Move My Realty - Real Estate News

Double Update on Real Estate News

June 4th, 2007 4:59 PM by Ron Mastrodonato

FAR recognizes 2006-07 district scholarship winners

ORLANDO, Fla. – May 21, 2007 – The Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) has awarded 39 college scholarships to Florida senior high school students as part of its 2006-2007 Scholarship/Essay Contest for High School Seniors. Thirteen seniors from public and private high schools in each of the state’s 13 districts have received first-place $5,000 scholarships, 13 students taking second-place honors received $1,500 scholarship awards; and 13 third-place students have won $500 each.

The scholarship program helps Florida’s most talented high school students achieve their goals in college, and all seniors are eligible except for immediate family members of a Realtor, of a person with a real estate license or of a Realtor association's staff. The top winning essays from FAR’s 13 districts across Florida now compete to win one of three $5,000 state-level FAR scholarships. Scholarships from FAR this year total $106,000.

First place winners of FAR’s $5,000 scholarship

 District 1
Sarah Christine Glover of Jacksonville, Episcopal High School
 District 2
Kevin Lee of Melbourne, Satellite High School 
 District 3
Sydney Elney of Lake Worth, Trinity Christian Academy
 District 4 Eduardo Diaz of Miami, Coral Gables Senior High
 District 5 Christopher Huffman of Cape Coral, Cape Coral High School
 District 6 Emily Wilson of Seffner, Armwood High School
 District 7 Natalie Lynn Spear of Grand Island, Mt. Dora High School
 District 8 Jesse Whitfield of Apalachicola, Apalachicola High School
 District 9 Jodie Watford of Niceville, Niceville Senior High School
 District 10 J. Hudson Smith of Lake Wales, Lake Wales High School
 District 11 Qabiyl Johnson of Coconut Creek, Monarch High School
 District 12 Haylee Linduff of Altamonte Springs, Circle Christian School
 District 13

Kellie M. Hauer of Englewood, Lemon Bay High School

To see the complete list of scholarship winners, go to FAR’s Media Center Web site at:

“Our successful scholarship program is just one example of how the Florida Association of Realtors looks to the future,” says 2007 FAR President Nancy Riley. “Tomorrow's Florida depends on the youth of today realizing their dreams of a higher education and we are proud to have a part in making that dream come true.”

A number of community leaders, media representatives, educators, business executives and Realtors from across the state volunteered their time and expertise to serve as judges for the district-level essay competition. The first-place district-winning essays – written on the topic, “How Does a Realtor Professional Benefit the Community?” – will be reviewed by a state panel of judges, who will select the top three state winners. State scholarship winners may be announced either prior to, or as part of, FAR's 2007 Convention & Trade Expo held Aug. 22-26, 2007, at the Buena Vista Palace in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Foreclosure crisis looms: Lenders warn thousands who fail to make mortgage payments

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 21, 2007 – The fear of foreclosure has South Floridians on edge.

Thousands of homeowners in Broward and Palm Beach counties can’t make their monthly mortgage payments and are getting sternly worded letters from lenders who threaten to seize their properties and resell them, likely at a loss.

As the housing meltdown continues, analysts predict a surge in foreclosures this year and next that will add to the glut of homes already for sale and further depress property values that have declined since last summer.

“It has the potential to get very ugly,” said David Levin, a housing consultant in Palm Beach County.

Jayne King, of Delray Beach, battled cancer, diabetes and other illnesses during the past few years. Last year, she and her husband fell behind on the monthly payments on their adjustable-rate mortgage, as she was trying to make a dent in her hospital bills and he was out of work after two car accidents only weeks apart.

They filed for bankruptcy, promising to repay as much of their debts as possible. A lawyer worked out a plan with their lender that allowed them to keep their house. “I’m just one of many people caught up in this whole cycle,” said King, 55, a retired teacher and native Floridian.

Across the region, unexpected medical bills, rising homeowner insurance, property taxes and other costs of living have plenty of lower- and middle-income consumers on the verge of losing their homes. But experts mostly blame the trouble on unconventional home loans made to risky borrowers hoping to get into houses and condominiums that shot up in value during the housing boom from 2000 to 2005.

The number of people facing foreclosure has been building since January.

In April, the number of consumers behind on their mortgage payments in Broward County ballooned to 1,135, compared with 248 a year ago, according to, a Plantation research firm. The number of people with late payments also rose sharply in Palm Beach County, from 174 to 814.

Actual foreclosures increased in both counties but at a much smaller clip. Homeowners with late house payments typically are at least three months behind and have been notified that their lenders intend to foreclose. People who secured adjustable loans found out that they couldn’t afford the monthly payments once interest rates rose.

