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    Estoppel Certificate Fees

    Cap fees charged by community associations for estoppel certificates.

    Vote YES for SB 736 by Rep. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and HB 611 by Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven).

    Owners of properties governed by a condominium or homeowners’ association must provide buyers or lenders with a statement of their financial status with the association before they can sell or refinance their home. Is the property owner current on their association dues? Are there any outstanding liens against the property? This document is known as an estoppel certificate.

    Florida law allows community associations to charge a “reasonable” fee to prepare an estoppel certificate. There is little additional work required of the association in preparing these estoppel certificates, because associations are required to maintain records of assessment amounts due.

    Some associations, however, have turned this administrative task into a revenue stream, sometimes charging over $500 to prepare an estoppel certificate.

    SB 736/HB 611 would cap the fees that associations charge at $100 for owners who are current in their assessments. The bills also set the rate for expedited estoppel certificates and updated certificates at $50. The $50 fee would also apply to owners who are delinquent in paying their assessments.

    The bills address other practices that may delay or prevent a home sale:

    • Community associations must prepare and deliver estoppel certificates within 10 days of a request.
    • Estoppel certificates must be valid for 30 days.

    Authority to investigate homeowners’ associations?

    Oct 17, 2016 – Question: Has the law been amended to authorize the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes to investigate complaints against homeowners’ associations? – R.P., Vero Beach

    Answer: No. Neither the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes, nor any other governmental agency has statutory authority to investigate complaints against homeowners’ associations at this time. However, election disputes and recall disputes are regulated by the division. As such, when owners stand up at HOA meetings and threaten to “report the board to the state,” I always chuckle a bit as there is no such state agency. If an owner wishes to legally challenge a board’s actions he must first offer pre-suit mediation and then, if the case is not settled, he must sue the board in the local courts. Note the division also handles complaints regarding co-operatives.

    Question: Recently, we found out that a director on our condominium board accepted a gift card for a local restaurant from one of the vendors that provides service to our association. Is this legal? – D.P., Stuart

    Answer: No, unless the card was given in connection with a trade show or educational program. Florida Statute 718.111(1)(a), the Condominium Act, provides that: “An officer, director, or manager may not solicit, offer to accept, or accept any thing or service of value for which consideration has not been provided for his or her own benefit or that of his or her immediate family, from any person providing or proposing to provide goods or services to the association. Any such officer, director, or manager who knowingly so solicits, offers to accept, or accepts any thing or service of value is subject to a civil penalty pursuant to s. 718.501(1)(d). However, this paragraph does not prohibit an officer, director or manager from accepting services or items received in connection with trade fairs or education programs.” This same law is also found in the Chapter 719, the Cooperative Act.

    Interestingly, the Homeowners Association Act section, 720.3033(3) is slightly different. It provides “An officer, director, or manager may not solicit, offer to accept, or accept any good or service of value for which consideration has not been provided for his or her benefit or for the benefit of a member of his or her immediate family from any person providing or proposing to provide goods or services to the association. If the board finds that an officer or director has violated this subsection, the board shall immediately remove the officer or director from office. The vacancy shall be filled according to law until the end of the director’s term of office. However, an officer, director, or manager may accept food to be consumed at a business meeting with a value of less than $25 per individual or a service or good received in connection with trade fairs or education programs.”

    Question: I live in a condominium. I have a limited common element boat slip. I want to sell my unit but keep the boat slip for my personal use. The association says I cannot do this. Is this true? – Z.A., Hutchinson Island

    Answer: Yes. A limited common element is an appurtenance to a unit in the condominium. A limited common element cannot be separated from the unit to which it is appurtenant except if it is made an appurtenance to another unit in the same condominium. This is somewhat common when owners trade parking spots, which can be done if the declaration allows for it. However, under no circumstances can a limited common element of any type be owned separately from a unit. So you cannot sell your unit and keep your boat slip.

    Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is co-founder and shareholder of the Law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross. Visit www.GADClaw.com or ask questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: question@GADClaw.com. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

    Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, litigation, estate planning and business law.

    Copyright © Richard DeBoest, special to Treasure Coast Newspapers

    Fla. homebuyers frustrated by shortage of listings

    Aug. 1, 2016 – A scarcity of homes for sale is rattling buyers, emboldening sellers and pushing prices higher in Florida.

    Analysts say a market balanced equally between buyers and sellers has a six-month supply of properties, meaning that’s how long it would take to sell all of the homes if no more were listed.

    At the end of June, Broward’s single-family supply stood at a paltry 3.8 months, down from 4.9 months in June 2014, according to data from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors.

    Palm Beach County is slightly better off but still short on for-sale signs. The county had a 4.8-month supply at the end of June, compared with 5.8 months two years ago, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches said.

    Lack of supply is one of the main reasons why values keep rising, housing observers say. The median price for existing homes in Broward hit $325,000 in June, up 7 percent from a year earlier, while Palm Beach County’s median increased 6 percent to $320,000.

    When housing prices hit bottom in 2012, sales soared as investors and traditional buyers jumped into the market, feasting on bargains.

    Properties owned by lenders or facing foreclosure dominated sales during the housing recovery, but those distressed homes have largely been cleared out of the market.

    In Broward, only 257 of the 1,805 single-family home closings in June involved a foreclosure or short sale, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors.

    In Palm Beach County, Realtor board data show foreclosures and short sales represented only about 10 percent of the 1,822 closings in June.

