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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

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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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Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020


4 Home Security Features to Increase Safety and Peace of Mind

There are a million scenarios like this each year--in fact, 3.7 million of them. Of these 3.7 million homes with break-ins in the United States, only 17 had some sort of security system in place. How safe are you in your home? Do you have any security features in place to protect you and your family in case of a break-in or other emergency?

If you dont feel safe, and if you dont have any security features in your home, these are some features you might want to consider:

1. A security system.

Its been shown that as the number of home security systems increase in an area, the number of home invasions decrease--and not just for homes with systems, but for the whole neighborhood.

When you choose your security system, there are several types to choose from. But its best to purchase a state-of-the-art home security system service where the latest technology is used to allow you to monitor and control your home security from the convenience of your smartphone. A security system not only protects you when there are break-ins, but it also protects your family if there is a fire or medical emergency.

2. Smart locks.

Smart locks allow you keyless entry into your home, allowing you, your family members, and guests easy access when needed. With a phone or other authorized device such as a key fob, smart locks can be unlocked or locked remotely; and using smart home technology, access can be granted or denied for specific time periods.

This is a great security feature since smart locks take away the need to hide spare keys outside or leave a key with a neighbor. You can always look for a home security service that comes with a smart lock option and wholl install it for you. Youll love the convenience and added security of smart locks.

3. Smart lights.

Smart lights, same as with smart locks, can be managed virtually using similar smart home technology. There are several ways you can use your smart lights. One of the most important ways is to take advantage of the feature allowing lights to be turned on or off even when youre away, giving you added security when you cant be there.

Most break-ins occur when youre away from home, so being able to trick would-be-burglars into believing youre home by randomly turning on different lights and turning off others via your phone is a great way to keep your home safer. Its great when you can piggyback smart lights in with a security system that has this feature.

4. Security cameras.

Security cameras are important for several reasons: they help police solve crimes, they actually deter crimes, and they give you peace of mind.

Through smart home technology, you can strategically place security cameras to remotely view areas in and around your home and make sure everything is as it should be; you can even review old video footage when needed.

Security cameras are great features to add to any home, and security system services often have cameras available as part of their home security packages.

You probably know at least one person who has experienced a home invasion of some sort. It may have even been you. When these traumas hit close to home, we realize how important it is to make sure our homes are as secure and protected as they can be. Its better not to wait until something happens to our home, or worse, someone we know and love, before we take precautions. By getting a home security system, smart locks, smart lights, and security cameras, youll have that added peace of mind that youre doing all you can do to ensure the safety of your household.


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Growing Wealth in the Vacation Rental Market: Advice for First-Time Investors

The Right Spot

First, think like a vacationer. You want a place in a beautiful and easily accessible natural setting, with lots to do and see. For many people, that means the beach. For others, it could be a mountainside cabin. Remember, people are looking for an unforgettable experience, a vacation theyll reminisce about for years. That makes the location an important factor.nbsp;

Do your research, as buying in an area where demand is low could leave you with high vacancy rates, which will certainly cut into your profits. When you find a place you like, consider spending a few days there to assess what the place has to offer. Youll want to be able to tell potential guests that theres lots to do and plenty of good places to eat.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If youre located far away from your vacation home, you may not be able to handle routine maintenance and guest support. In this case, youll likely need to hire a property manager. Many property management companies offer online booking, hire maid services to clean your home in between guests, and provide 24/7 support.nbsp;

Assess Your Financial Situationnbsp;nbsp;

Review your financial picture, paying special attention to your income, debt-to-income DTI ratio, and credit score. Youre basically taking on a second mortgage, and that can be an overwhelming prospect for someone whos not well-positioned financially. Your credit and debt picture will have a lot to do with the kind of loan youre able to secure. A disadvantageous loan will ultimately work against your profit potential. And youll need an adequate cash reserve on hand in case you lose income due to job loss, illness or injury.

