats is lovely,” added Christine Schaub.

Amenities at the resort include a dog park, a playground for those with kids, a fitness center, a pool and laundry and showers. They are in the process of getting permits to build a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with a rooftop lounge, a fitness center, a revamped pool and sundeck area, along with pickle ball and basketball courts.

“What we have seen across the board for campgrounds is that people want more amenities period,” said Geraci. “We have seen campgrounds adding the type of amenities that you would find at resorts.”

The resort welcomes motor coaches of all types, as long as they are in good condition.

© 2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/growing-second-home-market-luxury-rv-resorts

Fla.’s Buyers Pay 5.5-8.5% Less in Dec. than Oct.

As the 30-year rate dropped from 6.9% to 6.36% and some home prices fell, Miami buyers averaged 8.3% savings in just two months and Jacksonville buyers 7.4%.

SEATTLE – Between October 2022 and December 2022, interest dropped and some housing prices declined. As a result, December homebuyers saw a savings in their monthly mortgage payments compared to October buyers.

According to a report from Redfin, the median monthly housing payment for San Francisco homebuyers dropped 14.8% (-$1,477) – the highest percentage decline of the 49 most populous U.S. metros – since hitting its pandemic-era peak in October.

In the six Florida metros included in the report, monthly savings ranged from 8.3% in Miami to 5.5% in Orlando and Tampa.

Florida monthly housing payment changes, Oct.-Dec. 2022

  • Miami: Down 8.3%, a monthly savings of $1,477
  • Jacksonville: Down 7.4%, a savings of $265
  • Fort Lauderdale: Down 6.7%, a savings of $176
  • West Palm Beach: Down 6.5%, a savings of $186
  • Tampa: Down 5.5%, a savings of $139
  • Orlando: Down 5.5%, a savings of $144

In general, West Coast tech hubs saw the greatest savings, in part because many metros also had the highest average home prices going in.

San Francisco saw the biggest drop from $9,973 to $8,496 – more than double the nationwide decline of 7% (to $2,500). The typical monthly housing payment fell over those two months in all the metros Redfin analyzed.

After San Francisco, Pittsburgh’s typical monthly payments fell 12.4% to $1,267, Seattle’s dropped 12.1% to $4,509), Oakland’s prices fell 11.6% to $5,443, Detroit’s declined 11.3% to $1,050, and San Jose’s dropped 10.6% to $8,116.

While December buyers got a bargain price compared to October buyers, however, “bargain” is a relative term since mortgage rates hovered around the 3.5% range one year earlier. Still, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped from 6.9% in October to 6.36% in December, and the median U.S. home-sale price dropped from $400,000 to $388,000.

Many homebuyers noted the change during those two months, and an uptick in homebuyer demand followed a nearly yearlong slump in the housing market. December pending home sales rose 3% month-to-month, making it the first monthly increase in 14 months.

In more recent weeks, slowing inflation has sent mortgage rates down further, resulting in lower monthly housing payments and piquing the interest of some sidelined buyers.

“We’re in a sweet spot where prices and rates have dropped enough to make a meaningful difference in housing payments but there’s still less competition than there has been for the last few years,” says San Jose Redfin agent Angela Langone. “But competition has started to ramp up as more buyers are back in the market and new listings remain scarce.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/flas-buyers-pay-55-85-less-dec-oct

Florida Realtors’ Riders Being Revised

The condominium and cooperative riders will be updated on March 20 due to changes in law. The revisions are limited and address new documents buyers of certain condominiums and cooperatives are entitled to receive from sellers. Redline is attached.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Following the Surfside condominium tragedy, the Florida Legislature passed new laws overseeing condominium and cooperative safety, including standards for inspections and reserve studies. Part of that overall plan includes new documents some buyers are entitled to receive from sellers.

What’s changing?

At this time, changes will take place on March 20, 2023. Documents changing include:

  • Rider A. Condominium Rider to Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase (and its AS IS companion)
  • Addendum F. Condominium Association to Contract for Residential Sale and Purchase (CRSP)
  • Addendum to Contract for Sale and Purchase of Cooperative

The language in all forms noted above will be the same, with the cooperative statutory citations being the only difference. The language informs buyers that they now have access to two new documents. The first is the inspector-prepared summary of Milestone Inspection of the condominium or cooperative. The second is a structural integrity reserve study or a statement that the study has not been completed.

Click here to download a redline version of the changes.

Important note: Not all sellers will be required to provide these documents to buyers because a) the law (referenced in the revisions) only applies to certain associations, and b) if the seller’s association has not yet obtained the inspection and/or study, they still have 23 months to do so.

What are ‘Milestone Inspection’ and a “structural integrity reserve study”?

  • Milestone Inspection: It’s a structural inspection conducted for life safety purposes. Generally, the requirement for associations to obtain a milestone inspection applies to condominium and cooperative buildings three stories or higher which have been occupied 30 years or more or, if located within three miles of Florida’s coastline, occupied 25 years or more.
  • Structural integrity reserve study: It’s a study of reserve funds required for future major repairs and replacement of the common areas which must be conducted for condo and cooperative association buildings that are three stories or higher.

Are other forms being created or updated?

Florida Realtors will create a new disclosure form to reference these latest changes to the law. Additionally, a section will be added to the existing Seller’s Property Disclosure-Condominiums (SPDC) which address these changes.

Webinar offers more information

If you’re interested in understanding the law changes and revisions, please join us for a webinar scheduled for Feb. 28, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. where this material will be covered. To find out more and register for the Zoom online meeting, click here.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

http://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/02/florida-realtors-riders-being-revised

Recruiting Better Agents Starts with Research

Bernice Ross says an agent’s job description is short: “Generate leads, convert leads, close transactions” – and a lot can be discovered before an interview.

NEW YORK – Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, offered advice in a recent column for vetting top agent talent. Ross emphasizes steps a broker should take before a first interview.

She says preparation is key and starts with the creation of the job description, saying it should boil down to six words: “Generate leads, convert leads, close transactions.”

Prior to the interview, research the candidate. Look at how many listings the agent has taken in the last 12 months and whether they have a website. Read their social media posts and their customer reviews.

She also says brokers should ask their agents about the person. She also recommends asking a trusted member of staff call the prospective agent to inquire about a listing. The goal is to find out how they treat incoming buyer and seller calls from strangers, as well as how quickly they respond to inquiries.

