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Real Estate News and Updates in Florida and the MLS

July 31, 2019

Here’s what a Fed Reserve rate cut would mean to the US housing market
If the Fed cuts interest rates for the first time since 2008, it could spur more borrowing
okBy Keith Larsen | July 31, 2019 07:00AM

Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve building (Credit: Getty Images, Wikipedia and iStock)
UPDATED, July 31, 5:27 p.m. ET: What kind of difference could a quarter of a point make?
Plenty, according to some real estate developers and industry pros who say the Federal Reserve’s expected interest rate cut on Wednesday — which would be the first since 2008 — will make deals more profitable by lowering borrowing costs. (The Fed on Wednesday afternoon lowered the target range for the benchmark rate by 0.25 percent, to 2.0-2.25 percent.)
Commercial developers will find it easier to finance projects, but the biggest gain will be in single-family homes, according to Noah Breakstone, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based land investor and developer.
Breakstone said a Fed rate cut — even by as little as a quarter of a percentage point as expected — will lead to the increase in the overall supply of single-family homes across the country. It would come at a time when many states, including California, are mired in housing shortages. The reason? Land purchases and financing will be cheaper for homebuilders, which will have a cascade effect for consumers, said Breakstone, with BTI Partners.
The interest rate cut would also mark a shift from the Fed’s policy over the last few years. Last year, the board raised rates four times — and has done so a total of nine times since December 2015. The Fed began raising rates in 2015 after years of keeping rates low following the recession to boost the economy. But as the economy improved, the Fed raised rates.
After the Fed’s June meeting in which it held rates steady amid a weakening housing market, the expectation was the benchmark rate would hold at between 2.25 and 2.5 percent through the end of the year.
At the time, a potential rate cut even sparked concern of a possible economic slowdown. But President Trump has kept up his criticism of the Fed and Chairman Jerome Powell, cajoling the board to lower interest rates by as much as 1 percent to spur growth.
And with interest rates already low, mortgage originations are up, with some of the largest banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan having recorded upticks in second-quarter profits.
Still, over the past few years, construction and labor costs have grown significantly, cutting into profit margins for developers. In major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, these rising construction costs come at a time when land costs are also soaring, making it difficult for some deals to pencil out. Sporadic trade wars  under President Trump has also caused supply problems.
The housing market has also slowed as home prices have risen faster than income levels. Homebuilders also claim that mounting labor and supply costs have made it difficult to build single-family homes at affordable prices.
As a result, home price growth is falling. On Tuesday, S&P CoreLogic released the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index which showed that home price growth slowed to 3.4 percent in May on a yearly basis, down from 3.5 percent in the previous month.
But a rate cut also further erode buyer confidence in the housing market and overall economy, critics say.
“The average consumer might be a little wary of what this signals about future growth,” said Heidi Learner, the chief economist at Savills. “Is now the time to be buying a much larger house or upgrading?”
Breakstone said first time homebuyers, though, might not see falling rates as a signal that the economy is in trouble.
“I don’t know if the first-time homebuyer is contemplating that affect, he said. “Unemployment is low, we are seeing some escalation in wages, and I think that it gives homebuyers confidence.”
Lower interest rates could help buyers at a time when rents continue to rise across the country, since it can make buying a home a better value proposition than renting. The other big impact that lower rates could have is for consumers who are looking to refinance their existing mortgage.
“You will get a nice refinance pop because people who were borrowing a year ago at 4.5 [percent] and above are now likely able to obtain financing for between 3.5 and 3.75 [percent],” said Josh Migdal, of Miami-based law firm Mark Migdal and Hayden. “This should be enough of a spread to drive refinancing volume.”
Commercial developers could also increase their deal volume, as they find it easier to find financing with borrowing costs going down.
David Druey, Southeast Florida regional president for Centennial Bank, said this is especially true for smaller property owners who are more sensitive to these rate changes, and who are looking to take advantage of lower rates.
But he said for his bank, which has become a major construction lender  in New York City and South Florida, the move will not have much of an impact on its overall real estate lending.
“If we need a quarter of a point to make the deal work, we are probably not going to make that deal anyway,” Druey said.
Learner of Savills, agreed that a rate cut will not have a significant impact on commercial real estate developers. It could, she said, be a clear signal that overall economic growth is slowing.
“As a developer, do you really want to be borrowing at the top of the cycle?”


