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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tax relief may work against real estate vultures

Tax relief may work against real estate vultures

mhaggman@MiamiHerald.com

For two years Magdiel Guillemi watched the condominium towers go up across South Florida and waited for his chance to buy in. Now the 25-year-old aluminum company executive thinks his time has arrived.

With the housing market stuck in slow motion, more and more condos nearing completion, and many jittery preconstruction buyers wanting out as closing day approaches, Guillemi's betting he'll be able to buy at steep discounts. Then he hopes to sell for a profit, just as flippers did when the market was on the way up a few years ago.

Call it the contrarian view of real estate investing. While the market appears stone-cold to many individual buyers and sellers, others -- the so-called vulture investors -- see opportunity.

Guillemi says he's already finding bargains but he wants to act fast: The Florida Legislature starts a special session this week to consider lowering property taxes -- a move he thinks could spur renewed buying activity and endanger the low-cost deals he's scouting.

''If they cut taxes that will motivate individual buyers,'' said Guillemi, who plans to start buying in the next few weeks. ``And I want to get in before they do. I don't want to be left with the crumbs.''

Large investor groups and hedge funds are also scouring the region for bulk deals at bargain prices.

At the height of the 2001-2005 housing boom, it seemed everyone was getting into real estate, hoping for fat profits. But a separate class of speculators sat out during those frenetic days, betting the market would be bid to unsustainable heights yet still hold long-term value.

Their gambit: Buy on the dip and ride the market up.

The question for these investors is when to buy. Many observers say the market hasn't yet hit bottom, others say the time is right.

But for the vulture investors, who have pooled cash and waited for their big chance to score from a market correction, this week's special session brings a twist. It's spurring some like Guillemi to accelerate their plans and others are hoping legislators don't accomplish much.

Peter Zalewski, a former journalist who a year ago started condovultures.com -- a company that helps buyers find bargains in a downturn, said he fears decisive action in Tallahassee will provide a jolt that could potentially undermine his plans.

''There is an urgency that is being created by the legislative issue,'' Zalewski said. ``If they resolve the property tax issue, the market will get some medical attention. We don't want that, we want to bleed out the market some more.''

Of course, few will feel badly if vulture investors' prospects evaporate. Home builders, brokers and many homeowners hope Zalewski's thinking that a cut in property taxes will give the region's anemic housing market a shot in the arm is right. The Latin Builders Association and Builders Association of South Florida are both pressuring leaders in Tallahassee for sharp cuts.

But not everyone is convinced a property tax cut in Tallahassee will cure the housing markets ills. Among the other issues the market must work through are:

• A giant oversupply of homes: more than 76,000 were listed for sale in April in Broward and Miami-Dade counties compared to some 50,000 a year ago. Over the next 18 months about 20,000 new condo units are expected to come onto the market in Miami-Dade County alone, possibly spiking unsold inventory as those units are put back on the market for resale.

• Insurance rates have not come down. Condo associations and individual homeowners are still grappling with hefty premiums.

BIG BUYERS

Analyst Jack McCabe, who is advising large vulture investors on bulk deals, said big investment groups aren't as worried about tax rates as individuals -- saying such costs can be spread out across big buyers' portfolios.

Last week McCabe announced the completion of the first market-corrected deal he's worked on since the slowdown began. While short on specifics, McCabe said a multibillion-dollar private investment fund bought a substantial block of newly built condominiums from a publicly-held home builder in Florida. His investor client, he said, was chosen because of its ``ability to close quickly in an all-cash transaction, noncontingent on financing.''

Currently, he said the market is too sick to recover from a tax reduction alone. A big property tax cut may reignite buying now, he said, but would effectively create a false bottom.

''Meaningful reduction will slow down the correction cycle but the correction is still inevitable,'' said the Deerfield Beach analyst, who has warned for some time about too much construction going up too fast. ''The market is so sick it will take a while to cure this,'' he said. ``This is not a head cold, it is more like pneumonia.''

But such doomsayers also believe the market is poised for brighter days ahead. McCabe says that barring calamitous hurricanes, the market will have righted itself by 2010 -- just as the first baby boomers turn 65.

''No one is more bullish on Florida long-term than me,'' McCabe said.

It's such thinking that prompted corporate raider Carl Icahn to announce last week that he would continue efforts to buy Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities. And Zalewski spent last week showing property in South Florida and Central Florida to two investor groups, one from Michigan and another from Colorado.

DEEP DISCOUNT

Guillemi, meanwhile, is focusing on a unit at the Brickell on the River condo in Miami. He said the owner bought it for $341,000 and is trying to sell for $280,000.

