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2007 (3)
Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Real Estate Opportunities


As December approaches its Christmas and Kwanzaa celebrations, you’re probably scrambling to buy the remaining gifts for the last remaining people on your list or going to supermarkets looking for the ingredients to use in preparing your holiday feasts.  There’s also a possibility that one of your resolutions for next year is selling the home you’re currently living in.  December can actually be an opportune time for selling real estate.


Behind all the festivities and rapturous celebration lies some great perks you can use to your advantage in getting your home sold quicker.  Among them is making the extra effort to decorate your home to look its best and using this time that is quickly coming to a close to ensure it dazzles when the lights come on.  Particularly during such a time, an elegantly luminous home can sway a buyer who would otherwise not be interested in your home’s visual appeal.


So you’re all revved up and ready to astound real estate buyers with a carefully thought out blueprint of how you want to go about decorating your home for the holidays but alas, the price tags on those lights that do twenty different synchronized movements and the giant automated snow globe are simply out of the question.  If the window for selling is short, you may have to scale back your efforts to something closer to your budget.  Otherwise, the answer may be waiting the day after Christmas.


Head to any store selling holiday decorum and you’ll notice pretty much anything that has to do with the holidays has had its price chopped almost in half.  Something that carried a price of seventy dollars now costs an inexpensive $28.  You can either save these items for use next year or use them to complement the end of 2007 festivities.  Things are also shaping up to be favorable for the real estate market next year which should also justify these purchases.


As long as you’re not putting yourself into any kind of irrecoverable debt or setting back your saving efforts, don’t feel guilty about splurging a little more than you intended in getting your home sold.  December is when people can be convinced to overindulge more on items they’d normally scoff at so the odds of catching the eye of a young man looking to buy a home for him and his fiancĂ©e to live in is much greater.

Posted at 10:50:27 AM

Monday, December 03, 2007

News Article
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Posted at 11:22:36 AM

Monday, June 11, 2007

High-rises, high hopes

High-rises, high hopes




BIG PLANS: In 2005, this rendering of the condo tower was envisioned for the area behind the historic Freedom Tower.

In downtown, from Brickell Avenue north to the Edgewater neighborhood, up the Miami River and down historic Coral Way, great chunks of Old Miami are fast disappearing in a cloud of dust. In its place, the New Miami -- a dense, steel-and-glass forest of condo towers -- is rising from the rubble.


The scope, scale and speed of the transformation are breathtaking. More than 114 major projects, most of them high-rise condos, are under construction or in the planning stages in the urban core along Biscayne Bay.


Citywide, developers are proposing more than 61,000 new condominium units -- eight times the number built during the past decade.


The projects encompass the tallest skyscraper in Florida, a 74-story spire higher than any residential building south of Manhattan, almost four million square feet of new retail space (nearly as much as two Aventura Malls) and parking for more than 100,000 cars.


''You have a wave of development underway here in Miami that is unprecedented, bigger than anything, bigger than Hong Kong in the boom years of development,'' said former Portland, Ore., councilman Charles Hales, a transportation consultant working on a plan for a Miami streetcar line.


Not since the post-World War II housing boom that multiplied Miami-Dade County's population fivefold, to more than one million people, has the region experienced anything comparable. But that took almost 20 years.


''We are building an instant city; what should take 15 years will take three,'' said Michael Cannon, a Miami real-estate analyst. The boom struck suddenly, unexpectedly, first a trickle of projects, then a torrent. Cash has poured in from Latin America, New York and, increasingly, Europe, the result of converging market forces -- slashed interest rates, a cheap dollar -- and a worldwide infatuation with Miami among the chic and moneyed.


It all amounts to a multibillion-dollar gamble, outdoing in risk and bravado the 1920s boom that made Miami a modern city: That given waterfront location, a sunny climate and a hip, international culture, intensive downtown residential development can catapult Miami into the first rank of world cities.


Elected officials, in particular Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, are counting on the boom to reverse downtown's long decline, to turn its seedy blocks and outlying neighborhoods into a scintillating, working urban hub with a vibrant street life.


''Just five years ago we were broke; we had zero development,'' Winton said. ``I'm going to bet you that when we're done -- I don't know when that will be -- historians will identify this as the most significant and rapid transformation of an American city.''


What precisely will the boom deliver? It's too soon to tell, experts say.


But this convulsion of development is already remaking not just Miami's skyline, but its streets and neighborhoods and likely its population, too.