During the interview, ask where they went to school, any previous jobs they may have held, and where they’ve worked since they became licensed. If all the prep work goes well, the first interview should be by phone and the second face-to-face in the office.

Finally, follow up appropriately once the interview process is finished.

Source: Inman (11/18/22) Ross, Bernice

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/recruiting-better-agents-starts-research

2023 RE Trends: What’s Ahead for Fla. Real Estate?

Want to prepare for this year? On Jan. 19, virtually and in-person, top economists like Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor will share insights for 2023.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Real estate drives Florida’s economy, and having a look into what may lie ahead in a still uncertain 2023 is key for policymakers, residents and Realtors. As part of this year’s Florida Real Estate Trends summit, Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor will share his outlook for Florida’s economy and housing market in the months to come.

A highlight of Florida Realtors 2023 Mid-Winter Business Meetings, the Real Estate Trends summit takes place Jan. 19 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Renaissance SeaWorld Orlando. Box lunches will be available for purchase near the session room. The agenda includes the economic outlook for the U.S. and Florida; the state’s housing market outlook; migration trends for Florida; and also consumer motivations and expectations.

“Elevated mortgage interest rates and the economic well-being of consumers are two of the biggest stories going into 2023’s housing market,” says Dr. O’Connor. “At this year’s Florida Real Estate Trends event, we’ll be walking everyone through the current state of the market and where we expect to go from here. Inflation finally seems to be slowing, which is good news, but a lot still needs to happen before we’re going to see interest rates recede significantly.

“We’ll also have Morning Consult Chief Economist John Leer on hand to give a comprehensive breakdown of how consumers – including potential homebuyers – are feeling as they continue to wrestle with these higher rates, as well as inflation and the widely perceived sense that the U.S. economy is slowing. 2023 is likely to be a bumpy ride, but there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel, so be sure to join us to get a head start on this year’s Florida housing market.”

Morning Consult uses its high-frequency survey data to capture unique insights to keep a constant pulse on consumer sentiment, according to company officials.

There are two ways to attend the 2023 Real Estate Trends event on Jan. 19, either in person during Florida Realtors 2023 Mid-Winter Business Meetings or virtually. For more information, go to 2023 Real Estate Trends on Florida Realtors’ member website.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/2023-re-trends-whats-ahead-fla-real-estate

RE Q&A: If Common-Area Tree Falls, Who Pays?

A condo owner’s pool cage suffered damaged after a tree in the common area fell during Hurricane Ian. Who pays for repairs? The owner or the association?

NAPLES, Fla. – Question: When Hurricane Ian went through my community, several oak trees in the association’s common areas fell. Unfortunately, one of those oak trees fell on my pool cage and destroyed it.

I have asked the association to reimburse me for the amounts that I spent to have my pool cage fixed. However, the association has refused saying that they don’t have to reimburse me. Is this right? – L.T., Naples

Answer: The association may be right. When it comes to tree damage from a neighboring property, the question is whether the property owner failed to maintain the tree prior to the storm, thereby causing the tree to fall and damage someone else’s property.

If the tree owner failed to maintain the tree and it subsequently caused damage to someone else’s property, then the tree owner could be deemed negligent. If deemed negligent, then the tree owner is liable for damages caused by the fallen tree. In your situation, it will be important to determine if the tree was healthy prior to the hurricane. If the tree was healthy and Hurricane Ian caused the tree to fall, then the association was likely not negligent and would not be liable for the damage caused by the fallen tree.

Question: My homeowners’ association just posted a notice that the Board meeting to approve the 2023 budget will be held at our clubhouse in five days. I thought the homeowners’ association was required to post and mail the notice of budget board meetings and the proposed budget to all owners at least 14 days prior to the Board meeting. Is what they did correct? – E.S., Hollywood, FL

Answer: What the homeowners’ association did could be correct depending on whether there are other provisions in your community’s governing documents on additional requirements of the association when it comes to the budget Board meeting.

Chapter 720, F.S., the HOA Act, does not require mailing and posting of the budget Board meeting notice and the proposed budget at least 14 days prior to the Board meeting. In fact, the only requirement is that the notice of the Board meeting be posted in a conspicuous place within the association at least 48 hours prior to the Board meeting, and the meeting notice must state that assessments will be considered at the meeting.

Additionally, after the budget is approved, the association is required to provide each owner with a copy of the annual budget or a written notice that a copy of the budget is available upon request at no charge to the owner.

The time period and process of mailing and posting that you’ve stated in your question is required of Florida condominium associations. Many homeowners’ associations have also voluntarily begun to comply with this process.

However, unless an association’s governing documents explicitly require it to comply with the longer notice requirement and the requirement to mail the notice and proposed budget, a homeowner’s association is only required to post a notice at a conspicuous place within the association at least 48 hours prior to the budget Board meeting.

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.

Copyright © 2022, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, all rights reserved. S. Kyla Thomson, Esq., is a partner of the law firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/re-qa-if-common-area-tree-falls-who-pays

DeSantis Outlines 2nd-Term Environmental Plans

The governor will ask the Florida Legislature to approve $3.5B for Everglades restoration, algae bloom mitigation and other environmental concerns.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Tuesday to spend $3.5 billion in his second term on environmental projects, such as restoring the Everglades and addressing water-quality problems. The money, which needs legislative approval, would be spread over four years. The bulk would go to Everglades and water-quality projects.

“This may be a bigger, more comprehensive executive order than we did four years ago,” says DeSantis, who was re-elected in November. “But I think that’s the right thing to do. You can make progress, you can do good things, and you just got to keep pressing forward.”

DeSantis issued an executive order that called for “meaningful” funding for the Florida Forever land-acquisition program and continued support for the Resilient Florida Program, which is designed to help protect communities from sea-level rise and other effects of climate change. He also called for speeding work on a wildlife corridor project and protecting coral reefs.

“We are also going to establish a coral reef restoration and recovery initiative to increase coral deployment, to enhance coastal flood and storm surge protections,” DeSantis said. “That is something that is very, very important, and we are going to continue to make progress there.”

