Thursday, 24 December 2009

Florida, 2nd best place to live in the U.S.

A couple of days ago, the Guardian reported about a recent study that concluded the happiest - and least happiest - places to live in the United States. In a list of 51 states (the odd number comes from counting the 50 American states plus Washington D.C.), Florida came out as the second happiest place to live in America, behind Louisiana.

Might that have something to do with gorgeous weather and beautiful beaches. Yes, very likely! Imagine spending your winter months with regular trips to the beach, temperatures in the mid twenties celsius, no rain in sight, and a more relaxed pace of life.

Here's a photo of Dania Beach just this December - looks pretty chilled, huh?

Spare a thought for New York, which came out as the least happy place to live. Hey, I never though it was that bad - perhaps New Yorkers just complain more?

With that, I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas whether you may be!

Article: New York a hell of a place – with the emphasis on hell (22nd December 2009, The Guardian)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Property prices are falling across the U.S.

Today's Miami Herald reports that property prices in the U.S. are falling as sellers are having to reduce prices in order to make their homes more attractive to buyers.

Information from a recent survey of 3 million homes (no foreclosures where included) shows that, overall, $28.1 million has been slashed from prices across the United States. On average, most homes have seen a reduction of 10% in their sales price, whilst 26% of properties have had at least one reduction.

Meanwhile, sales have increased by 11% as a recent tax credit for first-time buyers has helped demand.

The data provides an interesting insight into those properties that aren't foreclosed, as it essentially shows that ordinary properties for sale are also - for the most part - being reduced in price. As the property market is still rather sluggish, it's particularly necessary if homeowners do genuinely want to sell their property. Having had experience of the (West) London property market, I've seen some properties remain unsold of months - even over a year - as stubborn owners refuse to drop prices, believing their home will be the one to buck the trend, that it will still be bought, regardless of the (high) price.

But there then comes a point where properties remain unsold for so long and, although there's demand, buyers aren't willing to pay over the odds in a market which is struggling. Finally, prices do come down and the property market can start to make recovery - however slowly.

So, this survey is good news, I feel. It's obviously also good news for those of you out there are are considering buying in the U.S.! If you've had a search for American property before, why not take another look and see if prices for the kind of thing you're interested in really have gone down?

Article: Home sellers keep on cutting prices (12th November 2009, Miami Herald)

Monday, 2 November 2009

Foreign buyers prominent in South Florida

Today's Miami Herald reports foreign buyers in southeast Florida are apparently "dominating" the market. So much so, the article even presents the example of a developer that's started their own mortgage company to help provide loans for foreigners - as they may often find loans hard to come by. Whilst numbers of foreign buyers have actually dropped since the peak years, "foreign sales still outpace the activity of U.S. buyers".

One real estate sales director says:

"International buyers are activating this market and reactivating sales."

whilst the partner of a real estate consultancy claims:

"Investors are aware that assets have never been so depreciated in a country like America."

Foreign buyers are taking advantage of the weak dollar versus their own currency and, in many cases, want to strike as property in the region has never been cheaper. Whereas a few years ago, during the boom in the housing market, many thought they'd never be able to afford purchasing something in southeast Florida, they are now finding that the opposite is true. In some cases even, some buyers are finding property in Florida cheaper than their home country. Depending on their home country, of course; the article suggests this is true for some Latin American countries. It's hard and perhaps not wise to do a comparison with the UK (waterfront condos aren't exactly common in this country), but in many cases, some southeast Florida condos and hosues can seem to be a complete bargain.

Those that already have an interest in the area - perhaps by already owning property there - are also using the current economic conditions to further their investment, perhaps by buying a second (or even third) property. Swiss, Spanish, Italian and English nationals are named in the article as doing this. Overall, any foreign national that's buying at the moment is doing so for a long-term investment, and not to make short term gains.

Overall, southeast Florida is popular with Canadians, Latin Americans (unsurprisingly, the top buyers, making up 52% of foreign buyers) and West Europeans, though Brits seem to prefer the Orlando area, the article claims. That's certainly something that I keep coming across though I'm not sure why that area's preferred with my fellow countrymen and women - why choose theme parks and a slightly tacky setting over a beautiful coastline, gorgeous beaches, and a cosmopolitan city with plenty to see and do?

Article: Foreign investors dominate in South Florida real estate purchases (2nd November 2009, Miami Herald)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Property sales in the U.S. on the up

Today's Miami Herald reports on a news item covered by a number of newspapers - property sales in America for the month of September are expected to show a better than expected increase, indicating that the property market is strengthening.

A report out today from the National Association of Realtors shows that national property sales rose by 5% during that month. The median price of a sale in the U.S. now stands at $174,900, which is a slight dip from the August figure (of $177,300) but down by 8.5% from the same month the previous year.

At the same time, the number of properties for sale fell (to 3.63 million), also a promising sign; at that level it would take 7.8 months to sell all stock.

This upturn in sales is most prevalent in areas and cities in the western U.S. (which saw sales rise by 13% from August to September), such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.

This increase in sales is down to low priced, foreclosed homes; attractive current mortgage rates; and a tax credit for first time buyers allowing them up to 10% off the purchase price (up to $8,000). This credit expires in November, which may be prompting a rush to purchase property before then, though the credit may possibly be extended beyond Novemberto help the property market to recover further.

So what does this mean for foreign buyers? Well, this upturn in sales means that supply will start to contract - not a pressing issue right now, but as more and more buyers enter the market, desireable properties will be snapped up more quickly. If you are seriously considering buying in Florida or the U.S., it will also mean that you'll be up against more competition. Finally, a rise in the number of properties being sold is likely to eventually cause a sharper rise in prices - so you may want to take the plunge sooner rather than later.