If it stays on track, the boom promises a fundamentally different Miami -- more urban and congested, but also more cosmopolitan and, given the high prices the condos command, probably wealthier.


It also raises serious concerns. In the absence of a ready plan, how will the city cope with thousands of expected new residents and the traffic they will generate, given antiquated infrastructure, limited public transit and a shortage of parks and open space? Will Miami residents, among the nation's poorest urban dwellers, be displaced or priced out of new housing?


That is, if the planned condos actually get built, sold and occupied.


As the boom takes on the feel of a gold rush, real estate analysts, bankers and even some developers fear it's a mirage, a bubble fueled by speculators looking to resell condo units for a quick profit, and not by true buyer demand.


If developers build too much, and speculators can't find buyers for resale, the boom could bust, leaving Miami littered with vacant and bankrupted buildings or, worse, unfinished towers and bare lots.




For now, though, signs of the furor are everywhere.


Sales centers for multimillion-dollar condos that tout the merits of high-rise living sprout up across the city. Brokers push Miami condos in farflung locales, from Caracas and Bogotá to New York and France's Cte d'Azur. Lavish condo parties are thrown by developers several times a week, and advertisements for the high-rises fill the pages of local magazines and newspapers, including The Herald.


Downtown Miami is a thicket of construction cranes. Much of the landward side of Biscayne Boulevard has been razed, and the footings and columns of what will soon be a wall of six colossal condos, each more than 50 stories, are becoming visible.


''Where else are you near the water, 10 minutes from Miami Beach, 15 minutes from the airport and have access to public transportation?'' said Daniel Kodsi, chief executive of Boca Raton-based Royal Palm Communities, which plans a high-rise condo called Paramount Park across from AmericanAirlines Arena.


There is so much building that developers are struggling to find qualified contractors and subcontractors.


Sales and resales in the mid-six figures, and well beyond, have become commonplace. Towers of 300 units sell out in a day, with buyers coming in the main not from Miami, but from other parts of the country and the world.


''Miami, New York and Los Angeles have become the three cities in the U.S. where people want to be,'' said Joe Cayre, chairman of Midtown Group, which is building eight condo towers on the site of the old Florida East Coast Railroad yards in Wynwood.


They are people like Sal Loduca, who plans to leave Manhattan and his family's Long Island food business to open a brick-oven pizzeria at Cayre's Midtown Miami.


''Everyone's making the move to Miami. How could you not? It's a great opportunity. Miami's full of life,'' Loduca said.




Real estate broker Philip Spiegelman calls the confluence of factors propelling this boom a ``critical combustion.''


Among them:


• Across the country, young people and so-called ''empty-nesters'' have been returning to urban centers, in part because of long, wearing commutes from outlying suburbs. At the same time, a dwindling supply of easily developable land in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties has prompted developers to look eastward.


• A shortage of waterfront property elsewhere led developers to Miami's acres and acres of vacant bayfront land.


• Low interest rates have fueled record home-buying, while aging baby boomers are increasingly seeking second homes in sunny or exotic places.


• A cleaner local government has made Miami attractive to lenders and investors who once thought the city too risky, unsafe or corrupt.


• The weak dollar has made Miami an alluring bargain for Europeans and Latin Americans. And compared to other urban centers like New York City, Miami remains cheap.


Then there is the other factor, anecdotal and unquantifiable: the speculator.


''As much as 85 percent of all condominium sales in [downtown Miami] are accounted for by investors and speculators,'' housing analysts at investment firm Raymond James warned in a March report.


Banks have started to back off lending on condo projects, or have instituted new rules to avoid giving mortgages to investors.


Spiegelman sold the condo units in the Marina Blue condo going up on Biscayne Boulevard.


''One hundred percent of the buyers were investors and speculators,'' he said. ``Anyone who tells you their projects are different are deluding themselves.''




The pace of development is so furious that it has overtaken the city's planning efforts.


Only now is the city getting around to a long-promised overhaul of its outdated zoning code, a complete rewrite meant to ensure that new development produces lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and respects open spaces and established neighborhoods, while weaving it all together into a cogent urban fabric. The rewrite, dubbed Miami 21, will be phased in over two years.


Yet more than 100 large-scale projects, most of them in and around downtown, have already been approved or are under construction.


Public-transit improvements like Metrorail extensions, a light-rail line to Miami Beach and the contemplated city streetcar are years away, raising fears of gridlock.