In addition, DeSantis directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to identify and prioritize projects to clean the Indian River Lagoon, with the Legislature asked to provide $100 million a year for the work.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded 800 manatee deaths in Florida waters last year, after 1,101 died in 2021. Many of the deaths occurred in the lagoon, where poor water quality and algae blooms have depleted seagrass beds that provide a key food source for manatees. For example, 346 manatees died last year in Brevard County, where manatees often congregate in the lagoon.

Shortly after first taking office in 2019, DeSantis issued an executive order that called for spending $2.5 billion over four years for Everglades restoration and water resource protection. After the budget for the current year was signed in June, the governor’s office said the state had topped the spending goal by $800 million.

Everglades Trust CEO Anna Upton issued a statement Tuesday calling the new plans “unquestionably historic.”

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has made a priority of the wildlife corridor, which is planned as a network of about 17 million acres of greenspace running up the center of the state.

“I believe that 50 years from now our children and grandchildren will say that the greatest thing the Florida Legislature did in the 2020s was the creation of the wildlife corridor and the preservation of millions of acres of farmland and ranch land for conservation,” Passidomo told reporters in November. “It will be our Central Park.”

As with spending over the past four years, a large chunk of the proposed money is expected to flow from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Voters in 2014 passed a constitutional amendment that requires setting aside one-third of the revenue from documentary-stamp taxes for land conservation. That money, which is generated through real-estate transactions, goes into the fund.

During the current fiscal year, $1.26 billion went into the fund. Lawmakers have designated portions of the money to various work across the state, with at least $200 million a year for Everglades restoration projects, $64 million to an Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project, $50 million for a Lake Okeechobee watershed restoration project, $50 million for natural springs and $5 million for Lake Apopka.

Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, and Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, have proposed legislation (SB 54 and HB 135) that would designate $20 million a year for the restoration of the Florida Keys and ecosystems that include coral reefs.

© 2023 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/desantis-outlines-2nd-term-environmental-plans

How Will Facebook Changes Affect Real Estate?

The DOJ alleged housing discrimination, and Meta changed ads to “reflect the eligible target audience” and measure “age, gender, and race/ethnicity distribution.”

NEW YORK – Meta is updating the way it delivers advertisements to users in order to foster a more positive experience. The changes can be divided into two parts: one will restrict how companies target teenage users, while the other aims to make things more “equitable” and less discriminatory.

It appears Meta is forcing companies to generalize more with their ads instead of honing in on a specific group. Starting in February, advertisers will no longer be able to target teens based on their gender on either Facebook or Instagram. Advertisers will only be able to use a user’s age and location as their metric. This tightening of the rules follows a similar update from 2021 that restricted advertisers from targeting underaged users based on their interests and activities on other apps.

And in March, teens will be given more tools in Ad Topic Controls to “manage the types of ads they see on Facebook and Instagram.” It doesn’t look like they’ll be able to stop seeing ads altogether. Like or not, teens will continue to encounter them. But at the very least, they can go into Ad Preferences on either app and choose “See Less” to minimize the amount of commercials seen.

Fighting discrimination

The second update will focus on Meta’s new Variance Reduction System (VRS) to create a more “equitable distribution of ads” on its platforms; namely those that relate to housing, employment, and credit in the US.

VRS comes after the company settled a lawsuit with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) over allegations that it “engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).” Apparently, Meta would allow advertisers to not show ads to certain groups of people “based on their race, color, religion, and sex,” among other metrics.

The technology behind VRS is said to use a new form of machine learning to serve advertisements that “more closely reflect the eligible target audience.” According to Meta, the system works by first sending out housing ads to a wide array of people. From there, it will measure the “aggregate age, gender, and estimated race/ethnicity distribution” of the people who encountered said ad.

VRS will then compare its findings to the measurements of people that are “more broadly eligible to see the ad.” If it detects any discrepancies, the system will adjust itself to be more fair so that people aren’t excluded.

Privacy in mind

Privacy is of great important for VRS. The measurements made by the system will include “differential privacy noise” to stop the system from learning and retaining that information so it won’t act on specific information. It also won’t have access to people’s actual age, gender, or race as the data are all estimations.

The DOJ seems to be pretty happy with these changes. U.S. attorney Damian Williams said the DOJ appreciates Meta working with the government and “taking the first steps towards addressing algorithmic bias.”

Currently, VRS only works with housing ads in the United States, but there are plans to expand into both employment and credit ads later this year. We asked the company if all of these changes are exclusive to the U.S. or will they roll out globally. This story will be updated if we hear back.

© 2023 Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/how-will-facebook-changes-affect-real-estate

Fla. Releases County-by-County Property Ins. Report

An Office of Insurance Regulation report on property-market stability found the lowest single-family costs in Sumter ($1,533) and the highest in Monroe ($7,162).

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued its first Property Insurance Stability Report for 2023 last week. On a county-by-county basis, it found that Sumter County has the lowest average cost for single-family home property insurance at $1,533, while Monroe County had the highest average cost at $7,162.

Property insurance: 10 highest priced Florida counties

  1. Monroe County: $7,162 (single-family homes)
  2. Miami-Dade County: $5,391
  3. Palm Beach County: $5,247
  4. Broward County: $5,164
  5. Martin County: $4,756
  6. Walton County: $4,337
  7. Franklin County: $4,267
  8. Collier County: $4,230
  9. Indian River County: $3,386
  10. Gulf County: $3,020

Property insurance: 10 lowest priced Florida counties

  1. Sumter: $1,533 (single-family homes)
  2. Baker: $1,694
  3. Marion: $1,730
  4. Hernando: $1,767
  5. Lake: $1,859
  6. Wakulla: $1,870
  7. Gilchrist: $1,874
  8. Citrus: $1,876
  9. Alachua: $1,877
  10. Columbia: $1,885

However, the numbers were collected before the December special session of the Florida Legislature, and new laws should slowly show improvement during 2023.

The report notes one of the big historical problems in Florida: In 2021, Florida had 6.91% of all U.S. insurance claims in the U.S. – but three out of four property insurance lawsuits (76%) were in Florida. The high rate of property insurance lawsuits cost a lot of money, which insurers added to their individual property owners’ coverage quotes.