''The seller has two other properties under foreclosure and is having trouble making mortgage payments,'' said Guillemi, operations director of FDS Aluminum in Pompano Beach. ``I'm trying to pick it up for $260,000.''

So with an eye on the special session in Tallahassee, he's ready to move now. ''With tax reform you will have two things pushing people into the market: lower prices and lower taxes,'' Guillemi said. ``I'm not going to wait. Of course, you have to be smart about it. There is a lot out there and you can't get married to the first girl you see.''

 
Posted at 2:41:31 PM
 
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Updated: Monday, October 22, 2018


What the Fed Does and Doesnt Do With Mortgage Rates

nbsp;

The Federal Funds rate is the rate banks can charge one another for short term lending. Short term as in overnight. Why does a bank need to borrow money on such a short notice? Banks are required to keep a certain amount of liquid capital, in other words ldquo;cash,rdquo; at the end of each business day. These funds are essentially demand funds. When a consumer wants to withdraw some cash either at the bank or at any automated teller, there needs to be cash available to meet those withdrawal requests. If the bank sees their reserves to meet these requests do not meet the reserve requirements, banks seek out a short term loan from another depository institution to meet the reserve requirements. This is what the Fed adjusts, the overnight lending rate. But the Fed doesnrsquo;t directly impact the everyday 30 year conforming fixed rate mortgage.

When lenders set their rates each day, they refer to a specific mortgage bond. For example, with a 30 year fixed conforming loan underwritten to Fannie Mae standards, the lender will review the current yield on the FNMA 30-yr 3.0 mortgage bond.nbsp;Just like any bond, with the price of the bond goes up, the yield will fall. And when the price goes down, the yield will rise. Investors buy bonds, all types of bonds, as a safe place to park cash. When the economy appears to falter, investors can get a little skittish and pull some funds from the stock market and transfer those funds into bonds, including mortgage bonds. If on the other hand the economy is healthy and improving, the opposite will occur.

When the Fed makes an announcement at the end of their two-day meetings, investors are anxious to hear if the Fed raised, lowered or kept rates the same. If the Fed announces they decided to raise the cost of funds by 0.25, it can tell investors the FOMC decided the economy is doing rather well but to hold of any potential inflation, it will raise the cost of funds that banks will pay for short term lending. Itrsquo;s not a direct affect on mortgage rates, but definitely an indirect one.


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House Still Standing on Hard-Hit Mexico Beach After Hurricane Michael

ldquo;Hurricane Michael tossed cars into the canal, snapped trees in half and carved massive craters into U.S. Route 98rdquo; while killing 16 at last count, said NBC News. The hurricanes winds lifted another beach house ldquo;off its stilts and blew it 160 yards across the main road, where it landed on a grassy area next to a parking lot.rdquo;

Yet the Category 4 hurricane couldnt take down the house built by Dr. Lebron Lackey, a radiologist from Cleveland, TN, and his uncle, Russell King, an attorney from Chattanooga. There was, not surprisingly, some damage to the home, courtesy of 144-mile-per-hour winds and high water that had to go somewhere. ldquo;In a Facebook post, it was reported that the ground floor and the stairs up to the middle floor are gone, along with windows in one of the bedrooms,rdquo; said Q13 FOX. ldquo;All the utilities have to be redone, and one of the heating and air units is gone, too. Still, thatrsquo;s a far cry from the destruction of much of the neighborhood.rdquo;

So how did The Sand Palace stay standing while other homes were torn apart? ldquo;The house stayed upright because it was built last year to codes that were even more strict than laws required,rdquo; said Weather.com. ldquo;It took reinforced concrete walls, 40-foot pilings driven deep into the ground and other factors to keep the house safe in the storm.rdquo; The Sand Palace ldquo;was designed to survive a monster hurricane, and the reinforced concrete structure was meant to be the last home standing in the event of the unthinkable.rdquo;

The home, which is used for vacation rentals, lists many of its features on its Facebook page: ldquo;four-bedroom ocean front home with beautiful views, two fully stocked kitchens, inside and outside dining options, an elevator, plenty of living space, plus four and a half bathrooms.rdquo;
The post thatrsquo;s been pinned to the top of the page mentions that the home sleeps 10, has ocean views from the living rooms, master bedrooms, and decks, plus an outside shower, picnic table, porch swings, and a grill. If you scroll down a little further, there is some info about the products used in the home impact-resistant windows and doors from Custom Window Systems in Ocala, FL and the companies Southeastern Consulting Engineers behind the construction.