Quipped Cannon, the real estate analyst: ``Maybe we need to give every buyer of a condo in the urban core a Segway.''


There are other worries.


Some skeptics, noting the high condo prices and the out-of-town provenance of buyers, fear that instead of the diverse, working 24-hour downtown that city leaders envision, the boom will instead create a seasonal playground for the rich, a Monte Carlo on Biscayne Bay.


''I bet those buildings are going to be empty a lot of the time,'' said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian and consultant who has written about the rise of what he calls ''ephemeral cities'' -- places like San Francisco, Berlin and parts of New York that increasingly cater to the rich, the childless young and tourists.


''Maybe this is Miami's karma, to be this kind of place, a temporary, hip, cool, nomadic population serviced by a poor population,'' said Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History. But, he added: ``History shows a city has to maintain some sense of a middle-class character if it wants to thrive.''




Yet there's relatively little in the new downtown priced for working families. ''The missing link here is in creating housing that the middle class can afford,'' said Rafael Kapustin, a longtime downtown property owner who pioneered the conversion of old downtown offices and hotels into modestly priced condos and apartments.


In partnership with a big developer, the Related Group, Kapustin developed two affordable loft condos, with units averaging around $150,000, now under construction in the inner core of downtown. But their Loft II project may be the last of its kind because of the surging cost of land and construction, he said.


City leaders are sanguine. They say it will take years for all the planned condos to be built and occupied, allowing time to absorb new residents, build public amenities and improve transit.


While few city residents can afford waterfront condos, thousands of moderately priced condos and rental apartments are being built by private developers in adjacent Overtown and neighborhoods like Little Havana and Allapattah, many with direct city subsidies, according to a recent report from Miami Mayor Diaz.




And gradually, as new residents move into downtown, businesses, shops, restaurants, neighborhood retailers and services will follow, said Neisen Kasdin, a land-use lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor.


''It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle,'' Kasdin said. ``Yes, there will be a large segment of temporary residents, but as the city continues to grow as an international business city, it leads to the continued growth of a permanent community.''


Meanwhile, the city has instituted measures that strengthen the planners' hand in shaping an attractive, livable downtown: hiding parking garages inside buildings; lining sidewalks with shops, offices, dwellings and restaurants; and keeping garage and service entrances off Biscayne Boulevard and other main arteries.


'We used to sit here and say, `Someday,' '' said Miami Planning Director Ana Gelabert-Sánchez, alluding to the city's long-frustrated hopes for a downtown revival. ``Well, someday is here.''


Herald staff writer Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report. 

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Posted at 12:04:07 PM

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Real Estate News
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018

12 Ways Buying New Construction Is Better, Worse, And Way Different From Other Homes

Buying a new home isnt the same as buying an existing home. The more you know going in, the more prepared youll be to roll with the process - or run from the process.

Everything all bright, shiny, and new

No one elses taste, no one elses floorplan, no one elses germs. When you buy a brand - new home, its built for you and hasnt been lived in by anyone but you.

Decisions, decision, decisions

There are those who love the idea of selecting the flooring, the cabinets, the kitchen countertops, the finishes, and the myriad other choices that need to be made when building a new home - and then there are those who get the shakes just thinking about it. If youre the latter, perhaps an already - built home is a better option for you.

What you see is not what you get

Model homes are typically decked out with beautiful upgrades and multiple options, and those upgrades and options can cost big bucks. If you want your home to look like the model, be prepared to shell out far more money than what the base price of the house indicates.

Youll have a warranty

"Warranties for newly built homes generally offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials >

The duration of coverage varies depending on the component of the house. Coverage is provided for workmanship and materials on most components during the first year. For example, most warranties on new construction cover siding and stucco, doors and trim, and drywall and paint during the first year. Coverage for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems is generally two years. Some builders provide coverage for up to 10 years for lsquo;major structural defects, sometimes defined as problems that make a home unsafe and put the owner in danger. For example, a roof that could collapse is a lsquo;major structural defect.

Home warranties are typically extendable after that first year, although youll be responsible for the cost.

You may have to buy sight unseen

In some cases, model homes may not be built - or only a few of the floorplans will be featured as models - and you wont have an opportunity to walk through the homes to get a feel for how they live. You should have pictures and floorplans to view, and maybe even a virtual tour, but if youre the type that needs to be in it to get it, you may be disappointed.

