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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: Saturday, October 21, 2017


13 Decorations to Pair With Beautiful Dark Walls

Dark walls, from inky blue to charcoal and black, are refined and dramatic - but decorating around them without making your space feel too dark can be tricky. If youve been thinking of painting one or more walls a deep, dark hue, these ideas for color and decor pairings should help.

Natural wood. Natural wood, whether in a mirror frame, rustic tabletop or chair, helps lighten up dark walls while also emphasizing their richness. You cant go wrong with a driftwood or barn wood mirror, a farmhouse table or bentwood chairs.

Sculptural shapes. Place anything colorful or white in front of a dark wall, and your eye will be immediately drawn to its contours. Try placing a group of pottery pieces on a console or mantel. Or highlight the shape of an unusual table or chair by positioning it in front of a deep, dark wall.

Photo by Ingrid Rasmussen Photography - Browse home design photos

Green plants. Potted plants and indoor trees look even lusher when placed in front of a dark wall. The dark color recedes into the background, creating the feeling of having a mini forest in the room instead of a few plants. Bonus >

Photo by Claire Stevens Interior Design - Browse entryway photos

Large artwork. A single piece of oversize art hung on a dark wall has the most impact - even more than a salon->

Photo by i3 design group - More bedroom photos

White. If you feel at all unsure about which direction to go in with the other elements in your dark painted room, choose white mdash; it always works. In this bedroom a charcoal wall is set off by a grouping of wall-mounted plants on white bases, white bedding and white window treatments.

Photo by Honey Bee Interiors - More bedroom photos

Pale, watery hues. Soft and ethereal, pale aqua, mint, champagne and silvery gray bring lightness to a room with dark walls. Try these watercolor-inspired hues in bedding, a throw or pillows for an elegant feel.

Photo by Louise de Miranda - Discover bedroom design inspiration

Rich mustard and teal. These hues complement deep blue, gray or even dark chocolate walls by bringing in the colors of fall. Just a small touch of mustard, teal or both hues will do mdash; try a throw, pillow covers or curtains.

Photo by Breeze Giannasio Interiors - Browse powder room photos

Wild card pairing: brights. A flash of hot pink, neon yellow or vibrant turquoise is daring - and exciting Brights work best with black or charcoal; adding these bold hues to a room painted another dark color like navy or forest green is riskier. Test out a fun color pairing with a low-cost addition like hand towels or a cluster of bright vases.

Mirrors. Dark walls in a room without much natural light run the risk of making it feel oppressive. Boost what light you have by adding mirrors - even small, decorative mirrors, like the ones shown here, can help lighten things up. If the room is very dark, add a larger mirror, either on the wall or leaning against it.

Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Search bedroom pictures

Acrylic and glass. Like mirrors, clear materials, like acrylic and glass, can help a dark space feel a bit lighter. Swap out a wood piece, like a console, for a glass or acrylic version. Or add a large glass vase filled with greenery for a quick boost.

Photo by Tamara Magel Studio - More bedroom ideas
Photo by Rikki Snyder - Browse living room photos

In this living room, dark gray walls are lightened up with a glass coffee table, an acrylic TV stand, white trim and a light sofa and rug.

Photo by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design - Search family room design ideas

Rich texture. Dark walls call out for touchable textures, like velvet, silk, oiled wood and fluffy mohair. Consider a plush velvet sofa, velvet or silk accent pillows, or a mohair throw in a living room with dark walls.

Photo by Oak Hill Architects - Search dining room pictures

Oriental rugs. Rolling out an Oriental rug is a good way to marry a daringly dark wall color with a traditional home. These carpets tend to include a range of rich, deep colors, lending them well to dark walls in just about any hue.

Antiques. As with using traditional rugs, bringing in an antique piece or two is a wonderful way to take the edge off a strong wall color. In the room shown here, dark walls look refined alongside an eclectic mix of antiques and modern Lucite chairs.

