As home prices in Southeast Florida soften, let's have a look at a few typical offers in one of the most important price segments of the local market for modern homes:
In Boca Raton, a 3 bedroom / 2 bath home with approx. 2132 sf under air, built 1985.
Sited on a secluded lot, the home offers an open split floor plan with ceiling-to-floor windows and glass doors, vaulted ceilings, eat-in kitchen with kitchen bar, recessed lights and a dramatic 2nd story wrap around balcony with views from living room, dining room & kitchen. Several major systems have been replaced. In bicycle proximity to the beach. Asking $599,000
In Fort Lauderdale, a 4/3 with approx. 2067 sf, built 1953. This is currently an income-producing property, listed on Airbnb with all licenses and permits. Plenty of natural lighting around the house which features a top-of-the-line quality kitchen with island, a marble fireplace, Italian porcelain floor, as well as a new roof, new impact windows, and a new sprinkler system. It also has a 2 car garage and a big backyard with BBQ. Located 3 miles from the beach and Las Olas Blvd. Asking $775,000
In Delray Beach, a 4/4 with approx. 2199 sf, built 2020.
This is a pre-construction offer, with the buyer still having the option to choose the finishes. 10 ft ceilings throughout as well as large large porcelain tiles. The master offers his and hers walk-in closet, an oversized shower and double sinks. Laundry room has a wash basin. 2 car garage with long driveway. Nice covered patio and room for pool. Property is not a zero lot. 6 ft white fence all around house. Room to park your jet ski, boat, or any toys you have. Huge open side to canal. Asking $600,000
In Wilton Manors, a 4/3 with approx. 2204 sf, built 1957.
Renovated waterfront home, designed for multigenerational living or vacation rentals (approved for AirBnB). New custom kitchen, energy-efficient hurricane impact windows and doors. Master bathroom with free-standing soaking tub, oversized shower, separate toilet closet and dual sinks. Eco-conscious xeriscape succulent landscaping design. Asking $839,000
In Plantation, a 3/3 with pool, approx. 1897 sf, built 1980.
Open concept with soaring ceilings and high windows, very private. Two bedrooms downstairs, full bedroom suite upstairs. Den can be easily converted to 4th bedroom. Well maintained and move-in ready. In walking distance to shopping and restaurants. Asking $625,000
In Fort Lauderdale, a 4/2 with approx. 1400 sf, built 1954.
Waterfront home offering ocean access with no fixed bridges (deepwater). Dock for up to 60 feet yacht. New roof, new A/C, updated kitchen and bath, new city water and sewer lines. Asking $879,000
In Miami, a 3/2 with pool, approx. 2827 sf, built 1983.
Pool home with entrance atrium in a guard-gated community. It features sliding glass doors in every major room, 3 fireplaces, accordion shutters, 2 car garage, large upstairs master suite with two walk-in closets, separate bathing area w/luxurious roman tub & glass-enclosed shower. Close to supermarket, restaurants, Indian Hammock Park and Turnpike. Asking $899,000
In Fort Pierce, a 3/2 with pool, approx. 1777 sf, built 1958.
Upgraded Beach Bungalow with bright open floorplan and heated Pool. Home was remodeled in 2016 including impact windows, roof, A/C, upgraded kitchen & bath, flooring, paint, & new pool. Close to Downtown and South Beach Jetty. Asking $644,500
In Miami Beach, a 4/4 bath home with pool, approx. 3263 sf under air, built 2021.
Co-ownership opportunity for one-eight of a professionally managed, turnkey home, fully furnished and professionally decorated. Open-plan main floor includes dining space and a gourmet kitchen incl. glass-enclosed 80-bottle wine rack. Spacious primary bedroom upstairs has access to upper patio overlooking pool & spa, as well as a covered outdoor kitchen and lounge. Asking $867,000 for 1/8th share.
Please contact Tobias with if you are interested in any of these homes or if you are looking for a modern house in South Florida.
Listings courtesy of cooperating MLS Realtors on BeachesMLS
#architecture #design #floridahomesforsale #floridarealestate #mcm #midcenturymodern #modernarchitecture #modernhomes #brokertobiaskaiser #realestateconsultant #homesforsale #modernism #miami #delraybeach #fortlauderdale #bocaraton
In chapter 8 of my “Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions” I explain what occurs after signing of the purchase contract and before closing – an extremely important phase for any buyer, be it a residential, commercial or business deal:
Between signing of the purchase contract and the closing – 20 to 90 days approx., depending on the type of property and if financing is involved – several activities run parallel in time: property inspection, title inspection, possibly a loan application, and, in case of a commercial or business transaction, the so-called due diligence period, which includes a review of all books and records.
Latest by now please consult a tax advisor to structure property ownership under tax perspectives as favorable to you as possible.
Your real estate agent coordinates all these activities for you and should be able to recommend experienced professionals for all tasks at hand.
Building inspection: Within a certain timeframe the buyer has the opportunity to have the property – resale or new – inspected for functional and structural deficiencies. This inspection should never be conducted by a cousin of a friend who owns a flashlight and a voltmeter, but by a certified, licensed and recommended professional, ideally belonging to ASHI (American of Society of Home Inspectors). If flaws are found, depending on the contract the buyer can demand repairs, withdraw from the contract, or try to re-negotiate. Your agent should recommend a reliable building inspector and make the inspection part of the transaction timetable.
Due Diligence: This term is used in commercial and business transactions. It refers to the defined time period for a property inspection as well as the review all books, records, profit & loss statements etc. if applicable. Again, the buyer has to accept or reject the transaction based on his/her findings before the Due Diligence period runs out, otherwise he/she has to fulfill the contract and buy.
Title search: Florida has no mandatory book of real estate records; instead, property rights and obligations are recorded in the title. The buyer's attorney will research the property title history to ensure that it has clear and marketable title and is free of any unpaid debts, mortgages, liens or other surprises. A title insurance policy paid by the buyer will guarantee this for the duration of the buyer's ownership. The attorney will also check any possible usage restrictions of the property, such as commercial use, permitted vehicles, having pets or rentability. It is the buyer's obligation to check for restrictions that prevent any planned use of the property, for example as an AirBnB.
Taking title: Any buyer should carefully decide how he/she will own the property - as an individual, in the name of a company, in a living trust etc. This may have a direct influence on the buyer's tax obligations – especially estate tax – and/or how the estate is passed on to the heirs when he/she dies.
Seller’s obligations: It is the seller’s duty to hand the property over to the buyer at closing in the same state and condition as it was at the signing of the contract. Maintenance and repairs have to be continued by the seller up to the day of closing. To verify this, the buyer has the right to a final walk-through immediately before closing to confirm that the seller lived up to his/her obligations. If not, the closing may have to be delayed or funds to be withheld from the seller, due to incomplete repairs, damages or even junk and unwanted items left on the property, the latter being a common occurrence.
For any questions you may have, and for the complete and updated GUIDE TO BUYING AND SELLING FLORIDA REAL ESTATE please contact Tobias anytime. He will be happy to assist you.
Next chapter in this series: Property Ownership and Visas for Non-Citizens
©Tobias Kaiser 2023
Two newer homes. Both are Modern (as in: recently built; Ye Ole Castle in 2021) but only one is Modernist.
Many years ago when I was to start my blog “The Modernist Angle”, we discussed the two terms "Modern"and "Modernist" in my office at length: which is which, and why is that so?