    During the worst of the housing bust, roughly half of all home sales involved a distressed property.

    “Without those foreclosures in the market to induce deals, buyers are pausing because they don’t feel like they have a lot of [good] choices,” said Scott Agran, president of Lang Realty in Boca Raton.

    First-time buyers Samantha Cutler and her fiancé, Jason Novick, haven’t had much luck since they started their search several months ago.

    The Plantation couple is looking in northwest Broward for a three- or four-bedroom home in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. Cutler and Novick hope to put down roots for the next seven to 10 years and start a family, so they want to make sure they buy in a good school district.

    They’d like to be in a home before their wedding in November, but they don’t want to settle, either.

    “We haven’t been blown away or seen anything that really wowed us,” said Cutler, 26, a speech language pathologist. “When you walk into the right home, I think you just know.”

    Because of the shortage, homes priced fairly and in good condition generally sell quickly, real estate agents say. But some desperate buyers will even gravitate toward homes with obvious shortcomings.

    Judy Trudel, an agent who works in Palm Beach and Broward, said she recently had a client wanting to sell or rent a home in the Pompano Highlands subdivision in Pompano Beach. The three-bedroom property has only one bathroom, and the yard needs major work, according to Trudel.

    She said the owner insisted on listing the home for sale at an ambitious $179,900. At the same time, she listed it for rent at $1,550 a month.

    “As soon as I hit the ‘send’ button, my phone did not stop ringing,” Trudel said.

    The owner eventually decided to rent the home. Still, it continues to draw competitive offers, even though potential buyers know the existing tenant has a year’s lease, Trudel said.

    Homes priced at $500,000 and under are most in demand, with the selection more diverse in higher price ranges.

    Terry Story, an agent for Coldwell Banker in Broward and Palm Beach counties, said the crop of current listings is littered with overpriced properties.

    “There’s still a disconnect between what the buyer thinks the home is worth and what the seller thinks the home is worth,” Story said. “We need more well-priced inventory – not overpriced, poor-condition homes.”

    Matt and Kenia Forget, Story’s clients, weren’t impressed with their selection of homes, though they finally found one they liked in Boca Raton and are set to close Aug. 9.

    “You’d think the houses would be in a little better shape for the prices people are asking,” said Matt Forget, a 35-year-old architect. “A lot of houses in east Boca needed $50,000 or $60,000 worth of work, and you’re still left with a 50-year-old house.”

    Rising prices are restoring equity lost during the housing crisis, and that will prompt more owners to test the market. But there’s no single event that will boost moderately priced listings in South Florida to match the level of demand, said Ron Shuffield, president of EWM Realty International in Miami-Dade and Broward.

    Trent Swift, a 31-year-old attorney, said homes he and fiancée Jessica Fontaine have looked at in central Palm Beach County are either “gone in the blink of an eye or overpriced.”

    They’re looking for three- or four-bedroom homes from $350,000 to $550,000, though they’re learning to adjust their expectations and remain open-minded because quality listings are so limited.

    They had their hopes up for a home in the College Park section of Lake Worth and made arrangements for a showing on Friday, only to find out minutes later that it had just gone under contract to someone else.

    Swift said he’s encouraged by stories of friends who faced similar house-hunting woes. In almost all of those cases, when one deal fell through, a better one came along.

    “I feel like the universe does have a plan,” Swift said, “but it’s just going to take awhile.”

    Copyright © 2016 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Paul Owers. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    Do presidential elections hurt home sales?

    July 29, 2016 – Unease and nervousness over the contentious presidential race is convincing many Americans to hold off on buying or selling a home until after Election Day on Nov. 8.

    This is hardly a new phenomenon. Realtors have long noticed that homebuyers and sellers cool their heels during presidential election years.

    “People do use an election as an excuse to delay selling or buying a home,” says Florida Realtor Cara Ameer in a realtor.com article. “Having worked in real estate through several presidential election cycles, I have observed that it can seem harder in an election year to move properties. People have fears and concerns, whether perceived or real, about an election outcome that may have them putting their real estate process on pause.”

    A political campaign also has two candidates who tend to talk about all the things wrong with the economy along with other issues. That constant messaging, whether true or not, can also make Americans pause and think.

    However, that also makes an election year a great time to buy or sell a home says Ameer.

    After all, less inventory means more opportunity for home sellers, which might lead to multiple offers and push up the selling price.

    While a national phenomenon, an election may not impact local sales, however.

    Housing markets are very localized, subject to microeconomic shifts, while the election takes place on a much larger macroeconomic scale, says real estate expert Kurt Westfield at WCE Equity Group. In other words, the presidential election may have nothing to do with home prices in a particular area, and be determined more by simple supply and demand.

    With interest rates remaining low, says Ameer, “this definitely seems to be the year of buying a home, no matter what candidate ultimately wins.”

    Source: Realtor.com (07/25/16) Dutton, Judy

    © Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda

    Real estate Q&A: Vacant board seat could cost owners

    July 7, 2016 – Question: We live in a small condominium. We are having a problem with getting anyone interested in filling a seat on the board of directors. Without someone filling that position, we will not have a quorum and will not be able to operate the association legally. Is there anything we can do? – Simon

    Answer: Being on the board of a condominium can be thankless and time-consuming work. Your problem is all too common, especially in smaller communities. However, the association has an important job to do, so the law has a procedure for this situation. Unfortunately, this fix may be a bitter pill to swallow.