Also See:

  • Why Golden Pothos Make the Best Indoor Plants
  • Add Little Pops of Color With These Beautiful Vases
  • Stylish Wall Mirrors to Lighten Up a Dark Room

> Full Story

The FAFSA And Real Estate: When To Buy And Refi To Get The Most Aid For College

Getting ready to fill out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA? Its the form that strikes fear in parents of college students and college students-to-be who have been cautioned about the tedious process involved, and the disappointing results. And while there is a ton of advice out there about how to properly prepare, what you need, and what to expect, theres another layer of concern for homeowners and homebuyers: How does the FAFSA affect you if youre in the market, already own a home, have investment property, or are thinking about refinancing? Were breaking it down.

First, a little bit about the FAFSA for those who have not yet had the pleasure: "Based primarily on your familys income and assets, the Expected Family Contribution EFC qualifies students for federal grants, loans and work-study programs," said Bankrate. "The purpose of the FAFSA is to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC - the amount the government believes your family can contribute for college that year."

The good news for homeowners getting ready to fill out the FAFSA is that a principal residence is not reported as an asset. But, other real estate holdings may count as assets and may reduce your financial aid award.

Rental income

If you have a small business that is both owned and controlled by your family and has fewer than 100 full-time or full-time equivalent employees, it is not a reportable asset. However, income from a rental property cannot be included as a small business.

"Rental properties are a popular tax and investment strategy among parents, but they do not qualify as a family controlled small business asset that can be excluded from the FAFSA," said Forbes. "Dont make the mistake of thinking that you can just throw your rental properties in an LLC and exclude the value as a small business on the FAFSA."

Real estate can be reported as an asset on the FAFSA as either investment real estate or business/farm assets. "For real estate to be considered a business asset, it must be used in the operation of the business, not incidental to it," said Fastweb. "Sub-regulatory guidance published by the US Department of Education indicates that, A rental property would have to be part of a formally recognized business to be reported as such, and it usually would provide additional services like regular cleaning, linen, or maid service. This is similar toIRSguidance concerning whether rental income from real estate must be reported on Schedule E or Schedule C ofIRSForm 1040."

If youre unsure of whether to report rental income as a business asset or investment asset, there are some rules of thumb that you can read about here, but the best course of action is to consult with your accountant or tax attorney. Keep in mind, though, that reporting real estate as a business or farm asset has "less of an impact on the students expected family contribution EFC than investment assets."

Shifting assets

Because your principal residence is not a reportable asset on the FAFSA, it doesnt matter how much equity you have in your home; whether the house is worth a mere 100 more than when you bought it or you have 300,000 worth of equity, it wont count against you.

Paying down the balance on your home prior to applying for the FAFSA is one of the strategies recommended by financial professionals for those who need to lower their cash on hand and savings. "To get the most financial aid, consider shifting some assets from reportable categories into nonreportable ones before you sit down to fill out your FAFSA," said TIME Money. "For example, you might use some money from reportable assets like bank accounts and mutual funds to pay down the mortgage on your home, which doesnt count as an asset on the FAFSA."

Refinancing

But, home equity can come in handy in another important way: tapping into it can be a smart move if youre low on funds and need to find a way to pay for college, especially if the interest rate is lower than a federal Parent Plus loan or a private education loan.

Refinancing, and, especially a cash-out refinance, can be especially tempting if you have an interest rate that is higher than what is currently being offered. A cash-out refi would readjust your rate hopefully to something lower than what you currently have and give you money that could be used to pay for college tuition. But, there are issues associated with this type of refinance that may make you think twice, like the upfront disbursement.

"This yields a lump sum in advance, years before the money is needed," said fastweb "The interest rate may be very low, but the borrower will pay interest on the loan for many years before the money is needed to pay for college bills. Interest begins accruing from the date of disbursement. Another problem with a cash-out refinance is that the money will be counted as a parent asset until it is used, reducing eligibility for need-based financial aid."

For this reason, a home equity line of credit HELOC is often the preferred refinancing method for those looking to use the funds for college.

"In a climate of lower housing interest rates, a home loan might seem like an attractive option for some parents to help shoulder the cost of paying forcollege," said US News. "A HELOC is a type of home equity loan that allows borrowers to borrow a line of credit against the value of their home - it operates almost like credit card and usually has a floating interest rate. A borrower can limit the amount to just whats needed under a HELOC compared with a home equity loan, which requires taking out a lump sum. The minimum amount for a home equity loan can range between 10,000 and 25,000 at lending institutions, home loan experts say."