Article: Home sales rise 9.4 pct in Sept., beats forecast (23rd October 2009, Miami Herald)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Property flippers are back in south Florida

Today's Miami Herald reports on something that might make you think the property market in south Florida is on the up (or thereabouts) - namely, that property flippers are returning. The same people who were operating in full force prior to the property market collapase almost entirely disappeared as property prices kept plunging lower and lower, deterred by the not being able to make their previously very healthy profits.

Now, they're being enticed back by low prices, especially on foreclosed homes. They buy such properties - many of which may be in some state of disrepair, or have other associated costs (usually unpaid taxes) - to do up and sell on, or rent for the short term for selling.

The main point is that the properties they are buying often need a considerable amount of work - new roofs, structural repairs - rather than undergoing a simple refurbishment job as may have been the case before. Not matter how how cheap such houses are, "ordinary" buyers may well be put off by the possibility of having to fork out additional considerable sums to do up their homes.

The downside, however, is that the re-emergence of property flippers means that ordinary home-buyers now have more competition in their search for a purchase - buyers who would normally require a mortgage, so are already at a disadvantage to property flippers or investors with ready cash.

Overall, the fact that property flippers have returned may - in some ways - be promising for the south Florida property market. Though their re-emergence may worry some people, who believe that they may eventually cause prices to rise rapidly to rather ridiculous levels, surely the fact that they are willing to start buying and selling in the south Florida property market means that it is becoming that little bit more healthy.

Moreover, if they are willing and able to do up the worst quality foreclosed properties, it is only a good thing.

Article: Real-estate flippers back in S. Florida (8th October 2009, Miami Herald)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Recession ending in Florida?

As the third quarter of the year draws to a close today, you may well have been cheered by news that the recession in your home country (or region, I suppose) is "over". Well, maybe. (At least, that's what I got this morning from a paper in the UK).

Today, the Miami Herald also claims that the recession in Florida may be coming to an end, according to a couple of important factors - consumer confidence and the house prices.

According to the Case-Shiller home price index, property prices increased for the second month in a row, as figures for July were released. Though the increase was small - only 1.2% - it's an increase nevertheless and modest price rises are clearly the way forward as the economy (hopefully!) recovers. Nevertheless, the index shows that prices are still far below the same period last year - by 21%.

Meanwhile, the Florida Association of Realtors shows that median prices in Miami rose by 1% from July to August, though prices decreased by 1% for Broward county. The median property price for these two counties now lies at $194,800 and $217,000 respectively. This small increase and small decrease for the two counties would suggest that prices are reaching their lowest point. The only major factor that would cause prices to significantly drop again would be a large amount of supply flooding the market, and we're hoping seeing these days behind us as well.

Moving on to the consumer confidence, a University of Florida report shows that this rose 3 points in September to 74, following on from a four-point increase for August.

Overall, the increase in property prices and in consumer confidence in Florida points to a recovery in the economy. If you're interested in purchasing property there in the near future, you may well want to start the ball rolling now whilst there's plenty of supply and before the market recovers too much!

Article: Signs point to recession's easing in Florida (30th September 2009, Miami Herald)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Condo boom - of sorts - in downtown Miami

A recent article in the Miami Herald showed how sales of condominiums in downtown Miami - around the Brickell Avenue area - are rocketing...all because prices have finally come down to a level that is now attractive to many buyers.

After a lull following the collapse of the property market which saw many condo units remain unsold, and developers struggling to offload them (with some opting to rent them out instead) some building developments are seeing units fly off the shelf. Desperate to sell these condos, and needing to pay back their construction loans as well as trying to avoid bankruptcy, developers are - almost - taking what they can get. Some lenders are even allowing developers to sell for less than cost purely so they can get what's owed back.

Some of the developments mentioned in the article include 500 Brickell (which has an amazingly annoying website, I might add), Brickell on the River South, The Ivy and 1060 Brickell.

Many of those that are snapping up these units are foreign buyers; at 1060 Brickell it is estimated that about 80% of purchasers are from abroad. A huge 98% of these people had purchased with cash - not so surprising given the difficulty in obtaining suitable loans and mortgages these days. These buyers are investing in these condos as holiday homes for themselves or to rent them out, and aren't baulking at the idea of holding onto them until the market and prices rise again - which might be three years away.

Because interest and demand has increased so dramatically for these units - and because there's such a wealth of supply - there's unlikely to be a rise in prices any time soon. Whilst this is good news for buyers - pay attention, buyers! - those property owners looking or needing to sell in the near future may not be able to. Or, at least, not for price that's reasonable to them.

Whilst the increase in the number of units being sold is good news for the moment, the amount of cash-ready buyers will run out at some point. It will be then that condo units will need to be available at prices that are within reach for those that need mortgages to fund their purchase.

So, if you're after a smart new Miami condo and have funds in place, be sure to check out some of these developments. You may find a complete bargain.

Article: Downtown Miami enjoys mini-boom over cut-price condos (4th September 2009, Miami Herald)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sales up and prices down in Florida

Here's a topic covered in many Florida - and nationwide - newspapers today as figures for the second quarter of 2009 were revealed. They show that in the period ending 30th June, house sales in Florida rose by a impressive 23% compared to the same period last year. Sounds promising, but it's tempered somewhat by the accompanying news that median prices fell 29% during that quarter and now stand at $143,600. For condos, sales rose by 29%, whilst median prices fell even greater - by 38% - to $111,100.

Across various regions of Florida, sales increased by healthy margins whilst prices tumbled. The Fort Myers region saw the highest increase in sales, with numbers there almost doubling, whilst prices fell by over 50%. Part of the reason for such a high increase in sales is the current large supply of properties attributed to over-building prior to the property crash.