    If your community can’t fill enough seats on the board to make a quorum, any unit owner can apply to the court to have a receiver appointed to manage the affairs of the association in place of a non functioning board. A receiver is a court-appointed person who would get paid to run the association. Receivers can be expensive, and owners’ maintenance dues likely would have to be raised significantly to cover this expense.

    You should speak with your neighbors about how serious this is and get someone to step up and fill this position. You might have to twist a few arms, but maybe the other unit owners will be motivated to act if they know what’s at stake here.

    If a receiver is appointed to manage your association in place of the board of directors, you still will need to work on filling the empty seat. Once you have all of the people in place, you can apply to the court to remove the receiver.

    About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

    © 2016 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    What is the pay-per-booking model on VRBO.COM

    What is the pay-per-booking model?

    What is the pay-per-booking model?
    Pay-per-booking listings give you the option to pay only for the bookings you receive instead of paying an upfront fee for an annual subscription. Choosing the model that is best for you depends largely on the number of bookings you intend to accept each year, your average rates, and your desire to influence your search position.

    All bookings and payments must take place through HomeAway Payments. Subject to any risk reviews, payments (minus the booking commission) are typically disbursed 24 hours after check-in and typically available in your bank account 5 – 7 days later. The availability of funds in an account varies by banking institution.

    If you are a property manager managing your HomeAway.com listings from within your own software, the pay-per-booking model allows you to list more of your inventory for free and only pay for the bookings you receive so you can maximize your exposure without additional upfront costs.

    What are the benefits of a Pay-Per-Booking listing?

    With pay-per-booking, you can list your property for free and only pay for the bookings they receive. For shorter season and event-only properties, pay-per-booking is a great alternative to an annual subscription.
    With no upfront costs, the pay-per-booking listing model allows you to minimize risk for properties that do not rent as often. Plus, you have access to the same inquiry management, calendar, and reservation tools as a subscription listing. Enjoy the flexibility of only accepting bookings for the dates you wish to rent, and pay as you go.

    If you are a property manager managing your HomeAway.com listings from within your own software, pay-per-booking allows you to list more of your inventory on the largest vacation rental network in the world without the upfront cost of a subscription. Plus, you continue to manage your pay-per-booking reservations in your software as you would with any other e-commerce transaction.

    Do I have to change from a subscription to a commission-based listing?
    No, pay-per-booking is completely optional. You can convert from pay-per-booking to an annual subscription at any point, and can switch from a subscription to pay-per-booking upon renewal.

    What are the differences between signing up for a pay-per-booking listing vs. subscription?
    Subscriptions listings require an annual fee and allow for unlimited inquiries and bookings. Pay-per-booking listings require no upfront fee but pay a commission of up to 8% per booking (Pay-per-booking customers do not have the ability to influence search ranking by purchasing subscription levels and are required to use HomeAway payments and online booking.

    If you are a property manager managing your HomeAway.com listings from within your own software you are required to provide 100% inventory connectivity. Pay-per-booking is a great option if you do not anticipate bookings totaling more than $3,500 per year per listing.

     

    2016 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin

    The 835.8 pound blue marlin brought in by Breathe Easy of Orange Beach AL is hung at the weigh scale during the 2016 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin, Friday, June 24, 2016

    Nation’s largest banks all pass Fed’s ‘stress tests’

    Meaning the lenders hold enough capital – more than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis – that they can withstand a major national and global recession.

    NAR: Pending home sales at a 10-year high

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    WASHINGTON – May 26, 2016 – Pending home sales rose for the third consecutive month in April and reached their highest level in over a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

    All major regions saw gains in contract activity last month except for the Midwest, which saw a meager decline.

    The Pending Home Sales Index – a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings for homes that have not yet sold – hiked 5.1 percent higher to 116.3 in April from an upwardly revised 110.7 in March. Year-to-year, it’s 4.6 percent above April 2015 (111.2).

    After last month’s gain, the index has now increased year-over-year for 20 consecutive months. Vast gains in the South and West propelled April’s pending sales in April to its highest level since February 2006 (117.4), says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

    “The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring, even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets,” Yun says. “The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market.”

    Mortgage rates have remained below 4 percent in 16 of the past 17 months, but Yun says it remains to be seen how long they will stay this low. Along with rent growth, rising gas prices – and the fading effects of last year’s cheap oil on consumer prices – could edge up inflation and push rates higher. For now, Yun foresees mortgage rates continuing to hover around 4 percent in coming months, but inflation could potentially surprise the market and cause rates to increase suddenly.

    “Even if rates rise soon, sales have legs for further expansion this summer if housing supply increases enough to give buyers an adequate number of affordable choices during their search,” adds. Yun.

    Following the housing market’s best first quarter of existing-sales since 2007 (5.66 million) and a decent increase (1.7 percent) in April, Yun expects sales this year to climb above earlier estimates and be around 5.41 million – a 3.0 percent boost from 2015. After accelerating to 6.8 percent a year ago, national median existing-home price growth is forecast to slightly moderate to between 4 and 5 percent.

    Pending sales in the Northeast climbed 1.2 percent to 98.2 in April, and are now 10.1 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index declined slightly (0.6 percent) to 112.9 in April, but it’s still 2.0 percent above April 2015.

    Pending home sales in the South jumped 6.8 percent to an index of 133.9 in April – 5.1 percent higher than last April. The index in the West soared 11.4 percent in April to 106.2, and it’s now 2.8 percent above a year ago.