Some of those owners avoided foreclosure by selling the homes or refinancing. When the housing boom last year turned into a bust, it caused a glut of properties to sit on the market, and strapped homeowners couldn’t count on fast sales to bail themselves out of trouble.

Refinancing isn’t as easy now because home values are flat or dropping and lenders are tightening credit standards as more borrowers with weak credit default on home loans.

“A lot of these people, God bless them, weren’t qualified to go into home ownership,” said Lewis Goodkin, a Miami-based housing analyst.

Western suburbs hardest hit

RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif., reports that late mortgage payments and foreclosures in South Florida this year are most prevalent in the western reaches of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Not coincidentally, those were the areas flush with homes under construction and apartments converted to condos during the past several years.

Many of the people who bought in the western suburbs were short-term investors looking to “flip” properties for quick profits, said Shiela Kiniry, a Fort Lauderdale lender and state director of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers. Now they’re stuck with properties they can’t sell and, in some cases, wilting under the strain of paying two mortgages.

“I have to believe a lot of those people wanted to jump on the bandwagon while they still had the chance,” Kiniry said. “It seemed wonderful when they put their money down. Unfortunately, the market’s not the same now.”

Even those not struggling to make house payments should care about what’s happening, analysts say.

Homeowners behind on their mortgage payments typically don’t maintain the properties, which reflects poorly on entire neighborhoods, said Jim Banford, who runs Real Estate Asset Disposition Corp., a West Palm Beach company that sells foreclosed homes for lenders.

Once the lenders take back the properties, they’ll reduce asking prices to compete with the record number of homes already on the market, Banford said. “That weighs down the values of all the surrounding homes,” he said.

Still, many people can avoid foreclosure, experts say.

Felicia Eusebio-Mejia worked two jobs as a registered nurse to afford a house in Miami Gardens last year. She lost her part-time position and fell two months behind on her mortgage payments.

She called Home Financing Center, which allowed her to catch up by temporarily reducing the monthly payment and giving her more time to make up the shortfall.

“I’m back on track now,” Eusebio-Mejia, 40, said recently.

Lenders work out deals

Quickly asking for help is crucial, said Jessica Cecere, head of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in West Palm Beach. “If you wait, you’re not in a position to bargain,” Cecere said.

Her office is advising more than twice as many people on foreclosure prevention this year than last. Counselors are telling clients that if they contact their lenders within 30 to 60 days of falling behind, they might be able to refinance, stick missed payments on the end of their loans or negotiate other repayment plans.

If that doesn’t work, some lenders are willing to accept short sales in which the homeowners sell the properties for less than they’re worth. As a last resort, deeding the homes back to the lenders avoids the stigma of foreclosure.

Lenders would much rather work out deals than take their properties because the foreclosure process is time-consuming and expensive, Cecere said.

“People should call their lender right away, or call us,” she said. King said many consumers may be too proud or embarrassed to discuss their financial problems. “People don’t like to talk about their finances because they’re private,” she said. “But the more people who talk about it, the more we can work on positive solutions.”

Copyright © 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Paul Owers. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
First quarter commercial real estate index rises again, but decelerating

WASHINGTON – May 21, 2007 – The Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity, a forward-looking index for the commercial real estate market, rose slightly in the first quarter to the highest level on record but the rate of growth has decelerated over the past year, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

The Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity increased 0.2 percent to an index of 120.3 in the first quarter from a reading of 120.1 in the fourth quarter, and is 0.8 percent higher than the first quarter of 2006 when it stood at 119.3. NAR’s track of the index dates back to 1990.

Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist, said the index has risen for eight consecutive quarters but factors in its components are mixed. “Rising industrial production, a rise in the REIT price index, growth in commercial jobs, rising income and gains in wholesale sales contributed to the rise in our leading indicator,” he said. “On the other hand, deteriorating economic conditions have been a drag, specifically, a marked decline in durable goods shipments, a decline in return on commercial investment and an increase in the number of people filing for unemployment insurance.”

The small net rise in NAR’s index means net absorption of space in the industrial and office sectors should be fairly steady over the next six to nine months, with slightly higher completions of overall office, warehouse, retail and lodging structures.

Net absorption in the office and industrial sectors in the third quarter of 2007 is expected to be 10 million to 20 million square feet, with about $335 billion to $345 billion in new completed commercial construction activity, compared with $323 billion of new construction recorded in the first quarter of this year.

“Deceleration in the growth of our leading index means we’re entering a more stable period for commercial real estate sectors,” Yun said.

Commercial real estate practitioners can anticipate leasing and sales activity in the third quarter of this year to be approximately 0.8 percent higher than the third quarter of 2006.