The area to post the second highest rise in sales was Miami, which saw a 73% increase, whilst median prices fell by over 30% to $195,000.

The greatest reason for these falling and currently low prices is the large number of foreclosed properties being sold this year, which are pushing prices right down.

Other areas to show increases in property sales for the second quarter of 2009 include Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville.

As a comparison, sales for the US as a whole fell by 2.9% for the period, but still stand in good stead for the year.

So, it seems that there's a healthy amount of demand out there. Prices may continue to fall, but low-priced foreclosure properties are a large factor as to why median prices are so low out now. If you're looking for a Florida property, you might consider waiting further to hope that prices fall even more - but I get the impression there won't be many more large price drops. Moreover, make sure you don't leave it too late to snap up the property that you actually really want - it may already gone!

Article: Florida Home Sales Up 23 Percent in Second Quarter (13th August 2009, The Jacksonville Observer)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Brand new high-end homes in Orlando difficult to shift

Here's a piece from the Orlando Sentinel from a few days ago on properties at the higher end of the scale - in the $1.2 million to $4 million range, to be precise. Sure, it's not exactly the budget of many looking to buy in Florida, it's still interesting to see the issues facing more expensive houses in Florida.

Throughout the article, the properties are referred to as "custom-built", which I assume to mean that they're specifically crafted with their own interiors and fixtures and fittings - as opposed to those lots of houses and flats that are all built identical.

Let's look at some of the statistics. Currently, such homes are taking on average a year to shift. Demand has tumbled dramatically: 66 houses were sold in the first six months of this year, whereas 256 were sold in the same period in 2006. And prices have been slashed considerably; in some cases by up to 50%.

Previously, such houses sold easily, with many selling as soon as they were finish. Nowadays, many languish untouched for months with little interest in them, whilst the construction companies behind them must pay for their upkeep, taxes and other expenses.

Article: Unsold Central Florida mansions bedevil builders (6th August 2009, The Orlando Sentinel)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Check your neighbours - and that you have them - before you buy

Another article from The Guardian last week told of the plight of a retired man who bought a Florida condo last November - and who now finds himself the only resident in the building. Victor Vangelakos's situation might not be so bad if the residence in question was a small build, but he in fact lives in a 32 storey building containing 200 units. It must get a little lonely.

Purchasers for other condo units in the building did exist, but either pulled out or failed to get a mortgage. Some others have also been moved to a less fancy building next door which Vangelakos tried to do as well, but was prevented by his mortgage lender.

So he and his family now find themselves all alone in the building. The plus side is that they have sole use of the pool, gym and clubhouse.

Rather creepily, however, they admit to hearing strange noises at night sometimes and once "someone pounded on their door at 11pm".

Article: Marooned family live all alone in 32-storey apartment block (6th August 2009, The Guardian)

Friday, 7 August 2009

Florida property attractive to Brits once more

Last Saturday’s Guardian newspaper featured an article on buying property in Florida and covered some of the reasons why Brits are looking to take the plunge now and grab themselves a holiday home in the Sunshine State.

As the Pound improves against the Dollar, many think that the present may be the best time to buy property in Florida, especially as prices have fallen so substantially and still remain low. Although there might not be many indications of prices rising in the near future, the idea of grabbing a bargain before it’s too late – meaning, before prices rise, whenever that may be – is key. Likewise, there may be many attractive bargains out there at the moment, but as more people snap them up there will be fewer and fewer attractive options for those looking to buy.

The article also mentions the ingenious foreclosure bus tours, which ferry people around numerous foreclosed properties in one day. The paper points out that these tours can be very valuable to foreign buyers, as not only can they easily see a number of properties in a short space of time, but the companies running such tours can guide them through the sometimes difficult process of buying property in Florida.

Also highlighted were the types of properties that can be found in three different areas of Florida – the Gulf Coast (near Tampa, specifically in Naples); the Atlantic Coast (Jacksonville, in the very north of Florida, near the state line); and in Central Florida (Orlando). Slightly strange that they chose not to feature anything in or near Miami, a place that surely must be a big draw for Brits!

Article: Florida: Bagging a bargain property in the sunshine state (1st August 2009, The Guardian)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Property market in the Sarasota area shows signs of stabilising

Let's take a look at a different area in Florida rather than our usual focus on the southeast for a moment - the Sarasota-Brandenton market, which is near Tampa.

The local newspaper for the region, The Sarasota Herald Tribune, today reports some slightly encouraging news for the property market there. Although home sales continue to struggle, average prices have increased after falling steadily since September 2008 and reaching a low in February this year. The average price of a property now stands at $162,700.

The supply of new homes has fallen by 32% for the year ending this June. Meanwhile, new construction has also slowed by 42% in the same year period.

However, the amount of properties being sold has fallen, the research shows. The number of houses sold has fallen from 4,269 for the first six months of 2008 to 4,060 for the first six months of this year.

Generally, all of this amounts to signs of a slow recovery - at the moment, at least - in the property market in the region, as prices rise whilst supply falls. However, the overall conclusion is that these small rises and falls in the various factors make it difficult to fully predict when a proper recovery will swing into action. Right now, it is thought that this will not occur before 2010.

Article: Research finds local housing market still struggling, but starting to stabilize (30th July 2009, Sarasota Herald Tribune)

New home construction slow in southeast Florida

Yesterday's Miami Herald reports that numbers of new houses and condos being constructed during is levelling out for the second quarter of 2009 - which is good news, in all honesty! With high numbers of newly constucted units still to be sold, and more supply coming onto the market in terms of foreclosures, southeast Florida certainly doesn't need more houses and condos in this troubled property market.

To highlight this point, the Herald article states that at the moment, 1,022 new condo units remain empty in Broward, whilst a pretty staggering 10,685 remain empty in Dade.

