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LOS ANGELES – June 16, 2014 – When Taylor Billington and her husband, Gary, set their goals 10 years ago, one of the items they included on their “vision board” was a vacation home.
It was more than an idle fantasy. The Fort Lauderdale homeowners, who own a marketing firm, had traveled to Orange County many times, and they had a clear idea of what they were seeking.
“The house had to have a water view,” Taylor Billington said. “It had to be Zen. It had to be modern. It had to have a very organic feel.”
Earlier this year, they took the plunge, spending $2.9 million on a three-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, where they’ll celebrate July 4th.
The home, perched on the edge of a canyon, beckoned with its fluid decks and an abundance of windows, as well as an infinity edge swimming pool and spa. The couple isn’t crazy about Laguna Beach’s summer traffic, but it did not come as a surprise. And it wasn’t a deal-breaker.
“We just don’t hate it as bad as here,” Taylor Billington said of the congestion on South Coast Highway, in an interview from her Florida home, “because the (Laguna) views are so amazing.”
The Billingtons followed one of the top rules that real estate agents cite about buying a second home: Make sure you know the area well first. Not just the draw. The drawbacks, too.
“Many people vacation somewhere, have a great time, then decide to buy something on a whim,” said Phil Malamatenios, Stanfield Group manager at Hom Sotheby’s International Realty in Orange County. It’s “not a good idea without researching thoroughly.”
Vacation home sales surged in 2013, the latest year available, according to the National Association of Realtors. They made up 13 percent of all residential transactions last year, the highest market share since before the housing crash in 2006.
If you’re on the market for a vacation home, here are some additional issues to consider, as laid out by agents and others knowledgeable about Southern California real estate:
Beware joint ventures
Ideally, one person or family will buy and use the home.
“If you involve friends or family members in a joint venture, be cautious and have an attorney to draft a partnership agreement,” said Phil Immel of ImmelTeam Luxury Real Estate in Dana Point. “Human nature changes business and family relationships. Divorce or financial change of circumstances over the years can get messy.”
If there’s more than one party involved, he advised, have a buyout agreement in advance.
Also, you would have to figure out who signs the loan documents. Some or all of the partners? The fewer involved, he said, the better.
He explained it this way: If two separate parties were on the documents, they’d be jointly – and separately – liable for the payments.
“If (you’re) not on the loan, the lender cannot use that against you” in evaluating whether you can afford other properties, Immel said. “However, you can count it as an asset, improving your creditworthiness overall.”
Consider renting it out
If you’re buying in a beach town and thinking of renting the home when you’re not there, get close to the water. Walking distance is most in demand, said Larry Aguilar of First Team Real Estate.
Aguilar is in the midst of closing a deal on a Balboa Peninsula condo for a client whose primary home is in Yorba Linda.
On the peninsula, Aguilar said, “You can make in the summer months what most people make in the whole year on a month-to-month rent somewhere else.”
“I own a lot of rental properties inland,” he said, adding, “Why don’t I buy something over there (near the ocean), and I can almost double or triple my income on rentals?”
If you are considering becoming a seasonal landlord somewhere, make sure you are clear on any rental restrictions, either by the city or a homeowners association.
Figure on extra costs
Think about how you would handle the business of rentals, including whether to hire a management company.
“Along the same lines, if you do not plan to do all of the work on the rental yourself, you need to consider having a team of people who can do repairs and manage the condition of the property as well,” said Christine Donovan, a real estate broker and attorney at DonovanBlatt Realty in Costa Mesa. “These all add up to additional costs of owning the home.”
Even if you don’t share your getaway with tenants, remember to factor in such costs as utilities, maintenance and landscaping.
Make it a stress-free trip
Many people prefer a relatively short trek to their second home, so buying something that’s between a 45-minute and a couple-of-hours’ drive from your primary residence can be a good idea.
