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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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What does ‘value’ really mean in real estate?

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

As a busy Miami real estate agent, one of the biggest challenges I face is helping customers make sense of the different “values” in the residential marketplace.

For example, I recently received this email from a client who has bought and sold many properties: “I am really confused about the value thought process. It seems like sellers can ask whatever they want — but isn’t the actual value dependent on what the buyer is willing to pay?”

A good question, one I will attempt to explain here. It is important to have a clear sense of these values, regardless of which side of the table you sit: Sellers should understand the logic behind pricing their homes, and buyers should have a solid foundation for their offers.


The essential concepts to understand are the following:

▪ The seller (usually in consultation with their agent) decides the Listing Price.

▪ The buyer (also with their agent) determines the Purchase Price — when their offer is accepted.

▪ The amount of a recent closed sales determines the Appraised Value…

▪ …which then becomes a Closed Sale Comparable, or “comp.”

What a property sells for basically boils down to what the comps (similar square footage, rooms and baths, lot size, and location) in the area have sold for, together with the buyer’s opinion of condition, layout, updates, and overall property curb appeal.


Seems simple, right? Not so fast: There are factors in the marketplace which can complicate matters considerably. For example, a buyer might feel influenced by active sales in a particular area, and base their offer accordingly… but those numbers are only indicators of future values and may increase or decrease for arbitrary reasons.

Also, let’s say you are a seller with a large home but one that lacks updating, has a bad layout, and/or unappealing finishes. Your home may very well appraise merely due to its size, but you should be prepared for it to sell under its appraised value.

The same logic holds true for a home that may not appraise based on comps, but has been renovated with the latest finishes, a new roof, and/or impact windows and doors. In this case, chances are someone will be willing to pay a premium for these upgrades and it will sell over its appraised value.

Again: “Closed sales” are used to determine appraised values, and the prices of listed homes merely indicate where prices are headed in a particular area.


Here are two situations which help illustrate the points above.

My team recently sold a home in West Kendall for $15,000 above its appraised value. It had been on the market (as a FSBO, or “for sale by owner” listing) for about 60 days and had not received any serious or substantial offers. When we first met with the seller, we suggested a higher asking price because of the home’s many positive attributes: It had been totally remodeled, was situated on a nice lot (slightly larger than others in the area) with great curb appeal, an inviting pool and a brand-new roof. The seller was a bit nervous about this strategy, but we were confident that the right buyer would come along.

Sure enough, within 30 days we had an offer for more than the seller had originally expected — but we still had the appraisal hurdle to overcome. Of course, when the appraisal came in, it was at a number below the offer and the buyer became hesitant.

But this is where forethought and preparation come into play. We immediately showed the buyer the pros and cons of similar sold properties in the area, and then compared those to the listed home, clearly demonstrating to them the costs required to update a different home to this one’s condition. Once we confirmed the true value inherent in their offer, it was a done deal.

Another example shows the opposite side of the value equation:

With a different listing, in South Miami, the seller ordered an appraisal and was adamant about listing the home not a penny below that number. As we say in real estate, the home had “good bones” but desperately needed to be updated. It also had a 15-year-old roof and sat adjacent to a very busy street. Mitigating factors like these were not taken into consideration by our customer, and needless to say, the home proved challenging to sell.

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, success in real estate takes knowledge of the market, strategic analyses of properties, and a clear understanding of the different aforementioned “values.” (Achieving this success may appear easy with so much technology at your disposal, but don’t take that illusion at face value. Hire an agent to help you!)

By: BY MORY MACHADO @ Miami Herald


11 Things You Need to Know About Real Estate Negotiations

Monday, July 24, 2017

While sellers want the highest price and buyers want the best deal, the two have to meet somewhere in the middle for the deal to close. Negotiating for a home is important since this is the largest asset most people own and there’s potentially a lot of cash at stake.

“The premise or foundation for negotiation is looking at the data and the black and white of it all; then it becomes this dance of personalities -- the two agents and the parties of buyers and sellers,” observes Allison Turk, realtor associate at EWM, based in Miami Beach.

“At the end of the day, everybody has a goal to close a transaction," Turk says. "Sellers want to sell, and buyers want to buy, but sometimes, it gets a little muddy in between.”

One party always has the upper hand, however. In a buyer’s market, those looking for a property can walk away if they don’t like the terms, since they have many homes to choose from. In a seller’s market, with bidding wars and multiple offers, the homeowner can be as picky about the myriad terms of the sale as his or her agent allows.

“In any market, a truly motivated seller is less inclined to engage in lengthy negotiations -- they just want to get the deal done,” says Mazen Fawaz, CEO of OpenHouse, in Santa Monica, Calif.

For those new to the real estate dance: The negotiations start once the seller receives a written offer. Since everything is negotiable, agents for the buyer and seller go back and forth in writing, whether that communication is via email or signed forms.

The objective is agreement on the deal’s terms, which include price, time lines, contingencies and items that may convey with the property. “There’s a constant negotiation until you actually close the deal,” says Turk.

Here are guidelines for what sellers and buyers might ask:

1. Price
“Buyers and sellers try to negotiate the best price possible for them, but that means different things,” says Cara Ameer, broker associate and Realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “The seller wants the highest price and the buyer wants the least amount to pay -- usually, it ends up somewhere in the middle.”

Buyers don’t want to overpay or price themselves out of a resale in the future, while sellers want to make sure the deal makes sense for their financial plan.

2. Closing costs
Buyers have to pay prepaid closing costs for their mortgage, which is money that the mortgage lender holds in escrow, for items like taxes and insurance. “A buyer may ask a seller to pay a flat dollar amount toward their closing costs, or up to a percentage for what’s an allowable contribution for a lender. Sometimes this can be up to 3 percent [of what's] included in the mortgage,” says Ameer.

“If [a buyer] asks the seller to make a concession on [his or her] behalf, they’re likely going to have to pay a higher asking price.”