A number of insurance experts think December’s legislative changes – coupled with changes made earlier in 2022 – will slowly have a positive impact on the Florida insurance market and the cost to individual homeowners. Specifically, Senate Bill 2A, passed in December and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will impact two high-cost areas of concern:

  • One-way attorney fees: The chief driver of Florida lawsuits is a provision known as “one-way” attorney fees that allow a plaintiff (the policyholder) to recover attorney fees, but not the defendant (the insurer). The practice incentivized unwarranted litigation. 
  • Assignment of Benefits (AOB): Under AOB, homeowners who suffered a loss “assign” insurance benefits to a contractor that then deals directly with their insurance company. The contractor-insurer negotiations also led to lawsuits.

Florida county – Single-family ins. average cost – Condo ins. average cost

  • Alachua: $1,877 (single-family) – $830 (condominium)
  • Baker: $1,694 – $745
  • Bay: $2,737 – $1,921
  • Bradford: $786 – $1,151
  • Brevard: $2,760 – $1,212
  • Broward: $5,164 – $1,548
  • Calhoun: $2,538 – $3.171
  • Charlotte: $2,364 – $1,081
  • Citrus: $1,876 – $945
  • Clay: $1,933 – $747
  • Collier: $4,230 – $1,795
  • Columbia: $1,885 – $933
  • Desoto: $2,500 – $784
  • Dixie: $2,254 – $878
  • Duval: $2,096 – $855
  • Escambia: $2,929 – $1,471
  • Flagler: $2,016 – $1,1113
  • Franklin: $4,267 – $1,246
  • Gadsden: $2,034 – $900
  • Gilchrist: $1,874 – $1,698
  • Glades: $2,681 – $772
  • Gulf: $3,020 – $1,338
  • Hamilton: $2,023 – N/A
  • Hardee: $2,502 – $778
  • Hendry: $2,483 – $1,157
  • Hernando: $1,767 – $878
  • Highlands: $2,037 – $840
  • Hillsborough: $2,513 – $1,073
  • Holmes: $2,283 – N/A
  • Indian River: $3,386 – $1,646
  • Jackson: $2,192 – N/A
  • Jefferson: $2,160 – N/A
  • Lafayette: $2,304 – N/A
  • Lake: $1,859 – $861
  • Lee: $2,735 – $1,125
  • Leon: $1,973 – $716
  • Levy: $2,118 – $1,286
  • Liberty: $2,283 – N/A
  • Madison: $2,138 – N/A
  • Manatee: $2,334 – $1,139
  • Marion: $1,730 – $825
  • Martin: $4,756 – $1,408
  • Miami-Dade: $5,391 – $2,440
  • Monroe: $7,162 – $3,657
  • Nassau: $2,282 – $1,156
  • Okaloosa: $3,014 – $1,418
  • Okeechobee: $2,797 – $1,227
  • Orange: $2,629 – $960
  • Osceola: $2,155 – $908
  • Palm Beach: $5,247 – $1,923
  • Pasco: $2,058 – $821
  • Pinellas: $2,938 – $1,142
  • Polk: $2,090 – $898
  • Putnam: $1,910 – $844
  • Santa Rosa: $2,745 – $1,477
  • Sarasota: $2,686 – $1,461
  • Seminole: $2,608 – $916
  • St. Johns: $2,296 – $1,121
  • St. Lucie: $2,713 – $1,291
  • Sumter: $1,533 – $833
  • Suwannee: $2,094 – N/A
  • Taylor: $2,119 – $1,014
  • Union: $1,976 – N/A
  • Volusia: $2,192 – $987
  • Wakulla: $1,870 – $1,369
  • Walton: $4,337 – $1,619
  • Washington: $2,312 – N/A

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fla-releases-county-county-property-ins-report

Ukraine RE Hurt by War – but Deals Still Close

From Feb. 24 to Dec. 12, Ukrainians sold 52,605 different properties – 4.6 times less than the same period in 2021 (242,893).

KYIV, Ukraine – Since the beginning of the great war, Ukrainian real estate market has undergone dramatic changes. During the period from February 24 to December 12, Ukrainians sold 52,605 different properties. This is 4.6 times less than in the same period in 2021 (242,893).

The lion’s share of sales is residential real estate. From February 24 to December 12, buyers have purchased 47,023 apartments and residential buildings. This is 4.6 times less than in the same period in 2021 (216,994).

Also, sales of industrial real estate and garages have fallen significantly: 4.3 times to 4,622 objects, commercial real estate 5.2 times to 502 objects and administrative real estate 7.9 times up to 458 objects.

Where does the State Property Fund get the indicators of the real estate market? The Fund is a regulator of the valuation market in Ukraine, which is inextricably linked with the real estate market. The SPFU maintains a Unified Database of Valuation Reports, on the basis of which real estate sellers subsequently pay taxes.

“We are reviewing these reports to prevent understatement of the value of assets and, as a result, tax cuts. In 2022, thanks to such monitoring, the State Property Fund managed to prevent a reduction in budget revenues by about UAH 1.5 billion,” Yuliya Byelova, deputy chairman of the State Property Fund, said.

Only individual sales are included in the calculations.

© 2023 Euclid Infotech Pvt. Ltd. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/ukraine-re-hurt-war-deals-still-close

What Social Media Platform Works Best for You?

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter: Agents can spend hours on social media, but often one or two platforms work best to create a balance for time spent securing leads.

NEW YORK – Which social media platform should an agent use to expand their business?

To choose the best platform, real estate agents should consider factors like comfort and confidence levels. They should look for a platform that has:

  • Users engaged in the agent’s locale
  • A large audience in their target age range
  • People who want and are looking for what the agent is selling
  • The ability to target potential clients and generate high-quality leads

Facebook is the No. 1 starting point for agents because it boasts a massive pool of users, vast volumes of data, and highly effective and accurate ad targeting.

YouTube has also proved its value by allowing agents to post helpful, valuable and consistent content for generating leads, while its searchability ensures the long-term relevance of that content.

Instagram’s colossal user base and outstanding ad functions make it a great platform for agents, especially those targeting a younger clientele.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn is a highly effective marketing tool for agents mainly catering to real estate investors or commercial businesses.

TikTok can also be valuable, although it tends to best support agents with a niche focus, and they should perform extensive testing to find their target audience.

Twitter isn’t conducive to supporting long-lasting relationships between agents and customers despite its popularity, although it is possible to generate leads on the platform.

Source: Realty Biz News (01/03/2023) Parker, Zach

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/what-social-media-platform-works-best-you

Fannie Mae: Buyers’ Moods Improve in Dec.