In Dade county meanwhile, only 7 houses began construction during this period, whilst 27 condos (all in the same development) were starting to be built. For Broward, these figures stood at 78 houses but absolutely no condo units.

As mentioned in the article, however, part of the reason for this downturn in new construction is that developers are simply finding it tricky to get financing for new projects.

Article: Home building remains flat in South Florida (29th July 2009, Miami Herald)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Number of foreclosures filings in southeast Florida falls

The Miami Herald last week featured an article on a report that shows some encouraging news for the property market in the region. From the month of May to June, the number of properties being filed for foreclosure in southeast Florida fell by a rather staggering 50%, on average; specific figures for the local counties are 40% in Dade and 60% for Broward. Meanwhile, across the United States, the number of foreclosures for the same period fell by 19%.

What these findings actually mean is difficult to say as the newspaper points out; such a drop is encouraging but many other factors to do with foreclosures or properties taken over by banks and then sold on need to be considered as well.

It really seems to be a case of wait and see. This news may be good, but let's see what happens next.

Article: South Florida foreclosure filings fall by half (17th July 2009, Miami Herald)

Monday, 6 July 2009

South Florida property market looking up?

The Miami Herald featured an article a couple of weeks ago (my apologies for not getting round to blogging about it sooner!) about a possible ray of sunshine emerging from the clouds for the South Florida property market. A couple of recent factors indicate that the market may be very close to recovery mode and subsequently on the up.

Recent figures show that the number of properties sold is increasing (the ninth such month on month increase) which is good news - despite the underlying reason for this increase not exactly being ideal.

And what is that "underlying reason"? Well, the increase in the number of properties sold is actually being driven by current low prices and what is termed "distressed sales" - i.e. sales of foreclosed properties or short-sales. (Where the property is sold for less than the amount owed on it.)

To give you an idea of the level of the market - sales of houses increased by 76% for Dade county and 47% for Broward; the condos, sales increased 36% in Dade and 25% in Broward. However, as much as 60% of all these properties sold were "distressed sales".

This increase in sales (which, in turn, is eating up some of the current oversupply of properties) isn't yet causing any substantial effect on prices - a comparison of median prices from last year to this still shows a large fall. However, month to month figures which show a small up and down fluctuation each month indicate that price falls may be slowing...which would turn into a price rise at some point. The main problem is the difficulty in predicting when exactly this "at some point" will happen.

The article finishes by saying the condo sales may not recover as quickly as house sales. The vast number of condo developments that were built in recent years means that there's a huge oversupply supply - the article mentions that by the end of this year, developers in just downtown Miami will still be holding 10,000 unsold units.

Article: Is the worst over for South Florida housing market? (24th June 2009, Miami Herald)

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

What kind of house in Florida can you get for $10, $50 or $100?!

It seems that interest in property competitions - or raffles, or whatever you may call them - is growing, perhaps not unsurprisingly! If the fee for entering the competition is relatively low (say, $50 or below) whilst the prize - a property often worth several millions of dollars - is high, it does seem worthwhile to take a chance.

Moreover, the majority of these raffles restrict the number of entrants (usually to the point where revenue from ticket sales equals the value of the house). The odds of winning the competition are probably higher then winning the lottery for example - and think of the amount of money people spend playing that week-in, week-out.

For example, I previously blogged about a house in Fort Lauderdale that was up for offer in one such competition. All entrants have to pay a fee of $10 to enter, and the homeowners hope that they will sell 300,000 tickets. The house in question is a rather palatial 6 bedroom waterfront home, bought for $2.35 million in 2005. I think I could manage $10 to be in with a chance of becoming the owner of such a sumptious, million-dollar property! (One would assume that the house is isn't quite worth the same now, due to the property slump...but let's gloss over that for once, shall we?) The competition is currently still running.

This isn't the first example of a competition being used to sell a home. In a slightly different vein, last year I also blogged about a lady in Northern Florida who was giving away her $1.25 million house in Ocala to the winner of a competition in which entrants would have to write a short essay about their pet. I can't, however, find out the result of the competition and whether the house was actually won by someone.

So, what other property raffles and competitions are currently or were recently run in Florida - and what is or was the prize? Here's a few examples:

A Coral Springs house for $50 - a 2,164 square foot, two-floor, three bedroom house that was built in 2005. I'm sold by the his 'n' hers walk-in closets in the master bedroom - which of course would be two walk-in closets for me! The competition is still running.

Here's a Miami Beach condo for $100. The one bedroom, 850 square foot modern condo overlooks Biscayne Bay. The raffle actually closed only 9 days ago - the winner received a cash prize of 50% of the net proceeds (which equalled $30,850) as not enough tickets were sold for the condo to be won. Just doing some rough maths, it seems the number of entrants fell far, far short of the anticipated 5,000 entrants. Nevertheless, the winner still received a rather substantial sum, with the same amount raised for the chosen charity.

These competitions don't just occur in Florida. In fact, let's take a look at one that was run a little closer to home. Here's a £1 million house in Devon, UK with 11 acres of grounds, plus lodges and a lake that was won in a competition last autumn in which 46,000 entered. (Each ticket cost £25.)

The main issue with property raffles and competitions is that they never quite seem to attract the number of entries that's hoped for - and the property in question often doesn't actually get "won". Sure, a considerable amount of interest in generated, and a winner selected does normally win some sort of (cash) prize...but the actual idea of raffling off a property rarely really works.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Condo developments - what's happening to them in the downturn?

The Broward-Palm Beach version of the excellent local free newspaper in southeast Florida, The New Times, this week featured an article showing examples of a number of specific condominium developments in the counties that were built since 2003, and the fate they have suffered in the economic downturn and property collapse in the area.