3. Closing date
Sellers can negotiate for speed when they need to get their capital out of the home fast; and closing dates will affect buyers' monthly cash flow once they own the home. “Keep in mind, when a buyer closes on the house, they skip the next month’s mortgage payment,” says Ameer. “Maybe they want to close at the beginning of a month so they skip the next month.”

4. Financing contingencies
“A lot of transactions end up being cash, so sellers don’t tie up their property for 30 or 60 days, which is what’s required when there’s a financing contingency in place,” says Turk.

Buyers competing with all cash offers need to figure out if they can drop the financing contingency, which will shorten their closing time line. Buyers can do this by having their mortgage fully approved prior to making an offer. That preapproval shows that their finances are in order and they can afford the property.

5. Home warranty
A buyer can ask for a home warranty, or a seller can offer one. This protection plan covers the home’s appliances and systems, like the air-conditioning and hot water heater, in the event these things break or need repair.

Related: Gen Z Has Grand Ambitions for Homeownership

6. Leaseback
The process of moving into a new home can be highly stressful and labor intensive. “If a seller needs a little extra time to get into their new home, [buyers can] offer a zero-cost rent-back for 30 to 90 days to entice the seller to accept the offer over others,” says Fawaz.

“Peace of mind is a valuable negotiating tactic.”

7. Home repairs
“Buyers also have a ton of room to negotiate when a home needs a lot of updating,” says Fawaz. When a home is out-of-date with appliances that don’t work, popcorn ceilings or cracked pool foundations, for example, a buyer can ask for a lower price because of the cost to bring the home back to today’s standards.

Sellers can also specify that their house is being sold “as is” and that they won’t make any repairs.

8. Appraisal contingency
“If the buyer’s getting a mortgage, [the seller] could push for the buyer to waive the appraisal contingency,” says Ameer. “But then they have to make good on the amount of cash to close, if for some reason the appraisal falls short and the bank will lend them [only] so much money based on an appraised value.”

9. Furniture
Personal property, like patio furniture, chandeliers, window treatments and cabinets, is also up for grabs. “If the buyer wants all the furniture, it becomes very much of a tradeoff and compromise between what everybody wants,” says Turk.

Whatever’s excluded needs to be stated when the contract is finalized.

9. Appliances
The stove, dishwasher, microwave and any built-in appliances may come with the property, but not the washer, dryer and refrigerator. “In different markets, people don’t always convey every appliance -- they don’t want to give it all away,” says Ameer. “They want to see how the negotiation goes.”

10. Inspection
While waiving an inspection often comes with "buyer’s remorse," buyers can try to shorten the time frame for an inspection, from 10 days to five. Today’s lending processes and the TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) make this hard to do, though.

11. Condo/co-op assessments
These are used to maintain the building’s common areas, like the roof or aesthetic improvements, and sellers typically need to settle if there’s an open assessment. “That becomes a negotiation between the seller and the buyer,” says Turk.

Source: Andrea Murad @Entrepeneur magazine


Florida Homebuying and Closing Process

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Florida Homebuying and Closing Process

Florida's homebuying process is similar to other states where a buyer's attorney, escrow agent, or representative from a title company is used to consummate the transaction and prepare all the closing documents.
In Florida, buyer and seller often consummate the transaction at the same closing (or 'settlement') table.
Florida has its own environmental features that influence which inspections get performed, such as termite inspections (and termite bond contracts are common ways to protect a buyer's investment in Florida and other southern states).
Step by Step
Part 1: Disclosures, inspections, and title
These are the initial tasks once a buyer is in contract, and are most often done in parallel to Part 2: The mortgage process:

An offer is accepted by the seller and a contract is signed.
Concurrently, a deposit, or earnest money, is paid to an escrow agent, the buyer's attorney, or broker (never to the seller directly).
The signed contract is sent to a closing attorney or title company to begin preparation of all work related to transferring and changing the title to the new owners.
The buyer reviews and signs off on any disclosures. These disclosures vary based on property type, but often include things like known flaws with the property, prior improvements or repairs, and potential environmental hazards. A form called a Seller’s Real Property Disclosure Statement (see an example form used in Florida here) is one version of this disclosure form generally provided by the seller on or before the day the contract is signed (various areas in Florida have their own versions of this form). Sellers may see making these disclosures as beneficial to themselves, and believe that buyers will build these pre-disclosed facts into the contract price (and thus sellers may be reluctant to provide any credits for these defects).
The buyer elects to perform inspections on the property as agreed upon in the contract. These inspections must be completed by a certain date, which is called the inspection contingency date as indicated in the "Inspection Periods" section of most Florida home buying contracts. The types of inspections vary by property type and situation (and locale), but in Florida, a home inspector generally inspects the home first, and other inspections and tests can be ordered if revealed to be necessary by the initial inspection. A termite inspection is also often performed in Florida as well as other areas of the southern US, and a drywall inspection may be performed as well.
Beyond a termite inspection, some properties may be covered by a termite bond contract with an extermination company to protect the asset from termite damage on an ongoing basis.
Beyond the drywall inspection, a seller must provide and both buyer and seller must sign a DefectiveDrywall Disclosure that certifies that the seller has no knowledge of any defective drywall at the time of sale.
Based on the outcome of inspections, buyers may elect to ask the seller for repair work, closing cost credits, or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered. Sellers have three options: agree to all of the buyers's requests, offer a modified solution back to the buyer, or decline to make any amends. In response, the buyer can continue to negotiate, accept the seller's position, or as long as they're within the due diligence period, end the transaction and recoup their earnest money without penalty.
The buyer may also negotiate for a home warranty that covers major appliances from failure for a time period after the sale, typically a year.
Part 2: The mortgage process
For those borrowing to purchase their home, the mortgage process is usually the most stressful and opaque part of the transaction. It's best to start as early as possible and be ready to produce lots of documentation. The following is the general process in Florida:

A buyer submits a loan application to their lender, either directly or through a mortgage broker. See a sample Uniform Residential Loan Application used in Florida.
Within 3 days, the lender sends a "Good Faith Estimate," or GFE, to the buyer that is a breakdown of estimated closing costs. The final costs are likely to deviate from this estimate. See a sample GFE at
Before the buyer is ready to write an offer, a pre-approval with a lender should be acquired. The buyer sends a series of personal financial disclosures to their lender. These vary by situation, but the most commonly requested documents are:
Several months of statements for each bank account a borrower holds (including any investment accounts)
Several months of statements for any outstanding loans, lines of credit, or other liabilities. This can also include documentation of rent payments.
Up to two years of tax returns, released to the lender via an authorization submitted by the buyer using IRS form 4506-T.
Recent pay stubs and contact information for each borrower's employer. The number of pay stubs varies by situation.
Any other disclosures that are material to a borrower's financial situation. This includes but is not limited to marriage licenses, divorce settlements, child support, liens, bankruptcies, or judgments. If there's something that affects how much money you have on hand that isn't shown by simply looking at your salary, be prepared to document it.
Explanation of any credit inquiries
Substantiation of any large deposits or cash gifts that aren't regular income. In some cases, a large cash gift may look similar to a personal loan by a friend or family member, and lenders will require gift letters from those that gave you the cash gift, stating that the gift was not a loan. They may also ask for itemized deposit slips. The exact amount that triggers this requirement varies by situation (for instance, a $1,000 cash gift may be material to a single borrower that makes $35,000/yr but may not be material to a borrower that makes $350,000/yr), so it's good practice to ask your lender if you suspect you might have a material cash gift or large deposit - so you aren't surprised by this at the last minute.
Repeated and updated documentation of any of the above. Keep in mind: to a lender, anything can happen to a borrower's personal financial situation and credit during the escrow process. Thus, you may be asked more than once for the same type of document so that your lender has the most recent pay stubs, rent receipts, bank statements, or other disclosures that may change over time. Any material changes in these documents -or any element of your personal financial situation- may require the lender to reassess your eligability for the loan for which you've applied.
The lender renders an approval decision, and if approved, issues a loan commitment letter, stating its willingness to fund the mortgage provided certain conditions are met. These conditions usually include appraisal (so the lender can confirm that the property you're buying isn't worth far less than you're paying) but will also generally include any material change in your situation -or the property- as initially disclosed to your lender.
The loan contingency is removed by the buyer before the expiration of the loan commitment period (also referred to as the loan contingency date) as defined in the contract, by sending a copy of their loan commitment or approval. If the buyer/borrower is unable to get this approval before the expiration of the loan commitment period, they have to send the seller written notice during this period to be able to get out of the deal without losing their earnest money/deposit.
An appraisal is ordered by the lender or mortgage broker via a central directory of appraisers (often called an Appraisal Management Company or AMC). Choosing a specific appraiser is not possible, but a mortgage broker can reject an appraiser and ask for a new one. If the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, the buyer has until the appraisal contingency date to request a reduction in price from the seller. The seller then has a set period of time to accept or reject the buyer's request. If the seller rejects the request, or that time lapses, the buyer can walk away from the contract without penalty.
Homeowners' insurance is purchased (or substantiated, if the property being purchased includes homeowners' insurance as part of association fees or similar arrangements), and proof of homeowners' insurance is submitted to the lender.
Tip: As this process can be long, arduous, seemingly arbitrary, and is often critical to your homebuying transaction, try to prepare these documents (or at least figure out how to prepare them) in advance. Also, do not make any changes to your employment or credit until your transaction is complete (not just until you get a loan commitment letter). This means not switching employers even if it results in a higher income, as counterintuitive as that may sound. It also means not leasing or financing a car, opening a new credit card account, or anything else that can affect your credit report.
Part 3: The closing itself
The closing process itself takes place at one table (either at the office of an attorney or title company), where buyers sign all documents related to their loan and the transaction itself. After all documents are signed and payments exchanged, buyers generally take possession of the keys unless a separate agreement has been reached to allow the seller to stay in the property for a period after closing. The detailed steps that make up closing are:

As part of the prepartion for closing, the attorney or title company performs a title search (if they haven't already) to determine if there are any liens or assessments on the title. Provided the title is deemed 'clear,' the closing proceeds as planned and the attorney or title company issues a title commitment. All paperwork for changing the title / deed and title insurance is prepared, and a final closing date is confirmed with all parties.
A final cash figure for what a buyer needs to bring to the closing in the form of a cashier's check is calculated. This is based not only on a mortgage's closing costs but factors like property taxes and utilities paid in to date by the seller.
A final walkthrough will often be performed the day of or before closing to verify the property is in the same condition it was when the process began.
At the closing, or settlement, table, the buyer (and seller) sign all closing documents, including the HUD-1 (see a sample HUD-1 here), and the final loan documents.
The buyer pays the remaining funds in their downpayment to an attorney or a representative of the title company (who is present at closing) via cashier's check.
The representative from the title company or your attorney will then record the transaction and deed with the appropriate municipality.
The buyer receives the keys and, unless indicated differently in the contract, officially takes possession of the property.

Source: amitree


The 5 Best Florida Homeowners Insurance Companies

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The 5 Best Florida Homeowners Insurance Companies

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With miles of white sand beaches, clear water, and bright skies, it is no small wonder that people want to buy homes in Florida. But sitting precariously between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico isn’t all sunshine and rainbows: Florida is highly vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. More than 450 tropical storms, cyclones, and hurricanes have hit Florida since the National Weather Service started tracking hurricanes in the mid-1800s, making it the heaviest-hit state in the nation. With a lower-than-average elevation and coastline nearly surrounding the state, even homeowners inland need protection from potentially catastrophic damage.