Buyers went from unhappy to not-quite-as unhappy. “Even small declines in rates and home prices … may not produce sufficient purchasing power,” says economist.

WASHINGTON – Fannie Mae said Monday that sentiment over the U.S. housing market improved slightly in December, though survey respondents said that now is not the time to buy a new home.

Survey results from Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index showed modest improvement in December as would-be buyers reacted to a slight decline in mortgage rates and average home prices.

Doug Duncan, the chief economist for Fannie Mae, said the index remains very low and respondents remained concerned about pricing.

“As we enter 2023, we expect affordability to remain the top challenge for potential homebuyers, as even small declines in rates and home prices – from the perspective of the buyer – may not produce sufficient purchasing power,” he said.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index showed the average price of a home increased by 9.2% on an annual basis in October, the last full month for which it has data, down from the 10.7% increase reported in the previous month. The decline marked the fourth month in a row for a slump in home prices.

The National Association of Realtors, however, showed existing home sales declined 7.7% in November, relative to October levels. Year-over-year, sales fell from 6.33 million in November 2021 to 4.09 million during the same month last year.

Fannie Mae’s survey found that 79% of the respondents feel this is clearly not a buyers’ market. Duncan added that availability could be stifled too as would-be sellers with lower-than-average mortgage rates may be sitting on their house until market conditions improve.

“We think the resulting tension will contribute to a continued decline in home sales in the coming months,” he said.

Copyright 2023 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fannie-mae-buyers-moods-improve-dec

DOJ and HUD File Statement on Rental Algorithm Bias

In Mass., DOJ said people make rental screening algorithms and can violate the Fair Housing Act because they’re susceptible to the biases of the people who create them.

BOSTON, Mass. – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that they filed a Statement of Interest to explain the Fair Housing Acts (FHA) application to algorithm-based tenant screening systems.

The Statement of Interest was filed in Louis et al. v. SafeRent et al., a lawsuit currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleging that defendants use of an algorithm-based scoring system to screen tenants discriminates against Black and Hispanic rental applicants in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

“Housing providers and tenant screening companies that use algorithms and data to screen tenants are not absolved from liability when their practices disproportionately deny people of color access to fair housing opportunities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This filing demonstrates the Justice Departments commitment to ensuring that the Fair Housing Act is appropriately applied in cases involving algorithms and tenant screening software.”

“Algorithms are written by people. As such, they are susceptible to all of the biases, implicit or explicit, of the people that create them,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts. “As the housing industry and other professions adopt algorithms into their everyday decisions, there can be disparate impacts on certain protected communities. Stable and affordable housing provides a unique pathway to success, opportunity and safety. We must fiercely protect the rights and protections promulgated in the Fair Housing Act. Today’s filing recognizes that our 20th century civil rights laws apply to 21st century innovations.”

“Tenant screening policies are not exempt from the Fair Housing Acts protections just because decisions are made by algorithm,” said HUD General Counsel Damon Smith. Housing providers and tenant screening companies must ensure that all policies that exclude people from housing opportunities, whether based on algorithm or otherwise, do not have an unjustified disparate impact because of race, national origin or another protected characteristic.”

The Louis lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs, Mary Louis and Monica Douglas, Black rental applicants who use housing vouchers to pay part of their rent. The plaintiffs applied for rental housing but allege they were denied due to their SafeRent Score, a score derived from Defendant SafeRents algorithm-based screening software. The plaintiffs allege that SafeRent scores result in disparate impact against Black and Hispanic rental applicants because the underlying algorithm relies on certain factors that disproportionately disadvantage Black and Hispanic applicants, such as credit history and non-tenancy related debts, while failing to consider one highly-relevant factor, that the use of housing vouchers funded by HUD makes such tenants more likely to pay their rents.

The defendants have moved to dismiss the case, and the plaintiffs have opposed the defendants motions. Through the Statement of Interest, the department seeks to assist the court by correcting two questions of law erroneously represented in the defendants motions to dismiss.

First, the statement sets out the appropriate standard for pleading disparate impact claims under the FHA. Second, the statement clarifies that the FHAs text and caselaw support the FHAs application to companies providing residential screening services. The motions to dismiss are currently pending before the court.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having one or more children under 18), nation origin, and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at justice.gov/crt.

Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination can submit a report online at civilrights.justice.gov. Such individuals also may contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9977 or file a complaint online.

© 2023-2022 Legal Monitor Worldwide. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/doj-and-hud-file-statement-rental-algorithm-bias

DOJ: Meta Rolls Out New Ad Delivery System

Meta, parent company of Facebook, finished its new real estate ad delivery system after DOJ accused it of targeting ads in a way that violated the Fair Housing Act.

NEW YORK – Meta has built a new advertisement delivery system to prevent discriminatory housing adverting practices, the Justice Department said Monday, some seven months after the social media behemoth agreed to implement the changes.

Federal prosecutors and Meta officials announced in June that the social media company had agreed to implement changes to its housing advertisement system in order to resolve a 2019 lawsuit filed against the company.

The Justice Department had accused Meta of permitting landlords to target and deliver housing advertisements to some Facebook users while excluding others in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, federal prosecutors said the company employed algorithms to find Facebook users to advertise to based on protected characteristics, including sex and race.

The department said Meta has since built a new system, called the Variance Reduction System, that addresses these algorithm issues, and the two parties informed the court on Monday that they have reached agreement on compliance targets.

The agreement also ensures that Meta will be under court oversight and be subjected to regular compliance review until June 27, 2026, the Justice Department said.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York called Monday’s resolution “a new standard for addressing discrimination through machine learning.”

“We appreciate that Meta agreed to work with us toward a resolution of this matter and applaud Meta for taking the first steps towards addressing algorithmic bias,” he said in a statement. “We hope that other companies will follow Meta’s lead in addressing discrimination in their advertising platforms.”

The Justice Department vouched for the new system Monday, stating that it will “substantially reduce the variances between the eligible and actual audiences along sex and estimated race/ethnicity in the delivery of housing advertisements.”

Meta said in a statement Monday that it has launched the new system in the United States with plans to expand it later this year to employment and credit advertisements.

