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.”
©2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com via FloridaRealtors.org.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like further information. I will be happy to assist in any way I can.
“It Caught My Eye” is a series of posts about chance encounters with interesting architecture or design, published at irregular intervals. Often I accidentally stumble across something that catches my eye, while at other times I drive past an interesting building repeatedly and each time think “hmmm...”
Such is the case with this defunct modernist gas station at 2366 Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Built in 1957, four design elements I find noteworthy and lovely:
• the dry-stacked stone walls – on a gas station!
• the inward-inclined windows to reduce solar gain and glare, very rare these days,
• the interior downlight cans (you have to look closely in the pic), running parallel to the windows, and
• the angled canopy, complete with a cutout for the brand post.
Lovely – but likely not for long: the station has been closed for at least two years, and being located on very valuable land, it is only a question of time when a Phase 2 environmental audit will be completed and the site usage will be changed. Sad for the structure, but a service station in this location is probably not the highest and best use of the site.
If you happen to be near East Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale just west of the Intracoastal: check it out!
Germany, similar in size to the state of Montana, has approximately 83 million people, so open space is at a premium. At cemeteries, it is customary that you don’t buy a burial plot and it’s yours for eternity - you purchase in essence a land lease for 30 or 50 years, reverting back to the cemetery after that.
In North Rhine-Westphalia for the funeral of a family member in 2018, I encountered an alternative building use I had never seen before: the conversion of a church into a Grabeskirche (burial church) for urns.
The church in question, St. Josef in the small town of Viersen, located on the lower Rhine near the Dutch border, was designed by architect Josef Kleesattel and, in neo-gothical style, is typical for church buildings in this part of Germany. It was dedicated in 1891 and partially converted to a Columbarium in 2012, aided by the fact that the catholic church allows cremation of its members again since 1963, something it had forbidden since 765.
The space adaptation of the building is convincing and harmonious: about 2/3 of the nave has been converted into a Columbarium with walls for urns. The altar has been left intact, and there is enough space to hold funeral services in the sanctuary, as well as community events and frequent concerts. All pathways are ADA- (equiv.) compliant, and besides a priest there is a competent team on site to aide relatives in planning and execution of funeral ceremonies.
The current configuration offers 1,638 niches for urns, of which over 800 were sold when I spoke with a church team member during my visit. A two-year remodeling plan, designed by architect Ulrich Hahn of Hahn Helten architects https://www.hahn-helten.de in Aachen, will create another 1,000 spaces.
Astonishing for anyone who has encountered catholic conservatism: the burial plots are available to deceased of any religion or if the person had even formally left the church. Bravo!
Please leave your comments and questions below – I’m very curious to hear your opinion.
Krypta photo ©Uwe Rieder, all other photos ©tckaiser
It’s that time of the year... No, not Christmas! Not yet at least. Haven’t you been outside lately?
It’s Hurricane Season, starting 1st of June, luckily coinciding with a Florida Tax Holiday, starting this Friday 28 May, and running until Sunday a week later, 6 June.
(Non-Floridians: during a Tax Holiday, which normally happens shortly before the new school year starts, there is no sales tax levied on exempt items; typically 6.0 or 7.0 percent.)
The cherry: quite a few items for your Hurricane Box – you do have one, yes? – are included in the sales-tax-exemption. Just refer to this spiffy handy guide:
And while you’re busy surfing the net, also download the supply kit checklist from www.floridaDisaster.org/kit.
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is predicting an "above-normal" 2021 Atlantic hurricane season which runs through 30 November, so do stock up now.
Now, if you’d rather quickly sell your house before the season starts: Who is the fairest Realtor of all?
:-D That's correct!
Part 3: AGENTS, BROKERS and REALTORS® - What's the Difference?
In order to broker properties or businesses in any US state, one has to be properly licensed in that state, either as a real estate broker or a real estate agent. Agents have to pass one, brokers two state exams. In Florida, both licenses must be renewed every two years through a short exam. An agent always work in a broker's office under his/her supervision. A broker may work for another broker or self-employed. All real estate professions in Florida are regulated and supervised by two state authorities.