The noise - and the dust

When considering which home to buy, the location of the lot is obviously important. But have you asked about how construction is going to roll out in the neighborhoods? It could be that your home is on a street that serves as a main artery for trucks and other construction traffic. Or perhaps youre in a location where construction is going to be going on all around you for months. Yes, the noise and dust will disappear - eventually. But how long are you willing to wait?

Dont expect a price reduction

You may be used to negotiating on the price of an existing home for sale, but new home prices arent typically negotiable. The builder or developer may be willing to throw in some upgrades as part of the negotiation, but, the hotter the community, the less likely you are to get anything for free.

You can still work with your real estate agent

Working with an agent who is savvy in new construction will help get you the home you want and any available extras. Keep in mind that many new - home communities today offer real estate agents a commission for bringing in a buyer, but they insist that the real estate agent register their buyer on the first visit. So dont show up alone to tour the community for the first time You could cost your agent money and then have to navigate the purchase on your own.

It might behoove you to work with their in - house lender

If youre already working with a lender, you obviously dont want to be disloyal. But, there may be financial benefits to working with the builder/developers in - house lender. Many times, they offer a lower rate overall, will buy down your rate, or will offer you a "teaser" rate that keeps your payments lower for the first year or first few years.

Get familiar with this term: Standing inventory

If builders have pre - built homes that are waiting to be sold, this is the one place you may have wiggle room room on price. Another advantage of standing inventory is there is no construction wait, and these homes are often nicely amenitized with upgrades.

You might not be able to buy the lot you want

New homes are typically >

Amenities might not be available or built right away

If a communitys amenities are a draw for you, be sure to ask about when they will be built. It could be that the pool and community park youre so excited about are years out from being realized.

> Full Story

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Media Room

Most households have a room where the main activity is watching television. Were well beyond needing simply an electrical outlet and a pair of rabbit ears to entertain ourselves at home -- now, game consoles, cables, satellites, computer networks, streaming systems and stereo components can all communicate with your television. Be prepared for new devices incorporating cable management and methods of communication that will become "standard" in the future. Whether youre renovating your media space, building a new one or considering a quick upgrade, here are the elements to consider so you can make the most of your media room.

Screen Space

The more invisible the technology, the more able you are to immerse yourself in the media experience, but the beauty of a media room is that you dont have to hide the TV. So, splurge on the screen that suits your fancy and feel free to make it the centerpiece of the room in this case. On the other hand, if you would like to create a space thats a little more understated, yet visually dramatic when viewing media, consider a projector with a retractable screen. The screen hardware mounts to the ceiling, and the screen rolls up when youre not watching. Be sure to get a TV system that will handle all your media interests--Internet access, gaming, DVD or Blu-ray, and the components of your particular home theater set-up.

Sounding It Out

Most of our clients who build media rooms enjoy their screen time so much that we recommend they invest in audio equipment thats on par with their video equipment. Technology has thankfully advanced enough that you dont have to fill the room with tiny speakers for a surround sound effect. Install them flush to the ceiling or walls so you can keep your attention focused where you want it. If you want speakers to be truly invisible, you can go wi>

Command Center

Finally, you need to create a space where you can house all of the electronic components of your new media center. Hard drives, DVR and cable equipment, gaming consoles and stereo equipment need a space to live that wont clutter up the room. The best solution for cable management is to have a small cabinet installed in the most convenient space to your equipment, yet is easily accessible. Youll need ventilation, but can easily install a media cabinet with a panel door thats ventilated.

Bringing It All Together

Now that youve got all your technology worked out, its time to bring in your people Consider the other functions the room will serve. If the room will function as more than a media room, break up the space to accommodate your other pastimes. Will you need a simple game table with seating for four, or a pool table that converts to a ping pong table and crafting station? Create those spaces behind the seating in your home theater so the whole family can spend time together without everyone having to watch "Rambo" again or rock out to some "Guitar Hero."


A sectional sofa is a versatile choice for a multipurpose space. They seat a lot of people comfortably, or just a few when folks want to sack out or snuggle up. If, however, your home theater is going to be dedicated solely to showing your favorite films, individual seating can really up the experience. Consider something that reclines -- recliners have come a long way in terms of attractive design. You can even get them with wi>

Color and Texture

For designers, this really is a case of saving the best for last. This space is your retreat from the world, and an indulgence youve earned. Make sure you love the way it looks. In terms of color, go deep and bold for the best cinematic effect. If you cant handle deep navy on all four walls, consider adding it as an accent color on the wall behind the screen for maximum viewing effect. Add some texture and theatrical flair with draperies that block the light and add to that sense of indulgence. If soundproofing is an issue, make those draperies wall to wall, and have some fun with the fabric. Remember, more than any other room in the house, this is room where you should feel free to make it your own.