The commercial leading indicator is a tool to assess market behavior in the major commercial real estate sectors. The index incorporates 13 variables that reflect future commercial real estate activity, weighted appropriately to produce a single indicator of future market performance, and is designed to provide early signals of turning points between expansions and slowdowns in commercial real estate.

The 13 series in the index include industrial production, the REIT (real estate investment trust) price index, NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) total return, personal income minus transfer payments, jobs in financial activities, jobs in professional business service, jobs in temporary help, jobs in retail trade, jobs in wholesale trade, initial claims for unemployment insurance, manufacturers’ durable goods shipment, wholesale merchant sales, and retail sales and food service.

Quick-pay mortgage system isn’t for all

MIAMI – May 22, 2007 – Juan Hernandez said he’ll pay off the 30-year mortgage on his Miami house in less than five years and save about $589,000 in interest. Miami Lakes resident Karyann Padron plans to pay her home loan in 15 years or less. Her estimated savings on interest: $150,000.

Both said they’ll slash their repayment period by using software that vows homeowners can repay 30-year mortgages in eight to 11 years without changing their lifestyles or refinancing.

Mortgage accelerator systems trickled into the United States within the last few years, and they may sound golden to South Florida homeowners strapped with big mortgages and high taxes. But analysts say these programs aren’t for everybody. Some systems require borrowing from a line of credit, which may add to debt if homeowners can’t budget. The plans generally are not cheap, which might make a homeowner wonder if they can’t calculate payments on their own.

Hernandez closed on his Miami house in December 2004. After refinancing seven months later, he had a $405,000 mortgage. He discovered the Money Merge Account through his mortgage broker, around the same time he received a $50,000 line of credit for a backyard pool. He studied the program, canceled his pool plans and applied the line of credit to his mortgage account.

He estimated his mortgage would cost $750,000 with interest. That’s changed, he said.

“It’s a solution,” added Hernandez, 34, director of sales at STS Telecom. “In 4.7 years, I’m paying off the house, the line of credit and our debt.”

He was so excited about the product, which has a one-time fee of $3,500, that he signed up to sell it. More than 1,500 people in the Miami area have become independent agents for this software, collecting commissions of $900 to $1,575 depending on sales levels, said Skyler Witman, co-founder of United First Financial, the Utah company that developed the software. The company, which launched the product in October, isn’t doing direct marketing or mailings, so independent agents promote the products in their areas. The company said it has 411 customers in the Miami area and about 5,000 nationwide.

How it works

The Money Merge Account requires homeowners to have an existing mortgage and a line of credit with specific features. Homeowners deposit their paychecks into the line of credit account and then pay expenses with the credit line.

The Money Merge Account itself is simply software that interacts with the line of credit and mortgage. It functions as a virtual financial planner, telling the user when and how much to pay toward the mortgage. Combining the income and the line of credit, it’s set to pay off the principal at a quicker rate. Meanwhile, leftover income in the line of credit pays down that credit balance.

“It’s not like you’re trading one debt for another,” said Padron, 28, a teacher who is using the system to pay her $149,000 mortgage.

The company’s founders said homeowners with discipline and knowledge of the mortgage system could try to do this on their own. But, they added, many variables influence the calculations and amounts to transfer. The Money Merge Account’s prompts are simple, and the money works more effectively than sitting in a bank account, said John Washenko, co-founder of the Money Merge Account.

Potential problems

The software requires some discipline. Users must diligently input all income received and every purchase made. And because the system relies on discretionary income, it’s only best for people who spend less than they earn, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for, a financial website based in North Palm Beach. Extra spending could increase the line of credit balance and delay the payment period.

McBride added that homeowners could better put their money to use in a Roth IRA or education funds, instead of funneling money into a mortgage accelerator.

“Is it better than letting idle money pile up in the checking account? Absolutely,” he said. “But it still takes a back seat to other wealth-building that households should be taking advantage of.”

Similar products started in New Zealand and England and entered the U.S. market within the last three years, McBride said. Another system, Mortgage Accelerator Plus based in California, promises to help pay down the mortgage in seven to nine years using an online calculator and CDs that include financial work sheets. Developer Norm Bour said his product provides customers more education instead of electronic pizzazz and, at $1,295, is cheaper than the United First Financial’s product.

Bour launched his accelerator in 2002 and estimated about 1,000 people use it nationwide.

But Hernandez likes the Money Merge Account’s financial road map.

“I think I’m the only person in Miami who looks forward to their mortgage statements coming in.”

Copyright © 2007 The Miami Herald, Angela Tablac. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Posted in:General
Posted by Ron Mastrodonato on June 4th, 2007 4:59 PM


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