In researching the terminology, I came upon an interesting forum where architects and professionals differentiated between the two terms carefully, "modernist" referring to a style or aesthetic, "modern" to something current:
“Takeaway lesson: There's an important difference between 'modern' and 'modernist'. Modern means nothing more than 'current' or 'recent'. Modernist means ... the ideology of modernism, ... an aesthetic movement”. (–Ray Sawhill, on the Visual Resources Association Forum)
Adding to the point:
“Modernist is ultimately a more valuable and specific term for us than the more generic Modern. Modernist is our stylistic term of choice, whereas Modern seems more like a state of mind.” (–Dane A. Johnson, Visual Resource Coordinator, College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI, on the Visual Resources Association Forum).
Thus, a mid-century design by Neutra, Breuer or Mies for example should really be referred to as Mid-Century Modernist.
Though nobody does that, as a client reminded me when he snubbed all homes older than five years, disregarding their modernist styles. In colloquial use the term Modern is the clear preference.
So my firm’s residential part is named “Modern Florida Homes”, and its mission is “Brokering, Promoting and Preserving Modern Homes and Architecture”.
But in any context where one can discuss, explain and elaborate, I prefer Modernist as the correct and more precise term.
A fun question to ask your favourite architect, isn’t it? You do have one, don't you?
You may have seen my recent Instagram post on Conversation Pits, a modernist design element now completely out of fashion. Pity.
Much in fashion however is the Brise-Soleil – French for "breaking sun" and pronounced [breeze solay] – which in its original meaning is a wall with geometric cutouts or shading elements, preventing direct sunlight hitting a building while allowing ventilation. It might be a separating wall in a garden, or a curtain wall of a building, or even a system of louvers.
More recently, the term has also been adopted for any kind of shading structure allowing ventilation, be it vertical or horizontal – though for the latter, I'd disagree with calling it a brise-soleil.
Other typical design elements you'll find in modernist architecture I explain here.
I want to share two useful tips I learned from my own experience: about maintaining water quality of an indoor fountain and about pest control.
Related to modern architecture: not completely, more like "somewhat". Interesting and useful: Yes. – Still with me? Please read on.
It doesn't matter if you live in Florida or anywhere else in the sunbelt, or even in areas with winter freezes – household pests, the polite way to describe yucky crawly things like Palmetto bugs, German cockroaches or a whole army of sugar ants, are a fact of life. They were here long before us. And I believe they will be here when the human race has left the planet.
But: I don't live in their space, and I don't want them to live in mine.
As a former commercial landlord, former property manager and 30+ year-Florida resident, I know monthly pest control is a necessity, so much it's in the Florida Landlord and Tenant statutes. But the services I tried were not very impressive. Except for my newest discovery: Ortho Home Defense.
After successfully using up a 24oz/700 cc bottle "Ortho Home Defense Max Insect Killer Spray for Indoor and Home Perimeter" – can that name get any longer? – I reached for the Big Momma: a nice round 5 litres (1.3 gal) container of Home Defense, with electric (!) spray wand. Yeehaw!
Through business travel and forgetfulness I found out the stuff still kills even after three or more months, and even through repeated floor mopping and cleaning. My rating: Highly recommended!
(Available at the usual suspects such as Lowe's, Home Depot, Amazon etc. On Amazon, I recently saw the 1.3 gal with wand for nearly the same price as a 24 oz spray bottle, under $17)
Indoor Water Fountains
Not only do they provide the soothing sound of flowing water, they also play a role in improving your home's Feng Shui: The presence of moving water fills the requirements of the Shui or water component.
My own little water feature was in my office for 10+ years, until the fountain finally completely crumbled and disintegrated. I kept the pump until I created a minimalist modern fountain from a straight-walled clear glass bowl and pebbles I picked from the Starnberger See, the lake near Munich where I'm from.
Maintain water quality was a bit of a drag, mostly due to algae multiplying like little bunny rabbits overnight, until I found the by far best solution: purified water with salt.
No vinegar, no distilled water, no chlorine or any other additive are as simple or effective. Even after a three months travel pause during Covid, where I had turned the pump off and covered the vessel with clear food wrap: no slime, no algae, nothing.
The simple solution: I fill an old soda bottle (0.75 cc) with purified water from my fridge's filtration system, mix a small pinch of salt with it, store the bottle in the fridge and use that solution to keep the fountain at the right level. I still replace the water every three months or so, and YMMV, but I couldn't be happier with the overall water quality.
Thank you for reading this post. Any feedback on my two tips?
Financing a property purchase – primary residences, second homes, and investment properties – in the US is common: it reduces the equity requirement for the transaction and mortgage interest is tax-deductible. Since the US-mortgage crisis 2006-08, the loan process has become a bit more regulated and lengthy. Note: Financing a business purchase can be challenging for US citizens, and is extremely difficult if not impossible for foreign nationals.
For residential deals, typical Loan-to-Value Ratios (LTV) are 70% – 95% for US-citizens and 50% – 75% for foreign nationals (non-US-applicants), depending on credit history, documentation and income. 100% financing is mostly unheard of in the US.
To qualify for a mortgage, some lenders require that the borrower opens an account with the bank as an additional security or pledges liquid assets (cash-equivalents, commonly traded stocks).
Loan amounts can go as high as $25m for foreign nationals, and considerably higher for US citizens. Loan rates for foreigners are always higher than for US citizens or permanent residents. It pays to comparison-shop – not only because rates vary, but also as some mortgage brokers specialized in foreign nationals extract a substantial rate surcharge for the privilege of doing business, especially if they are located in the borrowers' country of origin and speak their language.
If you happen to be a non-US citizen, make sure your lender is experienced in dealing with foreign nationals, or ask your agent to recommend one. For both US- and non-US-citizens, prudent lender selection will streamline the process considerably.
Time frame: as of late 2022, typical loan approvals for US borrowers take at least three, more likely four to seven weeks, often longer for foreign nationals. For those, a FICO score is mostly not required, and often neither an ITIN, social security number, green card or visa.
Like loan rates, the exact requirements to get a mortgage vary from lender to lender, but for both US- and non-US applicants, thorough and detailed documentation wins the day.
The chart above for single family homes, from Miami to West Palm Beach, from January 2020 to August 2022, shows it.
Green are Median Selling Prices in USD, blue shows the gap between Asking and Selling Prices in %. Both lines are pointing south for both July and August.
With rising interest rates, the slower home-buying season beginning and more properties coming to market, this trend will likely continue for a while.
For more detailed market data incl. for modern architecture or with your questions contact me anytime please.
Finally our local housing market is becoming less insane. Far from normal, but less insane is progress. And the June numbers, available one month from today, will confirm that.
Here's a primer on how to read and interpret what is shown in the infographic above (all data for single family homes):
ACTIVE INVENTORY: means number of single family homes for sale. In the Tri-County area (in essence the MSA or Metropolitan Statistical Area described above), this number should be north of 14k or 15k. But then, I didn't say we're back to normal, did I? At least the number is going up, caused among other reasons by rising mortgage rates and FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out.
Those mortgage rates – and lack of reasonably priced inventory – caused a major drop in residential mortgage application: minus 32% compared to the same time last year. That in turn got sellers nervous, rushing to hop on the gravy train before it leaves the station. But, as I told a very nice prospective client from Hollywood who gets nudged by a neighbour to sell: if you don't move out of state, you have no business of selling. Even downgrading could cost the same, but with lesser quality housing.
PENDING INVENTORY: properties in contract which haven't closed yet. Average time from signing to closing is at least three weeks for cash purchases, and easily double that with a mortgage. That number will likely not head north for at least another one or two months.