Larry Aguilar’s Yorba Linda client is 56-year-old Hemant Agrawal. The Balboa Peninsula condo is his first vacation home. The search, Agrawal said, was a relative snap.
“It was much simpler than had it been for someone who’s not aware of what they need,” he said. “We were already clear we wanted to be as close to the water as we can.”
He also saw no need to travel far.
“Sometimes you just want to get away just to take a break,” said Agrawal, who works in the software industry and is married with two grown children in their 20s. The kids like the peninsula’s summertime vibe, busier than their quiet, inland neighborhood, he noted.
“They wanted to be someplace where there’s some action.”
Pick the right beach
Buying a house along the beach brings its own set of decisions.
“Do they want a busy beach or quiet beach?” asks Ken Ross of Surterre Properties, who sells oceanfront houses along a strip of Capistrano Beach where the homeowners also own the sand.
“Do they want to be closer or further away from the water?” he said. “In Orange County the water could be anywhere from 50 feet away to 500 feet away.”
And size doesn’t matter as much as it might in another area, according to Ross.
“Do they really need a bigger home?” he said. “When at the beach, they are outside 80 percent-plus of the time.”
Don’t isolate yourself
If it’s isolation you’re after, that’s fine. But be aware of the financial implications. Agents say that being an outlier can limit a vacation home’s resale potential.
“A remote location could be a hard resale, as most people don’t want to be remote,” Donavan said. They typically want to be near such amenities as restaurants and shopping, she said.
Gloria Jewell of Teles Properties, who sold the Billingtons their Laguna Beach house, agreed.
“Although a remote area does appeal to a few, the masses will prefer a destination resort for a vacation home,” she said. “Anywhere in a resort area – whether it’s golf, ocean, skiing (or) desert – will sell quicker.”
Above all, don’t let your vacation bliss lead you into a bad decision that could be with you for years.
“Purchasing a vacation home is such an emotional purchase,” Ross said, “that I have seen very smart people make decisions they would not do in any other circumstance.”
Copyright © 2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.), Marilyn Kalfus. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
NAHB: Leading Markets Index shows 56 metros at or above normal levels in June
WASHINGTON – June 10, 2014 – Of the approximately 350 metro markets nationwide, 56 returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity in June, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI). This represents a net gain of nine metros year-over-year.
The index’s nationwide score of .88 held steady from the previous month. This means that based on current permit, price and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 88 percent of normal economic and housing activity. Meanwhile, 30 percent of metro areas saw their score rise this month and 83 percent have shown an improvement over the past year.
“Markets are gradually returning to normal levels of housing and economic activity,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. “When we see more sustainable levels of job growth, this will unleash pent-up demand and bring more buyers into the marketplace.”
Baton Rouge, La., continues to top the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.4 – or 40 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu; Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas and Houston. Rounding out the top 10 are Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City – all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now equals or exceeds previous norms.
“Of the three components in the LMI, the one lagging is single-family housing permits, which is only 43 percent of the way back to normal while home prices are 26 percent above their last normal level and employment is at 95 percent of its previous norm,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “In the 22 metros where permits are at or above normal, the overall index indicates that these markets have fully recovered.”
“Well over one-third of all markets are operating at a level of at least 90 percent of previous norms, and this bodes well for a continuing housing recovery in the year ahead,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Co., which co-sponsors the LMI report.
Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Bismarck, N.D.; Casper, Wyo.; and Grand Forks, N.D., respectively.
The LMI shifts the focus from identifying markets that have recently begun to recover, which was the aim of a previous gauge known as the Improving Markets Index, to identifying those areas that are now approaching and exceeding their previous normal levels of economic and housing activity.
More than 350 metro areas are scored by taking their average permit, price and employment levels for the past 12 months and dividing each by their annual average over the last period of normal growth. For single-family permits and home prices, 2000-2003 is used as the last normal period, and for employment, 2007 is the base comparison.
© 2014 Florida Realtors®
Good News for All!!