Now, hit the lights and pass that popcorn

> Full Story

HOA Meetings By Design

Meetings are the venues wherein homeowner association business decisions are made. Since these meetings are usually infrequent, the importance of the decisions made cannot be understated. However, some HOAs are decision challenged because:

The meetings ra>

Discussions are endless and often inconclusive.

Issues decided at a previous meeting continue to be revisited.

Disagreements frequently turn ugly.

Meetings end when members are exhausted, not because they have completed the business at hand.

Many boards manage to conduct their business with a minimum of fuss and a measure of efficiency. These meetings dont happen by chance; they happen by design, and that design begins with an agenda.

If you dont have a destination in mind, any path will do. If a meeting lacks an agenda, it will go anywhere and everywhere and end up going nowhere. The agenda provides a road map for the meeting, identifying the issues to be discussed and establishing the order in which business will be transacted.

Knowing what is on the agenda allows board members to begin formulating their views before the meeting begins. It helps, of course, if board members actually review the agenda and any accompanying information in advance. But it takes more than advance preparation and an agenda to produce a successful meeting; boards also need a set of rules to guide their discussions.

Meetings dont have to be rigid or overly formal, but they do have to be orderly. Some boards use a simplified version of Roberts Rules of Order which includes such concepts like:

  • When a topic is brought up, a formal motion is required before it is discussed. This will ensure that more than one person thinks the issue is worth discussing.
  • Only one person is recognized to speak at a time by the chair.
  • Standards of civility no personal attacks or interrupting.

A time limit for the meeting and for each speaker on each issue. Otherwise, boards end up spending too much time on >

A reasonable agenda, advance preparation and rules of order provide the foundation for an effective meeting, like the tracks on which a train runs. But like a train, a meeting needs a steady hand on the throttle to keep it moving forward. Conducting both a train and a meeting require a certain amount of skill. The person in charge needs to control with a firm but not a heavy hand. In HOA meetings, this means giving all board members a chance to express their views, but also requiring them to stick to the topic and the time limits.

Some owners think they have an absolute right to participate in board meetings and some boards think it is best to hold their meetings behind closed doors. Both are wrong. Many states have specific requirements for most board meetings to be open to members to audit not participate. Some have exceptions for "executive session", or a closed door session, which may exclude members which include:

  • Employment issues
  • Contract negotiations
  • Consultation with counsel or review of information provided by counsel.
  • Constitutionally or legally protected topics such as medical records and attorney-client privileged information
  • Privacy issues
  • If a board discussion item does not fall under one of these exceptions, it must be discussed at an open board meeting.

    As far as member participation in board meetings, state laws vary. However, regardless of state statute, its good policy to set aside time for an open forum so members can ask questions and express their views.

    Homeowner associations are required to hold annual meetings, but many governing documents are silent on how often the board must meet. The board is generally free to meet as often as it chooses. The size and complexity of the community and the personal commitments of board members will typically dictate the meeting schedule. Another consideration is that managers typically charge for their time to attend board meetings. Since its important for the manager to be present at board meetings, the board needs to weigh the cost and benefit of more or fewer meetings.

    When properly organized, smaller HOAs can usually suffice with quarterly board meetings while larger ones may need bi-monthly or monthly meetings. The more the meetings, the more important it is to have those meeting organized and efficiently executed. Volunteer time can only be stretched so far.

    What happens after board meetings can be almost as important as what happens during the meetings. Some board members take votes against their proposals personally rather than of the suggestions they have made. They sometimes take their disappointment and anger outside of the meeting room, complaining publicly about the decision and even encouraging owners to overturn it. This behavior undermines the decision-making process, exacerbates tension, and erodes trust. As long as the board action is legal and in compliance with the governing documents, board members should accept that "majority rules" applies to votes they dont like as well as to those with which they agree.

    All board decisions wont be unanimous, nor should they be. Honest differences of opinion are healthy, encouraging an exchange of ideas that improves the decision-making process and contributes to the successful meetings boards want to have. While board meetings wont always produce good decisions, they will almost certainly reduce the number of bad ones. To produce the likelihood of more good decisions, design your meetings for success.

    Excerpts from an article by For more on effective meetings, see

    > Full Story

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