CLOSED SALES: fewer homes for sale of course results in fewer closings. If pending numbers will take a month or two to stabilise if not go up, closings will take even longer.
As an analogy, think of the turning radius of ships: a tug boat is nimble, a small freighter much less so, while a super tanker the size of the Exxon Valdez needs at least a mile to turn, rudder hard over.
MEDIAN TIME TO CONTRACT: This is an interesting statistic we in the business call DoM or Days on Market. It means what it says: how many days was the property active until it went pending. 11 days is insanely fast, and I chose median on purpose, as average would have way too many outliers. Pre-covid, the number was typically in the 30s.
MEDIAN % OF LIST PRICE: How much of what they were asking did the sellers actually get? In an overheated market as we had for the last 20 or so months, the median reached 100% in summer last year, dipped a bit and now is at 100% again since February. It means there were plenty of properties selling above list price - good for sellers if they moved away - however you will see that number decrease very soon. Typical is between 95% and 97%, meaning buyers negotiated between 3% and 5% off asking. As always, desirable homes have to be discounted less, while oddballs have to swallow the bitter pill (or "swallow the toad", as we say in German). Remember: it's not the seller who dictates the price, it's the plethora or absence of buyers who make the market.
MEDIAN SALE PRICE: just what it says, the median of all 4,096 SFH sold in May. Important for you to frame the data: a healthy annual appreciation in a normal market in Florida hovers between 4% and 6% median. And: why median sales price? Answer: Because of the spread in our market; too many outliers which distort averaging.
To illustrate – and bear with me, we're getting into a bit of research – I'll use homes currently for sale, and closed homes in May.
For Sale: The lowest-priced SFH for sale today is listed at $60,000 (don't ask; you do not want to see it), the highest is $170m. The resulting average asking price of all homes listed today is $2,167,408, while the median price is $820,000. Neither $60k nor $170m is typical, but how many atypical listings do you eliminate? All four over $100m? The lowest four as well? Every month?
Closed Sales: The lowest-priced home sold in May for $45,000, the highest for $49,500,000. The resulting average selling price is $999,922, the median is $595,000. With nearly 100% difference, do you see why in our market with super-expensive listings, only median price data make sense?
In our housing market in South Florida the shift was caused by
If you're still reading: wow - thank you so much for your patience and interest! Feel free to post any questions or comments here, or contact me directly at 954 834 3088 or via email. Be well!
By definition, a transformation is "a marked change in form, nature, or appearance." Here is an excellent example from the world of real estate:
This week I came across a modernist house on the MLS that stopped me in my tracks, with its interior so bizarrely overloaded and decorated. I even thought about possible using it in my "Bad MLS Photo" series.
Not so – I repent. Going through all listing photos again yesterday, I became curious: what exactly was the current owners' starting point? Then going through the MLS photos from the last sale in 2016, I knew I found something share-worthy.
Only a few photos clearly show old v. new (pix #3-10) since the floorplan was expanded, walls moved and windows closed or changed. But – irrelevant of my own taste – from what I can see, the current owners deserve major kudos on what they created out of pretty much run-down mid-century modern house.
What do you think?
(3 bedroom/2 bath renovated mid-century modern in Miami, asking $670k. Listing courtesy of Angie Homes)
Hurricane season in Florida commenced yesterday, running through 30 November, 2022.
Well – if you don't live here and shrug your shoulders, imagine this: It's late autumn and you haven't mounted your winter tires yet. All of a sudden you hear that there are 8 inches (20 cm) of snow forecast for tonight. Would that grab your attention?
If you get ready for hurricane season now, you will be so much more relaxed during the next few months, basking in the wisdom you're ahead of the curve.
To sweeten the pot a bit: until June 10 there's a Tax Holiday, exempting certain items from Florida sales tax. The exempt list, in case you need supplies, is on a website of the Florida Dept. of Revenue (click on "Consumers").
What should you get then? There are so many downloadable supply lists that I won't post any of mine – every county and major news site has them, so pick one that makes the most sense to you.
Check out your county's website below now, store the local emergency numbers in your phone, and download a good hurricane warning app on your phone. NOAA or Florida Storms (operated by FL Public Radio) are among the many good ones and available for both Android and iOS.
If you have any valuable tips or links you believe are worth sharing – please post them. Thank you and be safe!
L: Hurricane Georges, Deerfield Beach, Florida 1998; R: "No Lifeguard on Duty" Hurricane Irene, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oct 1999, both ©tck
Question: Over Easter dinner, I overheard someone - I think he was a Realtor - explain to a friend why he should have an home inspection done before listing his house. Isn't that wasting money? I always thought the buyer does the inspection?
Answer: You overheard sage advice. I'll explain.
Correct: buyers conduct their own home inspection to evaluate if a property has any functional flaws which might make them re-consider the purchase (note: in Florida, home sellers must disclose any major defects they know about or should know about – like a constant drip from the ceiling the seller decides to ignore and hope for the best).
But a seller's pre-listing inspection is not of money thrown out the window – on the contrary!
A seller’s inspection, also called a pre-listing inspection, gives sellers a clear understanding of the condition of their property. They then can fix any issues before putting the home on the market, or price repair and inconvenience to the buyer into the asking price. So it's not money thrown out the window!
I always suggest a pre-listing inspection to save my sellers money, aid in the efficiency of the transaction, and especially to reduce surprises that always – note: always! – arise from the inspection. But despite being such a great tool, it’s very often rejected.
5 Key Benefits:
1. Uncover any issues
A pre-listing home inspection provides sellers a clear understanding of the condition the home. Sellers can’t and don’t know everything that needs attention in their home, even if they think so. The inspection report lists all the issues the seller can address and fix prior to placing the home on the market, or lay out the issues to potential buyers up front. This results in saving the seller time and especially money – see below.
2. Save Money, reduce seller stress, prepare to negotiate
Seller’s inspections generally cost the same as a buyer’s inspection. But the inspection can provide immense value. Instead of having only a few days to fix problems after a buyer's home inspection, the pre-listing inspection will alert the seller of issues before the home is put on the market. This provides the sellers plenty of time to compare costs of repairs and negotiate prices without having a time constraint.
Typical example: nearly house has electrical problems that surface during an inspection. These items can seemingly add up to substantial amounts, because electrical issues are typically health- and safety-related, and inspectors err on the high side when estimating repair costs. However, when we have the ability to bring out a reliable electrician ahead of time, he can provide a true bid which is nearly always less than a buyer’s estimate. The seller then can have items repaired at a lower cost and without time constraints.
But even with pre-listing inspection reports, many buyers will opt to conduct their own inspections. Having a pre-listing inspection report in hand helps alleviate seller stress, because we already know what the other inspector will likely find, and we have already investigated related costs.
Also, by providing full disclosure upfront, along with any repairs that were made, buyers will have acknowledged the existing condition of the home. This reduces the risk of buyers from coming back to the seller and asking for more money off the sale price.
Fact: Avoiding repair surprises is a good thing for all homeowners, even those with no intention of selling. That’s why I recommend all homeowners periodically order inspections to confirm they’re maintaining their home in good condition.
3. Boost marketability, build buyer’s trust
Trust starts with a good first impression, and transparency is a key driver in trust.
Pre-listing inspections underscore that the seller is a proactive homeowner who cares about the home and has maintained it. In addition, sharing inspection reports from the outset sets up the expectation that the seller is communicating honestly with the buyer.