2 08 09

we need get Fannie Mae back to a 10 home limit

This is the big wild card for investment property because the current Fannie Mae “four property rule” has kept many veteran investors on the sidelines. But if Fannie Mae were to return to the “10 property” limit, or if banks began offering any kind of reasonable seller financing, the floor under housing prices in Atlanta could be re-established fairly quickly.

All but the most ardent doom and gloomers believe that the current condition of variable home values will end sooner rather than later, and anyone who can lock in a low price now will be glad they did. But the real key is how to finance that low price.

A super-low price combined with a great financing makes for a fabulous real estate investment opportunity. And I believe the solution to this problem is seller financing. I am already starting to get reports of banks selling their houses and agreeing to carry back some sort of financing.

The key for investors is not necessarily a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 6 percent interest with nothing down, although that would be nice. Instead, the key is for banks to be able to convert their nonperforming assets (the vacant houses) into performing assets (loans requiring a substantial down payment and reasonable qualification guidelines).

These loans can be good for the banks and good for the borrower, and they could still be attractive with terms as short as five to seven years. The investment community is ready but needs the financing to act.

John Adams is a broker and investor. For more real estate information or to make a comment, visit


South Florida housing prices becoming affordable again
02 08 09

Housing is suddenly affordable to those with average income -- without risky teaser rates or subprime mortgages or cooking the numbers to qualify.

''I never thought I would be a homeowner because of the money I'm making,'' said Jeudy, 33, a buffet attendant at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, whose take-home pay is about $22,000 a year. ``I never thought I could afford it by myself.''

Dirt-cheap foreclosures and a sluggish market have pushed prices down by much as 43 percent since they peaked in 2006 and 2007. For the first time in a long while, thousands of homes are listed for less than $150,000 -- even less than $100,000 -- putting them snugly within the affordability range of police officers, teachers and others long priced out of the South Florida market.

At the peak of the market, affordable housing was so scarce that companies had difficulty recruiting workers from outside the region.

While the pickings are more plentiful now, borrowing hurdles are daunting, often including demands for 20 percent down payments and stellar credit scores. Buyers are also being held back by fears that housing prices will sink even more and by concerns that they could lose their jobs in the deepening recession.


''I need a few more weeks to get to 20 percent,'' said Thomas Krusin, a sea-freight broker for an international transportation company. Krusin, 30, has ridden his bike through Surfside, admiring houses that two years ago were selling for twice as much as he hopes to pay -- about $350,000. And that's for a place close enough to the beach that he can walk to it.

''I am looking now because real-estate prices are dropping and the interest rates are so low, it's a good combination,'' he said.

For home buyers with more modest savings and means, FHA loans are filling in the financing gap with down payments of only 3.5 percent of the purchase price and a little more lenient credit standards.

Jeudy qualified for a 30-year FHA loan at 6 percent interest, and said she plans to use her tax refund to make the down payment. Her estimated monthly payment -- including taxes and insurance -- is $880, $130 more than she is spending on rent in a crime-ridden apartment complex nearby, Jeudy said. She'll qualify for a $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers.

For those who don't need a loan and can pay cash, there's a gold rush of sorts going on -- especially for Miami-Dade County houses in the sub-$100,000 category, according to Miami real-estate agent Dee Castillo.

There are a ''bunch of investors running around town with cash,'' she said.

Eduardo Fernandez, a small-business owner in Little Havana, proudly showed off the four-bedroom Florida City home he has under contract for $47,500 cash. It needs work and will cost an estimated $20,000 to repair vandalism inflicted by the former occupants. A trashed home is often the byproduct of a foreclosure.





Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, October 12, 2007

Local housing markets are not going to turn around this year or next year - and might not get better even by 2009, a noted economist said Thursday at the sixth annual conference on "Real Estate Development Trends" at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

"There are people who want to buy a home now and are waiting because of fear," said Bradley Hunter, director of the South Florida division of Metrostudy in West Palm Beach, which conducts housing research.