    © 2016 Florida Realtors®

    That’s 200-plus pounds of bull shark you got there

    Bystanders with phones in hand were quick to snap photos of the bull shark lying on the docks behind the 100 Proof Wednesday afternoon.

    Nothing draws a crowd on the docks like a shark.

    And Wednesday was no different when the 100 Proof with Capt. Ben O’Connor at the helm backed in at the docks and hauled out a 200-plus pound bull shark. In a matter of minutes about a dozen or more folks had gathered around to snap photos of the shark as well as with the shark.But for Ethan Nolan of Kentucky, it was more than just a photo opportunity.Nolan, 24, of Winchester, Kentucky, was the angler who hauled it in.“We were targeting shark today,” said Nolan, noting it was his first-ever shark trip.He said catching a shark was something he just really wanted to do.“I’m a sportsman … and we don’t have ‘em in Kentucky,” he said.O’Connor said they were fishing about six miles out of Destin when the shark snapped up the bonito slab they were using for bait.“It went straight down,” Nolan said. “Then it started thrashing around.”The reeling and tugging went on non-stop for about 30 minutes before they were able to get it in the boat.“It about wore me out,” Nolan said. “But I feel very fortunate and blessed to take this trip with Capt. Ben and Caleb. It was a once in a lifetime trip.”Nolan wasn’t the only one to catch a shark on the 100 Proof that day. His wife Shelbi reeled in an 80-pound spinner shark just outside East Pass.Shelbi also pulled in a roughly 20-pound cobia that followed Ethan’s bull shark to the boat.In addition to the shark and cobia, the crew aboard the boat reeled in several Spanish mackerel, a king mackerel and a bonito.As for the bull shark, Ethan plans to eat it and keep the jaws.“I’d definitely do it again,” he said. “It was an awesome trip.”

     

    Gulfarium releases 110-pound loggerhead

    Mars, a 110-pound loggerhead, was released into the Gulf Thursday afternoon with a big crowd cheering her on.

    Posted May 19, 2016 at 3:19 PM
    Updated May 19, 2016 at 4:16 PM
    DESTIN — After months of rehabilitation at Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center, the 110-pound Loggerhead Mars has returned home.

    Mars, an adult female was discovered struggling offshore in the Perdido Key area in December. When she came to Gulfarium, she was emaciated, fighting pneumonia and tested positive for red tide toxicity, said Allen McDowell, coordinator of the C.A.R.E program.

    She was also missing most of her rear left flipper, which was probably due to an injury several years ago. “She was no worse for the wear,” McDowell said.Gulfarium treated Mars for her pneumonia and gave her time to metabolize the red tide. She’s named after the red planet for the red algae growing on her shell.Thursday afternoon at Henderson Beach State Park she crawled out into the Gulf of Mexico with a couple hundred people cheering her on. One young boy and his mother had all sorts of questions about Mars and sea turtles including how you can tell a sea turtle’s gender. The answer, McDowell said, is that males have longer tales.“I love turtles,” said the boy looking up at McDowell.“I do, too,” he responded.It was the biggest crowd the Gulfarium has hosted for a turtle release. Traffic was backed up and the release was delayed about 45 minutes to allow people to get to the beach, McDowell said he was pleased with the turnout.“It means sea turtles matter to people,” he said. “They’re taking part in conservation.”It’s sad to see Mars go, especially after her long stay, but McDowell was happy to see her swim back to her natural habitat.“She’s going home,” he said.

     

     

    Low gas prices, stronger economy point to record summer travel

    Low gas prices, stronger economy point to record summer travel

    The conditions are right for a perfect storm of tourism this summer.

    “Gas prices are low, and employment is picking up,” said Rick Harper, an economics professor with the University of West Florida in Pensacola. “It’s going to be the best summer for tourism that Northwest Florida has ever had.”

    Low gas prices throughout the year means many families have more expendable income, making them more inclined to travel this summer.

    When gas prices are low, it puts more take-home pay in people’s pocket,”  Families “can put that toward vacation.”

    That trend is something Andy Phillips, the president of Counts Oakes Resort Properties in Panama City Beach, has seen reflected in the number of summer vacation bookings at his company.

    Phillips said bookings for July are pacing about 20 percent ahead of last year, which has helped increase room rates modestly. June numbers have remained fairly flat.

    “Our pace has consistently been up for July … even three to four months ago,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a surprise because last year was huge.”

    Even after a flurry of bad publicity surrounding Spring Break last year, Phillips said the Beach still went on to have a record-breaking summer season.

    June and July are by far biggest months for visitation, when the destination welcomes about 40 percent of its total visitors for the year. Last year, more summer visitors than ever, helping the destination shatter tourism records in 2015, as indicated in revenues from the Tourist Development Tax, or bed tax, a five percent tax levied on short-term vacation rentals and hotel stays.

    Since 2011, bed tax collections in June and July have grown by 48 percent and 34 percent, respectively, while year-end collections have grown by about 30 percent.

    Poised as a drive destination for most travelers, those numbers could rise again this summer.

    “We do expect it to be a very busy summer travel season,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA The Auto Group. “Primarily because gas prices are especially low.”

    AAA expects summer gas prices to reach their lowest in 12 years.

    “It just gives (travelers) more money to spend as a whole,”  “It’s a little more enticing to travel … especially if you’re taking a road trip.”

