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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 3, 2007

News Article
News Article
 
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Posted at 11:22:36 AM

Monday, June 11, 2007

High-rises, high hopes

High-rises, high hopes

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI AND MATTHEW HAGGMAN

aviglucci@herald.com

 

COURTESY OF THE TERRA GROUP

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.

 

SIGNS OF FUROR

 

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.

 

`CRITICAL COMBUSTION'

 

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.''

 

ZONING-CODE OVERHAUL

 

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.''

 

`MISSING LINK'

 

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.

 

`SELF-REINFORCING CYCLE'

 

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, December 9, 2021


November Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "

Despite the noise around the economy, inflation, and monetary policy, mortgage rate volatility has been low. For most of 2021, mortgage rates have stayed within half a percentage point, which is a smaller range than in past years."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.1 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending November 24th, 2021, down from last month when it averaged 3.14 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.72 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.42 percent with an average 0.7 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.37 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.28 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.47 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, up from last month when it averaged 2.56 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.16 percent.


> Full Story

When Does It Make Sense to Use Your Home’s Equity?

Housing prices continue to rise significantly, with median home prices soaring past 400,000 for the first time. Housing prices have been going up for eight years. This means if youre a current homeowner, you might have a significant chunk of equity in your home.

When does it make sense to use that equity and put it to work, particularly since interest rates remain low?

The Benefits of Using Equity Now

There are some economic factors outside of your personal situation that could make now a good time to use your homes equity.

Mortgage rates are historically low, meaning its cheap to borrow money right now. You could end up taking equity out and then earning a lot more than you would pay in interest on a mortgage. Since rates are low and you can lock in your rate for an extended period, you might not see your mortgage rates increase, if at all.

Inflation is going up at near-record paces, and that makes the idea of fixed-rate debt pretty appealing. If you get a fixed-rate mortgage for 30 years, your payments will be cheaper in real dollars.

When you have borrowed equity, the interest is tax-deductible, and its tax-free.

If you use the equity in your home, youll have liquidity, so you can take advantage of opportunities as they might arise.

Are There Risks?

Some risks can come with taking the equity out of your home as well.

For example, if you already have a high debt-to-income ratio, taking on more debt is never wise. If your income is at risk, you should avoid taking on new debt as well.

How Do You Know Where to Invest?

If you want to take equity out of your home, the goal is that youre earning more than the interest rate on your loan. There are a lot of ways you can do this.

For example, you could invest in the stock market or a real estate investment trust REIT.

Other financially wise ways to invest the equity in your home include:

To secure a stronger financial future, you might consider tapping into your homes equity to pay off high-interest-rate debt. For example, if you have a credit card with a 16 interest rate, and you get a loan with a 3.5 interest rate, youre going to get yourself out of debt faster, and youre going to reduce what youre paying in interest significantly.

Investing in real estate can be a smart way to use your homes equity. For example, you might use the money from your home equity to then put a down payment on a rental property.

Starting a business is a way to invest in your future, although its risky.

The goal, if youre considering now as the optimal time to tap into your equity, is to invest in something thats going to generate income. You want to pay back your loan with income so that you grow your wealth for the future.


> Full Story

Are You Ready for Disaster?

Are You Ready for Disaster?nbsp;

No matter where you live in this great nation, youre susceptible to natural disastersfrom hurricanes, tornados, or storm surge to wildfires or flooding.

What can you do when disaster strikes?

Put your pre-disaster plans and precautions in action

Without forethought, you, your family, and your home can be at the mercy of the elements:

Flooding can happen anywherenbsp;

The recent overwhelming atmospheric rivernbsp; drenched Washington State and British Columbia with torrential rain and storms. The resulting flooding, mud slides, power outages, evacuations, and wet everything drove people from their homes and caused human and animal loss of life. Destruction on a terrifying scale Flooding, the most common natural disaster, can also result from snow melt, storm surge, and dam overflow.

Fires and droughts are seasonal normsnbsp;

Lingering drought and heat islands hit many regions hard each year. Wildfires explode in these dry areas. Blazing wildfires sweep across forests, wilderness, and communities with devastating loss of life and with overwhelming property destruction.