"I think the way it will play out is that people are still getting married and they're still having babies," Hunter said. "People who need a house will be the first to come back (into the market). The others will come back when they see that, and this will create your next 'up market.' "

However, Hunter dodged repeated attempts to pin down just when this "up market" might show up.

Metrostudy's clients include most of the developers in South Florida.

He did provide lots of other specifics in his speech, however.

"It might be corny," he said, "but the most useful way to look at today's housing market is 'the good, the bad and the ugly.' "

The good: Listings on the MLS have peaked.

There's no recession. People are buying when the price is right. Florida Power & Light's new customers show population growth.

The bad: Buyers are still unenthusiastic. It's hard to get loans, and jumbo loans are expensive. The Fed can't fix these problems.

And the ugly: Foreclosures and currently rented investor units are causing the inventory of unsold homes to surge.

The conference, sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, was well-represented by the leadership of numerous public and private real estate ventures in South Florida.

If a meteor had dropped on the convention center Thursday, real estate development throughout Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties would have come to a complete halt.

In the meantime, Marcela Camblor - urban design director for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council - told the audience of about 300 people "What's Hot in the Treasure Coast" and Gregg Logan, managing director of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., gave a brisk overview of commercial real estate in the three counties.

"It's not possible for the residential sector to leave the commercial sector unscathed," Logan said. "People living on credit cards impacts how much they'll spend at Wal-Mart."

Despite that drag, St. Lucie County is poised for commercial growth, but with challenges that include increased land and construction costs, energy and environmental concerns, and escalating rent costs, property taxes and insurance.

The conference concluded with an optimistic outlook for Treasure Coast communities.

They are working together on the highly sought and much-touted scientific institutes that comprise the new Research Coast, said Harry Orf, vice president of scientific operations for Scripps Florida; Edwin Massey, president of Indian River Community College; and Richard Houghten, president of Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies



Home buyers out there, but waiting for better deals, expert says

By Paul Owers | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
October 12, 2007

Despite the depressed South Florida housing market, there is pent-up demand for homes from young professionals who want to buy but are holding off for fear of future price declines, a local real estate analyst said Thursday.

"There still are people getting married, having babies, getting new jobs," said Brad Hunter, president of the regional division of Metrostudy, a consulting firm. "That naturally generates a need for new housing."

Hunter spoke to about 375 real estate industry leaders during an Urban Land Institute conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

Many potential buyers don't want to commit now because sluggish home prices could keep dropping, Hunter said. The uncertainty over property taxes, trouble getting mortgages and an inability to sell their current homes also prevent them from buying.

"Ultimately, there will be an up cycle," Hunter said. "It'll be when people who really need a house say, 'It may not be the exact bottom [of the market], but it's time for me to buy.'"

Hunter, however, was reluctant to predict when a rebound might begin. He doesn't expect improvement any time soon, and some analysts say it could be 2009 before the local market turns around.

On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales in the United States will be 10.8 percent below last year in a forecast that has grown more pessimistic with each passing month in 2007.

Although the inventory of properties for sale in South Florida has leveled off recently, a surge in home foreclosures next spring will add to the inventory and hurt sellers and builders, Hunter said.

Broward County had 1,503 mortgage defaults last month, more than double the 636 from a year ago, according to Plantation-based Actual foreclosure sales hit 718 in September, more than double the 327 from last September.

Palm Beach County had 904 defaults last month, up from 468 a year ago. The county's foreclosure sales were down slightly in September from last year.

Nationwide, foreclosure filings nearly doubled last month compared with September 2006, according to RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif.

Prices of houses, condominiums and townhomes in South Florida will continue to fall, Hunter said. Experts say a return to more affordable properties ultimately will stimulate the market.

The outlook isn't nearly as bleak for commercial real estate, analysts said at Thursday's conference. Institutional investors are scooping up quality properties, although they are paying less for them as lenders tighten credit standards.

"There's repricing going on, but demand is still there," said Bob Sullivan, president of RJS/Jackson Group, a West Palm Beach retail brokerage.

Still, the residential downturn isn't leaving the commercial sector unscathed, said Gregg Logan, managing director of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., an Orlando consulting firm. The loss of construction jobs is affecting demand for retail.

"People are living on their credit cards, and that's going to impact how much they can spend at Wal-Mart," Logan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story