     

    Video

    Survey: Real estate is the best investment

    When asked the best place to put money in hopes of future returns, 35% of Americans surveyed said real estate. Only 22% said stocks or mutual funds while 17% said gold.

    Publication1

    April 25, 2016 – Americans ranked real estate as the best long-term investment, even over stocks and gold, according to a recent Gallup Poll of about 1,000 U.S. adults. Real estate has been the top investment choice for the past two years, and its lead is increasing over four other popular investment choices.

    In the latest survey, 35 percent of Americans selected real estate as their top investment choice compared to 22 percent for stocks and mutual funds, 17 percent for gold, 15 percent for savings accounts/CDs and 7 percent for bonds.

    By comparison, 34 percent of Americans said gold was their top long-term investment choice in 2011 and, at the time, only 19 percent said real estate.

    “As the average sale price of new homes in the U.S. increased from $259,300 in August 2011 to $348,900 in February of this year, the percentage of Americans picking real estate as the best long-term investment almost doubled,” according to Gallup. “During approximately the same time span – from August 2011 to April of this year – gold prices plunged from $1,910 to $1,254 per ounce, and the percentage thinking gold would be the best investment was cut in half.”

    The poll also found the following:

    • Men are more likely than women to say gold is the best long-term investment. Women tend to favor savings accounts more than men.
    • Survey respondents younger than 30 years old were the least likely age group (26 percent) to think real estate is the top investing choice. They’re most likely to choose savings as a top long-term investment choice.
    • Renters (32 percent) and homeowners (34 percent) are almost equally likely to choose real estate as their top long-term investment choice.

    Higher fees for low downpayments and credit scores

    Mortgage fees have changed for low downpayment loans. Buyers with a good-but-not- great credit score pay higher fees – those with stellar credit pay less.

    Best real estate tips for 2016- BUYERS AND SELLERS

    Sales of single-family homes will rise modestly again in 2016 and median sales prices should be up 3% to 5%, trade groups and researchers say. While rising mortgage rates and a shortage of first-time buyers may temper that outlook some, the coming year should be another seller’s market for real estate.

    Despite an upsurge in construction, home inventories remain low and multiple offers are still common.

    While a 6-month home supply is considered a balanced housing market, most markets are well below that, some significantly. Moreover, supporting fundamentals are far more solid than about a decade ago in the pre-bust years of 2006-2007.

    With that as a backdrop, here are  tips for buying and selling real estate in a presumed up-market in 2016.

    Buyers: Don’t overreach

    A bidding war might spur you to overspend, but paying an inflated price can make it tough to resell when prices stabilize or sink. (Read 2008-2009 real estate columns as a reminder.)

    A decision to pay a premium isn’t always an errant one, though, when you plan to live in the house long term. Rather than focus on overheated developments, look at comparable homes in neighboring areas with the same access to the schools and amenities that you value. Set a bid ceiling, and try to have a few other deals in the works so you’re less inclined to overbid.

    Sellers: Exercise your clout, but don’t overplay it

    If you set a price from 5% to 10% above the market, you’re more apt to get an offer close to your home’s real value than if you start much higher and force your listing to go stale. However, if your home has better qualities than area comps, you have a bit more latitude.

    No need to pay closing costs or offer other incentives to the buyer, especially if it means keeping your in-demand home off the real estate market. For example, a sale contingent on the buyers selling their home is reasonable but only with a contractual escape for you, often called a “kick-out” clause. That gives you the right to continue marketing your home. If a less-encumbered bid comes in, you then offer the initial buyers a set time of 48 or 72 hours to withdraw their contingency.

    Buyers: Be ready, be early, be flexible

    Are the best houses still getting snapped up quickly? Then don’t wait until you find a home to go loan shopping. Keep your preapproval letter, as opposed to a basic prequalification letter, in tow. Winnow your neighborhood choices before you shop.

    Line up an action-ready inspector for an immediate property visit.

    Have your agent ask what the sellers would value most in the sale. If you can accommodate a fast settlement or short-term, rent-back condition or fewer contingencies and conditions, that can make you stand out when that dream home is hanging in the balance.

    Buyers: Buying new?

    Get what you pay for. Builders are cranking production to pre-recession levels. But some are cutting corners by hiring untrained help, not waiting for concrete to cure, painting walls without primers or quietly substituting cheaper materials such as a lower grade of countertop granite, or installing inadequate plumbing or HVAC units.

    Consider hiring an independent inspector to oversee construction (at $400-plus). Builders may tell you not to worry because they’ll hire one. Ahem!

    And, be sure the builder is established and that you research online reviews, complaint pages and consumer ratings. Ask specific questions about the crew’s experience and certifications.

    Sellers: Know your influential rooms

    Upgrades rarely pay for themselves, but there are 2 spaces that can make or break a home sale: the kitchen and master bath.

    Because kitchens are the heart of the home, or the “new living room,” make yours homey. Hide the coffee maker and toaster. Add simple decorative touches to the wall behind the sink.

    Sure, new granite countertops and appliances are optimal, but new hardware for cabinets, new faucets, new lighting fixtures and fresh (neutral) wallpaper are inexpensive touches that carry weight. Thoroughly scour and depopulate the fridge and take magnets off it, please.

    For bathrooms, always display a sparkling bathtub and commode. A new tub liner, or “shell,” can make that marred tub look like new and save you from replacing it.

    A new faucet, new lights, fresh caulking, a new towel rack or new mirror may be in order. Clean out the medicine cabinet. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t declutter, depersonalize, paint and scrub the rest of your space, too.