4. Encourage “cleaner” offers with reduced contingencies
In the current real estate market with very limited inventory, qualified homebuyers know they will likely have to compete aggressively. For the best properties in the most popular neighborhoods, buyers sometimes need to make quick decisions and limit contingencies to be competitive.
One of the goals of pre-listing inspections is to help homebuyers feel comfortable about eliminating or least reducing physical inspection contingencies.
5. Calm buyers' nerves during escrow
The best time to tell a buyer about property concerns is upfront, when buyers are most interested in the home and likely competing with others to purchase it. Pre-listing inspections allow buyers to see any solved or potential issues upfront, so they know there shouldn’t be a massive surprise if and when they conduct their own inspection.
Questions, experiences? Let me know please!
Many years ago when I was to start my blog “The Modernist Angle”, my ex-wife and I – we worked together then – discussed those two terms at length. What sounds like a First World Problem is in reality a bit like cooking: if you’re sloppy in the details, it comes back to bite you later.
And even though folks frown upon a native German (that would be me), throwing around English words he barely understands and can hardly pronounce in his native language, not to speak of English, there is a reason I prefer “Modernist” over “Modern”.
Back then, we found an interesting forum where the pros differentiated between those two terms carefully, the former referring to a style or aesthetic, while the latter – modern – meaning “something current”.
“Takeaway lesson: There's an important difference between 'modern' and 'modernist'. Modern means nothing more than 'current' or 'recent'. Modernist means... the ideology of modernism... an aesthetic movement that emerged in Europe during the interwar period”. (–Ray Sawhill, on the Visual Resources Association Forum)
Adding to the point:
“Modernist is ultimately a more valuable and specific term for us than the more generic Modern. Modernist is our stylistic term of choice, whereas Modern seems more like a state of mind.” (–Dane A. Johnson, Visual Resource Coordinator, College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI, on the Visual Resources Association Forum)
Thus, a mid-century design by Richard Breuer or Ludwig Mies as an example should really be referred to as Mid-Century Modernist.
Though nobody does that, as a client reminded me when he snubbed all homes older than five years, disregarding their modernist styles.
With my own firm’s residential arm being named “Modern Florida Homes”, and its mission being “Brokering, Promoting and Preserving Modern Homes and Architecture”, an important step for me was to check the prevalence of either term in colloquial usage. “Modern” was the clear favourite.
So I use “Modern” in the website name and mission statement, but on social media and especially in a verbal context where one can discuss, explain and elaborate, I prefer “Modernist” as the correct and more precise term.
Fun question to ask your favourite architect, isn’t it? – You do have one, don't you?
The prominent architect, born in 1926 as Charles Reed, Jr., died 3 February 2022 in his home in Raleigh, NC. He is survived by two daughters, one of which was at his side when he passed away.
Returning from service in World War II, Chuck Reed enrolled under the G.I. Bill (U.S. government sponsored education and training program for returning war veterans) in the University of Miami Architecture program and was scheduled to finish in Miami’s second graduating class. At the time, formal education was only one way of becoming a qualified architect; the more traditional “atelier” system of internship under a practicing architect was fully recognized, and the system followed by many of the greats, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
Reed met architect Igor Polevitzky and began working in his firm as a draftsman. According to a City of Hollywood oral history recorded in 2004, Reed did many of the details for the Polevitzky home at 1519 Harrison Street. He went on to practice independently and designed a number of revolutionary residential works in Hollywood Hills and North Central Hollywood.
His work typically utilizes structural materials like concrete block, colored and clear glass block, and exposed beams (usually glue laminated wood beams) in a highly detailed, but minimalist manner. Joints, where wall meets ceiling or materials merge are elegantly simple. The use of screened areas and open air partitions are also signature gestures of his work.
He was the key subject of an architectural symposium focused on the Mid-Century Modern movement and the design of Florida Tropical Homes as part of a 2004 Historic Preservation Week held in Hollywood.
Some of his many commissions include the Jaffe-Garrett House c. 1959, the Heller House II known as the “Birdcage” house, on Miami’s Venetian Causeway, the Havana Riviera Hotel in Havana, the Heiden House, the Gahstrom House 1952, the Simon House c. 1957, the Ritchie House 1958, the String House 1959, the Hulmes House 1956, the Brill House 1959, the Wicker House 1959 and the Lawson House 1960.
I was fortunate enough not only to broker two of his commissions, but even more so to meet Chuck and his lovely and wonderful wife Elaine, a renown artist. I own a beautiful sculpture of hers, a handpainted clay piece, and spent private time with them in Raleigh on numerous occasions. A very humble and approachable gentleman, Chuck just loved talking architecture, showing me sketches, elevations and floor-plans, and he enjoyed explaining his thoughts behind solutions I would query him about. Inevitably, Elaine would come into the study and ask if Chuck wasn't boring me. Nope.
Stories about his clients and their connection were so fascinating, I always made notes on napkins or whatever I could get a hold of, just so not to forget a specific construction detail or a funny story about weekly meets, hanging out at a clients' house long after it was completed.
I feel immensely privileged and honoured to have met Chuck and Elaine, and both sharing with me a bit of their creative and their private lives. I so enjoyed spending time with both of them – and I do miss them quite a bit.
As a photo illustration for my New Year's greeting, I originally thought "fireworks with a modernist house" – but no such luck. What I did find is this lovely composite shot by Matt Hudson (matthudsonau) of the iconic Sydney Opera House.
But I immediately realised how little I knew about this very distinctive building and masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Worse, I didn't even know anything about its architect. Thus, a short intro:
An international design competition for a new multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney was launched in 1955 and received 233 entries, representing architects from 32 countries. The criteria specified a large hall seating 3,000 and a small hall for 1,200 people, each to be designed for different uses, including full-scale operas, orchestral and choral concerts, mass meetings, lectures, ballet performances, and other presentations.
The winner, announced in 1957, was Danish architect Jørn Utzon. His design was rescued by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen from a final cut of 30 rejects. Utzon visited Sydney in 1957 to help supervise the project; his office moved to Sydney in February 1963.
The Government of New South Wales authorised work to begin in 1958, with Utzon directing construction. (But) the government's decision to build Utzon's design was often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns, as well as the architect's ultimate resignation.
Completed by an Australian architectural team headed by Peter Hall, the building was formally opened in October 1973.
Utzon received the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honour, in 2003 for his design. The Pritzker Prize citation read:
“There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city but a whole country and continent.”
Have you visited the building? And if so, what is your impression and take on it?
Via wikipedia; much more details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Opera_House, and about every architectural site on the internet.
In chapter 6 of my “Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions” (the series started in April, in case you missed the first chapters) we talk about the possibility of getting a deal through foreclosures or short sales.
Foreclosures – also referred to as REOs – and Short Sales follow a slightly different path than offer and contract in a normal “arms-length” transaction with no duress. Both Foreclosures and Short Sales are time-consuming, often complicated and never for the faint of heart.
A Short Sale is a bank-approved sale before a property goes into foreclosure, fetching a price under of the current mortgage value, thus the “short”. Contracting partner and seller is the current owner of the property, though the lender has to agree to the contract and is the factual negotiation partner. Because the bank hopes to minimize its loss, it will look for the best and highest offer as with as much time as possible and try to bid up offers. So a short sale is anything but short: a time-frame from three to seven months from submitting an offer to closing is typical.
Short sale asking prices are teaser prices; selling prices normally are substantially higher. Cash offers with no contingencies are preferred, or the other way around: if the buyer doesn’t have cash in hand or at least bulletproof financing lined up and/or asks for inspection contingencies, he is wasting time.