Survey: Growth to pick up, hiring steady
WASHINGTON (AP) – June 9, 2014 – U.S. economic growth should accelerate in the second quarter and remain healthy for the rest of this year, according to a forecast by a group of U.S. business economists. Still, growth for the full year will likely come in lower than they previously estimated.
Job growth should remain steady and consumer spending will also likely pick up, a survey by the National Association of Business Economists said Monday. The survey of 47 economists from companies, trade associations and academia was conducted from May 8 to May 21.
The survey also found that economists increasingly agree that the Federal Reserve will end its bond purchase program by the end of this year.
That’s partly because economists are optimistic about growth for the rest of this year: They expect it will jump to 3.5 percent in the second quarter and remain above 3 percent for the rest of the year.
But the pickup comes after harsh winter weather caused the nation’s gross domestic product to contract 1 percent in the first three months of the year, much worse than analysts had expected. GDP is the broadest measure of an economy’s output.
That weak first quarter reading has caused many economists to lower their expectations for 2014 as a whole. The NABE survey found that economists now project growth will be just 2.5 percent this year, down from a forecast of 2.8 percent in March.
The new forecast is still slightly above the annual average growth rate of about 2.2 percent since the recession ended in June 2009 and up from 1.9 percent in 2013. But stronger growth is needed to accelerate hiring and boost wage growth, which has been weak by historical standards.
The NABE’s survey is slightly more pessimistic than the Federal Reserve’s most recent projections, released in March. The Fed expects growth will be between 2.8 percent and 3 percent this year. The Fed may lower its growth outlook for this year when it releases its next forecasts later this month because of the first quarter’s contraction.
Economists are nearing a consensus about the timing of the Federal Reserve’s next moves. Nearly three-quarters expect the Fed will end its bond purchase program in the final three months of this year, the NABE survey found. That’s up from the 57 percent who said so three months ago.
The Fed is purchasing Treasury securities and mortgage-backed bonds in an effort to lower long-term interest rates to encourage more borrowing and spending. It has been steadily paring back the program, from $85 billion a month last year to $45 billion in May.
In addition, 86 percent of economists forecast that the Fed will raise the benchmark short-term interest rate it controls for the first time in 2015. In March, just 53 percent said 2015, while one-third said this year and 15 percent said a rate hike wouldn’t occur until 2016.
The NABE survey found that the economists are more optimistic about hiring. They project that employers will add 209,000 jobs a month this year. That’s up from their March forecast of 188,000.
So far this year, hiring has been a little bit better: it has averaged 214,000 a month from January through May.
More jobs means more people earning paychecks, and that can boost spending.
Economists are more optimistic about consumer spending this year, which they estimate will grow at a 2.9 percent pace. That would be the highest level since 2006.
Copyright © 2014 The Associated Press, Chris Rugaber, AP economics writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
In this video from home staging expert John Mangano, learn a variety of fast and simple home decor and staging ideas to help make over your kitchen to stand out from the rest. This How-To video will assist you in staging your kitchen for an open house.
ORLANDO, Fla. – April 21, 2014 – Florida’s housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings and a stable level of inventory in March, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 20,081 last month, up 2.8 percent over the March 2013 figure.
“March marked the 28th month in a row that statewide median sales prices rose year-over-year for both single-family homes and townhome-condo properties,” said 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and The Villages. “Realtors across Florida are reporting fewer short sales of distressed properties and more interest from potential home sellers as they observe the return of more traditional market conditions. Statewide, new listings for single-family homes in March rose 16.5 percent year-over-year, while new townhouse-condo listings rose 10.3 percent.”
The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $173,000, up 7.1 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in March was $140,000, up 16.7 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less
According to the National Association of Realtors®(NAR), thenational median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2014 was $189,200, up 9 percent from the previous yearthe national median existing condo price was $187,900.In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in February was $404,250; in Massachusetts, it was $294,950; Maryland, it was $241,097; and in New York, it was $232,000.