In the past, those vulnerabilities have made it difficult for homeowners to find adequate coverage, but in recent years, the Florida insurance market has flourished and homeowners now have several viable options to get that coverage — but it doesn’t come cheap. Homeowners insurance premiums for an average HO3 policy in Florida, the most common policy available, are the highest in the nation. Homeowners pay an average of $2,115 per year, compared to the nationwide average of $1,096, according to recently released numbers from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but those averages can vary greatly depending on where you live. Homeowners with beachfront properties in the Florida Keys, for example, may pay more than homeowners farther inland. The best way to tell what your premiums might be is by comparing a handful of quotes from reputable providers.

Given the higher risk of natural disaster, Florida’s homeowners insurance landscape is unique. While homeowners in many states rely on bigger national providers, local insurance companies write the majority of homeowners insurance policies in Florida. This has a lot to do with risk. When areas are deemed riskier (hurricanes, anyone?) national providers often issue fewer policies to protect their interests, and after a run of bad hurricane seasons in 1992, 2004, and 2005, many left the state entirely. But going local isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Local providers offer a higher level of tailored service. The companies understand what makes Florida different and can offer a complete insurance package to cover everything you need.

We evaluated the top five insurance providers in Florida based on market share in the state, following a methodology similar to the one used in our nationwide homeowners insurance review. We examined the financial strength of providers using third-party rating systems like A.M. Best and Moody’s, where available. We compared policy options, deductibles, and endorsements to find the most well-rounded coverage. We evaluated websites and apps, looking for the key features homeowners want. We compared reader reviews and third-party rating systems to see which providers had the best record of customer satisfaction and claims handling. We even got quotes ourselves and called providers to test their over-the-phone functionality.

Not all of our top providers were ranked by customers or third-party rating systems, and some weren’t evaluated by Moody’s or A.M. Best. This doesn’t mean a company is a bad provider — it may simply be too small to track (ratings systems often focus on the bigger guys). Where data wasn’t available, we dug deeper, using our own rating system to see which providers offered the features homeowners really want.

Florida Homeowners Insurance Reviews

State Farm

As we found out in our nationwide review, State Farm issues more policies than any other major insurance provider in the nation, and is the only nationwide provider to make the top five providers in Florida.

State Farm offers more discounts than any other company we evaluated, even though it was missing some common ones we’d have preferred to see, like discounts for auto pay, customer loyalty, and owning a new or newly remodeled home. That said, State Farm also offered a wide range of endorsements, tying with the Tower Hill Group for the most options.

For people who’d rather skip the in-person chat, State Farm has the most comprehensive website of any Florida provider we evaluated. While we would have liked to see a live chat feature, the company does provide an in-depth knowledge center. State Farm was also the only provider evaluated to offer an app so you can manage your policy, make payments, and even create a home inventory from your phone.

The company rated higher in financial security than Tower Hill by A.M. Best, ranking an A++, which can give you peace of mind that State Farm will be able to weather large-scale hurricane claims without a problem. But the provider only scored an average ranking on both J.D. Power’s overall satisfaction rankings and overall claims process rankings, meaning while the provider has the means, you could be stuck waiting for your claims payout.

Tower Hill Insurance Group

Tower Hill Insurance offers a wide range of endorsements, including options to upgrade to the “Emerald” endorsement plan. That high-touch plan gives customers umbrella liability and secured valuables, and may be helpful for homeowners with antiques or collectibles — something that wasn’t offered by Citizens Property Insurance or Federated National Insurance. The provider also offered a far better range of standard discounts (nearly twice as many as offered by Citizens Property Insurance) but fell a bit short of State Farm, offering two fewer than the mega-provider.

When it comes to educating potential customers, Tower Hill offered a few in-depth videos, but for those who can’t (or don’t want) to watch the company’s educational materials, the website felt lacking and several knowledge center sections failed to load at all. Tower Hill does offer some good features for Florida residents, though. Its CastleCare program works with a network of preferred contractors to get repairs done quickly, and preferred water-extraction services are listed on the website so customers aren’t left to find help on their own.

Overall, Tower Hill didn’t offer as many features or perks as the national provider, State Farm, but was the stand-out local company in our evaluation. With a range of coverage options tailored for Florida homeowners and quick disaster assistance, you could easily overlook a few website shortcomings.

Universal Insurance Holdings

Universal Insurance Holdings is an umbrella group covering two popular providers in Florida: Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company and American Platinum Property and Casualty Insurance Company. Both Universal Property and American Platinum offer similar policies and provide a range of standard endorsements, such as extended replacement cost and umbrella policy add-ons, but discounts weren’t abundant. While standard discounts for installing safety features like smoke detectors and burglar alarms were available, State Farm offered nearly twice as many discounts.

Insurance is provided through local brokerages, and while some brokers offered slightly better websites, our initial impressions with both companies — and their affiliated brokerages — were underwhelming. We tested seven websites under the company umbrella. Each website had basic info, and a short form for starting an application online, but lacked the more well-rounded experience we found with State Farm.

If you prefer to do business in person or over the phone, Universal Insurance Holdings had knowledgeable reps, friendly service, and minimal wait times (less than 15 minutes at most). Both main companies and the five affiliated brokerages we tested offered the same level of top-notch, in-person service.

Citizens Property Insurance

Citizens Property Insurance is an insurer of last resort. The provider is backed by the Florida government and is provided as an option for people who cannot get homeowners insurance on the traditional marketplace, such as parts of the Florida Keys and low-lying coastal areas deemed too risky to insure by other companies. But don’t let that scare you. In a state as unique as Florida, many homeowners relying on a provider of last resort isn’t all that unusual. These programs commonly spring up in coastal areas to cover a gap left when bigger national insurance companies stop issuing policies.

The provider shouldn’t be considered a first choice by homeowners, but as a last resort, Citizens Property Insurance isn’t as barebones as the last resort options provided in some other states. Customers can qualify for discounts for installing a new roof or safety features like burglar and fire alarms. There are endorsements available for building code upgrades and umbrella liabilities. The website offers a ton of information on general homeownership and hurricane preparedness, and the customer service reps were some of the nicest we dealt with during our evaluation. The rep we spoke too was more than happy to completely explain our options for a property in the Florida Keys, and provided plenty of reassurance of the company’s standing.