A variation, not common though, is a pre-approved short sale, where the bank has agreed to sell the property at a specific price. The pre-approval should always be obtained from the bank in writing, everything else is useless.
Foreclosures happen when there is no short sale and the property gets auctioned off at a local Court of Law. This often happens when a property owner is in serious arrears with property taxes. In such case, an investor may jump in, pay off the taxes and as a result hold a tax certificate, which then can lead to ownership of the property.
I recently had a case of Hollywood home with every functional and cosmetic deficiency in the the book; to make matters much worse the seller “forgot” to tell me that her taxes were three years overdue and someone already held the certificate. Lesson: it is vital to verify all taxes are paid and current.
Foreclosure- and Short Sale-properties are usually in disrepair and may be uninhabitable due to vandalism, mold, roof damage, missing sinks, toilets, pipes, appliances etc. In such case, no lender will finance the purchase.
A buyer can not expect price concessions due to necessary repairs and must deal with visible and hidden problems on his own. Savings in buying such property are often eaten up by repairs, which can not be financed.
Lastly, liens, second mortgages, unpaid taxes, utility bills, homeowners or condominium dues and open judgments can significantly add to what only looked like an attractive price at the beginning.
In the case of the Hollywood home above, a last-minute sale to an investor prevented the certificate sale, but resulted in a substantial amount of money the seller left on the table.
At the end of the day, a Foreclosure or Short Sale may not be significantly cheaper for a user (vs. investor) than buying a property on the free market, which doesn’t come attached with massive headaches.
Comments? Questions? Please contact me anytime; I'd be delighted to assist you.
©2021 Tobias Kaiser. Use or reproduction only with written permission.
You may be like me and have a plethora of work tasks to be tackled frequently or just once, in urgency ranging from “I’ll be in the sewer if I don’t do it now” to “Oh well, whenever I feel like it”.
If you don’t have that problem you’re a person of leisure or a total slacker. Go read something else.
For a daily task overview – step 1 – my tool of choice is home-brewed and Excel-based. Decidedly not elegant, but it works really well for me and also my assistant, to a point where someone from Apple’s Business Software division once commented “what you created doesn’t exist as a ready-made software solution.”
My addition of a complimentary tool, step 2, is an egg timer of sorts, a re-discovery for me. Read: At some point in time I must have been really smart but then dumbed down. But only a tiny bit. Now I’m smart again. – Sigh of relief!
The timing tool is called a Pomodoro Timer, in my case an app for Macs and Windows called Tomighty (https://tomighty.github.io). But any timer works. The idea behind the Pomodoro technique is to break up tasks into specific segments with short breaks in between. Francesco Cirillo, who invented it, uses 25 min segments with 5 min breaks in between and longer breaks every 90 min. Pomodoro, the Italian word for tomatoe, comes from Cirillo using a kitchen timer in the shape of a... – yes, you guessed right. Brownie point!
I used a Pomodoro freeware app years ago and loved it. But when Apple’s constant OS upgrades left that app behind, I somehow couldn’t find a good replacement. Last week, trying out several timers parallel, I did. And I love it. The way it works and the preference options are perfect for me, and (on a Mac) it sits in the menubar, which I prefer over a desktop floater.
The effects of the Pomodoro timer on my workflow are multiple:
• I realise how much time I need to complete tasks and get better in planning out my work time,
• Even though not having ADHD, I’m considerably more focused and don’t doodle (at least not as much: progress),
• I get my tush off the chair in regular intervals and give my back, neck and eyes a break (meaning: no screen time during breaks), and
• After a week of use, I still crack up about the sound indicating a segment is over. But then, I’m easily entertained.
Try it out; highly recommended!
What tools or technique do you use to get things done?
In this series of posts about chance encounters and interesting observations – all connected to modernist architecture or design – I highlight details, solutions and examples I find note- and share-worthy. Whenever I gather enough, I publish a new post.
Do bear in mind I’m neither trained as an architect nor as a designer, but growing up with an architect sibling, in a mid-century modern home, surrounded by MCM furniture, furnishings and art, influenced my taste tremendously and left a great interest in all things modernist.
In Germany I recently observed three lovely details:
- a bicycle rack in Munich, made out of a single continuous tube of stainless steel,
- a window-shuttering system consisting of stainless rails with weather-proofed plywood panels stained in an accent colour, also in Munich, and
- a staircase light in a museum in Penzberg outside Munich, elegantly hiding the fixture itself, made possible with the advent of LEDs.
What do you think of each of these three solutions – do you like them? If so, what do you like about them?
A very personal experience:
Charleston, South Carolina, June 2021
After visiting the incredibly eye-opening and educational Old Slave Mart museum, I stepped out into Chalmers Street, waiting for friends to meet me. The June sun torched sidewalks and cobblestones, I was early, so I decided to wait in the shade and plopped down on one of the two small benches flanking the museum entrance.
After a few minutes another visitor leaving the museum asked if there was room for her to sit down too; apologising for being such a space hog I scooted over to make room.
Then one of her friends came out to join her, so my seat buddy and I made space in the middle for the newbie to sit down. Both she and her friend were Black, both in their Fifties or Sixties. The new arrival joked about the stability of the bench – basically a wooden plank with end supports – now bending quite a bit under the weight of three adults. I laughingly responded that, just like in real life, we all sat in the same boat.
A few minutes later, the lady in the middle turned to me and very politely inquired if she could ask a question.
I stopped spacing out observing people, turned to her and said “yes, of course”. My neighbour proceeded by explaining the question had nothing to do with me personally, and that she actually felt it was ok to ask me. I only had an inkling that what was coming was not a tourist question about dinner recommendations.
And so she asked: “Why do you hate us?”
If my writing doesn’t paint the moment properly I am sorry: what her question meant was “Why do you Whites hate us Blacks?” I was floored by her question and speechless, by her trust to pose it to a total stranger, and also by a quiet sadness in her voice.
Mentioning that I’m German, living in the US for about 30 years and considering it my second home country but couldn’t answer like a born American could, I responded spontaneously and truthfully: “I can’t explain it, and I do not understand it either.”
Pause. Her eyes got wet, mine too, and for the next ten minutes or so the two of us spoke quietly about discrimination, race, fears and hope. Two total strangers, without introduction or preparation, engaged in a too-short dialogue, dropping barriers, and I felt extremely honoured that she had seized the moment and chose me to ask what was on her mind.
My friends appeared. When my conversation partner’s group got ready to leave as I did, my new friend turned towards me and, waving goodbye, said "I want to marry you." Beam. to this day I regret not giving her my name and phone number or asking for hers. I so would have loved to continue our exchange. But I didn’t think on my feet.
It was a magic moment, priceless, with an unexpected insight into each other’s experiences, feelings and thoughts. This lady, with her courage to approach a stranger with her question, touched me in a way I will remember as long as I live.
©tckaiser. Photo by ThriftDiving.com
As the housing market in South Florida took off like a torpedo from August 2020 to August 2021, selling prices for single homes between Miami and Jupiter year-over-year increased by approx. 29 percent.
Since late August or early September ‘21, there is the first hint of normalcy on the horizon – meaning a slow-down in price increases, though no return to previous prices.
Unfortunately salaries didn’t increase by 29 percent at the same time – wouldn’t that be nice! – while the hottest price range still is approx. $350,000 to $800,000, mostly bought by owner-users (vs. speculators or snowbirds).