Looking at Florida’s townhome-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 9,580 last month, down 5.2 percent compared to March 2013. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales last month compared to the previous year: Short sales for condo-townhome properties declined 62.8 percent while short sales for single-family homes dropped 55.3 percent. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.
“What we’re seeing is a market we can live with,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Sales are up, inventories are increasing moderately and days on the market are shrinking slightly. What’s of particular interest this month is how market activity has moved up the price ladder. We are seeing greater sales gains and inventory increases, and strong percentage decreases in days on the market, for homes priced above $250,000. This is a break from the trends we were seeing last year and bears watching for the future.
“A trend that is continuing is the rapid decline in short sales, as increasing prices reduce the incentive for homeowners to seek short sales.”
Inventory was at a 5.7-months’ supply last month for single-family homes and at a 6-months’ supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.
According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.34 percent in March 2014, up from the 3.57 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.
|Kenny Louie via Wikimedia Commons|
Look, we’re all about eating and drinking all sorts of things over here, but in today’s fast-paced society — yes, we’re busy too — one consumable reigns supreme: coffee.
No, it’s not good for you; however, caffeine is an absolute necessity (and yes, we’re well aware that it’s an addiction).
Even so, we’re not about to stick just any caffeinated beverage down our gullets. No matter what, food and drinks should be savored; it needs to be enjoyable in the process.
Today is National Iced Coffee Day. And to celebrate the best morning (and midafternoon and evening) drink in the world, we compiled a list of the five best places to pick up a cool cup of brew in Broward and Palm Beach.
Brew Urban Cafe, Fort Lauderdale
With two easy and laid-back Fort Lauderdale locations (one in Victoria Park and another inside Next Door at C&I Studios), this local coffee shop offers a number of iced options. We, however, prefer to stick to the cold brew, which is less acidic and more caffeinated than hot coffee drinks.
Green Bar + Kitchen, Fort Lauderdale
Panther coffee is one of South Floridians’ favorite local roasteries (it was one of the first to sprout up). And this Fort Lauderdale vegan/gluten-free hot spot sources its beans straight from the Wynwood shop. Here, you can get one of Panther’s famous cold brews without the nightmarish trek down I-95 to Miami.
Coastars Coffee Bar, Lake Worth
When it comes to anything of a high caliber, you need to start with ingredients of the highest quality. This Lake Worth shop offers an entire cold brew menu comprised of some of the best beans in the country. It sources from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, North Carolina, and MadCap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to ensure that every cup is the best it can be.
Subculture Coffee, West Palm Beach
Recently opened by nightclub and restaurant empresario Rodney Mayo and local coffee connoisseur Sean Scott, this Clematis Street roastery and hangout offers the ultimate locavore option for chilled coffee (the beans themselves are obviously sourced from overseas). The shop starts by roasting small batches of beans, then hot-brews and chills down the java for a unique-tasting blend of cool coffee.
Harold’s Coffee Lounge, West Palm Beach
We (that is, the proverbial we) are always in a rush nowadays — that’s why we need so much coffee. This West Palm Beach takes its time with its iced coffees (don’t worry; you don’t need to wait). It uses a “Kyoto” style brewing system that takes about 14 hours to make a smooth and sweet cup of chilled brew.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
WASHINGTON – April 11, 2014 – Typically, homeowners who lost their homes to a short sale or foreclosure must wait about 36 months before purchasing a primary residence again with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. But the FHA’s Back to Work Program is allowing buyers to purchase a primary home much sooner – possibly as soon as 12 months following a short sale, foreclosure or deed in lieu of foreclosure.
The program runs through Sept. 30, 2016.
To qualify for the program, potential buyers must document the financial problem that prompted their short sale or foreclosure, such as showing a 20 percent loss in income for at least six consecutive months prior to losing the home. Buyers will also have to show that they have taken steps to re-establish their income and credit – having a credit score of at least 640 or having undergone a HUD-approved counseling agency program on homeownership or residential mortgage loans.