Condo developments are currently suffering a variety of problems - mainly because so many were built in the last five or so years, and the sluggish economy means that now there just aren't the people to buy them. To give you an idea, Miami-Dade county saw a whopping 23,000 condos built since 2003; Broward and Palm Beach counties together didn't quite reach that figure, although still managed a staggeringly high 18,000.

The developments mentioned in the article are Tao Sawgrass in Sunrise, Broward (near Sawgrass Mills mega-mall) which apparently has not a single resident (some units have been bought, but most likely by investors intending to flip units); CityPlace in West Palm Beach, which has very few residents; and the Villa Medici in Fort Lauderdale, which has suffered from crime in the recent past.

The article also mentions the Radius development in downtown Hollywood. As stated in the article, this development had its moment of fame a few years back when hundreds of people were queuing up outside, so keen were they to buy units. Although suffering from some issues - such as residents having to pay higher monthly maintenance fees (to balance out the lack of fees received from unsold and unoccupied units), and complaints about the quality of finish - the development is reasonably successful, with about 85% of units sold. (Only about 64% are occupied, however.) Part of the Radius's "success" is down to the fact that the developers are now willing to sell units for much discounted prices and are also moving away from their original vision of selling to sophisticated, up-market, young buyers. Of course, the Radius development is also in an area that has been much regenerated - Young Circle now features a delightful little park, and some of the surrounding streets have had new restaurants, bars and shops in the last few years.

In some other cases, however, developers were expecting that once they had started or completed construction of their developments, others would follow suit to revitalise the surrounding areas. This was often not the case, meaning that completed condo developments now find themselves in less than favourable areas.

One property analyst, Jack McCabe, believes that it will be another year before prices bottom out, whilst a full five years before condo developments have more occupied units than vacant ones. As mentioned in previous blog posts, one group of home occupiers - renters - will benefit at the moment as condo owners decide to temporarily (even for a few years) rent out their smart units and wait for the market to recover. Renters now find themselves being able to afford living in apartments or areas that were previously too expensive.

Those that desperately need to sell, however, will most likely need to take a hit on their asking price, or may even slide into foreclosure. Meanwhile, residents of these (not even) half filled condo blocks are also suffering. They face living in deserted developments, in some cases in areas that aren't especially desirable, whilst not all facilities are being kept to proper standards, yet paying over the odds in maintenance fees.

Article: South Florida's Housing Crisis Leaves Behind Ghost Towers (17th June 2009, Broward-Palm Beach New Times)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

New Times Best Of...

The free alternative newspapers New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times today published their annual "Best Of..." lists and, once again, they're well worth a look! In keeping with the slightly off-the-wall style of the newspapers, the lists compile everything from the best places to eat, drink, hang out and shop to "Best Drag Queen"; "Best Place For A First Date"; "Best Weathercaster"; and "Best Female Bodybuilder".

I always love these lists each year, and learn so much about the southeast Florida area from them. They've also helped me uncover some hidden gems - only last year did I discover, after reading about the place in the New Times, how delicious the burritos at Zona Fresca are.

And the lists are wildly funny to boot!

Take a look here:

Miami condos are filling up

Today's Miami Herald reports some heartening news about condominiums in the downtown Miami area - namely, that occupancy rates are on the up, which may point to a recovery of the property market a little bit sooner than expected.

Of course, occupancy includes both renting and buying, but rates of both of these are increasing. Moreover, regardless of whether the condos are rented or bought, the fact that more and more are being lived in is good news. The downtown Miami area, though smart, has had (and still does) somewhat of a deserted feel, not helped by the vast numbers of new condo developments that have gone up in recent years.

The paper mentions a report by the Miami Downtown Development Authority who found that 62% of condos built since 2003 are inhabited. Currently, about 280 new lets occur each month; last year, about 50 new sales happened each month, which has increased to 70 per month this year.

38% of condo are still in the hands of developers - i.e. not yet sold - which equates to about 8,300 units. A further 1,333 units will come onto the market as well later this year.

So, what's the reason for this improvement in rentals and sales in this part of Miami? Well, sales are undoubtedly being helped by a reduction in prices, as developers try to shift unsold units and banks try to offload the foreclosed properties they have taken on. However, the vast oversupply that still exists means that many developers are now renting condo units out instead - at least until the property market recovers and the units can be sold - so more condos are available to rent at the moment.

Article: Downtown Miami condos filling up fast, report says (Miami Herald, 11th June 2009)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Foreclosed properties in some developments are selling well

An article in the the Miami Herald earlier this week noted that for some condominium developments in Dade county, apartment sales are doing very well. The article is based on findings by the website, which compiles reports about various condo buildings throughout the Miami-Dade area. has established that seven of the developments that suffered most from foreclosures in 2008 are now in the top ten for list for best selling projects in the first three months of 2009. (These are only for developments built prior to 2008.)

Some of the top-selling developments included in this finding are in locations and areas that - although not bad at all - may not exactly be considered the most desirable or glamorous. They include Mandarin Lakes in south Dade and the Shoma at Keys Cove development (the top seller in the list) in Homestead. Some properties in buildings in the downtown Brickell area - that had previously seen a high number of foreclosed apartments - are also top sellers.

Of course, the major reason for these developments currently selling so well is the low, low prices that the properties are listed at. Foreclosed properties become owned by banks, who are generally keen to offload them as quickly as possible. The average price of sales at the aforementioned Shoma at Keys Cove development was a very low $38,060, although average sale prices at other projects were considerably higher.

