October 1, 2013

Recovering, Sight-Unseen And Vacant

Space Coast Daily reports from Florida. “August was a hot month for real estate sales in Brevard County. ‘Multiple offers have now become common,’ says RE/MAX Hall of Fame Realtor Jennifer McCoy with RE/MAX Elite. ‘Some of our out-of-town buyers have placed accepted offers on properties without actually seeing the property in person.’”

The News Press. “Experts say Southwest Florida’s real estate market is recovering — but at least 1 of 3 three area houses remain vacant, according to census data released this month. Southwest Florida led the state last year in its percentage of vacant houses. Collier County had 38 percent vacant — the second-highest in the state. Lee was third with 34 percent. Monroe was first with 45 percent.”

“Pete Gerold, co-coordinator of volunteer group Take Pride in the Cape, said the group has cleaned almost 1,100 homes since 2009. ‘You have all these really nice houses,’ Gerold said, ‘and you have one or two where grass is 3 feet high and bushes are up above the roof. Something needed to be done with it. It really just pulls down values.’”

“Denny Grimes, president of Denny Grimes & Co. at Royal Shell Real Estate, questioned the numbers. It’s obvious there’s fewer vacant homes along Southwest Florida streets, he said. Neighborhoods such as Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral — which had clusters of vacant houses — are now the area’s hottest markets. ‘They sell before the ‘for sale’ sign paint dries,’ Grimes said.”

The Sun Sentinel. “Distressed home sales increased sharply across South Florida in August, a result of more foreclosures working their way through the court system, a new report shows. Four in 10 Broward County sales last month involved homes in some stage of repossession, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosure-related homes accounted for only 21 percent of Broward sales in August 2012. In Palm Beach County, 36 percent of August sales involved distressed homes, up from 20 percent a year earlier.”

“Those homes still sold for about a third less than properties not in the foreclosure process, according to RealtyTrac. ‘As quickly as the homes are put onto the market, they’re gobbled up,’ said David Dweck, founder of the Boca Real Estate Investment Club. ‘Banks have gotten smarter and raised their prices accordingly.’”

The Tampa Tribune. “With new flood insurance rates taking effect next week, some local homeowners are finding their older homes might be more trouble than they’re worth. Housing industry experts say some homeowners will be forced to sell their homes, either because they can’t afford the new premiums or because it won’t make sense to pay sky-high premiums on low-priced houses.”

“Bill McKenna feels he’ll be trapped in his modest 2-bedroom home near MacDill Air Force Base. He’s paying $642 a year in flood insurance premiums today, but because of the complex rules of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, any new buyer would see his or her premiums skyrocket to more than $7,000 a year. Not surprisingly, the people who were going to buy his home recently backed out after hearing of the new insurance premiums.”

“At the moment, he’s renting out the house while he lives in a separate home in FishHawk Ranch. But that may have to change, he said. He’s not sure how he’ll sell the MacDill-area home because any new owner would face sky-high premiums and would balk at the insurance cost. But, he won’t be able to rent out the home, either. While primary residences with policies that predate the new law will continue to enjoy rate subsidies, rental properties and second homes will see big rate increases, he said.”

“‘I feel like I’m getting stuck with this house, and I don’t know what to do about it,’ McKenna said.”

The Orlando Sentinel. “Florida homeowners with ‘underwater’ mortgages may now qualify to have as much as $50,000 chopped from their loan balance under a new program announced Friday by the state. Some Floridians complain that the program will reward people who made little or no down payment when they purchased their home and are now underwater as a result. Seminole County resident Tina Harden said the principal-forgiveness program does nothing for people like herself. She made such a substantial down payment on her home in 2008 that her mortgage is not underwater. But the house is listed for sale, and she will lose money on it if it sells.”

“‘I don’t think the program should have anything to do with what you owe on the house,’ she said. ‘If you put down a big chunk of money and you’re neighbor didn’t, why should he get the break?’”

First Coast News. “Life is good for John and Sharon Fisher, but they would be first to tell you that it would be better if they had a break on their mortgage. The Fishers are retired, on a fixed income, and they say sometimes the $1,200 a month payment becomes a struggle. ‘We have a very high interest rate,’ said Fisher, ‘but we’ve never missed a payment, we’ve never been late. We love our home. We can’t sell it and we don’t want to sell it.’”

“The Fishers are hoping the state’s newest program will help; they’ve applied to the Florida’s Principal Reduction Program. ‘We’ve lost almost $100,000 in the place,’ he said.”

Bits Bucket for October 1, 2013

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