The program does not consider divorce, previous loan modifications or adjustable-rate loan recasting as reasons to qualify.
With conventional loans, boomerang buyers are typically eligible to buy again seven years after a short sale or foreclosure, or possibly three years with sufficient documentation of the circumstances and a lender exemption. FHA VA, and USDA all offer opportunities for boomerang buyers to repurchase 36 months following a short sale or foreclosure.
Source: “FHA Program Gives Distressed Homeowners a Second Chance,” Credit.com (April 9, 2014)
© Copyright 2014 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688
Sun, Surf and Fun!
Fort Lauderdale is a coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean. It is also known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive canal system. The city is most famous for its beaches and boats.
If you enjoy the outdoor lifestyle than Fort Lauderdale Beach is for you. Athletes enjoy running along the road by the beach where they pass beach goers, coffee shops, and restuarants. You can rent bicycles and explore the beach or take a quick ride down Las Olas Blvd or Riverwalk. You can go boating on the miles of waterways, take a water taxi, or take one of the river cruises that are offered.
There is also plenty of shopping in the Fort Lauderdale Beach area. There are lots of small shops along the beach and a mall with over 300 retail outlets near by.
Fort Lauderdale beach is also only a short trip away from Miami’s South Beach!
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|Courtesy of H.U.M.A.N.|
In the grand tradition of vending machines, most pay-by-coin food dispensers are chock full of Oreos, whoopie pies, Cheetos, and Coke. Heart disease waiting to happen.
But as it turns out, there’s another option for automated convenience foods. It’s called H.U.M.A.N. (Helping Unite Mankind and Nutrition). And H.U.M.A.N.’s machines are making their way across South Florida. Most recently, they set up shop in Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Cross Hospital.
In addition to businesses, H.U.M.A.N. is all about getting into schools, especially given the government’s new Smart Snacks in School guidelines. Come July 1, any school participating in the National School Lunch Program must provide healthful snack options. South Florida is no exception. And H.U.M.A.N. wants to help.
The rapidly expanding healthful-vending franchise is based out of Southern California, but it has lots of franchisees in Florida, says CEO Sean Kelly. Locally, the machines are at locations such as Gulliver Prep, Miami City Ballet, Gulliver Academy, the Met 1 building, and Sapient Nitro.
But what does “healthful” really mean? There’s no hard and fast rule, says Kelly, but H.U.M.A.N. has nutrition experts on staff who look for things such as high-glycemic carbs, natural proteins, low sugar, etc. Each machine is also customized to its location, offering items that customers will actually eat.
“The worst thing you can do is stock a vending machine full of broccoli at a school. Don’t get me wrong — I think broccoli is fantastic, but ask an average kid to eat nothing but broccoli, and that’s just being unrealistic.”
|Courtesy of H.U.M.A.N.|
They’re not seeking eating perfection, Kelly explains. What they are seeking is to gradually make snack choices healthier. “Our goal is to make healthy food more convenient than junk food.”
Enter Smart Snacks in School. The rules are pretty explicit and set limits on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium while encouraging the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables. Most local schools probably don’t currently comply. But comply they must by this July 1.
Instead of ditching vending altogether, as some schools might seek to do, they can go the healthful route instead, says Kelly, and his company has been trying to help them make the transition.
H.U.M.A.N. set up a website, wrote a series of guides, and is offering a free audit — all to help potentially confused schools figure out how to get in line with the government’s new rules.
Even if schools don’t want to go the vending route, they can still count on H.U.M.A.N. for guidance. No pressure, Kelly says.
All in all, the new guidelines should make for a marked improvement. Gotta wean kids off Doritos and Snickers at some point; otherwise, we’ll have some serious health-care crises ahead.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.