When you consider buying or selling US property - residential property or commercial investment - in practically all situations you should be using an agent or broker to represent your interests in the transaction. He/she should:
An agent (following for agent or broker) may call himself a Realtor® only if he (following for he or she) belongs to the local Board of Realtors®, a voluntary professional association with strict business and ethical guidelines that often exceed state law.
As the graphic on the left hopefully clarifies: all brokers and agents are licensed, but only some licensees are Realtors©. Many commercial practitioners for example don't need a Board membership or benefit from one, so they don't belong.
For residential agents, membership in the Board of Realtors® is the only way for full access with selling and listing privileges in a proprietary regional property database called Multiple Listing Service or MLS. This database may contain 95-98 percent of all regional residential properties for sale, as well as some commercial properties also offered by MLS participants.
The Southeast-Florida-MLS for example, consisting of several Boards and their MLS databases, and reaching from Homestead to Fort Pierce, connects over 85,000 agents with over 80,000 properties and businesses for sale.
As a result, buyers can (and should!) avoid agent-shopping and instead concentrate on working with one agent who can offer and sell any property shown in the MLS, not only the ones offered by his own firm. More on loyalty further below.
HOW TO PICK A GOOD AGENT
The sheer number of Realtors in South Florida can be overwhelming, and it may seem everyone you know has a license and wants your business. But your choice of an agent should be guided by other criteria than being a neighbor or golf buddy: by the level of competence in his/her specialty, by how well you communicate, ideally by past client references, and certainly by a feeling of trust and confidence.
You don’t have to become best friends for life or be smitten at first sight, but if you don't like an agent, for the sake of a harmonious transaction it sure is better to chose another one to work with and remain loyal to your choice.
You expect commitment from your agent to find the best deal and prevent you from making mistakes, and your agent in return has the right to expect commitment and loyalty from you, the client.
Important is that your agent is experienced in like transactions and knows what you are expecting. He should explain the terminology to you in plain language and guide you through the sequence of a deal.
If there is an international or a commercial aspect, you will only be served well by an agent who is certified as a CIPS (Certified International Property Specialist) or by someone experienced in commercial transactions. E.g., a residential condo expert dabbling in commercial real estate is a recipe for a disaster, and the client is paying the price.
Any questions on this chapter? Want to read the whole guide in one session? Then please contact Tobias. He will be delighted to hear from you.
©Tobias Kaiser. Use or reproduction only with written permission from the author.
Today I want to share with you a look at the fastest- and slowest-selling price brackets in South East Florida. In my office's team meetings as well as in discussions with colleagues and consumers, this market statistic always pops up, mostly as an impression or unfounded opinion ("my neighbor heard of someone who's friend's house sold for $29m in 2 days.")
Funny how stories take on a life of their own, isn't it?
If you have hard data, you may find out the asking price over the last three years was $26m, and only when it was cut in about half to $14.5m by the bank, it sold in less then two months. Such is our world where everyone is a real estate expert. Perhaps I should advise my dentist with the profound knowledge I learned on the web about dentistry?
Now let's have a look:
Table and chart are pretty much self-explanatory. I created this analysis mid-April, based on sold single family homes in Broward and Palm Beach counties, Florida. I chose the most common selling price brackets for our market, while DoM refers to Days on Market or the time period from hitting the market to going into contract. Blue is the number of closings in the previous 30 days, while red shows the median DoM.
The curve visualises nicely how fast things move: rapidly from $200k to $1m; from $1m to $2m takes a bit longer, and over $2m it takes between six weeks and five months – in median days. Averages are considerably higher, and even those are under-reported because often enough a property gets taken off the market for a week or two, then relisted with a fresh MLS number so it doesn't appear "stale". Silly tactic, but not uncommon for expensive and/or overpriced homes.
What are your observation or thoughts?
When you go on a vacation or an out-of-town business trip or, your primary concern will always be the safety and security of the house you're leaving for a longer time than usual.
Sure, you may have home insurance coverage, but that doesn't mean it will make losing stuff to a fire or burglars hurt any less. You will also have to go through the hassle of filing a claim, which can get a bit tricky in the middle of a global pandemic.