Homeowners who end up with Citizens Property Insurance won’t have as many options as those on the private market; the provider only offers a slight expansion of the basic coverage many mortgage lenders require you to have. But if you do need to rely on this provider, it may only be temporary: Many providers are buying accounts from Citizens Property Insurance through a depopulation program, meaning your policy could end up in the private market, which could potentially give you more coverage options.

Federated National Insurance

Federated National Insurance is a well-rounded provider, especially compared to Citizens Property Insurance, but it did have some noticeable gaps. The company offered fewer endorsements than other traditional insurers we evaluated, but customers can still opt for some key features like replacement cost coverage and an umbrella liability. The provider offered more discounts than Universal Insurance Holdings’ Universal Property and American Platinum companies, but was still missing some common discounts like an auto pay deduction, new customer discounts, and senior citizen discounts.

When it came to first impressions, Federated National Insurance’s website felt sparse and missed key features offered by most national providers — like a knowledge center, policy information or a live chat, but over-the-phone reps were helpful and knowledgeable. We waited less than five minutes before getting in touch with a live rep who was able to quickly explain the company’s offerings and set us up with a quote.

Did You Know?

Florida homeowners should expect two deductibles.

Insuring a home in a hurricane zone works a bit differently than other states, especially when it comes to deductibles. Given the probability of a hurricane making landfall, and the widespread damage that can occur, insurance providers do not lump the damage from a hurricane into the typical peril deductible.

“With the hurricanes in Florida, you have two deductibles. The first is a standard loss-theft deductible that covers all other perils like tornadoes, fire damage, burglary. The second is your annualized hurricane deductible,” says Jacob Holehouse, vice president of Regions Insurance.

So what does this mean for you? Any claims made after a hurricane will apply to your hurricane deductible. And while many insurers will go to 1 percent or lower for a standard deductible, hurricane deductibles often run higher. “The standard is 2 percent, but some insurers go as high as 5 percent,” Holehouse says.

Of the providers we evaluated, Citizens Property Insurance, Federated National Insurance, and Tower Hill offered a standard 2 percent deductible. State Farm and both Universal Insurance Holdings companies required 5 percent.

Getting a Discount

With the highest average premiums in the nation, cost is definitely a concern for homeowners. It shouldn’t be your first concern, but saving a few bucks is never a bad thing. Thankfully, most residents — especially those in coastal regions of the state — might be able to take advantage of a Florida-specific program known as Hurricane Mitigation.

By installing hurricane-proofing features (determined by state government officials) on your home, you may qualify for a discount with any of the five providers we evaluated. “As long as you go up to the current Florida standards, you could save as much as $2,000 to $3,000 on your premiums,” Holehouse says.

Types of mitigation features include:

  • Sealed roof decks
  • Reinforced foundations with roof-to-wall anchoring
  • Roof gable bracing systems
  • Shatterproof glass windows
  • Roll-down window shutters
  • Hurricane-rated garage doors
  • Garage door bracing systems

To see if you qualify for a discount, a licensed appraiser will have to conduct an inspection of your home for a fee, but it may be worth it. “I’d say 97 percent of homes that get the inspection get some kind of discount,” Holehouse says.



Things that go wrong with real estate sales

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Buying or selling a home is not an easy feat. Just when you think everything would go down smoothly, you come across surprises that catch you off guard and which could ultimately prevent you from closing the deal.

These unexpected twists may come from anywhere - from the buyer who changes his mind at the last minute, to the seller who refuses to sign paperwork for closing, and even to the property itself which may have major structural issues.

Further, these horrors may arise from third party companies. This is especially true when dealing with banks, lenders, appraisers, home inspectors and escrow companies who are not within your immediate control.

While it is true that many things can go wrong with real estate sales, and most of them are out of your control, there are certain preventive steps you can take to make sure you've covered all the bases.

To help you do this, below is a list of things to expect.

The Buyer

- Becomes seriously ill or suddenly dies

- Changes his mind about the purchase

- Gets demoted, loses his job or is assigned to another location

- Provides inaccurate information to lenders

- Unable to produce required paperwork

- Cannot pay closing costs

- No longer qualifies for low interest rate

- Finds some major problems in the property to be purchased

The Seller

- Breaches the terms and conditions for the sale

- Takes with him property which was supposed to be included in the sale

- Does not show up or does not sign paperwork for closing

- Travels out of town without designating an attorney-in-fact to close the sale

- Misrepresents certain information about the property like house defects

- Does not comply with the repair list

The Property

- Title itself has incurable defects

- Improperly zoned or has encroachment or easement issues

- Is encumbered or has several liens and is actually foreclosed

- Is destroyed before closing by fire or other calamities

- Structure problems

- Termite or other pest infestation

- Does not pass inspections

- Cannot be insured for homeowner insurance

The Third Party

- Bank or lender does not approve of the loan

- Appraiser is not able to find similar property to compare it with

- Appraiser does not comprehend the home's market or misappraises the property

- Performs duties in an inefficient manner (e.g. frequent delays)

These are just some instances which could go wrong when buying or selling a home. Although the list may seem daunting, be assured that real estate sales also have their high points. Just remember that it always pays to be informed - so know the property, know the seller or buyer, and only deal with third party companies you trust.

If all this sounds like a lot of work for you, consider getting a real estate agent so you're assured of never going through the process alone. Getting one will not only save you from headaches, but it also ensures that real estate transactions go smoothly.

By: Rebecca Johnson
Involved In Real Estate from Warner Robins, Georgia



¿Cómo evitar ser víctima de estafas inmobiliarias?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Estafas inmobiliarias: ¿Cómo evitar ser víctima de estas?