And while the home reportedly cost up to 20 percent more than it would have simply to meet existing building codes in Florida, the upside is obviousmdash;not just for this property, but also for the future of homebuilding in areas prone to extreme weather.


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Stylish Bath Storage Solutions: Ways to Complement Your Bathroom Vanity

Finding adequate storage is a particularly challenging problem in bathrooms, and not just because they are usually the smallest rooms in the house. Bathrooms have increasingly become the place to store a large and diverse number of items, including bath towels, beauty supplies, toiletries, hair care products, medications, soaps, shampoo, and assorted cleansers. And if the primary inhabitants of the bathroom happen to be teenagers, then the demand for storage space increases exponentially.

Fortunately theres a very easy and space-efficient way to gain storage in a bathroom: install a bath-vanity cabinet. Fully assembled, easy-to-install vanity cabinets are readily available in several sizes and designs, but they all serve two primary functions. First, a bath vanity has a countertop that supports the sink and faucet. And just as important, it provides plenty of storage space right where you need it.

Depending on the size of the bathroom, you can install either a single-sink or double-sink vanity. The double vanity will obviously provide more storage and counter space than a single vanity, but both options typically have under-sink storage and may have a bank of drawers on one or both sides of the doors.

If you need more space than a vanity can provide, consider installing an auxiliary cabinet. Most major cabinet manufacturers offer a line of auxiliary bath cabinets that provide an easy, cost-effective way to add storage to any bathroom. Below is a detailed look at the five most popular auxiliary cabinets. They can be used alone or in conjunction with other units to transform even the most compact, cluttered bath into a clean, well-organized space.

1. Linen Cabinets

Freestanding linen cabinets are available in dozens of sizes, >

  • Linen cabinets can be divided into two basic shapes: tall and narrow, and low and wide.
  • Taller cabinets are ideal for squeezing storage alongside the sink, next to a window or in a corner. Theyre often as narrow as 15 in. wide.
  • Low, wide linen cabinets range in width from 26 in. to 36 in., so they require a bit more wall space. However, their low tops can be used for placing everyday items or storage baskets.

Depending on the cabinet manufacturer, some assembly may be required. Linen cabinets come with all the necessary hardware and fasteners, and most can be assembled in less than 30 minutes using basic hand tools.

Safety note: To prevent freestanding cabinets from toppling over, be sure to secu>

2. Wall Cabinets

When floor space is limited, consider installing a wall-mounted bath cabinet. These space-saving storage units come in a variety of >

The most popular >

3. Medicine Cabinet

Gain a little extra storage space plus a mirror with a wall-mounted medicine cabinet. This type of cabinet is typically installed over the sink and features a hinged mirror door that opens to reveal a shallow cabinet lined with shelves. While the shelves are seldom more than 3 in. deep, they can hold a surprising number of small bottles, jars, tubes and boxesmdash;items that gets lost if tossed into a drawer or vanity cabinet.

Medicine cabinets are commonly available with one, two or three mirrored doors. Note that most medicine cabinets can be installed one of two ways: recessed or flush-mounted.

Recessed installation requires cutting a hole in the wall and setting the cabinet between two wall studs. This type of installation requires more work, but looks much neater. Flush-mounted cabinets are simply screwed to the wall, which is quick and easy, but doesnt look as integrated.

4. Freestanding Shelves

Freestanding shelves take up very little floor space, install in minutes, can easily be moved around and repositioned, and provide ample storage space for both bath linens and toiletries. Bathroom-shelving units come in a dizzying array of sizes, colors, >

Space-saving models are available for use in corners, taking advantage of floor space that typically goes unused.

5. Wall-Mounted Shelves

Wall-mounted shelves provide a quick, easy way to add storage to any bathroom, no matter how small and crowded it is. You can stack the shelves, spacing them 10 to 12 in. apart, to increase storage, without sacrificing floor space.

Bath shelves are typically made of glass or chrome-plated metal; both >

Its best to fasten the shelves to wall studs, but if theyll be used to store small, lightweight bottles and jars, then hollow-wall anchors will suffice.

If youre looking to add storage to your bathroom, start with an updated vanity that can provide plenty of room to tuck away towels, toiletries and cleaning and beauty products. Then, look for space where you can complement that storage with one of these shelving or cabinet ideas.

Joe Truini is a home-improvement expert who writes extensively about do-it-yourself home remodeling and repair. He has authored six books, including his latest, "Build Like a Pro: Installing Floors." You can research Home Depots full line of bathroom vanities, including >

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