If you're going away for an extended period, make sure you do the following to protect your home:
Don't Let The World Know No One's Home
We live in a world dominated by social media, the perfect place to make people green with envy by posting in real-time photos and videos of your vacation or business trip to another city, state, or country.
Unfortunately, social media is also where burglars can scout for houses to hit, and your posts will definitely help them out in that regard.
It's OK to share proof of out-of-town trips, but it's best that you wait until you're back home before dumping all your videos and pics on social media.
If you can't help yourself, you should at least make sure your sharing setting is set to private.
Ask For A Neighborly Favor
Do you have neighbors you can trust? If so, then try asking them if they can at least keep an eye on your home and call 911 if they notice anything suspicious happening inside or outside your property.
If you trust a neighbor enough, you can also leave them an extra key so they can check your home from time to time.
In case something unfortunate does happen, giving your neighbor your contact details would allow them to contact you right away.
Trick Would-be Burglars Into Thinking Someone's Home
Few criminals will not hesitate if they think a target house is actually occupied.
One effective way you can make people think someone home is by setting timers on your lights, so they turn on at certain times of the day and night, ideally at varying times – there are plug-in timers for instance with dusk-activation.
When you leave, take a cab or use a ride-hailing service to take you to the airport or train station so you can leave your car parked on your driveway and give out the impression that its owner is home. Alternatively, ask a neighbor to park his/her car in your driveway.
Unkempt lawns could signal to thieves that no one is cutting the grass, so keep your landscaping appointments even when you're away.
Power surges could occur when no one's home and damage your appliances. You can avoid that by unplugging your TV, computer, and other electronics.
As for your refrigerator, whether to unplug it or not will depend on how long you're going to be away.
If you are gone for only a week, it might be more practical just to leave your fridge plugged in and make sure it's equipped with a surge protector. If your trip will keep you away for a month or longer, unplug your fridge before you go. Consume or give away its perishable contents to neighbors or friends so they won't go to waste.
Shut Off The Main Water Valve
Few things can thoroughly ruin your homecoming from an extended trip than your furniture, appliances, and other belongings floating on a foot or so of water, courtesy of a pipe that burst while you were gone.
You can prevent that from ever happening if you shut off the water, which you can easily do if you know the location of the main valve. [Note: If you have a sprinkler system for your garden, obviously do not shut the water off; your plants and lawn will thank you - tck]
Secure Your Valuables
It's just too much of a risk if you leave jewelry, cash, and other valuables lying around the house.
If you have a safe, make sure you lock everything in there, including vital documents and hard drives that contain crucial files and information.
Better yet, go to your bank and put them all in a safe deposit box before you leave.
These are just some of the many ways you can protect your home when you go on a long trip, but they should be good enough places to start.
Guest post courtesy of Rachael Harper, Content Marketing Strategist of Bennett & Porter, a wealth management and insurance firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona. When not writing, she makes use of her time reading books and playing bowling with her family and friends.
You might be aware of the fact that real estate purchases and sales in the United States differ substantially from many other countries, and even from one US state to another.
In 1996, after a few years in business as a real estate broker, I put together a little flyer for my foreign buyers and sellers, explaining some of those differences.
Based on 30 years experience in the market as an independent Florida broker and consultant, the flyer has grown into a 16-page PDF, updated annually.
Focused on laws and customs in the State of Florida, property transactions in other states will differ, but the brochure should still afford non-professionals a general overview on the key transactional elements and sequence of a property purchase or sale in the US.
I am delighted about the opportunity to share some of my knowledge, so over the next few months I will post chapter by chapter (excerpts or complete chapters, depending on length and detail) here on this blog.
All information comes from reliable sources and/or my own experience, however it is not warranted and – very important – can never replace professional advice. With any questions you may have (and I am certain you will) I cordially invite you to contact me any time.
Part 1: TYPES OF PROPERTY
Considering a real estate purchase, the first question should be: what type of property fits my goals? One generally differentiates between:
Among those, Residential refers only to:
Commercial includes, among others:
Business Opportunities very often refer only to the business, not including the real estate it inhabits, such as:
A good broker or agent (see below) will assist you in defining your real estate investment goals and advise you in selecting a matching property.
