Friday, 29 August 2008

UK Property Portals - Any Use?

If you've had experience of buying a property in the UK, it's likely that you will have used one of property portals. There's many out there - and their number is increasing by the day - but the major ones are Primelocation, FindaProperty, PropertyFinder and Rightmove. All of them have Overseas Property sections. But are they actually any good, and will they help you find a property?

Well, kind of. Generally, all of the above provide the usual listings of properties, based on particular criteria (e.g. minimum 2 bedrooms, must be a house) and price. Most provide you with results for the whole of Florida, without a way of narrowing it down to a specific region within that state. In PropertyFinder's case, you can only search properties for the whole of America. Now, unless you're especially indecisive, that's not particularly useful!

But doing a general search for properties across Florida might actually be quite helpful. It may well be that you haven't particularly decided on an area yet, and want to see the types of different things for sale across the state. Alternatively, you may have a very specific budget, and need to see what that will get you in different cities and counties. At very the least, these portals will give you a list of some of the agents that operate in different areas. You can then Google these agents, find their details, and then contact them direct.

Overall, though, I'd only use these portals as one of the early steps in buying a property in Florida. Doing as much preliminary research as possible is always beneficial. But ultimately, you'll find it much better to use one of local Florida portals. (Each local region newspaper usually has one - for example Sun Sentinel Real Estate).

Article: South Florida Home Prices Continue To Drop

At the beginning of this week, the Miami Herald provided its latest update on property prices. In an article published this past Monday, the newspaper detailed a recent report from the Florida Association of Realtors.

Overall, and what will come as a suprise to very few, year on year prices have gone down, rather substantially. From July 2007 to July 2008, prices of houses in Dade county dropped by 14%. In Broward, this figure was 19%. For condos, there was a bigger drop in prices: 19% in Dade and 26% in Broward.

Median house prices are now at $322,700 for Dade and $303,600 for Broward. Median prices for condos are $230,700 for Dade and $138,300 for Broward. As an interesting side point, take a closer look at that last sentence. The median price of a Broward condo is almost $100,000 less than a Dade condo!

No matter how falling house prices can be used to the advantage of some - such as by bagging yourself a bargain - we all want to hear of some upturn, right? The Herald reports that the number of homes that are on the market has levelled, possibly indicating a combination of fewer foreclosures, less new instructions and more sales. There is still, however, a huge supply; for example, there's a 41-month supply of condos in Dade county. (A normal level would be six to twelve month supply.)

In terms of numbers of sales, there has actually been a slight increase in Broward. Sales of houses has gone up 4% from July 2007 to July 2008; condo sales have "only" dropped by 1%.

Comparatively, for the whole country, sales have gone up by 3.1% in the same period.

Article: South Florida home prices continue to drop (25th August 2008, The Miami Herald)

Monday, 18 August 2008

Article: Is it time to back America again?

On a similar subject to the article I featured on Friday (Florida still No. 1 with foreign home buyers), The Sunday Times yesterday featured a piece on investing in America - in property and the stock markets - and how now could be an optimum time to do so.

Whilst the majority of the article talks about making financial investments, there is a brief discussion about investing in U.S. property. The article highlights how a real estate company based in Naples, Florida, has had 45% of its business come from British buyers, in comparison to 38% in 2007. Wow, almost half of its business this year from Brits! I guess a lot of you out there are buying in Naples...

Overall, the strengthening dollar has prompted many into believing that this is the start of an upturn in the U.S. economy, whilst other countries and regions around the world may continue to struggle and not recover for a while yet. So making any property investments in the U.S. now won't just be beneficial because of low prices - you may well see increase in value sooner than you thought.

Article: Is it time to back America again? (17th August 2008, The Sunday Times)

Friday, 15 August 2008

Article: Florida still No. 1 with foreign home buyers

The Miami Herald last week published an article commenting on a recent study of foreign buyers in the U.S. released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The study, of about 4,000 realtors across America and conducted over a year to year end May 2008 , revealed a number of interesting facts about us foreign buyers:

  • Florida is the most popular U.S. state for foreign buyers, accouting for 25.4% of all purchases (other popular states are California, Arizona and Texas)
  • UK citizens are second in the league table of foreign buyers (top were Canadians, third Mexicans)
  • Of these British buyers, 42% chose to buy in Florida (compare this with Canadian buyers - 33% of them chose Florida)
  • 40% of foreign buyers pay cash (compared to just 7% of U.S. buyers)
  • The average cost of a property bought by a foreign buyer is 36% higher than the average cost of a property bought by a domestic buyer
  • The average property bought was a single-family home for $297,400, intended for use as a holiday home

However, overall, the study also revealed that there is currently a downturn in the number for foreign purchases. 26% of realtors revealed that they had at least one foreign client in; this figure was at 33% the previous year.

