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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: Monday, June 26, 2017


The First-Time Homebuyers Guide To Grown-Up Furniture

You just bought your first home. Congratulations: Youre an adult Now its time to fill it up. But if you were planning to pack up those ratty old beanbag chairs and the bed that awakens you with a morning backache and move them to your new place, we have a few suggestions. Its time for a grown-up upgrade. Heres where to start.

Invest in the important staples

You can scrimp on your mattress because its not something that guests will see, right? Not so fast. A good mattress should be at the top of your list because it affects something more important than the opinions of friends and family: Your health.

"You wouldnt run a marathon or hike a mountain without the right gear. And yet, despite spending a third of our lives sleeping, many of us havent adequately prepared in the bedroom - when it comes to mattresses, that is," said Huffington Post. "You might be tempted to blame your budget for continuing to doze on a less-than-ideal mattress, but considering justa little bit more shut-eyecan help you lose weight, improve your memory and live longer, can you really put a price tag on good sleep? But the wrong mattress - or the mattress thats simply too old - can be the cause of more than that crick in your neck or yourlower back pain. Here are five sneakier ways your mattress affects your sleep -andyour health.

If you just cant bring yourself to spring for that kind of big-ticket item right now, look for opportunities to spread out payments with a zero percent interest deal, which more and more retailers are offering. Go to a place like Rooms to Go and you might be able to get your mattress and a living room set with monthly payments that are right around what you and your honey would pay for a nice lunch.

Measure, measure, measure

Having furniture thats too small or too large for a room can make it function poorly and look "off." Measure ahead of time so you know what to look for. Stores like HomeGoods have stacks of paper measuring sticks laying arouond, but you wont always be that lucky. Measure your space and input everything in your phone, stash a measuring tape in your bag, and you wont have to guess if something will work when youre out shopping.

Dress up the bed

One of the best ways to make a bedroom look pulled together is with a headboard. But many people dont even take a look at options because they assume they will be too expensive. You can get a super chic headboard for a minimal spend if you know where to go. This tufted headboard from Overstock looks like it would cost you about as much as a monthly mortgage payment, but its just 137.


Overstock

Buy a decent couch

The couch falls squa>Youll hate yourself - and your couch - if you buy super cheap just to get something in the room. And were speaking from experience. Our first cheapie couch purchased online, BTW started falling apart after about a month. Contrast that against what Sothebys-trained home shopping expert Jennifer Litwin, author of Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever, says should be the lifespan of the couch: "The general prognosis isabout 10 to 15 years, she told The Nest. You can scrimp on other, easily replaceable items like side tables and chairs that wont be used often, but when it comes to that couch: Go ahead and splurge a little.

Like and follow influential sites

Speaking of chairs

Just today we learned about this great-looking 43 chair on Amazon that we never would have known about if we werent fans of MyDomaine. And, by fans, we mean we follow them on Facebook. "The midcentury-modern chairs feature velvet upholstering, steel legs, and are available in dusty rose, moss green, gray-green, and teal, to name a few," they said. Theyre sold in a set of two, starting at 85."


mydomaine.com

Sites like Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge are great places to get interior design ideas, and liking and following a few favorite stores like World Market and HomeGoods and online sites like Wayfair and One Kings Lane is a great way to keep up to date on sales and trends.

Be careful about buying online

When comfort and quality are key, you want to be careful about buying without being able to see, touch, and sit. If you just have to have it, at least you can read what others have to say before producing your credit card. Back to that 43 chair from Amazon: "How do you know if chairs sold on Amazon look and feel as luxe in real life," asked MyDomaine. "Members of the Facebook group purchased the chairs and posted images of the items IRL, confirming that they live up to the hype.Yes, if the long chain of comments, likes, and photos are any indication, this might be one of Amazons best-kept secrets."

Buy some art

Real art, from real actual artists. You can find some surprisingly affordable pieces that will give your home a personal touch. "Collecting art can be an expensive habit, but these days there are plenty of places to get amazing original art for a great price," said POPSUGAR. Like Minted, one of our favorite spots for original art that "discovers talent through ongoing design competitions. Designers submit, the Minted community votes to tell them what to sell, and we end up with seemingly limitless options at super affordable prices," they said.


minted.com

That doesnt mean you need to give up all your posters although, we adults call them "art prints." Just get them framed nicely. "Luckily, framing has never been easier, now that there are online services like Framebridge," said Refinery29. "And when all else fails, you cant go wrong with the basicIkea RIBBA framesjust make sure the art fits and doesnt slip and slide around when its hanging on the wall."

Dont be afraid to go to IKEA

IKEA is good for more than frames, even though you probably equate grown-up furniture with stuff you dont have to put together yourself. But not everything has to be a permanent fixture when youre just starting out. Concentrating on the big-ticket items may leave limited fuds for available to fill in the rest of your place. Many a new homeowner has hit the big blue-and-yellow warehouse and headed straight for the MALM dresser. Its cheap starting at 54 for a two-drawer version, its functional, and if you have a little bit of creativityor the ability to do some basic research and follow directionsyou can turn it into something that looks far more expensive.


Pinterest.com

Were also loving this South Shore Cookie 6-Drawer Double Dresser in gray and white from Walmart, which could give you the function in you need in an extra bedroom or guest room with a sleek, modern look. We guarantee your guests will never know where it came fromunless they were savvy enough to purchase on for their own home.