Part 2: STEP BY STEP - THE TRANSACTION SEQUENCE
Real estate acquisitions in the US typically follow a specific structure:
Definition of transaction goal
Improvements if necessary
The sequence may vary, but in general it will be altered only very little, independent of property or state. In following posts you will read about each of those steps in more detail.
You may have read that, among other areas in the US, the South Florida residential market experienced a massive price increase, coupled with a major inventory decrease, in Q3 and Q4 last year.
Median selling prices for all single family homes increased between 13.0 and 17.8 percent each and every month from July until December, compared to the previous year. That translates into a blended 14.8 percent selling price increase for the second half of 2020 vs. 2019.
At the same time, inventory for sale practically halved, from typically 18,000 to 19,000 homes to just over 10,000 – and it's further decreasing, today to just under 9,000 homes. That is not sane, but it's a not a bubble either.
Take a deep breath: the modern home market shows even higher numbers, unfortunate from a buyer's and a Realtor's perspective: median selling prices in Q4 2020 versus Q4 2019 rose by 70.0 percent, while time on market dropped substantially.
That means: weak purchase offers vaporize into this air, and procrastinating buyers won’t even get a shot.
For the January stats, I first thought I had made a mistake in my analysis (there is no modern home data broken out in the statistics, so I run my own modern home analysis every month): the median selling price of all modern homes I tracked which sold in January was virtually identical to the asking price. I don't recall that happening any time after the 2008 housing crash.
Overall, 17% of all single-family homes across all price levels closing in January 2021 sold above list price, Miami proper and Miami-Dade County showing the highest demand.
Can you just sit it out?
Likely not the best idea, unless you have lots of time and deep pockets. The National Association of Realtors helpfully states that 2021 should be a bit saner: "Although the pace will slow from the late 2020’s frenzy, fast sales will remain the norm."
"Buyers who prepare by honing in on... home characteristics that are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves and lining up financing including a pre-approval will have an edge... as sellers will be in a good position in 2021." (Forbes, Jan 2021)
Forecasts for our region, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach MSA, predict a sales increase of 3.7%, and a median selling price increase of 7.1% (2021 NAR Housing Market Predictions and Forecast).
Translated: we are in a strong seller's market, most likely throughout all of 2021 and possibly into next year.
If you do plan to buy a Florida residence, all data indicate it is advisable to act rather sooner than later – and if you do find a home you like, don't wait but go for it.
If you are on the other side of the fence, a Florida seller considering putting your modern house on the market: please contact me so we can lay out the best options for you.
Any questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you!
The travel restrictions prohibiting US entry of most non-residents, except close relatives of US citizens, airline crews, medical professionals etc., did not expire as originally planned on 31 December 2020, and have not been lifted by the new administration either.
There are some exceptions added, namely for investors, but in essence most travelers from the Schengen area and quite a few other countries still can not travel to the US.
Furthermore, a client told me that at least EU health insurance providers will not offer any health care coverage for any unnecessary – read: anything touristy – trip into a high-risk area such as the US.
For more details, please visit the CD website https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html
In short: with a few exceptions, travel from Germany to the US is currently not possible, and likely won’t be until the end of the year or longer.
In detail: a very informative webinar this morning by an immigration attorney who’s admitted both at the German and Florida bar, Ellen von Geyso, addressed current travel restrictions and options between the US and Germany; I learned a lot. Other countries may have different restrictions, but since this webinar was offered through the GABC Miami, it was specific to Germany and German citizens:
This post summarises a webinar, and should not and can not be regarded as legal advice. For that, please contact an immigration attorney Ellen von Geyso, who held this webinar, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via sms or whatsapp at (+1) 305 298 4365, or another immigration attorney you know and trust.
For a German version of this post, or any real-estate related questions, please contact me at KaiserAssoc@gmail.com or by sms/voice at (+1) 954 834 3088.
(This in an update to my post dated 22 April 20)
For starters: If you need to sell or buy a home now – because you are relocating for a job, in need of more/less space, or facing new financial circumstances that require a move – you shouldn't let the coronavirus stop you.