Article: Homes in foreclosure-ridden Miami-Dade projects are top sellers (Miami Herald, 2nd June 2009)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Grab a slice of South Beach

A couple of weeks ago, the UK's Daily Mail newspaper published an article on new opportunities presented to some holiday-home (or home!) buyers looking to take the plunge in southeast Florida. The region's tumbling property prices in the last year or so has meant - as I've often said - that bargains are definitely to be had. For those looking for a little glamour, this may mean include purchasing in some of Miami's swankier developments and areas, including South Beach.

It is this that the Mail article focuses on. True, much of the piece is ever-so-slightly exasperating (the focus on celebrities that own properties there; the claim that Robert De Niro and Slyvester Stallone's bars that opened in the 1990s helped turn South Beach from edgy to trendy), but it still presents some useful information. The main point is that, with prices falling so much, Miami and southeast Florida may now be affordable to those who believed they were previously priced out of buying there, and had to look elsewhere if they wanted a holiday home abroad.

John Howell, of the International Law Partnership (who advise clients on buying overseas property), provides a rather amusing - but ultimately very true - quote for the piece:

Why buy in Bulgaria when you can own in one of the world's best locations?

The Mail article also mentions a few new condo developments which are failing to sell, and in which stylish, reduced-price (or even foreclosed) flats can be bought. These include Icon Brickell and Flamingo South Beach.

Finally, the last bit of advice to be garnered from the article is that for anyone looking to purchase a foreclosed property, they should be ready to act quickly - many of these go fast, and so anyone looking to buy a foreclosure needs to have all their funds in place so they do not lose out.

Article: Prices are tumbling, but the sun is still shining, now is the perfect time to grab your Miami slice (Daily Mail, 14th May 2009)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Article: In South Florida, Most People Who Bought Homes During Boom Are Underwater

Yesterday's Miami Herald published an article on a recent report by real estate website, which documents the struggles many Florida homeowners are facing as they find that they now owe more than their properties are worth - a situation that the paper terms being "underwater".

The excessive boom period, particularly from 2005 to 2007, means many bought at incredibly high prices. Now property prices have been tumbling to such an extent that homeowners have seen the value of their homes plunge severly. The article states that those that bought during these boom years may experience prices falling by 50% in Dade county, and 41% in Broward. (These are median price figures.) Meanwhile, an astonishingly high 88% of those who bought in 2006 are "underwater".

No doubt a situation like this will unfortunately cause even more homeowners to fall into foreclosure.

Article: In South Florida, most people who bought homes during boom are underwater (Miami Herald, 6th May 2009)

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Article: Miami's Condo Corridor's Woes Create Boon For Renters

An article earlier this week spoke of how some developers and property investors are deciding to rent out their condos for the time being instead of facing the likely notion of offloading them for very low prices indeed. Whilst of course renting property in Florida isn't the subject of this blog...the article is still interesting as it highlights the extraordinary amount of construction that went on in the boom property years in southeast Florida.

I live in London, UK, and often hear that many property owners - from developers of new apartment blocks to those trying to sell family homes - opting to rent their properties for now with a view to then selling when the market picks up. Of course, this brings up further problems: for one, many find themselves in a situation of landlord, of which they have little experience; and secondly, it's very difficult to judge exactly when the property market will recover.

Still, it's interesting to see that some of the same concerns are affecting those on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Miami Herald article concentrated on downtown Miami, the area around what is now a rather plush Brickell Avenue. A truly amazing 23,000 condo units were constructed in the building frenzy that occurred there over the last few years.

Since 2003, 13,000 of these condos have been sold and a whopping 60% have been sold to investors or those who weren't intending to live in these units. Meanwhile, 10,000 condos are still in the hands of the developers of the buildings as they haven't yet been sold.

The offshoot of all this is that some developers are choosing to rent out their condo units instead of selling. The actual main subject matter of the article is that young Miami professionals are finding that they are able to rent out some rather plush pads and enjoy the high life, when such apartments would have been completely unattainable to them only a few years ago.

So, if you ever find yourself wanting to rent somewhere in Miami, it seems that the Brickell Avenue is the place to look - you might find yourself in a luxurious condo for a good deal! but overall, this is an example of just how much over-supply is really out there.

Article: Miami condo corridor's woes create boon for renters (Miami Herald, 21st April 2009)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Article: A Bumpy Real Estate Road Remains

Recovery of the southeast Florida property market is a while off, it seems. Yesterday's Miami Herald featured an article on this very subject which highlighted the fact that many experts predict no sign of an upturn this year, with any improvement in the market only expected in 2010 or 2011 at the earliest.

A major reason for this recovery being a while off yet is the vast oversupply of properties on the market. Although there is a considerable demand, with some purchasers grabbing some real bargains right now, the huge number of properties coming on for sale means supply will still outstrip demand for some time yet. The large property inventory in this part of Florida can, of course, be attributed to the increasing number of foreclosed properties that are coming up for sale.

As often mentioned before, in normal market conditions, there would be a six to twelve month supply of properties for sale. Currently, that time period stands at 35 months for Dade county and 24 months for Broward. Although other factors may indicate a recovery of sorts - for example, sales of properties in February 2009 were up 68% for houses and 71% for condos in Dade county, compared to the same month last year - until the supply of properties comes closer to demand,the property market in southeast Florida won't improve for some time. Current economic conditions and unemployment concerns also add to the property market's woes.

Nevertheless, as prices continue to tumble and more properties coming available every day, if you're interested in buying, now's a perfect time to start looking.

Article: A bumpy real estate road remains (Miami Herald, 19th April 2009)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Foreclosure Tours

I've written in the past about various rather inventive ways some real estate agents use to showcase the vast supply of properties - particularly foreclosed ones - that are currently available in Florida, in the southeast region of the state and elsewhere. For example, last week, I wrote about an agent in Cape Coral who was now undertaking boat tours of foreclosed houses by utilising the area's canals and waterways.