Elizabeth García

Antes de comprar un inmueble estudie los títulos y verifique que no haya inquilinos indeseables a desalojar. Dicho proceso puede durar hasta cinco años por la vía judicial.

Los casos de fraudes inmobiliarios son cada vez más frecuentes en el mercado. Los estafadores se valen de argucias cada vez más sofisticadas y creativas para obtener lo que buscan.

El abogado Daniel Linares, socio del estudio Linares, detalla algunas de las estafas más frecuentes que hoy se ven y da algunas recomendaciones para evitar ser víctima de estos individuos.

Hay algunos que fungen de constructores y prevenden un proyecto que al final dejan a medias y perjudican a las personas que apostaron por ese negocio. Además, está el estafador que pone un anuncio en una web de inmuebles, pide adelantos a sus futuros compradores y, al final, desaparece.

Pero también existen estafas más sofisticadas que hacen falsificación de documentos y suplantación de indentidad con el fin de quedarse con un inmueble ajeno. Otro tipo de inescrupulosos, se aprovechan de la confianza que tienen con el dueño del inmueble y le hacen firmar un contrato con el cual se apoderan del bien.

Además, están las mafias que a través de arbitrajes se adjudican los inmuebles, como en el caso Orellana.

Frente a este sinnúmero de estrategias que utilizan los estafadores, los futuros compradores o propietarios de un inmueble, deben tener ciertas consideraciones básicas para evitar ser víctimas.

Cuando va a comprar un inmueble, lo primero que debe tener claro es que hará una inversión importante porque tiene un valor mayor que los bienes normales, y para dicha adquisición destinará parte importante de sus ahorros.

En tal sentido, el comprador debe contratar un abogado que lo asesore de manera correcta y haga dos cosas. Primero, debe estudiar los títulos del bien, con los que se va a dar cuenta de si el inmueble es lo que le están prometiendo, si no tiene gravámenes o cargas, y si las tuviese, cómo solucionarlas.

Como segundo paso, genere un contrato lo suficientemente claro a través de un notario. Que se sepa en qué momento va a pagar, y por que está pagando.

Es importante también que uno vaya al domicilio y mire el inmueble. Se debe constatar que el inmueble está desocupado o a disposición de la persona que va a comprar.

No son raros los casos en que se compra un bien que está ocupado por un tercero y, finalmente, se crea un problema. El inmueble puede estar a su nombre pero tiene que desalojar a los inquilinos, y ese proceso, en el Poder Judicial peruano, puede llevar cuatro o cinco años.

Entonces, si uno va a comprar lo primero que tiene que hacer es prevenir con un estudio serio, y sabiendo exactamente qué va a comprar y como lo hará.

En caso sea el propietario de un inmueble, también hay una serie de mecanismos para prevenir estafas.

Uno que se utiliza mucho y es gratuito es la alerta registral. Se puede solicitar a registros públicos que envíe un correo o un mensaje al celular para que notifique cuando algún título entra en la partida registral del inmueble, sea un embargo, compraventa, arrendamiento o cualquier acto inscribible.

Además, se tiene un mecanismo más sofisticado como la posibilidad de declarar al registro que no se tiene la intención de vender, y se quiere congelar la posibilidad de venta del inmueble por instrucción del propietario. Esto tiene un plazo de duración y es muy sencillo de levantar.

Fuente: Revista Gestion


Architecture and housing styles in Miami

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Architecture and housing styles in Miami

By: Jen Karetnick

The styles of architecture displayed by the buildings in Miami include the pristine examples in the eponymous Art Deco District, but aren’t at all limited to them.

Miami and Art Deco seem synonymous. Certainly, the city is known for this particular architectural style, especially in South Beach, where it dominates. But Miami offers a wealth of interesting architecture to explore, and the buildings employ more than the familiar pastels and geometric lines that classify Art Deco.

In fact, you can find sterling paradigms of everything from historic Spanish single-family homes to innovative office quarters and hotels that are uniquely Miami’s own. Styles range from Mediterranean Revival to Miami Modern, with a host of others between and since.

Art Deco District

Art Deco, and the preservation of those buildings featuring its popular motifs has been a mission of the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), a non-profit group launched by Barbara Capitman and like-minded individuals. The MDPL has worked tirelessly since 1976 to save the integrity of what is now classified as the ten Miami Beach Architectural Historic Districts – and eleven designated buildings -- which together comprise the National Register Art Deco District.

Many of the buildings, especially along the beachfront, are indeed prime instances of what enthusiasts now call Tropical Deco, which reflects the regional influences (the sea, palm trees, cruise ships).

Tropical Deco, with architect Henry Hohauser, for one, leading the charge, is roughly divided into the utilitarian Stripped Classic or Depression Modern (the renovated U.S. Post Office in the Design District, for instance) and Streamline Modern.

The famous hotels along Ocean Drive, including the Colony, as well as nearby venues such as the Marlin, are Streamline, which displays widely recognizable design features: symmetrical reliefs inspired by seagoing life as well as the age of machines, curved staircases, rounded corners, glass block walls, terrazzo floors and neon lighting.

Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern

Art Deco isn’t all that South Beach has to offer. In between the Streamline constructions, you’ll find two additional styles: Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo). The first recalls old Spanish Colonial villas, with stucco walls, red tile and prominent foyers being typical features. The Angler’s Boutique Resort, a hotel on Washington Avenue, is exemplary, as is the more ornate, former Versace mansion, no the Villa by Barton G. where the restaurant, Il Sole exists.

Also, visitors can view large groupings of luxurious Mediterranean Revival homes, as well as the lavish Biltmore Hotel, in Coral Gables. Dubbed the City Beautiful, Coral Gables was founded by visionary George Merrick, and is considered Miami’s first planned community.

MiMo, with glamorous, theatrical and vivid interior design motifs (think kidney-shaped pools, mosaic murals, round beds and curved sofas, fur and animal prints, and colors like burnt orange and cobalt), was glorified by renowned architect Morris Lapidus, and includes his famed Fontainebleau Hotel in mid-Miami Beach and Temple Menorah on South Beach.