    Buyers: Beware hidden costs

    When is a $250,000 house not a $250,000 house?

    Answer: Always! Consider these and myriad other closing costs when buying:

    • Origination fee: On a $200,000 mortgage for a $250,000 home, assuming 3.5% interest and no points, you’d pay the lender about $1,800.
    • Home inspection: Even if the mortgage insurer doesn’t require one, get one for peace of mind.
    • Property taxes: You’ll usually pay a few months upfront.
    • Appraisal: The bank will need to determine how much the place is really worth.
    • Private mortgage insurance, or PMI: This depends on your down payment and credit rating.

    Other pre-occupancy costs should include home insurance, title insurance and deed-recording fee, and possibly title insurance, survey costs, credit report fees, flood insurance and homeowners association dues/insurance.

    On that $250,000 home, allow an extra $5,000 or more atop the sale price.

    Sellers: Consider the replacement

    You’re getting multiple offers on your home, with several over asking price. Wow, that was fast! But can you find your next home in time to move once you sign?

    If not, one option would be to request a lease-back from the buyer, allowing you to remain in your old home for the time you need to shop for the replacement. This will be contingent on when the new owners need to occupy, and the period is usually limited to 60 days.

    The other option is to slow the selling process by asking for a longer period before closing.

    Whatever you do, get your prospects and finances lined up (see tip No. 3!). Yes, a seller’s market swings 2 ways!

    Buyers: Seek out an up-and-coming neighborhood

    Things to look for include proximity to a new or resurgent business center, the addition of a major employer, a light-rail station, a city cleanup initiative, young people moving there, crime watch and other neighborhood groups being formed, multiple renovations underway and other up-and-coming neighborhoods abutting it.

    Sellers and buyers: Don’t play the bubble game

    Thousands of would-be sellers and buyers are agonizing over how they can time their next sale or purchase to coincide with the “pop” of this housing bubble, either by selling soon for optimal profit or swooping in with cash to pounce on post-pop pricing.

    True, the bust of 2007-2008 was a loud and robust one, but don’t look for anything catastrophic this time. The present froth is being fueled by narrow supply and widespread demand, not easy credit and “liars’ loans.”

    Most real estate cycles don’t explode like the last one; they just deflate slowly. Real estate continues to be a reliable long-term investment prone to usually modest peaks and valleys, done on a deal-by-deal basis and subject to local economies.

     

    A sunken ship lies in the Gulf of Mexico just off Santa Rosa Island near the Okaloosa-Santa Rosa County line. Eglin Air Force Base, which controls that portion

    A sunken ship lies in the Gulf of Mexico just off Santa Rosa Island near the Okaloosa-Santa Rosa County line. Eglin Air Force Base, which controls that portion of the island, has known about the wreck for decades but has little information about the ship.

    How to be a buyer in a sellers’ market

    April 18, 2016 – In a seller’s market, homebuyers must be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country have a limited number of homes for sale.

    To help buyers succeed, realtor.com created a cheat sheet for surviving a seller’s market:

    • Be on call. “If you’re only looking now and then when it’s convenient, you’re probably wasting your time,” says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit – and don’t linger.
    • Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a “proof of funds” form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a downpayment. They’ll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.
    • Limit the contingencies. In a seller’s market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies – such as “if” they secure financing – sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, “don’t waste your time lowballing a seller,” advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. “Always put in an aggressive offer.”
    • Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they’re willing to compromise on. “Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller’s market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away,” such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those “flaws,” however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. “Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face,” Malmberg adds

    Wyland flag mural surveyed for Guinness Book of World Records

    It could be the largest American flag mural ever painted; at least that’s the plan for the mural atop Legendary Marina’s boat storage facility in Destin. The mural, painted by world renowned artist Robert Wyland, measures 3.8 acres in size, or 554 feet by 299 feet.

    AR-160419915

    Big single-family rental firms change tactics

    Big single-family rental firms change tactics

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – April 11, 2016 – Local Jacksonville firm JWB Real Estate Capital bought 502 homes last year, and it’s already bought more than 200 this year.

    Corner Lot Properties, also of Jacksonville, has slowed its home-buying to a dozen or so a month. But it still owns more than 500 in town.

    The big national players such as Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent aren’t buying like they did a couple of years ago, but they each own about 2,000 homes in the Jacksonville area.

    All those homes are being rented.

    Real estate across the country has been on an almost-unprecedented roller-coaster ride. It boomed in 2005 and 2006 when sales and prices skyrocketed and homes were built a pace that Jacksonville had never seen.

    That was quickly followed by the crash of 2008 and 2009, when sales bottomed out and prices kept falling.

    Sales are back up, prices are rising, but out of those ashes came a new wrinkle in real estate: Companies that own hundreds of homes filled with renters, where the motive is monthly cash flow more than the appreciating price that used to drive the market.

    Buying everything

    The big boom in buying was a couple of years ago, when so many homes were in foreclosure and prices were rock bottom. The median sales price in the area fell from about $270,000 in 2006 to $150,000 at the start of 2012.

    The big buyers swooped in.

    “When I was selling a lot of short sales in 2011, 12 and 13, maybe as much as 40 percent of my buyers were hedge fund managers,” said Brad Officer with RE/Max Specialists. “They had local reps, and most of the time they never even stepped into the house until our seller accepted the offer.”

