Monday, November 17, 2008

High End Home Sales

Pain is spreading

That’s because homes priced at the half-million mark – and higher – are now also beginning to shrink in value. Initially, the properties hit hard by the subprime crisis were lower-priced dwellings more often than not bought by people with poor credit. But now, as too many of us are experiencing, the pain is spreading even to people with good credit and higher incomes.Until recently, sellers in wealthy neighborhoods were somewhat protected from the subprime credit crisis and were still drawing buyers with high salaries, good credit scores, and a cushion of savings. But the problems worsened after Lehman Brothers collapsed on Sept. 15 and credit markets froze, corporate giants laid off thousands of highly paid workers, and the stocks that padded the portfolios of the wealthy plummeted.And even once seemingly impervious markets such as New York City, Florida, and California, which had attracted well-heeled international buyers looking to take advantage of a weak dollar, began to struggle as the global economic slowdown washed over Europe, Asia, and even the Middle East.

Luxury home asking prices nationwide have fallen 5.4 percent since Jan. 4, and homes now stay on the market for 148 days compared with 125 days at the beginning of the year, according to The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing’s Luxury Market Report, which tracked prices through Nov. 7. The data – compiled by Altos Research – look at prices in the top 10 wealthiest zip codes in 30 large metro areas around the country.Waiting game“The entry level of the upper tier – the $500,000 price point and up – has been softening for a while,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, founder and CEO of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a Dallas-based group that trains high-end agents.

“What we’ve also seen in the last month is huge uncertainty at the very top of the market. People want to know where are we headed, how serious [the downturn] is going to be, and what is the duration. There are enough questions that at even at the top of the market people are waiting and watching.”Art Tassaro, a Realtor with Friedberg Properties in the wealthy New York suburb of Cresskill, N.J., said buyers have all but disappeared in the past few months. Sellers who want their home to move quickly need to be aggressive about pricing. One method is to average the three lowest sales prices in a given neighborhood during the past year and then discount that price by another 5 percent, he said.“If it was bad before, it’s worse now,” Tassaro said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Senior Living

Room to grow old
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Nov. 14, 2008 – The region’s bad real estate market at least is having one positive side benefit.Businesses that help South Florida homeowners “age in place” – or stay in their homes as long as possible – are gaining popularity with seniors and their adult children as more elders choose not to move into assisted living facilities.Unable to sell their homes, seniors are deciding they can’t afford assisted care, where they’ll pay $2,000 to $5,000 a month, or continuing care communities, where entrance fees range from $75,000 to $200,000.

But for the price of a few months in an assisted living facility, they can hire a contractor to swap out their door knobs for easy-to-push levers, lower their kitchen counters so they don’t have to bend when cooking, or widen their doorways so a wheelchair can pass through.These “universal design” fixes are popular with forward-thinking Baby Boomers as well and are increasingly included in new construction.Contractors now can become certified aging-in-place specialists, or CAPS, through a credentialing process created by the National Association of Home Builders and AARP. The program was started in 2000, and housing industry groups say they’ve had more inquires from remodelers.

The CAPS designation “is popular in our state, as we have a large number of senior citizens,” said Edie Ousley, spokeswoman with the Florida Home Builders Association. “We are getting a lot more requests for information about it.”There are 85 CAPS contractors in Florida, with seven in Broward and Palm Beach counties.Higher-end assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities in South Florida and elsewhere have seen their occupancy rates drop over the past year.William Varian, a Naples general contractor, became interested in senior-friendly construction when he built a guesthouse for his 92-year-old grandmother. He got the CAPS certification six years ago.Varian said aging-in-place retrofits are an increasing percentage of his business; he did about seven such jobs in 2003, compared with 16 last year. He’s working on two projects in South Florida: rebuilding one house to accommodate a man with limited mobility and renovating another for an older couple. His average retrofit job runs about $8,000.The biggest problem homeowners usually face? “Things involving the bathroom, like getting in and out of the tub,” Varian said, who often works with a nurse or physical therapist to determine what his clients need. Grab bars are a common fix, “although some people think they look institutional,” he said. “But I found one model that’s extremely decorative, with towel bars and toilet paper holders to match. I used it for younger clients, too.”

AARP housing research shows 83 percent of older Americans want to stay in their homes until the end of their lives, if possible.The sluggish economy has reinforced those desires. A recent AARP survey of 1,002 people age 45 and older showed three in 10 homeowners pinched by tight times were making changes to their homes in order to live there longer.It’s a challenge, however, to manage chronic medical conditions and provide necessities such as transportation and meals when a senior remains at home. Some turn to care-management firms, such as Rona Bartelstone Associates in Fort Lauderdale, to line up specialists and arrange at-home services.Executive Director Susan Fleischer said the company is working with two families who could not sell their homes and whose adult children could not afford their assisted living expenses. “With today’s economic situation, it only will get worse,” Fleischer said.

Others are trying a new concept: creating a community concierge who coordinates services for seniors living in specific neighborhoods.The best-known example is the “village model,” pioneered by Beacon Hill Village in 2002. Residents of the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston, who range in age from 52 to 100, pay $100 to $850 annually for a village membership. That hires a village staff, which plans social activities, gets discounted rates from home health companies, and arranges for rides and shopping.There now are 13 villages in seven states, all governed by member boards.© 2008 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

Government Buyout South Florida

Federal grants to be used to buy up South Florida foreclosures

South Florida governments are gearing up to spend more than $161 million in federal grant money to stimulate the housing market.