In addition, the collection of post-war, mid-century motels, located in the Upper East Side along Biscayne Boulevard just north of the Design District to the edge of Miami Shores, is included in this designation. In fact, the region here is called the MiMo District, and efforts have been made to rescue these iconic lodging sites from decrepitude and the wrecking ball by granting them historical designations.

Also in the Upper East Side, the Morningside Historic District and the Bayside Historic District, located to the east of Biscayne Boulevard, is a community of Mediterranean Revival, Frame Vernacular, Mason Vernacular, Mission Revival, Florida Ranch and Art Deco Bungalow styles.

Classic Monuments

Miami-Dade has several buildings that feature vintage construction materials -- elements that are no longer in use because they are endangered or threatened – such as coral rock and Dade County Pine.

Miami Beach Coral House, built in 1916, is one of these former homes, now under the approval of the Miami Beach Historical Society. Visitors can explore it, joined to a larger structure, at 900 Collins Avenue in South Beach. And in Coral Gables, the storied, Italianate Venetian Pool, filled daily with 820,000 gallons of fresh spring water, is the result of an old coral rock quarry. Some of the coral that was mined, which was also used in neighboring construction and was planned, at first, to build a casino, was utilized instead to formulate the bridges and towers at the pool.

Others are surrounded by historic hardwood hammocks, rockland habitats or tropical fruit groves that are more than a century old, or were built by noted personalities, such as Charles and James Deering (the 444-acre Deering Estate at Cutler, where rare plants and wildlife are protected). The lavish Italian Renaissance-style Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, is famous for being the site of several films including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Thus they’re preserved properties, treasured for the period of history that they represent.

Indeed, many of them are museums or attractions, offering tours and serving as the venues for notable events and festivals. The Barnacle House, for instance, was built in 1891 by Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe, a yachting enthusiast. Now a museum, the Barnacle is the oldest house in Miami-Dade that remains on its original foundation, and is actually a designated State Park where concerts are frequently held on weekends.

One of the most interesting Miami attractions, Coral Castle, is an oddity of an abode constructed by one love-struck man as a monument to a lost fiancé out of huge coral rocks. Edward Leedskalnin spent more than 28 years carving the eight foot-high walls and furniture from 1,100 tons of coral and, like the pyramids in Egypt, the Coral Castle remains a structural engineering puzzle to contemporary engineers.

The Mediterranean Revival-style Freedom Tower, built in 1925 as the home for The Miami News and later used to process Cuban immigrants, was designated a National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 2008, after being donated to Miami-Dade College, it was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is currently considered a Cuban memorial as well as a venue for important art exhibits.

How to Explore

Get to know the National Register Art Deco District in depth by taking the Official Art Deco Walking Tour, which departs from the Art Deco Welcome Center at 10th Street and Ocean Drive. Other tours of MiMo and Spanish-inspired districts are offered by HistoryMiami.



The oldest and most iconic buildings in Miami

Thursday, June 15, 2017
By Clarissa Buch

Think of your favorite city, and an old iconic structure probably comes to miami. There's the Empire State Building in New York, the White House in D.C., the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Because Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities in America, it's hard to nail down just one building to define it. That's why we gathered eight historical sites that, as Will Smith puts it, say, "Welcome to Miami" — or ¡Bienvenidos a Miami! — best.

8: The standard spa

In the early 1950s, the Standard was known as the Monterrey Motel, and in the '60s, it became the Lido Spa Hotel. It attracted the hippest residents and tourists and boasted a swank nightclub that added to Miami's growing club scene. The Standard took control of the Lido in 2004 and reopened in 2006. And though the space has changed throughout the years, HistoryMiami's Paul George says the Standard "remains one of the most wonderful, funky hotels today."

7: William Wagner House

The oldest home standing in Miami-Dade County, the William Wagner house is believed to have been built in the mid-1850s, representing Miami's homesteading era. Wagner was one of the city's first permanent residents, actively involved in political and community affairs. He was also responsible for establishing the city's first Catholic church in 1875. In 1979, the building was relocated to Miami's Lummus Park, and today the structure is the only known house remaining from the city's antebellum era.

6: Miami-Dade County Courthouse

It's difficult to imagine the Magic City before the dozens of skyscrapers that dot the skyline. In 1904, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse was the tallest structure in the county — as well as the tallest building south of Baltimore. Two decades later, in 1925, a new building was erected in the same location to accommodate Miami's growing population. The 27-story structure was designed by Atlanta architect A. Ten Eyck Brown, who designed many courthouses throughout the South. The tower also housed the city's jail until it closed in 1961. Today the building is still used as the main civil courthouse for the county.

5: The Tower Theater

In the early 1920s, the Tower Theater was the place to catch an evening flick. One of the first and finest theaters in the South during its time, the Tower Theater is one of Miami's oldest cultural landmarks. In the early 1960s, when many Cuban refugees fled to the States, the theater served as a first look at modern American culture. With the influx of Cuban-Americans, the theater added English-language films with Spanish subtitles and later Spanish-language films. The theater closed to the public in 1984, and in 2002, the City of Miami gave Miami Dade College rights to manage Tower's theater operations. Now the space hosts cultural performances, educational talks, and English- and Spanish-language films.

4: Miami River Inn

A cluster of pastel wood-frame houses built in 1908 is considered to be Miami's longest continuously operated hotel. Situated in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, the structures have stood in East Little Havana for more than a century. Originally built as a Victorian boarding house, the property has recently been restored and is now occupied by Roam, a co-living space.

3: The freedom Tower

Walk through downtown Miami any given day, and the Freedom Tower is hard to miss. The 17-story vintage yellow building, which is illuminated in various colors at night, was built in 1925 during a real-estate bubble. In the 1960s, it served as a safe haven for Cuban refugees to seek assistance. The building was named the Freedom Tower because of the many Cubans who shuffled through the it in a span of about ten years. Now the space is known for hosting local arts and culture because it houses Miami Dade College's Museum of Art + Design and offices for the Miami International Film Festival.