“Across the industry, approaches to algorithmic fairness are still evolving, particularly as it relates to digital advertising,” Roy Austin, vice president of civil rights and deputy general counsel at Meta, wrote in the statement. “But we know we cannot wait for consensus to make progress in addressing important concerns about the potential for discrimination.”

Copyright 2023 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/doj-meta-rolls-out-new-ad-delivery-system

Did Condo Board’s Unwise Declaration Skirt Obligations?

In spite of a reserve study, a condo board increased the useful life of its tile roof to 50 years to keep reserves lower and “make it more palatable to members.”

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Question: I live in a condo and in November, when there was a regular budget approval meeting, the board approved the budget but said that the owners could not vote on the reserves because they board voted for full funding. The board said in that case, the owners had no say in the matter. Is that correct?

In addition, even though we had a reserve study in 2022, the board changed the useful life of our tile roofs to 50 years to make the amount of the fully funded reserves lower and more palatable to the owners. Nobody has a tile roof for 50 years in Florida. I think that was just the way to get around having the owners vote on the reserves. Did the board cross a line with this? – A.S.

Dear A.S.: As to your first question, the Condominium Act obligates every board to pass an annual budget with full statutory reserves. After that, whether the board allows owners to vote to collect less than full reserves (or no reserves at all) is typically up to the board.

Procedurally speaking, I can see an argument that, where a set of bylaws allows a percentage of members to petition to raise an issue for membership vote, the owners could force the board to conduct a reserve waiver vote – but I am not aware of this ever being used or tested in court. Usually, the board either allows owners to vote to waive reserves (or sometimes even encourages owners to waive reserves), or not, and that’s the end of the matter (as you have described).

On the roof, and if I were advising your board, I would be somewhat concerned that they were risking a breach of fiduciary duty claim. Section 718.112 expressly says that the amount to be reserved must be based on the most recent structural integrity reserve study (the one that must now be completed by Dec. 31, 2024).

Essentially, your board hired an expert to tell them how much money they needed to collect toward repairing their roofs based on a specific estimated life, yet they have supplanted their expert’s opinion with their own lay opinion about the roofs’ lifetime.

Now, Section 718.112 does say that “the association may adjust replacement reserve assessments annually to take into account any changes in estimates or extension of the useful life of a reserve item caused by deferred maintenance expense of the reserve item.” But that’s not what happened here. Instead, an expert told them how much to collect, and by your description, they simply decided to take a lot longer to collect that amount.

The fact that they are expressly ignoring their expert may give rise to a claim that they were willfully reckless, in which event they could be held personally liable for damages due to this breach of their fiduciary duty. If I were on a board that made a decision like you describe, it would make me uncomfortable. Now, it could be that the full facts of your situation are a bit different, and the board had good reason to adjust the roof life – but, like you, I have also never heard of a regular tile roof that is rated to last for 50 years.

Question: I live in a 55+ condominium association. Is it possible for the association to establish an age restriction of 55 years or older to be eligible to be on the board of directors? The U.S. Constitution has a minimum age of 35 for an individual to be president. So, why can’t a condo association have an age restriction for an association board seat? – D.C.

Dear D.C.: There are a lot of different types of 55+ communities, and I am assuming that your community does not require 100% of owners to be older than 55.

The Condominium Act, at Section 718.112, provides that all unit owners are eligible to serve on condominium boards, other than as expressly provided in the statute (such as delinquent owners or owners who have been suspended by the Division of Condominiums).

As a result, your governing documents could not further restrict owners from serving on the board, for example on the basis of their age. Assuming that you have some owners younger than 55, those owners have a statutory right to be candidates.

© Copyright 2023 The Palm Beach Post. Ryan Poliakoff, a partner at Backer Aboud Poliakoff & Foelster, LLP, is a board certified specialist in condominium and planned development law.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/did-condo-boards-unwise-declaration-skirt-obligations

Seller Home Staging Tips

First, cleanliness does more for a sale than staging, so keep the home clean. Also consider different styles throughout to make the home appeal to a range of buyers.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Misty Soldwisch, a broker/owner and team leader with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Des Moines, says staging is essential to her company’s success. She estimates that sellers who opt to stage receive 5% more in sales price and their homes sell 20% faster. Real estate professionals should have a dependable relationship with at least one or two stagers whom they can call on short notice.

However, Soldwisch says cleanliness is more important than staging to potential homebuyers, so it’s essential that staged homes be immaculate.

In addition, a solid, consistent design throughout the home is critical for a unified look. It’s also important to note that staging begins at the curb, so pay attention to the outside of the home. This includes the front yard, foundation plantings, walkway to the front door, and the front porch area inclusive of house numbers, mailbox and door décor.

Any un-staged areas – a basement, attic, or garage, for example – must remain neat and organized. A professional stager can help sellers determine how to use their existing items.

Sellers should also consider using different styles in different rooms. It can make a home appealing to a wider audience, and they should highlight their home’s standout feature, such as an unusual backsplash. The aim of staging should always be to elevate the experience of a home.

Finally, agents may consider incorporating a staging consultation into their listing presentation and home selling process – and guaranteeing that cost with a clause in the contract.

Source: Inman (01/06/23) Soldwisch, Misty

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/seller-home-staging-tips

RE Q&A: Tips to Navigate the Market in 2023

The best legal defense is to never need it. To avoid messy legal trouble, owners should document damage, get a permit for any work and follow HOA rules.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Another year passed, and it was a doozy in the real estate world. 2022 turned out to be quite the roller-coaster ride, with rising interest rates, cooling prices, and the shift away from being a seller’s market.

In this space over the past year, we discussed new problems and rehashed some classics. I have put together a few thoughts to help you navigate the ebbs and flows of the 2023 real estate market.