    Howard Flaschen of Roundtable Realty was one of those local reps. He figures he bought more than 1,000 homes during 2013 and 2014 in the Jacksonville area for Invitation Homes, a subsidiary of Blackstone.

    “They had a spreadsheet and we’d plug in the numbers, with our assumptions on improvement costs,” he said. “If the analysts approved it, we bid on it. Then they would take it from there.”

    “I’d probably look at 100-200 a day,” he said. “In the beginning, it was like the Wild West. I’d probably bid on 99 percent of them.”

    Most of the homes he bought were in the $150,000-$275,000 range. As prices went up, Invitation’s purchases dropped.

    Portfolios

    But local companies Corner Lot Properties and JWB, formerly Progress Home Buyers and Jacksonville Wealth Builders, were also buying lots of homes. They both had similar business models: Buy homes at low prices, fix them up and put renters in them. They sold many homes to investors but also kept some for themselves.

    Along the way, Corner Lot built a portfolio of more than 500 homes. But co-owner Andy Allen said that’s enough homes to manage, so he’s only buying a dozen or so each month these days. He’s fixing those up and selling them to people who will live in them.

    But Corner Lot is also building homes in neighborhoods, from Murray Hill to the Beaches, either tearing down existing homes or finding scattered vacant lots. It’s got six under construction at the moment in Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach.

    Allen said they expect to build about 20 this year. But it’s also developing new communities: Buying land, getting the zoning and selling to developers.

    “It’s just a natural evolution,” Allen said.

    JWB has also moved into homebuilding, including the 90-lot Southside Oaks. But it’s still buying and renting.

    President Alex Sifakis said JWB will keep about 40 percent of the homes. The rest it will sell to investors who want real estate but not the hassles of finding a home, rehabbing it and putting in a renter.

    “We’re trying to make it as easy to get into real estate as it is to buy a house,” he said.

    The average buyer owns three homes bought from JWB, he said.

    Sifakis said they might buy a typical home for $40,000 and put $35,000 into a complete rehab: new roof, plumbing, air-conditioner, etc. Then they’ll sell it for $100,000, with a renter, of course.

    “They are getting harder to find,” he said.

    JWB buys his homes with money from private investors, a total of more than $100 million so far, Sifakis said.

    It works like this: JWB has an email list of interested people. When it’s about to buy a home, it sends out an alert. A lender responds with the money and when the home is sold, he gets it back with 10 percent.

    Renters

    There is, apparently, no shortage of renters.

    “It’s absolutely crazy,” Allen said. Corner Lot’s 502 homes stay about 98 percent occupied, he said.

    “A lot of people have been displaced by foreclosure,” said Terrell Newberry of Century 21 Atkins Realty and president of Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. “Qualifying has been tougher in the past three-five years and you have those who can no longer buy a home.”

    But Officer said a lot of it is by choice.

    “I’ve got one tenant living in a house,” he said, “they’re dual income, they’d have no trouble buying. But they have zero interest. Even with rates below 4 percent. The FHA today is 3 1/4.

    “Usually you would have mom and dad urging their kids to buy with rates so low,” he said. “But mom and dad are still burned by the recession, so they’re telling them not to.”

    Not in the market

    One result of all the homes being rented out is that they’re not for sale. And that’s produced a shortage.

    The rule of thumb in the real estate world is that having a six-month supply of homes is ideal. In other words, the number of homes on the market today would last six months at the current rate of sale.

    Back in 2008, that figure rose to 17 months. It’s been falling steadily since then and settled in right about six months for all of 2013 and much of 2014. But then it started to fall again and was 3.9 months in February, according to the Northeast Association of Realtors.

    For homes below $150,000, that figure is 2.9 months.

    There were almost 1,800 fewer homes for sale that month than there were in February 2015.

    But looking back, Flaschen said the mass purchases were good for Jacksonville.

    “I think it absolutely helped put a floor under the housing market,” he said. “Loans were so tight, if a house needed a new roof or had wood rot, you couldn’t get a loan. You needed someone with deep pockets and cash.

    “Otherwise, the homes were just going to sit there and continue to rot.”

    Invitation Homes declined a request for an interview. But Flaschen said there could well become a time when companies like Invitation start selling their homes if rents drop and home values continue to rise.

    “I don’t think they’ll flood the market and sell 1,000 homes,” he said, “because that will depress the market. Remember, they are the smartest guys in the room.”

    Copyright © 2016 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.), Roger Bull. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    Portugese man o’ war jellyfish spotted on Panama City Beach

    Posted Mar. 18, 2016 at 9:42 AM
    Updated Mar 18, 2016 at 12:39 PM


    PANAMA CITY BEACH — Amid reports of dozens of Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish washing up at St. Andrews State Park this week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) warns swimmers, surfers and other beach goers to give the potentially painful creatures a wide berth. Resembling a blue plastic bag and between 3.5 and 11 inches long, the man o’ war actually is a colony of smaller organisms bonded together. They have tentacles from 33 and 98 feet long that sting and paralyze passing fish. Because they lack a means of propulsion, the man o’ war are subject to outside forces for movement. The strong winds like the kind experienced in the area last week can potentially blow thousands of specimens into shallow water and onto the beach, FWC spokeswoman Rebekah Nelson said. “The appearance of the Portuguese man-of-war on the beach is not uncommon,” Nelson said. “They are common year-round in high salinity offshore waters and may be pushed shoreward by winds and currents.” That means closer to people. The tentacles contain stinging cells called nematocysts that can cause severe pain and red welts, and can even mimic an allergic reaction. The venom is potent even after the tentacle detaches, and dead animals still can deliver a sting.“Do not attempt to handle any of the organisms; they should be avoided in the water and left alone on the beach,” Nelson said. In case of a sting, Nelson said any tentacle fragments should be removed and a topical painkiller should be applied. In some places, vinegar can also be used to treat the sting, although its effectiveness is disputed. The FWC operates a Fish Kill Hotline people can use to report fish kills, diseased, or abnormal fish. Nelson said the agency has received one call about the man o’ war, and additional sightings should be reported to 1-800-636-0511.

