May 1, 2014

More Than Two Years Of Frenzied Gains

The News Press reports from Florida. “It’s the sweet spot for single-family-home sales in Southwest Florida: $250,000. Denny Grimes, of Denny Grimes & Co., said homes for sale in the $200,000-$250,000 range have a median time of 30 days listed, compared to 70 to 90 days for the home market as a whole. For a prospective seller of a $250,000 house, he said, ‘Every morning when he wakes up his house is worth a little more. The market is marching to him.’”

The Miami Herald. “A spate of new economic reports shows that a speedier recovery of the national housing market does not appear in the cards this year. South Florida’s housing market has held up better than many other spots around the country, although it too is showing signs of moderating after more than two years of frenzied gains in prices and sales. Inventory has been creeping up, particularly for existing condominiums and townhouses in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but the availability of single-family homes is still on the tighter side in many neighborhoods.”

“‘It was slower in the first quarter, and everyone was a little concerned,’ said Marta DuPree, broker at Keyes Company Realtors in Broward. ‘Now it’s starting to pick up. As long as supply doesn’t continue to increase and buyers keep coming,’ the market will hold up.”

The Sun Sentinel. “Palm Beach County house prices will keep inching upward this year, but sellers looking for big paydays will have to keep expectations in check, analysts say. Last spring, prices were up by nearly 30 percent from 2012, but the market has softened recently as investors pull back on purchases and more homes hit the market. Dean Ehrlich, an agent in Palm Beach and Broward counties, said the cooling single-family market is fine with buyers. ‘The market is still on the sellers’ side, but it’s starting to shift more toward the middle,’ he said.”

“Letting your lawn or vacant lot grow nearly knee high just won’t cut it anymore for Lee County. A law passed April 1 by county commissioners drops the maximum height from 16 to 12 inches in unincorporated areas of the county. The law was enacted in tandem with another new law, effective Jan. 1, establishing an abandoned property registry for the first time in the county, said Bob Stewart, county chief building official.”

“Stewart said vacant lots and properties with abandoned houses in unincorporated Lee are major offenders, and Lehigh Acres is frequently the location. That’s because Lehigh is not built out and it was one of the areas hit hardest in the housing bust and economic downturn, Stewart said. However, the problem seems to be easing somewhat, because banks are starting to act on the inventory of abandoned houses, he said.”

“In Fort Myers, there were 1,157 residential complaints in 2013. But the city mowed the lots of 3,289 violators. ‘There are a lot of notices no one is responding to,’ said Mike Titmuss, Fort Myers chief code enforcement officer. He believes it’s a result of the area’s foreclosure explosion in 2008. ‘We come across properties the city has cut 50 times and never been paid,’ he said.”

From Highlands Today. “Elliott Moses has lived in Lake Placid since 2001. In 2005 he bought a home, expecting to live in it until he ‘dropped dead.’ He said he put down $40,000 for the $149,000 house, but the timing of his purchase conspired against him like many others in his situation. When Moses closed on the deal, it was the height of the real-estate boom. The real-estate bubble burst a couple of years later, and Moses’ home value plummeted.

“He still owes $94,645.43 on his mortgage, he said, but estimates his home is worth $40,000. He said he tried to renegotiate his loan and bring down his $750 monthly mortgage payment, but hit a brick wall. That’s when he stopped making payments, figuring his lender would be forced to talk to him. Moses’ situation is familiar to many others who either bought a house during the boom time, refinanced their homes for a larger mortgage or got an equity line of credit when their home values ballooned.”

“‘Of course, the market tanked, they lost their jobs and couldn’t service their loans,’ said Steve Fruit, broker associate with RE/MAX Realty Plus II.”

“According to figures provided by the Highlands County Clerk of Courts, several mortgages were recorded between 2004, the beginning of the real-estate boom in Highlands County, and 2007, which many describe as the year of the crash. In 2004, the clerk’s office recorded 7,415 mortgages and 16,834 total deeds. That number went up significantly in 2005, which saw 24,143 total deeds and 11,055 mortgages recorded.”

“In 2006, total deeds recorded dropped to 12,481 and recorded mortgages to 9,354. The 2007 figures were 7,624 deeds, of which there were 6,840 mortgages were recorded. So, there could be several people like Moses out there.”

From Gossip Extra. “Hollywood big-screen legend Burt Reynolds’ property in Hobe Sound has been winding its way through foreclosure in Martin County, and until recently, it was believed that the banks would have until 2015 to reclaim Reynolds’ homestead. It turns out the court decision could make it easier for the banks to extend the traditional five-year limit indefinitely. Reynolds, meanwhile, is in a race against the clock with the banks: The house on the market in an attempt to sell before he loses millions if the foreclosure goes through.”

“Sensing financial troubles, Reynolds first put the property up for sale for $15 million. It went down to $12.9 million in March 2007, $10.5 million 10 months later, then $9.5 million, $8.9 million in 2010 and eventually $4.9 million in 2012. The foreclosure was filed in 2011.”

“Records show the actor quit paying his $1.2 million mortgage in 2010, and Reynolds’ lawyers since have been trying to make the process last as long as possible. But while, in the past, they could’ve hoped for a resolution as the statute limitation would’ve run out next year, the recent court decision extends it practically for ever.”

Bits Bucket for May 1, 2014

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