  • Records: Document everything. When something happens, take notes and photographs as soon as you can. If you communicate with someone on the phone, follow up with an email. It is easy for someone to deny what was said on a phone call, but a follow-up email or photo creates a permanent record. In my experience, photos, notes, and emails carry more weight with the court than recounting the memory of what was said a long time ago.
  • Damages: When your home is damaged, the first thing you should do is stop it from getting worse. Too many people will let the problem fester while they try to get the person who caused the problem to fix it. If the problem later turns into a lawsuit, it is hard to recover for damage you could have avoided.
  • Insurance: No one likes to pay for insurance, but you should still maintain the best insurance you can afford. Repairs are expensive and tend to be necessary at the most inconvenient moments. Lawyers are expensive, and even a small lawsuit, like one from your downstairs neighbor because of a leaking pipe, can lead to a massive legal bill that proper insurance would have covered. And yes, this applies to individual insurance covering your condominium unit. The building’s policy rarely provides the unit owner with much help.
  • HOAs: If you live in a community association, be ready to follow the rules. Association living is a trade-off. Know your community’s rules before you agree to live there.
  • Permits: Even though getting permits is a hassle, if you get in trouble for unpermitted work or if the work is not done to code, it will be difficult and expensive to fix. And unpermitted work is usually found when trying to sell your home, which is far from the best time to deal with it.

Thank you for trusting me to help with your real estate law problems. I hope that my words have helped, at least a little. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2023.

Copyright © South Florida Sun Sentinel, Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. All rights reserved.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/re-qa-tips-navigate-market-2023

The Future: Augmented Reality and Generative AI

A photo that “looks so real” may not be, and the ability to manipulate images or create whole new ones can now redefine RE photos and even virtual tours.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Augmented reality and image generation through generative artificial intelligence are two emerging technologies that could play a key role in the future of real estate, according to experts who spoke at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) convention in Orlando last fall.

Dan Weisman, NAR’s director of emerging technology, said augmented reality could become a mainstream tool that creates a new experience for home buyers and sellers. He noted that virtual tours are often used in the real estate industry, but augmented reality may change how consumers preview a potential house.

“Through the use of a phone, augmented reality will allow us to scan rooms, get dimensions, detect objects, remove them and even replace them with a décor that may be more fitting to your client. This technology will create a totally different virtual experience for a potential buyer of a home,” Weisman said.

Weisman also discussed how the evolution of artificial intelligence has allowed consumers to easily create and manipulate photos. He showcased examples of tools like Dall-E 2 and Google Imagen, which can take a text prompt and use artificial intelligence to produce and alter images with an extraordinary degree of photorealism.

“There is power in this technology that ties into the real estate space,” Weisman said. “It could have an impact on renovation previews, listing photo modifications and stock photo generation.”

Weisman showed an example photo of a backyard with a sandbox. With a simple text prompt, the sandbox was removed. With an additional prompt, it was replaced by a fire pit.

“This technology will give you the power to change photos to better portray what your client may envision for the space,” he said.

Matt Troiani, NAR senior counsel, director legal affairs, shared copyright best practices and discussed some of the legal and ethical ramifications the new technology may create. He said the new tools currently pose more questions than answers as the law tries to keep up with technology.

“The biggest takeaway is to be very mindful about how you use these tools,” Troiani said. “Ensure that you have copyright protection for the works that you are creating. Make sure you have a directive element over the generative AI, and be careful not to infringe on someone else’s copyrighted work.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/future-augmented-reality-and-generative-ai

Study: A Hurricane’s Impact on Fla. Neighborhoods

Areas tend to gentrify slightly in the years following a hurricane – the average income of new buyers increases while long-term demand stays stable.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A new peer-reviewed study, which analyzes Florida housing markets battered by hurricanes, finds that affected areas tend to gentrify slightly in the years following a storm: The average income of new buyers increases while long-term demand stays stable.

The authors of the paper – who are based at Resources for the Future (RFF), the University of California San Diego, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office – use data from county tax assessments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Zillow to gauge conditions of the housing markets and population turnover in Florida from 2000 to 2016.

The finding that housing demand didn’t decrease – and, perhaps counterintuitively, attracted wealthier inhabitants – was particularly surprising to the authors, especially given Florida’s reckoning with hurricane adaptation and resilience measures in the face of climate change.

“Hurricanes are projected to get stronger,” coauthor and RFF Fellow Yanjun (Penny) Liao said. “Our findings show that the idea that people will naturally retreat from hazardous areas may not necessarily hold up. In Florida, at least, it appears that market forces are not encouraging people to move to safer places.”

The authors find that hurricanes cause a temporary increase in home prices, likely due to the sudden decrease in housing supply from storm losses. However, they find that prices subside to baseline levels after an average of three years, which is approximately how long it takes for areas to build up housing stock to pre-storm levels. But during those pivotal three years when housing prices are higher than normal, the authors note several important tendencies:

  • In the three years following a hurricane, the average income of new buyers increases proportionally to the rise in home prices. By the time prices stabilize, more than a quarter of all homes are occupied by households with a higher income than before the hurricane arrived.
  • Home prices in hurricane-ravaged areas are 5% higher on average than unaffected ones during the three years following a hurricane. After three years, prices return to – but do not drop below – pre-storm levels.
  • There is no significant change to the socio-demographic characteristics of neighborhoods after a hurricane other than income.
  • Hurricanes do not fundamentally change the long-run demand for housing in affected areas. One hypothesis for the gentrification phenomena is that wealthier households may move into communities at a higher rate following a storm because they have a greater ability to both absorb the temporary price increase and any insurance cost increases.

“In some ways, this indicates a market flaw given the current state of the climate,” said coauthor Joshua Graff Zivin of the University of California San Diego. “Policies may be needed to ensure that these communities have strong adaptation and mitigation measures in place to deal with future storms.”

The findings in this study are something that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and federal disaster assistance programs could find useful. Gentrification in Florida could lead to higher post-hurricane insurance claims from the NFIP, which could place a heavier burden on federal taxpayers, who back the program. In addition, federal spending in disaster assistance could also increase as a result.

The authors note that future research should examine the equity implications of post-hurricane housing markets, particularly in the context of fluctuating housing prices and options available to lower income buyers and renters in the years following a hurricane.

© 2023 Buzz Future LLC Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/study-hurricanes-impact-fla-neighborhoods

Approvals Going Out for $10K Improvement Grants

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida homeowners seeking up to $10,000 in state funding for windstorm protection improvements are already being notified that they’ve been approved for the matching grant.

An approval means that homeowners who spend $15,000 on improvements are eligible to get $10,000 and reduce their project cost to $5,000.

There’s a newly disclosed catch: To get reimbursed, homeowners will have to pay their contractor in full for the job and submit a reimbursement invoice along with proof of full payment to the contractor. That’s different than what program officials said a few weeks ago.

But 0% short-term financing options are available that will cover the cost until the reimbursement check arrives, contractors say.