Get a few key housewares

Living like an adult isnt just about what you put stuff on. Its also about the stuff you put on you. Still using the same stiff sheets you bought for your first apartment or ratty towels youd be embarrassed for company to see? "Youll feel more grown-up the second you stop drying off your body with a towel that has a fish in sunglasses on it," said Refinery29."
> Full Story

How To Spice Up Your Bedroom

Ever notice how you feel especially amorous when youre in a nice hotel with your honey? Everything from the luxury bedding to the clean and orderly nature of the space can add to your desire to get close. You can use some of those ideas as a starting point when creating a sexy bedroom in your own home.

Declutter

The seduction is on. Youre moving toward the bed, locked in an embrace, and thenyou hit the side table and that stack of books and papers tumbles to the ground. Hello, mood killer Decluttering is a recommended strategy throughout the home - one that can lower stress and also keep your home looking neater and cleanerbut it has obvious benefits in the bedroom, like eliminating the possibility that your piles of stuff will interrupt your romantic moment.

Choose the right lighting

Bright lights overhead probably wont make you feel like undressing. Theyre more likely to make you feel like youre being interrogated definitely not sexy. Soft lighting can set the mood, and, even better, install dimmers so you can control the amount of light in the room at all times.

"A lot of men and women grapple with lighting," Ian Kerner, PhD, told Womens Health. "Either its too light or its not enough light for visual stimulation. And according to a recentWomens Healthsurvey, 74 percent of men and 72 percent of women want those lights dimmed during intimate times - but not totally off. The easy solution: a simple dimmer switch."

Be careful with your color choices

"While cool colors are actually better for supporting a good nights sleep, they are are not hot, stimulating colors," said Apartment Therapy. "Aim somewhere in the middle. AVOID red-light district red and go for warm greys, lavender, warm greens, browns, tans, rose if you really want it feminine. Neutral colors rock. Think "spa chic" and raw linen, which is so popular right now. China White is a lovely not too warm white, which goes really well with little warm pops of color in bedding, pillows, rugs, curtains or lampshades."

Make it comfortable

A lumpy bed wont serve anyone well, especially if you have sex on the mind. For the best results, get a mattress that isnt too soft and isnt too firm. A sore back may put an end to your romantic thoughts for the evening, or longer. And dont forget the headboard - for obvious reasons.


snahec.org

Its all about the fabric

"You want to consider all the senses when in the bedroom and softness of touch is a big one," said Apartment Therapy. Think super soft, high-quality bedding, a rug with a soft texture, cushy pillows. Scratchy surfaces are a turnoff in any setting.

Follow the principles of Feng Shui

"Feng shui, often called the art of placement, is an ancient oriental science incorporating astronomy, geography, environment, magnetic fields, physics and natural elements. The Chinese have been using it four thousand years to optimize living and working environments, with an amazing track record of benefits in health, happiness, prosperity and >"The bedroom is especially important in this system, since its the key area of the house where love, intimacy,
> Full Story

Relaxing Designs For Your Lakefront Backyard

According to Wallace J. Nichols, in his book "Blue Mind," our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. Our predisposition to embrace water might be the reason being near it can actually calm us.

But water lovers probably donrsquo;t need to be told how >

Create a Waterside Sitting Area

To maximize your time outdoors, create a waterside sitting area to >

Add an Oversized Hammock

No lakefront property is complete without an oversized hammock. You might even get inspired by the trends in cities like Minneapolis where locals are setting up hammocks in public parks and campuses for a short rest and >

Install a grand trunk double travel hammock for outdoor roughing it and camping right in your own backyard alongside the lake. A Folding Camp Hammock is also a great choice for something more temporary that you can take up and down and move around your yard as needed. Or curl up with your loved ones in a two-person DuraCord Cameo Rope Hammock for a more traditional look.

Include a Cozy Fire Pit

Embrace the evening moonlight and light up a fire pit with friends and family to roast marshmallows. Its also the perfect spot to warm up after a day of canoeing or waterskiing. Look for all shapes and sizes from small, round portable pits to grand monoliths that anchor your overall design. Keep in mind the fire pit you choose may require placing it on flat stone to prevent embers from getting out of control. In addition, disclosing a fire pit may be a requirement for your homeowners insurance policy or could be against your lakefront neighborhood rules.

Create an Outdoor Entertaining Space

If your lakefront backyard is large enough for a deck or large patio, considering turning it into an entertaining space. Set up a Tiki bar and outdoor furniture resembling a living room set to bring the comforts of home outside. An outdoor kitchen is perfect for lakefront cooking and dining with countertop space, grill and kitchen sink along with a wine fridge to serve guests. To give your outdoor space even more dimension, create fences and garden walls for extra privacy. A pergola with a string of lights intertwined overhead turns your lakefront backyard into a festive evening.

Indulge in a Vanishing Edge Pool

There may be nothing more indulgent than a swimming pool overlooking your lake property. Choose a vanishing edge pool that makes it look as if your pool drops right into the lake. Place it on a hill to overlook your lakefront backyard or add to a patio area for a heated dip on a cool night. Add floating candles and outdoor speakers for a >
> Full Story



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