    One dead, woman remains missing after boat rams into East Jetty

    One dead, woman remains missing after boat rams into East Jetty  The Coast Guard, FWC and other agencies are searching for the woman missing in East Pass, but it’s possible . . .

    Click here for details: One dead, woman remains missing after boat rams into East Jetty

    JUST SOLD

    CRYSTAL SANDS UNIT 207B AND 2731 SCENIC HWY 98 IN CRYSTAL BEACH

    JUST SOLD

    Real estate Q&A: Is condo’s no-rental policy legal?

    Real estate Q&A: Is condo’s no-rental policy legal?

    A condo has no-rental policy, but the rule wasn’t in place when an owner bought his unit. Is it still legal and enforceable – and, if so, are there exceptions?

    Question: My condo, like many others, has a “no-rental” policy. The owners are forbidden to rent their units for any reason. These rules were not in place when I bought the unit. Is this legal and enforceable? Are there any exceptions if I need to rent my property? – Bernard

    Answer: Yes, the restriction is legal as long as it was properly enacted under the rules set forth in the condo declaration. But if you owned the property before the restriction took effect and did not vote for it, the restriction does not apply to you. Still, when you sell the property, it will apply to the new owner.

    If the restriction is being applied arbitrarily or unfairly – say if board members are allowed to rent but everyone else is denied – or if it violates a constitutional right or public policy, it can be successfully challenged.

    Many rental restrictions will allow for an exception for owners experiencing a hardship. Other restrictions address who may rent and when. Because of this, it is important to review the condo declaration and other written rules yourself. It’s not what the board says that matters – it’s what the written rule actually says. Board members must review hardship applications carefully and treat them all fairly because often it is the improper application of the rules, rather than the rules themselves, that can get the associations in hot water.

    About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.

    The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

    Copyright © 2016 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    Average 30-year mortgage rate ticks up to 3.64%

    March3, 2016

    Average 30-year mortgage rate ticks up to 3.64-Rates rose for the first time in two months as global economic jitters calmed down a bit. Economists also saw some positive economic signs in new data.

    Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the first time in two months as global economic anxiety and market turbulence eased.

    Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.64 percent from 3.62 percent last week. The benchmark rate remains below the 3.75 percent level it marked a year ago.

    The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages edged up to 2.94 percent from 2.93 percent last week.

    Economists saw some positive signs in new data. The U.S. stock market started recouping losses from a brutal start to the year and ended last Friday with a second straight weekly gain. That brought a break in the recent trend of U.S. government bond prices being catapulted higher as investors sought safety.

    The decline in U.S. bond prices raised the yields on the bonds, which mortgage rates follow. Yields approached their highest levels in a month. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond stood at 1.84 percent Wednesday, up sharply from 1.75 percent a week earlier. The yield ticked up to 1.85 percent Thursday morning.

    Though markets have stabilized and some economic anxiety has eased, most experts don’t expect the Federal Reserve to raise the short-term interest rate it controls anytime soon, following its rate hike in December.

    To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

    The average fees for a 30-year mortgage declined to 0.5 point from 0.6 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.5 point.

    Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.84 percent this week, up from 2.79 percent last week. The fee remained at 0.5 point.

    A beautiful end to a very busy day!

    A beautiful end to a very busy day!

    A beautiful end to a very busy day!

    Where’s the listing inventory?

    March 1, 2016 – The median price of existing homes is rising, but the increases don’t seem to motivate many sellers or new-home builders – and that lack of motivation contributes to a growing dearth of inventory in many markets.

    The Fiscal Times recently looked at the main reasons behind the lack of inventory.

    1. Builders aren’t building new homes
    Builders say that the cost and availability of labor is a huge factor for the drop in housing starts this year. A recent Commerce Department report showed that housing starts fell 3.8 percent in January month-over-month. “The disappointing construction numbers reflect the loss of small builders and a shortage of construction labor,” says Yun. “Small construction companies have traditionally been the backbone of new-home building, but the difficult financing environment created by local banks since the downturn has thinned their ranks.”

    2. A slowdown in the distressed market
    Distressed sales are down from 11 percent compared to a year ago and at the lowest level since November 2007, NAR reports.

    3. People are staying put
    Why aren’t people interested in selling when home prices keep rising? There are a few reasons why they’re not budging. More than two-thirds of baby boomer owners, for example, choose to make renovations to their home so they can age in place rather than move. There’s also a decrease in people moving to a new area for a job.

    Also, many owners are simply stuck in their homes due to equity issues. According to CoreLogic, around 8.1 percent of homes are still worth less than their mortgage.

    Finally, a lack of inventory can add to the lack of inventory: Many owners won’t try to sell their own home and move up if the roster of available homes is tight. They’re generally willing and ready to sell, but they’re waiting until the selection of homes grows.