Be aware, though, that, a HELOC may be counted toward yourEFC. Because of this, the timing of taking out the loan and filling out the FAFSA is critical. Waiting until after you file the FAFSA to take out the loan, or timing it so the proceeds of the HELOC do not hit your bank account until after you file, can protect these funds from being counted against you and having your need-based aid reduced.

Getting ready to buy a house

If youre in the market and wondering you to manage the timing of your home purchase and FAFSA filing, youll be pleased to know that buying now will likely help you when it comes to getting money for college. In determining your need-based aid, any money you currently have set aside for your down payment and closing costs would be used to reduce the amount of aid awarded. Putting it into a home improves your financial picture, at least in terms of the amount of help you can get for college.

The FAFSA has questions that "ask about how much cash students and parents have in savings and checking accounts atthe moment you are filling out the FAFSA," said TIME Money. "But notice that there are no questions on the FAFSA about your debts or bills."That means that sheltering your money in real estate, so long as that real estate is the only property you own and you intend to live in it, is a smart move.
> Full Story

How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Home alarm systems can be particularly hard to calculate into resale value or return on investment ROI because their job is to prevent loss rather than achieve gains. You purchase a home alarm system with the hope that you never need to use it.

The reality is that a burglary is reported to police every 14.5 seconds. But robbery isnt the only thing that alarms can save you from. Smart alarms can detect smoke and hazards.

More than ever, homeowners want to feel safe in their homes. A built-in alarm system may be just what it takes to get your house off the market.

1. Alarm Systems Arent as Expensive as They Used to Be

According to HomeAdvisors survey, most homeowners invest between 330-1,040 when purchasing and installing home alarm systems. However, with the advent of smart, connected technology, home security is more affordable than ever.

Products like the Nest Cam Outdoor monitor your home in 1080p high definition video that you can access from your smartphone 24/7. This monitor also has a two-way audio feature, meaning you can use your voice to scare off intruders or give live instructions to a delivery service. Smart products allow you to monitor your home yourself, which cuts down the cost of hiring a security company to do the monitoring for you.

Smart products send security alerts right to your phone, allowing you to act fast and take control. Monthly security subscriptions on smart products are usually a fraction of the cost of subscribing to a traditional security service.

2. Add Resale Value

Owning a safe and secure home is appealing to every home buyer, from frequent travelers to families. That means pre-installed cameras, smoke detectors, and smart locks can be huge selling points. The more convenient and easy-to-use the security, the better.

One of the most desired security features for homeowners is motion sensor lighting over the driveway. Not only does it scare away late-night intruders, it also helps homeowners navigate in the dark. Buyers want added safety and convenience in their everyday lives, and the right security system can provide both.

3. Home Security Lowers Neighborhood Crime

In 2016, Rutgers University >

Burglars are less likely to break into homes that are protected with home security, and that fact carries over when applied to entire neighborhoods. Safe neighborhoods are highly desirable to homeowners and can help your home sell faster and at a higher price.

4. Alarm Systems Can Reduce Your Homeowners Insurance

If you financed your home with a mortgage, you are most likely required to have home insurance. While the price of home insurance varies, most companies offer discounts to homes with security systems.

With a home monitoring system installed, you can save up to 20 on home insurance. Those savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year or the cost of the security system all together.

5. They Save Money in the Long Run

Burglaries can cost you, not only in the possessions stolen from your home, but also in the damage that many homes incur during a burglary.

Most burglars enter homes through the front or back door or first-floor windows, usually breaking them in the process. The cost of fixing a broken window or kicked-in door can be even more expensive than the valuables taken.

It was found that when burglars enter homes with security systems, they are much more likely to leave quickly, taking fewer items with them.

While security systems arent foolproof, they do offer the benefit of safety and security. Whether youre installing a system for yourself or for future homeowners, the peace of mind it offers is the ultimate ROI.

Written By: Katy Caballeros
> Full Story



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