I've come across the website which basically offers just what it says. The company behind the website, City Realty Partners Inc, offer 4 hour bus tours of foreclosed properties in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas. Information on how to purchase such properties from agents and lawyers is also available on the tours. The website also provides listings of these foreclosed properties, as well as ones that are very recently new to the market, in some cases even exclusive.

Overall, it seems like a good introduction to anyone who's a little nervous about foreclosed properties, or is unsure about how to go about finding and purchasing one. These tours seem like quite a good idea to get your started on the buying process!

In case you're wondering - no, I'm not in any way connected with the website or company!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Article: Buyers stymied by tough rules on condos

Last month I wrote about an article, featured in the Arizona Star, on buyers having difficulties purchasing in condo developments due to tough new mortgage lending restrictions. Over the weekend, the Miami Herald published an article on the very same subject.

New rules put in place by Fannie Mae, one of the two big American mortgage lenders, mean that if anyone wishes to arrange a loan to purchase a condo must have a deposit of at least 40%. Furthermore, the development in which they are purchasing must have had at least 70% of its units sold AND no more than 49% can be owned by investors. Finally, the condo development must also not have more than 15% of its units over 30 days late in residents' association fees.

Tough restrictions, right? Although they were brought in to try and ensure that loans aren't given out to properties whose value plummets rapidly in the future, the restrictions mean that recovery in an troubled property market (with condos especially in difficulty) in a suffering part of America might be even futher away then anticipated.

The Herald states that demand for property and condos is certainly out there, but the tough new lending rules mean that some just can't raise the funds they need to buy. And if too many potential buyers are taken out of the equation, some developers will find themselves in serious trouble and in their desperation to sell their condos may seek to do so at vastly reduced prices - causing a further negative effect in the property market.

Fannie Mae has, however, stated that they may be flexible in their lending restrictions and may look at certain condo developments on a case by case basis to give their own approval even if not all of their criteria are met.

Article: Buyers stymied by tough rules on condos (Miami Herald, 12th April 2009)

Thursday, 9 April 2009

$10 House for sale in Fort Lauderdale!

Okay, so the house isn't really on the market for a measly $10. This is in fact another case of Florida homeowners setting up a raffle to try and offload their home quickly and for a respectable price rather than officially putting it on the market for sale.

Miles and Laura Brannan own a six bedroom house in the Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, which they bought in 2005 for $2.35 million. They are hoping to sell 300,000 tickets, with part of the proceeds benefitting a Miami church.

Of course, 300,000 tickets at $10 each equals a haul of $3 million! So for a property to be sold at that amount today when it was bought for $650,000 less four years ago is - to be putting it politely - a rather astonishing rise, given current economic conditions!

Too see the house, take a look at the Florida Luxury Auctions website.

Article: $10 raffle ticket could buy Fort Lauderdale home worth millions (28th March 2009, Sun Sentinel)

Article: Realtor Takes New Approach - By Sea

In the last year or so, there have been articles on the innovative ways estate agents or realtors are showing properties that are for sale. With the huge amount of stock, some agents offer tours (in mini buses and the like) for a small daily fee, where a group of people can view a number of properties in the space of a few hours - with some light refreshments and snacks thrown into the bargain.

One such agent, in Cape Coral (on the west coast of Florida - it is near Fort Myers) has returned to conducting such tours, but this time by boat. The agent in question, Marc Joseph, conducts tours of upscale foreclosed homes, using the canals in the area to navigate from one house to the next. Joseph shows a variety of homes per three-hour tour in different price ranges, almost all of which have had their prices slashed.

Joseph also suggests that now is a prime time to buy - he believes that the market will bottom out in the next six to eight months, and then an upturn will start as the oversupply of properties will reduce considerably. He also comments on what Florida is about by saying:

"The sun is still shining. Our roads are full, our beaches are packed. People
are down here looking. The product will not last long."

And, well, he does have a point. There may be much economic strife, but what Florida has to offer will never go away.

At the very least, going on a boat tour is a relaxing way to see properties!

Article: Realtor takes new approach -- by sea (28th March 2009, Miami Herald)

Monday, 23 March 2009

Article: News Grows Even Worse For Condos

If you're thinking of buying a condo (especially one in a large development) in southeast Florida, then it's a good idea to take a look at this article from the Arizona Star, published this Monday.

The newspaper reports that condo developments in which some owners have fallen behind in paying their regular association fees (which are used to maintain and pay for the upkeep of the development or building - for the lift/elevator, gardens and so on) and the residents' associations are in some cases struggling to pay for some maintenance items.

Furthermore, the Federal National Mortgage Association (i.e. Fannie Mae) - one of the two big mortgage lenders in America - will introduce a couple of new lending rules to those looking for a mortgage to purchase a condo which may exacerbate the situation.

Firstly, Fannie Mae will not lend to anyone that wishes to buy in a condo development where 15% or more of owners are behind on their association fees. Secondly, they will also not provide a mortgage for a condo in a development where fewer than 70% of units have been sold.

Although such measures are intended to protect buyers and lenders, some say that they will only make things worse for condo sales, a market which is already struggling from over-supply. Geunine sellers in struggling developments may now find it even more difficult to sell and, likewise, buyers may find it more difficult to purchase in particular condo developments - especially in new, recently completed ones.

On the other hand, if you are able to raise alternative financing - particularly in you're a foreign buyer and can get a loan in your home country - you may be able to take advantage of this situation.

Article: News grows even worse for condos (Arizona Star, 23rd March 2009)

Article: Houses Stay For Sale The Longest In South Florida Market

The Sun Sentinel featured an article last week on the average length of time it takes to sell a property in the Miami metro area. This figure currently stands at  193 days, meaning Miami takes the top spot in a survey undertaken by Altos Research and Real IQ.