Best Loan Options

Conventional loans are often the best option for an investment property because theyre >

Show Lenders an Appealing Financial Picture

Having a plentiful supply of cash is one of the best ways to show lenders youre a good candidate for a loan. As with any real estate purchase, the more you can put down up front, the better the terms you can expect on your loan. An investment property mortgage will require at least a 20 percent down payment approximately half of all vacation property buyers made a down payment of at least 30 percent in 2017. Its an option well worth considering because paying at least 20 percent up front means youll avoid paying private mortgage insurance.nbsp;nbsp;

The Tax Factor

Even an inexperienced investor understands about property taxes and knows to factor it into expenses. However, if youre a first-timer, you may not be familiar with lodging taxes, which are required in many places. In such locations, its the landlords responsibility to collect lodging taxes on the rents they charge. As a landlord, you dont pay lodging tax yourself, but you do have to account for taxes from your guests, so be sure youre charging enough to account for it. A busy landlord may find it difficult to monitor and account for lodging taxes from each guest. Fortunately, there are tax management services that can help.nbsp;

A vacation rental property can be an excellent investment for a novice looking for ways to generate wealth. Growth in the short-term rental market and the desirability of a temporary vacation home rather than a hotel room make it a profitable investment.


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Ask The HOA Expert: Can The Board Modify Architectural Design Policy?

Answer: This kind of policy is generally amendable by the board when its in resolution form a separate document outside the recorded governing documents. If the policy is part of the governing documents, a vote of the members is needed. But even if the board has the authority to amend, it is strongly recommended that proposed amendments be circulated to the members for comment prior to voting to enact them. A 30 day review is not going to make much difference in the long run and members will be more likely to comply when theyve had a chance to be heard.

Question: Does a director of the board have the authority to give a power of attorney to another person to act on his/her behalf?

Answer: No. Directors are elected by the members and cannot give that authority to another person.

Question: We have a board member who argues that damage done to the interior of a condo unit from a roof leak is the responsibility of the homeowner association. I have been telling the board that the HOA is not responsible for the interior damage unless the board does not address the roof leak in a timely manner. Whos right?

Answer: Technically, this board member is correct. When HOAs purchase insurance for the structures, that insurance extends to the units themselves. However, the governing documents often has or the board can establish a requirement for unit owners to carry insurance for their individual units and be the primary insurance in the event of a claim, regardless of the source of the problem kitchen fire, toilet overflowing, flooding from the upstairs unit, sprinkler system leaks leaks through foundation, etc..

This kind of policy is necessary to protect the HOAs insurability. If every unit owner was allowed to file claims against the HOAs insurance, it would not be long before the HOAs insurance would be cancelled due to excessive claims or the premium increased beyond affordability. Spreading the risk out to unit owners keeps the HOAs insurability viable.

Question: What can be done about a board member that slanders another board member? He not only does it at meetings but spreads his accusations around the neighborhood.

Answer: It is inappropriate and divisive for a board member to engage in character assassination. The remaining directors should take action to rein him in in a diplomatic but firm way. The director with the best rapport with him should have a heart to heart with him and explain the damage that is being done. Insist that he keep such personal opinions to himself.

While the board doesnt have the authority to remove a rogue director from the board only the members do, the board can remove a director from his office President, Treasurer, Secretary if he has one. That may be necessary to make the point.

Question: Our HOA has many residents that leave trash receptacles out long after trash pick-up day. It makes the HOA look shoddy. What can we do?

Answer: Most HOAs have a requirement that trash receptacles are only allowed out on pick up day and need to be stored out of sight within 24 hours. This is both reasonable and desirable from a curb appeal standpoint.

Question: Our HOA has a member that is a chronic offender of rules. How should the board deal with this?

Answer: Three special "scofflaw" penalties come to mind: caning, tarring and feathering, and the stock and pillary. But seriously, rules that carry no penalties are useless. If you need a rule, it needs an effective enforcement mechanism in the form of a fine significant enough to get noticed. Scofflaws often refuse to pay fines so failure to pay them must be treated the same way as failure to pay regular HOA fees. Process them through the normal collection process. Eventually, even the most persistent scofflaw will come to understand the price of being a jerk.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


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