At $350,000, currently there are unfortunately no modernist homes available for purchase, but as you go up in prices, selection and quality start to increase. Any of these homes shown below may be under contract by the time you read this post, but here is an overview of what you can reasonably expect in modern homes available for sale up to $800,000:
3/2 with 1,480 sf under air on a 6,050 sf lot, built 1962. – Charming vintage home, completely renovated, features tongue & groove wood walls and cathedral ceilings, red brick, Coquina coral walls, working fireplace, completely updated plumbing and electric, new metal roof, impact windows, laminate wood floors, large skylights and a private, tropical landscaped garden. #856506, asking $549,000
4/2 with 1,510 sf under air on a 6,380 sf lot, built in 1957. – Sited in a neighborhood with many mature trees, this open-concept house has been renovated with a new roof, new AC, new driveway and patio, new fence, new kitchen, new bathrooms, new impact windows and doors, new recessed lights inside and out and new landscaping in a large back yard. #424405, asking $615,000
3/2.5 with pool and 4-car garage, 3950 sf (363 m2) under air on 13600 sf lot, built in 1975. – Overlooking a golf course, this home boasts a detached master suite w/access to the pool, a designated wing with 2 bedrooms and cabana bath, an open kitchen, a billiard room with wet bar, two office spaces, library, laundry room, 4 AC units and a 4-car garage. #616803, asking $550,000
3/2 with 1,340 sf under air on a 6,750 sf lot, built in1956. – Steps from the Intracoastal Waterway, completely updated with new impact windows and doors, garage and circular drive. Open plan, light and bright. Original Terrazzo floors throughout. Plumbing and electrical updated, new HVAC, newer water heater and roof. Beautiful landscaping with plenty of room for a pool. #262301, asking $799,000
3/2 with 2,040 sf under air on a 10,230 sf lot, built in 1970. – A good example for ‘70s modern architecture in a popular golf course community, very well maintained, with eat-in kitchen, cathedral ceiling, formal dining room and an atrium. Newer refrigerator, a/c, water heater and washer/dryer; oversized 1-car garage. Low HOA fees. #939801, asking $499,000
Shared ownership of a 5/4 with 3,970 sf under air on a 10,120 waterfront lot, with pool, dock and garage, built in 2014. – Opportunity to acquire 1/8th (so technically it's not a $654,000 home, agreed) of a professionally managed, fully furnished and decorated home. Open floor plan centers around a great room opening to a covered deck. Chef's kitchen includes high-end appliances and a breakfast nook with a workstation. Primary bedroom is downstairs, upstairs are a sitting area and four guest suites. #399703, asking $654,000 (1/8th share)
What is your impression of the current housing market in South Florida? Have looked for a home and were outbid, or were you successful? Do you consider selling your home? In either case, I would love to hear from your comments or questions: 954 834 3088 or KaiserAssoc@gmail.com. – Thank you, Tobias.
(All information from the respective listing agents via SEF-MLS).
In chapter 5 of my “Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions” (the series started in April, in case you missed the first chapters) I outline the main steps from inquiry to contract.
Because of the large number of available properties–even in this market in late summer 2021–on first client contact any experienced agent will not send out those nice brochures, or even run out and tour a sampling of homes. Rather, he will set up a client profile. This allows to offer a buyer only properties within his specific criteria and financial framework. Showing properties outside a buyer’s financial capabilities makes no sense and equals real estate tourism, with the agent being the unpaid tour guide and a frustrated buyer at the end of the day who saw during the tour what he’d love to have but can’t afford. – Bad approach!
So if you are the buyer, your agent will assemble a list of properties suitable for viewing based on your criteria. Having toured a few–or many–homes and hopefully found one to your liking, your agent will present a written offer to the seller’s agent. The amount of this opening offer will be determined by your agent and you, based on a market analysis done by your agent. Please note: verbal offers or inquiries are generally considered unprofessional and disregarded.
When your opening offer has been presented to the seller, he can accept, reject it or counter it within a time-frame you have specified. Your offer becomes only a contract when both parties agree and sign. Then a first deposit will be due, and as well as following ones it will be paid into an escrow account of your broker (agents are not allowed to open escrows), your lawyer or a title insurance company–but never to the seller directly. Only at closing–exchanging property title and keys against money–will all deposits be handed over to the seller together with the remaining balance of the purchase price.
If the property does not close, all deposits will be returned to the buyer if he didn’t default. However, if the buyer defaults on the contract or changes his mind midway he looses his deposits; the seller may also sue for damages. In a resale (a “used” home), the buyer has those same rights against the seller in case of a seller’s default, in addition to requesting specific performance. In new construction, the cards are distributed differently: the purchase agreements for new homes eliminate major buyer’s rights, favor the builder and thus demand special attention with a very fine comb before signing.
Real estate contracts have to be in writing and may contain any type of clause negotiated freely between the parties as long as they are legal. All time periods contained in the contract, such as the inspection or financing periods, commence with the last necessary signature of seller or buyer. Time is of the essence, and missing a vital date may constitute a breach of contract. It is good practice for an agent to prepare a time-line containing all important dates of the transaction.
Comments? Questions? Please contact me anytime; I'd be delighted to assist you.
©1996-2021 Tobias Kaiser. Use or reproduction only with written permission.
What is it:
New two-story, 46,000 sf library, cultural center building and civic campus adjacent to City Hall, replacing the old library on E. Atlantic Boulevard open from from 1952 until November 2017.
The new facility features a standard library, media labs, 5,000sf of theater/flex event space and an exhibition gallery of 750sf. Construction included also a multipurpose room, three tutoring rooms, a group study room, conference room, storytelling/program room, computer lab and the Teen Tech Studio, which is designed to encourage young adults to creatively explore digital media.
The new library houses a collection of approximately 50,000 items including books, DVDs, CDs, publications and reference materials.
Site improvements included a new civic plaza featuring raised planter areas, street furniture, a lightning bolt plaza and a new paved breezeway connecting the parking areas to the civic plaza.
What's its purpose:
Located at the heart of a community where the average annual income is under $40,000 per family, the Pompano Beach Cultural Center & Library was developed to provide broad access to knowledge, technology, and 21st century tools for creativity. To that end the project was developed to combine the richness of a state-of-the-art public library, that is equal parts children and adult services, with a cutting-edge cultural arts and media center.
This combination gives shape to a one-of-a-kind innovative teaching and learning center unprecedented in the public realm. For two different sets of clients, budgets, and management teams the programs are uniquely separate but symbiotic, and are arranged to complement one another, promoting innovation and collaboration. The technology at the library is intended to introduce users of all ages to new media with spaces such as the YouMedia lab for kids. At the Cultural Arts and Media Center, the public has access to production spaces and advanced classes enabling entrepreneurial activities and collaborative projects. (via MPdL)
The original vision for the library did not include the cultural center, which was added during planning. When Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) was engaged as the Executive Director of the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, they placed an emphasis on arts and culture venues for reinventing the Old Town Pompano Beach area, and residents overwhelmingly favored including the cultural center in the project.
25,000 sf Public Library; 21,000 sf Cultural Arts and Media Center
Architects: Silva Architects with MPdL Studio
Construction cost: $19.7 million, with about half of that amount going toward each facility. Funding for the project came from Broward County, the City of Pompano Beach and the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. The library is located on land owned by the City of Pompano Beach. The County will occupy the library space via a 50-year lease with the City, with a 50-year option to renew.