The time taken to sell a property in the Miami area (which includes Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties) has increased quite a bit from the 156 days it took to sell in summer 2008.

Miami, unfortunately, is quite far out in first place - second on the list is the Chicago area, where it takes 180 days to sell.

The reason for Miami's high figure is the vast number of foreclosed properties in the region that are coming onto the market.

The decline in prices, however, should eventually see the tide turn and the time taken to sell decrease.

Article: Houses stay for sale the longest in South Florida market (Sun Sentinel, 14th March 2009)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Article Roundup: Properties In Orlando More Affordable

Shifting our focus away from southeast Florida for a minute, here's a couple of articles from the Orlando Sentinel - a city in which, generally, the property market seems to be improving.

As prices have come tumbling down in the city, property sales have increased. In a year on year comparison between this February and the same month in 2008, sales are up by 28%. However, for the same period, the median sale price fell by 34.8% to $148,000. This large drop in prices can be mainly attributed to many properties being listed for sale for foreclosure reasons. The number of properties for sale has also decreased to 22,168 featured on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), down 15% from February 2008, although the figure is still considered large. The average time it takes to sell a property has also decreased to 102 days, down from 123 days from the previous year.

The article concludes that whilst now may be a good time to buy, it is not such a great time to sell. A number of sellers are featured in the article who have had their homes listed for sale for a while and are unable to find buyers.

Another article from the same newspaper explains that property in Orlando is also becoming more affordable for a couple of reasons. Orlando has now fallen below-average on the ACCRA Cost Of Living Index's housing index, and is just above average on the cost of living index.

Furthermore, comapared to median income (at $52,136) which has stayed relatively stable over the last few years, median house prices have come crashing down meaning homes are now more affordable.

- Low prices boost home sales in Orlando area (Orlando Sentinel, 11th March 2009)

- Silver lining: Area homes affordable again (Orlando Sentinel, 9th March 2009)

Monday, 23 February 2009

Article Roundup

There's a couple of recent pieces from the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel newspapers about low(er) prices in southeast Florida increasing interest amongst local residents.

The Miami Herald, in particular, has a feature on why some people are finding that buying a property is less expensive than renting. Generally, this isn't going to be directly relevant to those foreign buyers looking to purchase in the state. There are still, however, some useful points, including the main argument of for versus against - namely that there are bargains to be had right now (for) but prices will still go down for a while yet(against).

The Sun Sentinel has a blog post on how decreasing prices are increasing sales in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and that this trend is also true for Orlando.

- Home prices are so low it may cost less to buy than to rent (Miami Herald, 15th February 2009)

- Low prices are dragging home buyers off the fence (Sun Sentinel, 12th February 2009)

Monday, 9 February 2009

Article: South Florida Housing Prices Becoming Affordable Again

The Miami Herald published an article over the weekend about how south Florida property prices are now tumbling down to a level that's more affordable for many local residents. The drop in prices - due to the economic downturn and the increasing number of foreclosures in the area - means that some are now able to buy properties, having previously thought it out of reach because of their lower earnings.

The fact that houses are more affordable is great news for some - but the article does also point out that for those that are buying, mortgage lenders now impose much stricter regulations and often ask for at least 20% of the purchase price as a downpayment.

Those can meet such conditions - or, better still, those with cash - will find a large amount of choice. Even some foreclosed homes, that may have been damanged by previous residents, often don't need much spent on them to bring them back to good condition. Some consider this a fantastic time to snap up properties: "This is the only opportunity, I think for the next 30 years. There won't be another opportunity, says Eduardo Fernandez, who is investing in a couple of properties in the Little Havana area.

Falling house prices may just be a slight glimmer of hope in the story current conditions, however. The author states that most analysts predict that house prices will continue to fall. If house values fall, those that are in trouble and facing foreclosure will only find themselves in deeper trouble. The the vast number of homes on the market - greatly outstripping demand - will only cause a further fall in prices.

The article does focus on some areas in southeast Florida that may not be considered the most desirable for one reason or another but, nevertheless, does identify possible gains for those looking to buy in the region as a whole.

Article: South Florida housing prices becoming affordable again (Miami Herald, 7th February 2009)

Monday, 2 February 2009

Article: Foreign Investors May Help Local Real Estate Market

Here's an article in today's Miami Herald about foreign investors buying up commercial real estate in southeast Florida. Whilst the main subject of this blog is of course residential real estate, some of you make be interested in find out about the general levels of investment in Miami and the surrounding cities and areas.

Essentially, and unsurprisingly, the piece points out that investment by domestic (i.e. American) firms in the area is dwindling due to the economic climate in the country. Foreign investors, however - particularly those from Central and South America - aren't being put off by the current poor economic conditions, as they may well have faced unstable economies back home and are used to such difficulties. Moreover, such foreign groups still view Florida as a prime spot to invest in, and often have a longer-term plan than American investors and may be more willing to accept lower rates of return.

One foreign group that definitely aren't investing in Florida at the moment are us Europeans - mainly caused to the fall in value of the Euro against the Dollar.

Article: Foreign investors may help local real estate market (Miami Herald, 2nd February 2009)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Article: The Property Market In Miami

Last weekend, The Times (of London) featured a brief article on British buyers currently taking advantage of falling property prices in Miami. Whilst the article focused on the top-end of the scale - a $3.5 million condo, anyone? - it highlights the fact that prices are still falling in the area and that there is much room for negotiation.

Moreover, it does mention that Florida still remains a very popular destination for us Brits - property buyers or otherwise!

Article: The property market in Miami (The Times, 18th January 2009)