Disaster realities exceed past climate experiencenbsp;

These massive natural disasters continue as frightening examples of how our experience with local weather may not prepare us for what is coming next. Experts warn that the extreme weather hitting us now will seem mild in comparison with what lies ahead as climate change rolls on.

Foresight beats regretting in hindsight. Emergency preparedness can save lives and reduce damage.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

You dont have to figure out emergency preparedness alone. Many community and government agencies and organizations have invested a lot of time and creativity to make it easy for you to be prepared. For example, the national public service campaign READY.gov, and its Spanish language version LISTO, are designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. To assist you in making a family emergency plan and supply kit and sharing your efforts with friends, READY offers 18 Social Media Disaster Preparedness Toolkits to choose from, including the Flood Toolkit, Wildfire Toolkit, and Winter Weather Toolkit.

Ten Preparedness Steps to Take Now

1. Anticipate Your Flood Risk

Your risk involves previous flood patterns and projections of flooding based on changing weather patterns. Where will the water go if nearby lakes or rivers overflow or if the ground becomes too saturated to absorb more water? Investigate FEMAs Flood Map Service Center, the Emergency Alert System, and NOAA Weather Radio to learn what support is offered. Sign up for the local warning system. Pay attention to the weather.

2. Flood insurance

Flood insurance coverage is not automatically part of your homeowners policy, so ask your insurance agent about it. In high-risk areas, homes and businesses with government-backed mortgages must have flood insurance. FEMAs National Flood Insurance Program NFIP is available through a network of over 50 insurance companies.

3. Keep Water Away From Your Home

  • Regularly walk all the way around your foundation to ensure grading, or the slant of the land, is taking water away from your home.
  • Also walk the property line. Neighbors may be building, paving, or disrupting drainage, so that more water ends up on your property. My neighbor added an elevated artificial lawn to their rear garden and my patio became a pond when it rained.
  • Regularly clear gutters and downspouts to keep water at least 3 to 6 feet away from foundation walls.
  • If you have a sump pump, check it regularly to be sure it will work when you need it. Does the sump pump have battery back-up if the power dies?

4. Whats Precious?

Other than the living beings who share your home, what really matters to you? Family photos are high on most peoples Treasures List. Dont store precious things in the basement where the risk of water damage is highest.

5. Waterproof Protection

Store important papers, photographs, and documents in waterproof containers. Also make a digital copy of everything vital and store that information in a secure online location and on a memory stick somewhere off the property.

6. Create a Family Escape Plan

Where will you meet if disaster strikes and you are separated from family and your home? Be practical. If roads are flooded and power is out, how will everyone get there? Cell phone service may be down, so have the family practice possible routes to your meet-up location in advance.

7. Who needs what?

  • Prepare for the specific needs, including medication, of each family member and pet. If you have farm animals, how will they be kept safe?
  • Cell phones and important equipment require batteries and specific chargers.
  • In case disaster becomes widespread, prepare your family to fend for itself for the first 72 hours. Pack 72-hours worth of food, water, and additional supplies in your Emergency Kit.nbsp;

8. Expect your Phone to Fail You

List all the things on your phone that you cannot manage without and create a paper version as back-up. For instance, a paper ideally waterproof map, essential phone numbers you do not have committed to memory, prescriptions, identification, banking information. Back-up vital information regularly in case your phone becomes waterlogged or lost. >

9. Your Car As An Emergency Shelter

If you have to flee the flood, could you survive in your car or truck for a day or two? In cold weather? In the car, keep a phone charger, an appropriate 72-hour kit, blankets, candles for light and heat, matches, emergency signaling devices, writing materials, playing cards.

10. Stay Smart

  • No barbequing in the covered porch, house, or garage. Every year, people who do this indoors die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not drive on flooded roads or bridges. Flooding can make them unsafe.
  • Do not unnecessarily put first responders, emergency workers, and community volunteers at risk.
  • Emergency preparation is a year-round, 365-7-24 concern. Adopt the tried-and-true motto, Be prepared

> Full Story



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