I closed two transactions in the last seven days, and during both cases we – my clients and I – never felt unsafe or that we running a risky gamble.
So I would say by being cautious, eliminating unnecessary any risks and following the right guidelines, it is safe to sell or buy a home even amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Classified as “essential business” by the Dept. of Homeland Security, real estate never stopped during the lock-down. A least in Florida, real estate brokers and agents were allowed to conduct business. But all new transactions - listings for sellers, searches for buyers, property showings and purchases - had to be electronic, with no meetings in person. While this was truly uncharted territory for buyers, sellers and Realtors alike, the last two or three months showed how it can work, and rather well actually.
Even with most restrictions lifted, many transaction participants chose to leave protective measures in place out of precaution; that includes my office as well.
Step by step:
Listing a property is not an issue, since all trades are available: photographers, building inspectors, appraisers and title companies are on board. If sellers do not feel comfortable meeting in person with a Realtor to discuss a listing, the meeting can be conducted online through video--calls.
For showing properties, personal meetings and visits are allowed again, but a Realtor can also conduct a video-showing from the site if one party feels uncomfortable or is in a high-risk group.
Open houses are not happening right now, and as a requirement for showings, all buyers are asked to narrow online their list of possible homes as much as possible, to provide a Covid-19 risk questionnaire as well as a pre-qualification letter before a showing, and to follow showing guidelines (masks, gloves etc).
Appraisals and building inspections are being conducted, which are vital for loan approvals – and in my experience of 28 years, even in a cash purchase, buyers should always have an inspection conducted.
Title companies are closing deals; many of them are conducted electronically, but some in a personal meeting, which I personally do not recommend.
And finally, court houses and tax appraiser offices are working electronically, so deed changes can be properly recorded.
Thus, the workflow of a Florida real estate purchase or sale is intact and functioning.
Do you have any questions?
If so please give me a quick call at 954 834 3088, email me, or let's set up an online meeting via Jitsi (no extra software needed), Skype, Signal or Google.
I wasn't joking when I headlined this post 'The Housing market - last Week'.
Because of the market volatility, I switched from quarterly data to weekly data to see trends faster. The numbers I'm analysing are in two groups:
What makes it interesting is the gap: not The Gap Band, but the difference between what sellers ask and what buyers are willing to pay.
And a big gap it is. Currently it sits at an 18 percent price difference for homes and 17 percent for condos/TH. That is 3 percent worse for houses, but 4 percent improved for condos compared to the prior week.
In clear English: by median prices, single family home buyers are paying 18 percent less than what sellers are wishing for, and 17 percent less for condos and townhomes than what sellers dream of. And that is substantial. That we have, in no particular sequence,
A) a difficult presidential election year
B) a marathon pandemic far from being over and
C) major civil protests against racism and injustice
does not help stabilising the real estate market. How could it?
There is simply no telling where this market is going – way too many wild cards. A buyers' market it is, or should be... Unless you encounter delusional sellers.
Again, I close with Edward R. Murrow's most appropriate quote:
"Good Night, and Good Luck."
Is the Florida real estate market going sideways? –Photo ©Resnick
That must be one of the most-asked question posed to real estate brokers and agents these days. And while “experts” are tripping over each other to produce an “outlook” or a “forecast”, hard numbers are hard to come by. Even trade publications contradict each other with headlines ranging from “market is going up” to “market is frozen”, and local Boards of realtors are not much help either.
During the Lehman-Brothers-crisis, when during the giddy way up and the vertigo-inducing free-fall to the bottom, while everyone screamed “NOW is a great time to buy a home!!!”, I started to run my own market statistics.
As real estate brokers in the US, we have incredible transparency of the residential market at our hands, so sometime in February this year I started to analyse several sets of numbers weekly. I was interested not only in properties on the market (Actives), but even more so properties going into contract (Pendings), and properties that closed.
I split those three sets into two, one for single family homes (SFH) and for townhomes and condos (TH/C), all located in the Tri-County area, Palm Beach - Broward - Miami-Dade. And for those properties, I analysed the median prices – in our market, the delta between highest and lowest prices is way to large to work for averaging. Those median prices are for:
• List prices of Sold properties and finally
• Selling prices of Sold properties.