The main reason for this decline is presumed to be that foreign buyers, just like domestic buyers, are waiting to see a further fall in prices before committing to making a purchase. Other factors that may put off foreign buyers include immigration laws and property taxes.

Article: Florida still No. 1 with foreign home buyers (7th August 2008, Miami Herald)
Also: Foreign investors slow to buy U.S. real estate (14th August 2008, The Star Ledger)

Monday, 11 August 2008

Article: Houses take average of 156 days to sell...

I assume the majority of you reading this blog are interesting in buying a property in Florida, rather than selling. That's what this blog is all about, after all!

Nevertheless, data on selling properties can still be useful to buyers. The Sun Sentinel last week had an article on a report created by Altos Research, who undertake research on the real estate market.

The report showed the average time it takes to sell a house across America. In southeast Florida - specifically, the counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach - this amounts to 156 days. This figure is the highest for the whole of country, as the national average is 111 days. (N.B. This data only refers to houses, not condos, so it shouldn't be considered an indication of all properties on the market.)

156 days works out to just over 5 months. This does seem like a long time, which would surely test the patience of many - almost all - sellers. It is, however, another thing that gives buyers and advantage. The longer the property is on the market for, the keener the seller is to sell - generally. The property may well have already undergone several price reductions, and an interested and firm buyer may well be able to negotiate a further price reduction.

More to the point, one big reason for houses having such a lengthy selling process is that there's much more supply than demand. So buyers get a considerable amount of choice.

Of course, as the article points out, 156 days is just an average. Some homeowners would be happy if it "only" took them 5 months to sell their property. Others in southeast Florida find it takes them a lot less. (The cities of Hollywood and Plantation are mentioned as examples of the latter.)

All in all, it still remains a buyer's market.

Article: Houses take average of 156 days to sell in South Florida, report says (8th August, Sun Sentinel)

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Article: Should You Buy A Home Now?

I've come across this recent article in the LA Times. Sure, okay, this is a blog about Florida property, so you might not think it that relevant. In fact, the article actually gives some very useful advice and - don't forget - the housing market in California is very similar to the market in Florida in that both are in difficult times.

The LA Times article addresses that much asked question - when should you buy? Many of you may be interested in purchasing a property in Florida, but are asking yourselves whether you should buy now or wait until prices drop further. If they do drop further, will it be a significant fall? Enough to make you wait under few months, half a year, year?

The problem with this is that there's no real answer. No one can see into the future, and whilst there may be trends and predictions, nothing is guaranteed.

So, essentially, it's all down to your personal situation. Do you visit Florida regularly, and spend a small fortune on renting accommodation? Is your long-term enjoyment -being able to enjoy holidays in your own property for many years to come - more important than making a quick investment? The LA Times article talks about home-ownership, but if you purchase a holiday home in Florida don't forget that you may also be able to achieve an income from the property by renting it out.

A college economist, Gary Smith, is quoted in the article: "Buying a house is risky, but waiting is risky too".

Article: Should you buy a home now? (3rd August 2008, Los Angeles Times)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Article: Cape Coral's Real Estate Collapse Attracts Bargain Hunters

The St Petersburg Times today published an article about crazily low property prices in southwest Florida - in the area of Cape Coral, to be precise.

Cape Coral is a relatively new city, even by American standards. Established in only 1957, the city now has a population of around 150,000 in an area of 115 square miles and is situated very close to Fort Myers. Much of the city of Cape Coral is undeveloped, even today, and this in part prompted a building and investment boom in the early part of this decade.

Now, of course, it's all a very different story. The St Petersburg Times article states that the Cape Coral - Fort Myers area hits the top spot in Florida's foreclosure chart. The area was even the number one foreclosure area for the whole of America back in February, although it has since fallen to fourth place.

Such foreclosures mean very bad news for some...and affordability for others. The average sale price of a property in Cape Coral reached $309,000 in 2006. It is now much lower. Indeed, the article highlights a couple on a property tour who view one house that is currently on the market for $103,000; a few years back the price might have been closer to $250,000. Another house, that they actually choose to buy, sets them back only $99,000, when two years ago the asking price was a whopping (by comparison) £314,500.

The article also mentions interest from European buyers - and, as we all know, the weak Dollar makes US property prices even more enticing to us lot. Such is the interest amongst Europeans that apparently a German film crew were recently in Cape Coral making a documentary!

Article: Cape Coral's real estate collapse attracts bargain hunters (St Petersburg Times, 4th August 2008)