2: The Olimpia Theather at the Gusman Center

The Olympia Theater celebrated its 90th birthday this year. The space looks to have many more years ahead of it. The theater was built in 1926 by Paramount, giving the Olympia an immediate connection to the film industry. "John Eberson, who designed it, built the theater to accommodate vaudeville as well as film — so live entertainment has been with us since the beginning as well,” Robert Geitner, executive director of the Olympia Theater, told New Times in February. Throughout the year, the downtown Miami space offers specialty screenings, premieres, and its Recent Cinema From Spain film series; it's also one of the hosts of the Miami International Film Festival. There are concerts and live entertainment as well, with musicians such as Kraftwerk, Jesus & Mary Chain, Sufjan Stevens, and Damien Rice having performed on its stage in the past year.

1: The Biltmore Hotel

In the early '20s and '30s, the Biltmore Hotel was frequented by celebrities, socialites, royalty, and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Glitz and glamour aside, the Coral Gables building has a spooky past thanks to the murder of gangster Thomas "Fatty" Walsh and the temporary repurposing of the Biltmore as a military hospital during World War II. Despite its rumored ghosts, the hotel is still one of the most sought-after destinations in South Florida. Every Sunday, the hotel's lavish courtyard hosts one of the finest brunch soirees in town. But if creepy stories are your thing, the Biltmore offers walking tours that touch on its mysterious past.

Source: Miami New Times


High-end luxury homes all the rage in Miami

Thursday, June 08, 2017

High-end luxury homes all the rage in Miami

Property developer Gil Dezer owns 29 cars. And he plans to admire some of them from his couch in a swank Miami high-rise building, with the ocean in the background.

Yes, Mr Dezer is planning to park the cars IN his apartment.

Miami's 60-floor Porsche Design Tower - the first of its kind in the world - has glass-enclosed elevators that bring sports cars up to the plush homes of their owners.

The residential skyscraper, which has 132 units and opened in March, is the latest of several super-luxury buildings dotting the Miami coastline.

"Why wouldn't you have a Porsche?" asked the 42-year-old Mr Dezer, who developed the project at the request of the German automaker.

Of course, if you paid between US$5.5 million and US$33 million for your apartment, chances are you own a Porsche.

The tower, which was designed by the Sieger Suarez architectural firm, is located on Sunny Isles Beach, a barrier island off Miami.

The apartments include balcony pools, all with a glorious view of Miami Bay, high above the pristine sands.

But the building's signature feature is of course the three US$40 million "Dezervators" - named for the developer - that lift the vehicles of the billionaire tenants into their living rooms.

"If you love your car and you see it as a piece of art... this is the kind of place you're going to want," said Mr Dezer, who also played a role in the rise of Trump Palace and Trump Royale on Sunny Isles.

"Instead of hanging your art on the wall, you have your art right behind your glass divider in your living room."

How about a private island?

Tennis courts, saunas, gyms - those amenities are banal by Miami standards. In the southern Florida city's uber-luxurious market, "Dezervators" are the kind of thing needed to impress the super-rich.

From the balconies of Porsche Design Tower, you can see the twin 16-story towers of Prive, also designed by Sieger Suarez. The complex is located on a private island connected to the mainland by a members-only bridge.

How much will it cost? A cool US$2-8 million.

At The Grove at Grand Bay, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, two 20-story glass towers twist up into the sky with views over the waters of Coconut Grove.

The towers have rooftop pools - and a pet spa.

'All about flash'

"Generally if you're going to do anything wild and crazy, Miami's the place to do it," Mr Dezer said.

"This was a test bed for us, and the market here was always very good for new things." Florida has a history of zany investments.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, clever developers seduced millionaires with exotic proposals to invest in the mosquito-ridden swamp area.

Some of the earliest Florida developments were made by people like oil and railway magnate Henry Flagler, and railroad millionaire Henry Plant.

They entered the Sunshine State's real estate and tourism market "by trying to attract as many of their fellow millionaires that they could," said Craig Pittman, author of "Oh, Florida!" a book about the state's eccentricities.

Since then, Miami has been defined by the flashy and ostentatious, people "who want to say, 'Yes, I have a lot of money, and look at all of my possessions'," Mr Pittman told AFP.

He added: "Miami really is all about flash. The nickname is Magic City. You can't get much flashier than that."

A prime pop culture example is the 1983 movie "Scarface", starring Al Pacino as a Cuban immigrant who becomes a millionaire drug lord.

The film "was all about the ostentatious use of ill-gotten wealth, and what happens to you when you do that," Mr Pittman said.

"People don't see that as a cautionary tale. They see that as something to emulate."

Miami's not-so-secret secret is that it is a safe haven for foreign investments - sometimes shady foreign money.

In early May, federal police in Brazil launched a money laundering probe linked to the real estate market in Miami. The investigation was named "Operation Miami Connection."

Safe investments

More than half - 54 per cent - of Miami foreign real estate buyers come from Latin America, according to the National Association of Realtors. Another 18 per cent are Europeans and 13 per cent Canadians.

A closer look at the figures show that Canadians were the top buyers of luxury apartments in 2016, followed by Venezuelans and Brazilians.

"When people feel like they want to put money into a secure investment, they think of the luxury apartment market in Miami and Miami Beach," said John Stuart, a professor at Florida International University's College of Architecture + The Arts.

The south Florida real estate market lost steam in 2016 due to the US presidential campaign, but experts predict it will stabilise this year.

"Pricing is adjusting to reflect more supply on the market," said Antoine Charvet, corporate communications director at Integra Realty Resources.

But for Mr Dezer, the Miami luxury market is in a world of its own, immune to market ups and downs.

For Mr Charvet, south Florida is "the French Riviera of the eastern United States, and Miami is Monaco."

Source: The Business Times


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