The buyer of that ramshackle foreclosure down the street just might be the government.
In coming months, South Florida cities and counties will be armed with more than $161 million in new federal grant money and a mandate to stabilize falling home values and decay in neighborhoods hardest hit by the real estate downturn.
Their spending plans include buying and rehabbing, reselling or renting out property repossessed by banks through foreclosure, a first for many small municipalities without housing authorities. Cities may also use money to develop new projects and tear down neighborhood eyesores.

Miami Gardens' plans include using homes to help young adults aging out of foster care. Miramar wants to give financial aid to middle-income home buyers.
Hialeah wants to build more $300-a-month rental units. And Miami-Dade plans to use some money on the once fraud-wracked redevelopment of the Scott Carver housing project in Liberty City.

The funds represent South Florida's share of a $3.9 billion pot offered as part of a larger housing stimulus plan passed by Congress this summer.
The stimulus money comes as the state's housing market continues to slog along under historic foreclosure rates, unsold homes and growing economic malaise. In all, Florida will get $541 million, with $91 million going to state government.

When it comes to house hunting, governments don't lack for choices. As of Oct. 31, banks owned 10,725 homes in Miami-Dade and 10,234 in Broward, according to RealtyTrac data released Thursday.

And foreclosures keep rising: In October, foreclosures were up 53 percent in Broward and 97 percent in Miami-Dade over a year ago, RealtyTrac reported. The figures mean one of every 114 homes in Broward is either headed into foreclosure or already bank-owned. In Miami-Dade, it's one of every 93 homes.

Lenders have already begun knocking on doors at Miami-Dade agencies, county officials said. The county will get $62.2 million, the largest share of any locality in the country.
''This is not a whole lot of money in reality, but I think there will be a whole broad spectrum of people we can help. The magnitude of the problem is really huge,'' said Robert Cruz, chief economist for Miami-Dade.


Housing administrators' tentative plan is to spend almost $37 million buying bank-owned single- and multi-family properties, hoping to add roughly 342 new units to its affordable housing stock. The county now owns 10,000 units. There are 71,000 people on the waiting list for those as well as privately owned units through Section 8.
The rest will be spent demolishing 80 blighted structures as well as on homeownership counseling and mortgage assistance for about 130 families. The county will leverage nearly $9 million for infrastructure needed to complete work on the Scott Carver HOPE VI housing project, which will help bring 236 new units online when finished. In all, they expect to directly aid 1,500 families.
The County Commission will vote on the plan next Thursday. Broward approved its plan Thursday.

Comment on this article to:
John Holbrook
Prudential Chaplin Williams Realty

Monday, November 10, 2008

Northeast Florida and Nassau County Stats

Compiled from the Credit Suisse Housing Survey and Nassau County MLS information.

  • August 2008 closed MLS stats for Nassau County

Residential units (36) sales ($11,454,680)

Condos units (5) sales ($1,847,000)

Lots and Acreage units (5) sales ($604,900)

  • September 2008 closed MLS stats for Nassau County

Residential units (39) sales ($13,077,263)

Condos units (8) sales ($4,277,000)

Lots and acreage (3) sales ($632,000)

  • October 2008 closed MLS stats for Nassau County

Residential units (31) sales ($8,265,019)

Condos units (4) sales ($1,761,900)

Lots and acreage (6) sales($788,000)

Jacksonville, FL – Buyers Continue to Wait for Prices to Stabilize

Traffic increases, but mostly lookers and few transactions. Buyer traffic improved
slightly in October, as our traffic index increased to 18 from 8 in September (readings
below 50 suggest traffic below agents’ expectations). One agent characterized the change
as “a slight increase in buyer interest, but still just heavy shopping.” Other agents
commented that the tight credit environment and economic worries are preventing many
potential buyers from looking, although several agents did note buyers are willing to look
at sharply discounted listings. We think most buyers remain on the sidelines for signs of
price stabilization or an easing of credit
Fear Grips Buyers in October

Buyers scared by economy and equity market, low prices
(foreclosures) driving sales. Our Monthly Survey of Real Estate Agents
indicated a sharp drop in October. Trends deteriorated somewhat during the
month, but the majority of the drop in traffic was seen at the end of
September. Real estate agents stressed that buyers remain handcuffed by
concerns about the economy and the equity market, along with continuing
fears of buying before prices have bottomed.

Nearly all markets impacted by buyer worries. Overall, our traffic index
fell to 19.6 in October from 24.0 in September (readings below 50 point to
traffic below expectations). 31 of the 40 markets we survey with seven
markets showing improvement in traffic (but from extremely low levels) and
two markets showing stable traffic.

Foreclosure-heavy markets still getting traffic, but economy takes toll
on buyer psychology. Of the hard-hit markets where we had generally
seen solid traffic through ’08 (Ft Myers, Las Vegas, the Inland Empire (CA),
and Sacramento), only Ft Myers showed improvement in October, with the
others showing declines, but still having more traffic than most other markets.

John Holbrook
Prudential Chaplin Williams Realty
Search the MLS at

Monday, November 3, 2008

Amelia Island Intercoastal Wine Company

Amelia Island Jazz with Les Dermerle Band

Enjoy a great time in downtown Fernandina Beach!

Friday & Saturday, November 7th & 8th.

Special Guest Sam Kouvaris!

Amelia Island Wine Shop