Seriously, not only in a geeky way, but also because at some point a pattern becomes visible. Let me explain:
The first Covid-19 case in the US became known on 21 January, 2020, in Washington State. The first infection in Florida was on or around 1 March, 2020.
And pronto, from early March on, the number of Single Family Homes (SFH, which what I analyse here) in the Tri-County area of SE Florida – Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties – dropped a bit every week until mid-April. Then they started to rise again.
SFH: median List price of Actives, List price of Pending Contracts, List Price of Solds and Selling Price of Solds; TriCounty; 1st week Mar - 2nd week May'20
Asking prices for SFH mirrored the number of “Actives” and they are now, third week in May, pointing up again; see the blue line in the chart above.
If I had only absorbed more of Edward Tufte’s outstanding “The Visual Display of Quantative Information”, I would create better graphs. But even owning that tome for over 15 years hasn’t made me any smarter. So please endure my mediocre Excel charts.
For future sales, the major indicator is the number of pending contracts. And from the first week in March to the second week in May, Pendings mirrored the fluctuation of Actives. But when you examine the asking prices of Pendings, properties in contract – remember, they haven’t closed yet, so there is no sales price – there is quite a gap between the asking prices of Actives versus the asking prices of Pendings; see if the orange line.
How to read this?
A lot of properties are for sale at a median price of $450,000, but those with contracts have only a median of $374,450 – a whopping 17 percent less.
Confirming the issue: while the list price of Pendings is flattening out in the last two weeks, “aspirational pricing” by sellers makes the median price of all Actives – the blue line – go up. Why? Because a vast number of sellers think they can ask more.
Which is not true.
When I look at the number of closed sales, I see a substantial drop from early March to the second week in May: minus 52 percent.
That is not only substantial but also an interesting indicator, as the typical time-frame between going into contract or pending and actually closing is about four to six weeks locally.
Now consider the asking prices of those properties which actually sold: median $370,000. Asking prices for all homes right now: $450,000, $80,000 or 21 percent more.
Does that make you believe the majority of current sellers have their finger on the market pulse?
From a peak around late March/early February, asking prices of properties that sold and their actual selling prices have dropped. That is in line with the 4 - 6 weeks delay that I had mentioned above. In my dorky chart, you can see how the gap is widening between the asking prices of Solds versus overall asking prices, and also of selling prices.
That makes it, as an Irish friend says, triple crystal clear: a majority of sellers in our local market is currently quite delusional about what they can get versus what buyers are willing to pay.
Consumer confidence is low, and now that states are opening up, people may feel like splurging a little – on a soothing dinner, a nice bottle of wine or a new pair of jeans. But a home purchase falls into a different category of spending and needs a totally different level of confidence in the buyer’s financial future.
Where do we go from here?
We will probably see a flat at best or even slumping housing market in the area for quite a while. Market drivers will be cash buyers, investors with thick fluffy capital blankets and those who need to move, and of course sellers who need to sell.
Anyone who can wait may very well sit on the fence and watch the game until the third or fourth quarter, possibly even into 2021.
Clients told me yesterday: lenders and mortgage brokers prepared them that lending rules change day by day; what was working three days ago isn’t anymore now. That certainly doesn't make a house purchase easier or more pleasurable, and will have an additional dampening effect.
My advice to sellers: be realistic and trust a good agent, because – I know I’ll get flak for this – your property is likely not worth what you think it is. That is a tough nut to swallow, but as a seller you have to decide if you want to go poking around a bit, or seriously sell your property.
My advice to buyers: cash is king, and in lieu of that an ironclad loan pre-approval paired with a good strong offer. But don’t you go out now and insult sellers, you hear?
In the words of Edward Murrow: “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Any questions? I’m always available and happy to hear from you. – I’ll update data and charts in about a month, so please keep tuned.
Tobias Kaiser is an independent real estate consultant and licensed Realtor in Florida since 1990. He specializes in modern architecture and net leased investments.