Contractor: OHL Building, Miami (with CBI and NV2A)
Achieved LEED Gold Certification
2017 Unbuilt Merit Award, AIA Miami Design Awards
2019 AIA FL Merit Award of Excellence for New Work
2019 AIA Miami Design Award
(please verify Covid-19-influenced hours and admission conditions before you go)
10a – 6p Monday – Saturday
954.357.7595 or 954.545.7800
The popular Pompano Green Market will restart on Nov 13, 2021, from 9a to 2p, and from there on (hopefully) every 2nd and 4th Saturday.
Have you been at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center and Library? Do you like it – or what is your impression?
Overall, the main trend of the regional residential market – more closed sales and higher median prices – continues, but now with more new listings and a slight easing of the buyers-to-sellers ratio.
As we enter the second half of 2021, the first change indicators for somewhat calmer times are appearing.
Because Florida started its lock down last year on April 1st, I compare statistics not with June 2020 but June 2019, the last "normal" pre-pandemic period. Mid- to late 2020, as people adapted into a rhythm of life with the pandemic, the recovering regional housing market was in most aspects a market on steroids, making up for the lost spring and early summer buying peak, and thus considered atypical.
Geographically, I am analysing the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area, a standard US urban and suburban geo-definition) - which consists of the three counties Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, locally also referred to as the TriCounty area.
Inventory in months*, where 4-6 months is generally considered a balanced housing market: Dropping from 5 mos for SFH to 1.8 mos, and from 8 to 3.2 mos for Condos/TH.
Active inventory: For SFH increasing from May'21 to June'21 to 8,457, but coming down from 19,028 in June'19. Still, this is the first increase since March'20. Condo/TH listings went from 29,247 i June'19 to 15,503 units June'21.
Median time on market (entering the MLS to signed contract): from 46 to 12 days for SFH, and 63 to 31 days for Condos/THs. (The bump in summer 2020 shows how atypical that year was).
Closed sales: +40.8% for single family homes, and +144% for condos and townhomes (June 2021 vs. June 2019).
Median selling prices: +29.9% for SFH, and +22.6% for Condos/THs. In absolute numbers: SFH went from $365,000 to $500,000 selling price, which is $149,000 over the Florida median. Condos/TH went from $206,450 to $269,700.
Noteworthy is also the rise of cash transactions. In June'21, 32.7% of all SFH in the MSA were bought all cash, up from 22.7% in June 2019. For Condos/THs, cash purchases went from 49.8% to 54.0%. Two price brackets are the main contributors: above $1m and under $250k.
Over $1m selling price, 56.7% of SFH as well as 70.1% of all Condos/THs are bought cash. That is quite common in our market; luxury sales are traditionally very often cash sales.
At the lower end, 38.6% of SFH between $200,000 and $250,000 selling price, and 56.5% of SFH between $150,000 and $200,000 were bought cash in June. Those are not owner/users but investors who are storming this segment.
The chief economist of the Florida Realtors® Association, Dr. Brad O'Connor, believes "all current signs point to us having reached the peak of the seller's market. That doesn't mean we're going to swing right back into a buyer's market, though. Remember, we were already in a seller's market for single-family homes before the pandemic. All this means is that market conditions for today's prospective buyers have [likely] finished worsening."
To some extent, that will also depend on how mortgage interest rates develop. According to Freddie Mac, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.98% in June 2021, down from 3.16% in June 2019.
In addition, I expect the Surfside collapse to put pressure on pricing for older condo units for a while, especially if regional or State laws are quickly enacted that go above and beyond the so-called 40year recertification requirement. Those are currently in place only Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But not for long – take my word for it.
Questions, comments, corrections? I very much welcome your input!
*meaning: at the current selling pace, in X months all inventory would be depleted.
In chapter 4 of my Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions (the series started in April, in case you missed it) I will explain where the friendly real estate agent you are talking to on the phone, by Skype, Zoom or Signal might stand – or, to say it clearer: who he (or she) represents. Hopefully your interests.
Let's dive right in:
In residential transactions (different rules apply to commercial and business transactions) agents can act only as a
• transaction broker for the seller or the buyer or
• seller's broker, representing the interests of the seller,
• buyer's broker, representing the interests of the buyer,
• non-representative, very similar to the broker model in many European countries.
Agents often represent one party exclusively, typically the seller, though an agent may show a variety of other broker’s property listings to a buyer.
If you are a buyer, you should insist that the agent you work with represents you and your interests. Working as a buyer's agent he is obligated to represent your interests and to find you the property best suited to your needs at the best possible price. A residential commission will typically be paid by the seller; this does not constitute a conflict of interest but is part of most listing contracts.
89% of US buyers claim a very good or even excellent experience in using a buyer's broker, and are very satisfied with the services and the results. Negotiating skills, experience and knowledge of the local market are the reasons most quoted for using an agent. (Survey of Recent Home Buyers ©2020 FAR).
Buyer’s advantage: without additional cost he has a professional at his side representing his interests – which is not the case if a buyer contacts the selling broker or even the seller directly, for instance by calling a telephone-number on a “For Sale”-sign.
If you are happy with your buyer’s broker, please remain loyal. Because the moment a seller or his real estate agent learn your name in any other way then through your agent, your agent will be excluded from the transaction.
This means: he can’t represent you, can’t look out for your interests, can’t negotiate for you and will not receive any commission for all the services rendered to you. The result: deep frustration, the end of your business relationship, and for you having to start all over, this time without your agent’s support.
It is a common misconception that the seller or a listing agent (the agent who markets the property) will pass on any commission savings when being contacted directly by a buyer who has the idea of cutting out one of the middle-men. Believe me: it does not happen.
In addition, foregoing or worse, circumventing a buyer's agent, does not help the buyer in any way. In contrast, the buyer most likely pays more than he has to, since the seller's agent's obligation is not to save the buyer money, but to get the best deal and highest price for the seller.
Tip: For your legal questions, please consult with a recommended Florida real estate attorney. Real estate brokers are neither qualified nor allowed to give you legal advice, and unauthorized practice of law is not taken lightly.
©2021 Tobias Kaiser
Above is an excerpt of my Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions, which you can request for free. It is updated annually and available in English and in German. – Do you have any questions, corrections or comments? I would love to hear from you!
Update: In 2008, Julio Robaina, then Republican state legislator in Florida, sponsored a law requiring condo associations to hire engineers or architects to submit reports every five years about how much it would cost to keep up with repairs.
The law lasted only two years before it was repealed in 2010, after Robaina left office. The legislator who sponsored the repeal, former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, a Republican real estate broker and homebuilder. Robaina blamed the repeal on pushback from real estate lawyers and property managers, who he said claimed that the law was too burdensome for condo owners.
The law might have very well prevented the Surfside tragedy. Robaina recently commented to NBC “If the [Surfside] owners would have had a reserve study, if the board was proactive and had funded its reserves, this never would have happened”.
Q&A: After Surfside, What Should I Know About Condos?
by Lois K. Solomon, 2 July 2021
Shaken by the recent disaster in Surfside, many condo owners wonder what they don’t know but should. A Q&A with specialists and attorneys provides some answers.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Many of us live in high-rise buildings in South Florida. And even if we don’t, we have to wonder about the condition of our apartments, condos and homes after the Surfside catastrophe.
We asked construction specialists and attorneys about the questions we should all be asking about the condition of our living spaces and what kinds of updates they need as they deteriorate from heat, humidity, hurricanes and climate change.
Question: What kinds of questions should condo owners, likely with little knowledge of building construction, be asking now?