The My Safe Florida Home program, funded by the state Legislature last May, began accepting applications for windstorm mitigation inspections on Nov. 18. With $115 million earmarked for grants, the program estimated that 11,000 to 12,000 homeowners would be approved for up to $10,000 each.

Homeowners can begin the grant application process by requesting an inspection at mysafeflhome.com or calling (866) 513-6734.

Grant funding is being made available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and 13,840 inspection applications were in some “form of status” as of Jan. 4, according to a program official.

Windstorm mitigation inspections to identify improvements needed to bring homes up to modern construction codes were quickly scheduled for earliest applicants, and inspection reports identifying qualifying improvements started going out a week or two later.

Upon receiving inspection reports, applicants were invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000 each, and this week, the program began notifying earliest applicants that they have been approved.

As of Jan. 4, about 5,160 inspections have been completed, and 213 grant applications have been submitted. The low number of grant applications suggests that a majority of applicants are still awaiting their inspection reports.

The program offers $2 in state funding for every $1 homeowners contribute for improvements that include impact-resistant windows, exterior doors and garage doors that meet current windstorm codes, new roof coverings, upgraded roof-to-wall connections and other roof upgrades.

The improvements will better protect homes against damaging winds and qualify those homes for insurance premium discounts.

Jeff Torrey, a Deerfield Beach retiree who applied for an inspection on the day the application portal opened, found out on Thursday that he is approved for a grant.

“I’m getting 13 impact windows and a new front door,” Torrey said by phone. “On two jalousie windows at the gable ends of my house, I’m going to put accordion shutters.”

Torrey had been looking into the program’s requirements even before it started accepting applications. He reached out to a local contractor and urged him to participate in the program, and so now he’s ready to commence work.

The email notifying him of his grant approval included a link to a list of participating contractors. As of Friday, 44 contractors had registered to work on homes in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Most of the contractors are registered to work in all three counties, according to the list, which can be accessed at neighborlysoftware.com/dashboard/mysafefloridaprogram.

A guidebook available for download at the My Safe Florida Home website spells out required steps that homeowners must follow to be eligible for reimbursement. To find the guide, go to www.mysafeflhome.com and click the Resources tab at the top of the page.

After the program began taking applications for windstorm mitigation inspections in late November, officials of the state Department of Financial Services, which oversees the program, did not immediately specify whether homeowners would have to pay for the improvements upfront before getting the $10,000 grant. However, recent published guidance clarifies that homeowners must provide proof that contractors have been fully paid before reimbursements could be obtained.

“After further review, the [program] has determined that it is in the best interest of the homeowners and program-approved contractors for homeowners to pay for mitigation improvements when completed and then submit this documentation for reimbursement,” Department spokesman Devin Galetta said in an email on Friday.

The requirement could be a burden for applicants who don’t have $15,000 to spend. Yet, many have options to defray the full upfront cost.

Several contractors approved to participate in the program said they can help consumers secure short-term 0% financing so they won’t have to prepay the $10,000 they expect to get from the state.

Not all contractors will provide financing for their projects. But many do, and applicants should ask contractors what options are available.

Luke Amorseano, owner of Fort Lauderdale-based Luke Skybuilder LLC, said his company can help homeowners obtain a short-term home improvement mortgage that would be payable when the homeowner receives the $10,000 reimbursement. Cost to the homeowner would be a 1.5% loan servicing fee ($150 if financing $10,000) plus a $75 county recording fee.

Although interest rates would begin to accrue daily at 16% APR if the customer defaults, “The upside to this is that the homeowner will have a paid-in-full receipt for getting their rebate because Luke Skybuilder will be shown as paid,” Amorseano said. “The mortgage note will be under the loan servicing company.”

Mattias Colombo, manager of All-Weather Protection Services in Pompano Beach, said his company offers various financing programs that won’t accrue interest for six months to 18 months that will also allow homeowners to present proof of full payment when they apply for reimbursement.

Another option, Amorseano said, is for homeowners to sign up for PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing. PACE financing requires no upfront cost, no credit check, and can be repaid at any time, all at once or over a period of years at a fixed interest rate. But borrowers are charged program fees that add up to $2,000 to the principal.

© 2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/approvals-going-out-10k-improvement-grants

Hurricane Ian Victims Face Jan. 12 Deadline

Floridians harmed by Ian only have a few more days to apply for federal (FEMA) or small-business (SBA) physical property damage loans or grants.

BRANDON, Fla.  –  More than $4.4 billion in federal grants, disaster loans and flood insurance payments have been provided to the state of Florida and to households affected by Hurricane Ian. But time is running out for Hurricane Ian survivors to apply for disaster assistance.

If your primary residence is in one of the 26 counties designated for federal disaster assistance and you incurred storm-related loss or damage caused by Hurricane Ian, you have until Jan. 12, 2023, to complete your application.

Survivors who have insurance are encouraged to file a claim for disaster-caused damage before they apply for FEMA assistance. You do not need to wait for your insurance settlement to submit a disaster assistance application. FEMA may provide financial assistance to eligible survivors who have uninsured or underinsured disaster-caused damage or loss.

Apply online at disasterassistance.gov or call 800-621-3362. Assistance is available in most languages. Calls are answered every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. Survivors can also register at any Disaster Recovery Center operating throughout Florida’s disaster-damaged counties.

The Jan. 12 deadline also applies to applications for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property.

FEMA’s Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance grants for medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants referred to SBA must complete and submit an SBA loan application to be considered for additional forms of disaster assistance. Applicants who do not qualify for an SBA loan may be referred back to FEMA to be considered for aid under the Other Needs Assistance provision.

The SBA Disaster Customer Service Center’s number is 800-659-2955. Help is also available by sending mail to: service@sba.gov or by visiting www.sba.gov. Survivors may apply online at SBA’s secure website: disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/

Businesses that have not yet submitted an SBA disaster business loan application, may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s under SBA declaration #17644. Businesses, homeowners, renters, and non-profits may visit the Business Recovery Center or Disaster Recovery Center for help in submitting an application or in seeking reconsideration of their loan decision.

Disaster loan information and application forms can be obtained from the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services) or by email at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Jan. 12, 2023. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 29, 2023.

For the latest information on Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Ian and Nicole, visit floridadisaster.org/info and fema.gov.

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