Answer: Ask about the age of your building, when the last inspection was and what kinds of repair work are planned in the near future, said Boca Raton attorney Peter Sachs, who is certified in condominium and planned development law. You will also want to know how much money is in the building’s reserve fund, and if and when an extra financial assessment is coming, he said.
You have the right to inspect your building’s records, which would include finances and repair work. Florida law requires that condos maintain their official records for seven years.
Question: Who’s at fault when there’s a serious structural problem in a building? Is it the architects, the builders, the engineers, the inspectors or city officials? Or all of the above?
Answer: The architect, builder and engineer are all potentially culpable, as is the condo board if they do not act to fix the problem, Sachs said.
He said the architect would be responsible if there is a serious design flaw, and the engineer if the calculations, supervision or drawings are deficient. The builder would be to blame if corners were cut on materials or if construction failed to comply with the building code. The builder may also be liable for the failings of the architect or engineer.
The board, too, has obligations to residents, he said.
“The board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the unit owners. If the board is negligent and fails to act, or unduly delays, it may be held liable,” Sachs said.
But city officials are off the hook, according to Sachs.
“The city officials are protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity,” he said. “Barring criminal conduct (the building official accepted a bribe to look away from a potential problem), it is highly unlikely that a city or its employees would be held legally responsible.”
Question: How often should structural engineers inspect high-rise buildings?
Answer: Miami-Dade and Broward require inspections when a building turns 40, but there’s no similar mandate in the rest of the state, said Peter Sachs, a Boca Raton attorney certified in condominium and planned development law.
The boards that supervise the buildings should take the initiative and conduct a thorough inspection at least every 10 years, and more often is better, said Yaniv Levi, president of Coast to Coast General Contractors in Hollywood.
“It would behoove the association to do it yearly or bi-yearly,” he said. And he recommends the building get a new coat of paint, which also serves to weatherproof it, every seven to 10 years.
Question: How quickly should buildings fix leaks and other water intrusions?
Answer: Immediately, said Yaniv Levi, president of Coast to Coast General Contractors in Hollywood. “As soon as the leak is identified, they should find the source of the intrusion,” he said. “If you catch it early, it won’t develop into something major.”
Question: How can I find out if my building was constructed under the highest safety codes?
Answer: If it was built in 2002 or later, you should have the best building codes or close to it. If your building was constructed before 2002, it likely does not meet the highest standards unless it was damaged by a storm and had to be upgraded.
After Hurricane Andrew in 1992 mowed down entire blocks of cheaply built houses, Florida adopted a statewide building code that has become a national model. So when Hurricane Wilma struck Fort Lauderdale 13 years later, new downtown buildings, such as the 42-story Las Olas River House, held up well. Older buildings constructed before the building code sustained severe damage.
Question: What should owners do if they believe their board is ignoring a safety issue?
Answer: You should ask to have the issue brought up at the next board meeting, said Hallandale Beach attorney Larry Tolchinsky.
“Get it on the record that the board is ignoring the issue,” he said. “Thereafter, file a lawsuit against the board.”
Boca Raton attorney Guy M. Shir agreed that you may need to take matters into your own hands. Call the local building or code enforcement department to report your concern, and put it in writing, Shir said. And if you can afford it, you may want to hire your own engineer.
“In the end,” Shir said, “it’s (your) property, investment and life/safety issues.”
Question: Should condos have rainy-day accounts to pay for property improvements?
Answer: There’s often resistance from condo owners when a board of directors wants to add to the monthly maintenance fees, said West Palm Beach attorney Michael Gelfand, who is certified in condominium, planned development and real estate law.
“The board is caught between irreconcilable goals: perfect safety, which is impossible, and the owners not wanting their assessments to go up,” he said.
Condo associations are required by law to budget for reserve accounts for repairs of significant components, such as painting/waterproofing, roofs and paving, but frequently owners vote down these budgets as well as expensive structural work, Gelfand said.
These repairs are often expensive. In emails released by the town of Surfside, an engineer said Champlain Towers South, the collapsed building, needed to spend about $9 million to repair cracked columns and crumbling concrete. The board took out a $12 million loan to do the work.
The loan meant owners at Champlain Towers South were facing payments of anywhere from $80,000 for a one-bedroom unit to about $330,000 for a penthouse.
Beyond the legally required reserve accounts, boards of directors take an assortment of approaches. Some have no reserves at all, while others have accounts dedicated to repairs needed every five to 10 years, said Mike Ryan, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and mayor of Sunrise.
“Some condos cater to people with fixed incomes. It’s difficult for them to suddenly get hit with an assessment,” Ryan said. “It’s up to the board how they want to handle this. It’s wise for them to put aside money. If you defer too long, it becomes too costly.”
The best strategy for the condo board is often to take the monthly maintenance fees and set aside some of that money for a rainy day fund, he said. This will lessen the financial impact on individual owners when a sudden major repair is needed and the board must ask each homeowner for money.
Question: What if an owner can’t afford the assessment?
Answer: “It’s like a lifeboat,” said West Palm Beach attorney Michael Gelfand, who is certified in condominium, real estate and planned development law. “If you can’t pull your weight, you’re off.” The association may foreclose on your unit. Otherwise, their accounts will run a deficit and they won’t be able to pay the bills.
Sometimes the association will borrow money from a bank to pay for these large expenditures, Hallandale Beach attorney Larry Tolchinsky said. “For those unit owners that can’t afford to pay, the association will likely spread the payments over time,” he said. “Up to 10 years in some cases.”
Question: Will prices of semi-attached condos or low-rise units increase significantly?
“We moved from Massachusetts to the Lotus development in West Boca in June 2020. Since we made our deposit in March 2019, the market value of our home is up 86%, due to constant price increases.
I’m wondering if enough owners will now start selling their high-rise condo units [so] that the values of these units will drop significantly. At the same time, will the prices of semi-attached condos, or low-rise units increase significantly? I can see a number of owners moving to what they will now perceive as ‘safer’ housing. I can also see a number of snowbirds deciding to sell before prices drop, then renting for the season or buying a winter home in low-rise or garden-style units.” – Arthur Missan
Answer: Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, said he does not anticipate significant effects on prices because of the Surfside collapse. He said buyers likely will perceive the collapse as a freak accident that’s unlikely to be repeated.
“I expect to see an increase in the demand for satisfactory property inspections contingent upon closing,” he said. “However, I do not see any price impact due to this horrible tragedy. Most know that this sort of thing is unlikely to ever happen again. As for a moving strategy, I don’t really see one with the average cost of a move, all things considered, being between 10% and 20% of selling price.”
Question: In terms of safety, is it better to live on a high floor or a low floor?
Answer: “In my personal opinion, there are risks in both cases,” Hallandale Beach attorney Larry Tolchinsky said. “Living on the ground floor can have flooding issues. Perhaps issues with crime. Higher floors take longer to escape from the building and they have wind issues.”
Question: Is it going to be harder to find concrete repair firms now that everyone is thinking about these questions?
Answer: “Perhaps, but my belief is the collapse was more complicated than just issues related to concrete repair,” Hallandale Beach attorney Larry Tolchinsky said. “Certainly, the cost of having a firm perform these repairs is going to skyrocket. This is based on the level of data and certifications that will likely be needed to be provided to boards and governmental agencies to perform this work. Also, the high demand for building materials and the lack of skilled workers given the tight labor market will make it harder to find concrete repair firms.”
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Tobias Kaiser works as an independent real estate broker and consultant in Florida since 1990. Always putting his clients' interest first, he specialises in modern Florida homes and architecture, as well as net leased investments.